ComReg invites suggestions for use of free radio spectrum


TELECOMS WATCHDOG ComReg has begun a public consultation on how the radio spectrum freed up by the move to digital television broadcasting should be used.

Across Europe, broadcasters and technology companies are lining up on opposite sides of the debate, claiming both the economy and society would benefit most if they controlled the spectrum freed up by the “digital dividend”.

The dividend occurs because digital terrestrial television (DTT) technology uses spectrum more efficiently, allowing more services in the same amount of space.

In Ireland, a large chunk of the 800MHz spectrum being made available has been reserved for digital television by the Broadcasting (Amendment) Act 2007.

Technology players are particularly interested in the 800MHz spectrum as the signals travel further from a single transmitter and its propagation properties mean the radio waves go further into buildings, making it ideal for broadband applications.

The Irish consultation period will run until May and ComReg commissioner Mike Byrne believes there will be much interest.

The consultation document seeks views on a number of suggestions. These include creating a sub-band in the 790-862MHz range for uses other than broadcasting, and the reservation of spectrum for experimental purposes to encourage inward investment.

ComReg is hoping that, by reserving a sub-band for information communications technology, it can make wireless a strong alternative to fixed-line services.

In more mature European broadband markets such as Britain and Holland, cable has fostered competition by acting as a competitor to digital subscriber lines delivered by phone.

ComReg is taking a lead role in trying to co-ordinate the European approach to the digital dividend. Mr Byrne said the GSM mobile phone standard became successful because of the harmonised approach taken in Europe.

A contract has been awarded to Boxer DTT, a consortium between Swedish DTT operator Boxer and Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp, to provide a commercial DTT service, but it has yet to launch.