ITU locks in lower UHF spectrum for terrestrial broadcasting

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South Africa missed the switch over from analogue to digital television broadcasts, and as the country is trying to wrestle with a plan for the future, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has officially allocated dedicated spectrum for it.

During the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) last week, the ITU maintained the allocation of the lower UHF spectrum from 470 MHz to 694 MHz to be used for terrestrial broadcasting (TV) – and nothing else is allowed to be transmitted in that band – until 2023.

If signals other than broadcasting need to be transmitted in those ranges, it will only get to enjoy secondary basis status.

According to the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, this is a very good thing, especially for digital television and TV White Spaces.

“This important decision sets the stage for the globally harmonized rollout of digital television in the 470 MHz to 694/698 MHz bands, licensing of mobile broadband services on a primary basis in the 694/698 MHz to 862 MHz bands, and deployment of TV White Space (TVWS) technologies that will be able to operate across the full range of unassigned or otherwise unused UHF frequencies between the 470 MHz to 862 MHz bands (as well as in the VHF bands) on a secondary basis,” it said in a press release.

Delegates at the conference voted on whether the spectrum band should continue to be assigned for broadcasting in ITU Region 1, or if it should be allocated for mobile broadband on a primary or co-primary basis.

ITU Region 1 includes Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

“The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance welcomes this sensible WRC decision for Region 1 to retain the lower 470-694 MHz primarily for TV broadcasting as large swathes of the region complete their digital switchover programmes over the next five years,” commented Professor H. Nwana, Executive Director of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA).

He continued: “It is a win-win scenario for both the broadcasting and mobile industries in Region 1, and retaining the lower UHF bands for TV enables its dynamic sharing on a secondary basis through TV white space regulations.”

The decision for Region 1 brings it up to speed with the Americas and Asia, as it paves the way for the broadcasting industry to transition fully to digital terrestrial TV (DTT) services – where a number of African countries have missed the ITU-imposed deadline.

In August this year, communications minister Faith Muthambi  said that South Africa is “on track” to deliver on the migration to digital.

“I wish to assure the public that we are on track to have Broadcasting Digital Migration Programme implementation realised in South Africa. The Digital Terrestrial Television Programme Management Office (DTT PMO) is working tirelessly with all key role players towards ensuring a successful implementation of the programme,” Muthambi said in parliament.

In essence, it was up to the DTT PMO to see where the government stands, what still needs to be done, and how the government can get it done.

[Image – CC by 2.0/Greg McMullen]

Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.