Radio spectrum is at the core of all wireless communications. It is composed of the different ranges of radio frequencies which are divided up and allotted to carry all forms of wireless data signals, ranging from radio, TV, Wi-Fi, mobile telephones and Internet to wireless microphones, satellite communications and many more.
Spectrum has become a scarcer resource as a result of the increased use of wireless technologies, in particular mobile data traffic. Releasing spectrum for one type of service means less spectrum for another type. Hence policy decisions on the allocation of spectrum directly impacts peoples access to essential media platforms.
With the transition to digital TV, broadcasters have undertaken major investments which freed up a significant portion of spectrum for mobile data, whilst increasing choice and quality for TV viewers. However, further release of spectrum resources will endanger the good functioning of digital TV, and undermine the free-to-air European audiovisual model and the universality of public service media.
Europeans watched an average 3 hours and 55 minutes of live TV per day in 2012, and the radio spectrum policy needs to reflect the fact that TV remains a hugely popular medium. We want to make sure that the future allocation of spectrum in Europe reflects the technical, social and economic reality of how content is consumed.
In-depth policy decisions on spectrum allocation are taken at European Union, CEPT, ITU and at the national regulatory level. The EBU is a key stakeholder in corresponding policy talks.
With its Members, the EBU has formed the most innovative centre of research and understanding on spectrum, with several groups working to find solutions for public broadcasters. Find out more on our Technology & Innovation portal.
Digital terrestrial television (DTT) is the most widespread platform for TV reception in the EU, reaching over 100 million households in Europe - roughly 250 million viewers. Public service media make their channels available on all TV platforms – DTT, satellite, cable and Internet TV networks. DTT nevertheless remains the backbone of public service TV because it uniquely combines a set of essential characteristics:
The viability and evolution of DTT hinges upon access to UHF Band frequencies (470 MHz to 862 MHz), which are the only available frequencies offering wide coverage and penetration of buildings.
The availability of DTT offers a basic and cost-efficient guarantee that audiovisual programmes and services will reach viewers, providing in turn wider economic, social and cultural benefits.
UHF Band frequencies are highly sought after to cater for future mobile Internet growth. This growth is undeniable but is also, and unfortunately, largely exaggerated. Past policy decisions awarding UHF Band frequencies for mobile Internet services have overlooked a number of facts:
Spectrum - or radio spectrum - is the range of electromagnetic radio frequencies used to transmit data wirelessly. Spectrum is split into different parts that are then allocated to one or more services, like digital terrestrial television (DTT) - where the signal is received through a TV’s aerial. DTT (television broadcasting) requires spectrum in the UHF band because of its technical properties - while mobile internet can and already uses higher frequencies. Public broadcasters rely on DTT - the most effective means of distributing TV programmes to large audiences - to ensure that every citizen has access to free-to-air TV.
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The EBU considers the review of the EU Telecoms package as an opportunity to modernize rules which support media pluralism and cultural diversity.
EBU President Jean-Paul Philippot took part in a roundtable on 5G with Commissioner Günther Oettinger in Brussels on 7 July to present the views of Europe’s public service media.