Written by Media


As Ofcom hurries to switch off analogue TV and get us all over to digital, the question is, what’s going to happen to all that free spectrum?
This week’s Broadcast magazine reports that the BBC is trying to interest the other terrestrial analogue broadcasters into joining it to persuade the government that they should hand over analogue spectrum freed up from analogue switch-off to allow them to broadcast HDTV over Freeview (DTT).
It comes down to the fact that Freeview, cramped as it is at the moment, doesn’t have the capacity for HDTV, and there’s no likelihood of it getting it in the short term. Consequently, only Sky and cable operators have announced plans for it.
Ofcom is due to deliver its Digital Dividend Review in the autumn according to Broadcast. But you suspect that the government expects to make a lot of money from the sale of this spectrum to telecoms companies and the like. It still remembers the £22.5bn that it made selling 3G spectrum. Of course, the fact that operators have so far had no chance of recouping this money is swiftly glossed over. (Read the article in today’s Technology section of The Guardian noting the sheer expense of running a 3G phone. Further down the page, an Ask Jack question reveals the fact that if you listen to an online radio station at around 56kbps for four hours a day, you’d get through around 3GB a month. The biggest monthly usage plan I can see on Orange, for example, is £52.88 a month (Mobile Office Max 05 for personal users). So, to listen to that amount of radio would be in excess of £150 a month. And that’s before any other data usage like emails, or indeed, any phone calls).
I mentioned the other day, that mobile television was the other big new thing that’s going to be an earner. Yet at the same time IPTV is also the exciting new thing. With decent data rates, couldn’t IPTV render mobile television unnecessary. Then there are the burgeoning wi-fi and wi-max technologies.
Anyway, I’m going off course. The question remains: if this spectrum is auctioned off to the highest bidder, what’s it going to be used for, and can the spectrum honestly pay for itself?