GSMA tells Arab States to allocate UHF spectrum for mobile

The GSM Association (GSMA) urged Arab States to reallocate a significant amount of the UHF band currently used for terrestrial digital television (DTV) services for mobile broadband.

In a report prepared in conjunction with Plum Consulting, the association said that terrestrial DTV broadcasting in the region does not need an exclusive allocation of the UHF spectrum band ranging from 470 MHz to 694 MHz, after finding that demand for broadcasting capacity in the region has been overestimated in previous policy decisions

"Previous decisions assumed greater growth in TV channels and usage; other technologies are coming in now (particularly IPTV, but also free satellite,) which go against plans set many years ago," Tim Miller, Plum Consulting partner and a specialist in the regulation of telecommunications networks and spectrum, said.

The association noted that the problem of overestimating the needs of terrestrial digital TV spectrum is not restricted to the Middle East. Improvements in the spectral efficiency of DTV services is adding to the problem, it said.

According to the study, all UHF spectrum above 582MHz could be released for other services, including mobile broadband, while still supporting all current and projected terrestrial TV requirements in the region.

The report said using the UHF band for mobile broadband could unlock significant socio-economic benefits throughout the region.

Miller told FierceWireless:Europe that as the vast majority of UHF band is allocated to TV both in terms of international agreements (within the ITU,) and also across regional governments, nobody can run a mobile network in the UHF spectrum without risk of interference.

He said the study finds that the amount of television being broadcast in the Arab States can easily be carried on only part of the UHF spectrum, which means that part of it can be used for something else. 

"To an extent this has been recognised by governments and regulators, with a move to releasing the upper portion of the UHF spectrum (known as Band V)," he said. "However, we believe that part of Band IV could also be released without impacting on television services."

The report calls on the Arab Spectrum Management Group (ASMG) countries to agree on a co-primary allocation for broadcast and mobile in the UHF spectrum band at the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) in November 2015.

John Giusti, deputy chief regulatory officer at the GSMA, said adding a mobile allocation would "allow countries to make the best and most valuable use of this spectrum to meet the needs of their citizens, especially for underserved communities, while still supporting over-the-air television in the band."

For more:
- see this GSMA release

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