The process of clearing and awarding the 700MHz and 800MHz bands to achieve the Digital Dividend is not always straightforward. Regulators and government bodies can face a range of obstacles, from how to justify the release of the spectrum for mobile broadband, to how to clear (and possibly compensate) incumbent users, and how to protect neighbouring spectrum users.
This section includes a series of case studies to outline how regulators and governments in different countries have approached clearing and then awarding the 700MHz or 800MHz band. The objectives of the case studies are to highlight the obstacles that these countries have faced during this process, as well as outlining the steps that have been taken to find solutions.
The process of clearing Australia’s 700MHz band for reallocation is complicated by the prevalence of DTT channels in that band, and the resulting time it will take to move them to below channel 52 following the analogue switch-off.
Despite the challenges, the ACMA is preparing to hold the Digital Dividend auction in 2012–13, when it will reallocate parts of the 700MHz and 2.5GHz bands by issuing spectrum licences. The ACMA has stated these bands, which are currently occupied, are being replanned to enable the spectrum to move to its highest-value use. Consultations on draft legislative instruments, including the auction approach, have been published and extensive public consultation completed.
Finland is a country with a long, thin geography, an isolated population and a long border with Russia. There have thus been significant delays in allocating its own Digital Dividend to mobile due to Russia’s own ARNS issues.
To reach a solution, the Ministry of Communications, led by Minister Suvi Lindén, took a number of political actions. Finland hosted a Baltic Sea Summit, with the GSMA, to invite countries around the sea to discuss the issue at a ministerial round table. As a result of this, a place for spectrum discussion was put on the agenda for each of their regular ministerial meetings with the Russian government.
In April 2010, a spectrum working group was set up as part of the regular meetings between the Russian and Finnish Communications Ministries. This group was empowered to meet at least every six months in order to regularly coordinate spectrum issues between Russia and Finland. On 21 Dec 2010, Russia and Finland concluded an agreement in which Finland will be able to start constructing test networks to allow the 800MHz band for mobile.
Bilateral agreements between Finland and Russia were agreed in the second half of 2011 to allow for the deployment of mobile networks in the 800MHz band. In April 2012 FICORA announced it will auction six blocks of 5MHz. The auction is planned for 2013, following the introduction of the necessary legislation.
The decision to make the 800MHz band available for electronic communications services in Germany was largely a political process driven by the government’s broadband strategy, which was announced in February 2009. The strategy envisaged the use of this spectrum for providing wireless broadband services to rural areas, which did not have satisfactory access to broadband services such as DSL or similar. It took extensive negotiations between the national government and the Bundesländer (the 16 federal states that are responsible for licensing broadcast spectrum), with the wider European momentum, to designate the 790–862MHz band for electronic communications services, before the Bundesrat (representative body of the 16 Bundesländer) adopted the national government’s proposals in June 2009.
The 800MHz spectrum was awarded in Germany in May 2010 in a combined auction with spectrum in the 1800MHz, 2.1GHz and 2.6GHz bands, resulting in a total of 360MHz of spectrum being auctioned together. Since the auction, the mobile operators have rapidly deployed LTE networks in the listed villages and cities in rural areas. Vodafone launched its LTE service on 1 December 2010, with Telekom and Telefónica following on 5 April 2011 and 1 July 2011, respectively. In October 2011, the German telecommunications regulator (BNetzA) indicated that the country’s mobile operators had already fully met the coverage requirements associated with the 800MHz spectrum in six of the Bundesländer states.
In 2004, the government of Mexico published its plan for the transition to DTT. The agreement adopted the ATSC3 standard, and set out a plan for the transition, culminating on 31 December 2021. Recognising the potential of the Digital Dividend for mobile services, in September 2010, there was a presidential decree that brought the analogue switch-off forward to 31 December 2015 (from 31 December 2021). This decree was successfully challenged in the Supreme Court. In September 2011, the regulator COFETEL made a proposal titled “Complementary Actions” for modification of the Agreement of 2004. This proposes a date for national analogue switch-off of 31 October 2016 with the initial pilot analogue switch off in 2012
In May 2012, COFETEL announced the revised date for analogue switch-off would be concluded by 31 December 2015. In June 2012, Mexican officials and the FCC concluded border radio spectrum sharing agreements for the 800MHz band. Regarding the timing of the 700MHz assignment process, it appears from its public announcements that COFETEL wishes to do this quickly, in order for the benefits of the additional capacity and competition to be realised as soon as possible.
As early as 2003, the UK government identified the scope for 14 8MHz channels, in three separate blocks, to be made available for new uses, including the provision of mobile services. The UK’s early start in studying this subject led to it carrying out work on alternative band and channel plans in parallel with the work on band and channel plans being done at the European and worldwide levels.
Following WRC-07 and the identification of 790–862MHz as the European Digital Dividend band, Ofcom proposed to modify its original proposals to also create this band as part of its Digital Dividend, thus harmonising with Europe. This decision meant it would be necessary to move the planned broadcasting transmissions from channels 61 and 62 and to move programme making and special events (primarily wireless microphones) from channel 69 to channel 38. The UK government confirmed its commitment to fund these costs (estimated at £115–250 million) in view of the far more significant benefits of creating the 800MHz band.
The UK has announced plans for a Digital Dividend and 2.6GHz spectrum auction in 2012.
The 800MHz band has been used heavily by the Russian military for air traffic control, specifically aeronautical radionavigation services (ARNS). Because of this, the military have been adamant that they must not relinquish their rights to this spectrum. While some sources believed that the ARNS systems would be phased out of the 790–862MHz band by 2015, the military — which hold a strong grip on the highest spectrum committee — continued to state that the spectrum must remain in their hands.
However, during 2011 both President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin made statements, following the recession, of the need to build the Russian economy through technology. Such statements mirrored the national broadband plans being made elsewhere as politicians sought to rebuild economies through a digital agenda. Medvedev stated that the military were using too much of the precious radiofrequencies, and stated that some should be freed up for use by mobile broadband. Following these interventions Russia now plans to allocate 2x30MHz of 800MHz spectrum for mobile use to help provide broadband coverage into rural areas.
Italy had a number of local television broadcasters in the Digital Dividend band. Because of this, negotiations between regulator AGCOM and the broadcasting community were protracted and hindered progress on reallocation.
For some time, Italy’s position maintained that spectrum should be returned to broadcasters after analogue switch-over. Complex negotiations were carried out to this end with the French and Austrian regulators in order to minimise the interference between Italy’s legacy broadcasting allocation and the new Digital Dividend allocations to mobile in her neighbours.
However, backed by a European Commission Recommendation, and an overwhelming groundswell of support for a mobile allocation in the rest of Europe, Italy’s position shifted. The head of AGCOM made a series of forceful statements in the summer of 2010 illustrating the capacity crunch. Negotiations with the local broadcasters continued, and eventually a solution to the broadcasting plan was found that allowed the 790–862MHz band to be freed up.
In July 2010, Paulo Romani, the Deputy Minister for Economic Development with responsibility for telecommunications, announced that part of the Digital Dividend would be allocated to mobile. The Digital Dividend auction was completed in 2012 and was thus one of the earlier European auctions.
Egypt has multiple borders with few natural barriers between states. The country has borders with the Mediterranean Sea, meaning it must coordinate with countries as far west as Italy. The country also sits at the border between Africa and the Middle East, as well as being at the crossroads of the Arab World and Europe. On top of this, Egypt has issues with the military, which uses part of the band, and a CDMA 800 operator using another part of the spectrum.
The WRC-12 decision, identifying the possibility of Region 1 markets using 698–806MHz spectrum on a national basis from 2015 could provide a solution for Egypt. Using the 698–790MHz spectrum could be attractive to Egypt and some of its neighbours; however, until a final band plan has been agreed and cross-border interference negotiations undertaken, no final decision can be taken. These discussions are ongoing.
Nigeria faces significant problems from the large number of users of CDMA 800 in the country. While other countries in the region typically have relatively small CDMA operations, Nigeria has several million subscribers. CDMA 800 technology is licensed on a state-by-state basis in some cases, adding further complexity. This has hindered the roll-out process on harmonised lines. A further challenge is produced by Nigeria’s borders with four countries and the Gulf of Guinea making negotiations with neighbours necessary.
Nigeria was instrumental in proposing and championing the WRC-12 resolution to allow Region 1 markets to deploy mobile in the 698–790MHz band. This looks to be the preferred option for the market, with discussions between communications and broadcast regulators continuing.
In May 2012, NCC Chair Eugene Juwah has stated that the NCC is in talks with CDMA operators, currently using 850MHz spectrum to migrate to LTE technology. This has the potential to free up the 790–862MHz band when combined with the analogue switch-off. With the possibility of allocating 698–806MHz spectrum, there remains a possibility of a substantial Digital Dividend in Nigeria from 2015.
Spain and Portugal’s shared border meant that the two countries had already moved forward in a coordinated manner to allocate the Digital Dividend ahead of WRC-07. Unfortunately, they allocated all spectrum to digital television and none to mobile.
Both countries made political decisions, following on from the European Commission recommendation, that allocating 790–862MHz would be beneficial to their economies. Negotiations had to take place to ensure that border issues would not be a problem and that they could coordinate their Digital Dividend appropriately.
The resulting coordination and replanning of broadcast allocations has seen both countries become early movers in auctioning the Digital Dividend for mobile broadband, with Spain concluding its auction in July 2011 and Portugal concluding its auction in December 2011