Alex Pumfrey, Chief Operating Officer of Digital UK – the company which supports the UK’s terrestrial TV service and its viewers – has suggested that digital terrestrial television will remain an important user of spectrum into the future.
Participating in a Westminster eForum Keynote Seminar on the next steps for spectrum, Pumfrey noted that DTT was playing its part in the more efficient use of spectrum. “We’ve already released 128 megahertz through switchover and the 800 megahertz clearance process and there is growing use of the DVB-T2 transmission standard.”
In terms of spectrum sharing, she said that Digital UK recognised that it needed to go further in both releasing and sharing spectrum. She noted that if the proposed opening up of the 700Mhz band to mobile operators went ahead, and was released from DTT, then the platform would, in 2022, have just half the allocation it had prior to 2012.
She advised that such a move would require retuning with some 100,000 homes needing new aerials. “It’s our mission that viewers must not miss out and bear the cost. The government must ensure sufficient funding for the transition,” she asserted.
In terms of future international debate on such matters, Pumfrey warned of the risk of the UK standing on the sidelines as policy was decided, and warned: “There must be no negative impact on DTT viewing.”
As to whether DTT would be as important in 10 or 20 years time as it is today, Pumfrey warned of the major technical and consumer challenges in replacing DTT for IP television. “So our answer is a resounding ‘Yes’,” she concluded.
Jane Humphreys, Head of Spectrum at the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, suggested that although consumption of audiovisual content may have changed radically, it would be “plain wrong” to rebrand TV in the frequencies below 700[Mhz] in a way that assumed and guaranteed that terrestrial TV would continue through the 2030s and 2040s. “We simply don’t have the evidence.” she admitted. “If we could just come up with a solution that allowed audiovisual and mobile data service providers to co-exist happily, sharing common infrastructure, with a wide range of frequencies, with business able to innovate, without major intervention from either Ofcom or government.”