What is at stake?

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.

250 million Europeans rely on spectrum to watch TV

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.

Join our effort

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.

Contact details

Marcello Lombardo
Project Manager
Wouter Gekiere
Deputy Head of European Affairs
Anne-Catherine Berg
Senior Legal Adviser
Legal
+41 22 717 25 16
berg@ebu.ch
LinkedIn

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Radio Spectrum
Spectrum represents essential infrastructure for TV and radio broadcasting. Upcoming policy decisions on spectrum will have a fundamental impact on how we access TV, radio and online content.

Ensure sufficient spectrum for digital terrestrial television (DTT)

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:

  • Free-to-air: DTT can be received free of subscription costs or need for expensive equipment.
  • Universal: DTT can be received everywhere, even in the most remote areas.
  • One-to-many: DTT is the most reliable way of broadcasting major TV events to mass audiences – picture and reception remain the same, even when an audience of 20 million + gathers around a football game, for example.
  • Efficiency: DTT networks are the most spectrally efficient wireless technologies available.

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.

Sustain a vibrant European audiovisual landscape

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.

  • Cultural diversity: DTT ensures the wider dissemination of European audiovisual works.
  • Innovation: DTT carries the latest digital TV services (On-demand, Red Button, interactive) and state-of-the-art image definition standards (4K, 3DTV).
  • Informed citizenship: DTT ensures that impartial and high quality news is available for all.
  • Competition: DTT encourages innovation and competition on consumer prices on other TV reception networks which require a subscription (cable, satellite, IPTV).  

Be realistic about future mobile data use

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:

  • Unreliable forecasts: recent research shows that mobile growth estimates and forecasts provided by the mobile data industry are largely overestimated and unreliable.
  • Inefficient use: mobile data operators already have a large amount of spectrum their disposal - some of which is not fully used - and operate 2G and 3G networks that are not efficient in terms of spectrum use.
  • Consumer preference for Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi caters for the vast majority of wireless data traffic delivered to smartphones and tablets, offering higher capacity and cheaper data reception, in particular for data-intensive services such as audiovisual programme streaming or downloading.
  • Other solutions: Increased demand for mobile can also be met on several other frequency ranges (L‑band, 2.3 GHz, 2.6 GHz) which are not used for DTT.

What is spectrum?

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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Position paper
07 Dec 2015
EBU Reply: Telecoms framework
The EBU Reply to the EC consultation on the evaluation and the review of the regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services
Factsheet
05 Sep 2014
Radio Spectrum, The EBU Q&A
Spectrum – or radio spectrum – is the range of electromagnetic radio frequencies used to transmit signals wirelessly. Radio frequencies are allocated for different types of use: radio, television, mobile...