The European Commission (EC) has announced plans to clear digital TV spectrum holdings in the 700MHz range by 2020 to make way for 5G services.
The decision followed recommendations from a report in September 2014 which said that the valuable 694-790MHz spectrum should be given over to mobile data services.
The band is currently used for digital TV services, such as in the UK, but the EC wants to move these to the 470-694MHz band.
The initial report said that this switch in spectrum must take place by 2020 but with a two-year grace period to help broadcasters manage the move in a timely way.
However, the new EC proposals have given a hard date of 2020, which Günther Oettinger, commissioner for the digital economy and society, explained is necessary to ensure that Europe is at the forefront of 5G technologies.
"We cannot have high-quality mobile internet for everything and for everyone everywhere unless we have modern infrastructure and modern rules,” he said.
“With this proposal we show that we can have both: a vibrant audio-visual sector as well as the spectrum we will need for 5G. The 700MHz band will be ideal for promising new fields like connected driving and the Internet of Things. I want Europe to lead in 5G. That is why all member states must act by 2020."
Unsurprisingly, this decision has not gone down well with broadcasters. Nicola Frank, head of European affairs at the European Broadcast Union, warned that moving digital services to an entirely new spectrum band by 2020 will be challenging and costly.
“Moving digital terrestrial television [DTT] services out of the 700MHz band by 2020 is a major challenge, in particular for member states where DTT is the main platform to receive television. In Europe, 250 million people receive their television services through DTT," she said.
“Broadcasters will need to make costly changes to their infrastructure. Member states should clearly be able to provide compensation for consumers and broadcasters to cater for the investment needed to implement the change.”
Nevertheless, the EC has already said that member states must publish their plans to handle the digital spectrum shift by 30 June 2017.
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