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Big TV Broadcasters Warn Ofcom Over UK White Space Broadband Plan

Monday, Dec 16th, 2013 (2:29 pm) - Score 994
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The Digital UK group, which acts on behalf of the BBC, ITV, Arqiva and Channel 4, has offered its “support for the principle” of developing White Space Broadband technology. But it also warned that the regulators current approach raised “serious concerns” about potential for disruption to existing Digital Terrestrial TV (DTTV) coverage.

The so called White Space technology is a clever but technologically complicated communication method, which could improve broadband coverage in rural areas or boost wifi capacity by harnessing the seemingly unused radio spectrum gaps that exist between TV channels.

The gaps are used to avoid interference between channels causing a disruption to your TV service and Ofcom, along with many others, believe that these gaps could also be harnessed to boost wireless Internet and data connectivity. As a result White Space devices would thus need to constantly stay up-to-date via a live database of frequencies and channel allocations (i.e. TV services change around on a regular basis so white space must adapt to that).

However the big broadcasters remain unconvinced and their response to the regulators on-going consultation explains why.

Digital UK Statement on White Space Technology

At least two errors were identified by the BBC during the review period, and despite Ofcom issuing an Addendum on 24 October explaining one of the errors, the fact that the consultation’s conclusion was not altered gives us serious concerns about the adequacy of protection for DTT services from TV white space using the methodology detailed in the consultation.

While we support the exploration of the potential of TV white space as a positive step, we do not believe that this should be to the detriment of existing licensed users. The current coexistence proposals for WSD, even though managed through a database regime, are uncharted territory. We urge Ofcom to act with caution as it assesses the impact TV white spaces may have on the availability and functionality of the terrestrial television platform and its viewers, and continue to support the robust levels of reception that viewers have enjoyed since the very beginning of terrestrial broadcasting.

Specific concerns include the impact on viewers using indoor aerials, which the group said “will not be protected“, and the “uncertainty” caused by potential future changes in the amount of spectrum allocated to terrestrial television.

In particular the broadcasters note the huge effort and careful planning that went into clearing the 800MHz spectrum for 4G based Mobile Broadband services, which it claims would be a lot trickier to achieve with licence-exempt White Space in the mix. Ofcom didn’t receive many complaints about the 800MHz clearance and Digital TV suggests that this may be why the regulator is now more willing to relax its procedures for White Space.

Digital TV similarly believes that the impact of white space tech on reception quality for the large number of households using an aerial amplifier has “not been considered” and the group also accuses Ofcom of broadly watering down its co-existence parameters to the “detriment of DTT reception“.

The concern broadly seems to centre on people who live at the margins of TV coverage, where the introduction of White Space technology is seen as more of a problem by the broadcasters (radio spectrum interference). Meanwhile Ofcom continues to conduct a series of White Space Trials and predicts that the first commercial services could be rolled out by the end of 2014.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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