Saturday 28 April 2018

New Intitiative: 5G In the FM Band in Norway

Desperate Public Broadcaster Attempt to Get Rid of Local FM Radio
Smart mobile system 5G will launch worldwide in 2020 and there is hard work to find enough frequency space. For Europe, very high frequencies are now assigned 3.4-3.6, 26 Ghz and 700 MHz band. During the conference Digitalforum in Oslo, a representative of the public broadcaster NRK stated that the EBU is discussing using the 5G in FM band. A test can be done in Norway and can be done in a short period of time. However, the idea was  rejected by several experts.

The EBU is discussing using FM for 5G. There is the possibility of a pilot in Norway, said Gunnar Garfors from NRK at Digitalforum. An advantage is that FM band transmitters will reach longer than the 700 MHz band. There are areas in Norway where there is nothing on FM, explains Garfors, who points out that no decisions have been made. Garfors also leads the IDAG group that promotes the DMB technology which will use gthe DAB network for television. Garfors is also behind the failed efforts to get DAB+ into smartphones.

Experts do not think that the FM band (87.5-108 MHz) is suitable for 5G. The signals can spread more geographically, but the bandwidth becomes significantly smaller. For mobile services in 5G, one (1) channel would fill up the entire 20 MHz frequency band on the FM band.

In addition, the FM radio must be switched-off in all other European countries in order to be accessible for other purposes in Norway. There is no international interest to look at alternative uses of this band, said John-Eivind Velure of the telecom authority Nkom at the Frequency Forum in Oslo in October 2017. This has also been discussed with other member countries in international forums, but nobody is interested in commencing any work he harmonized the FM band for other uses, he said.

The EBU has not published any documentation that can confirm Garfors's claim that consideration is given to proposals for using the 5G in the FM band.

At Digitalforum there were also other participants from the Norwegian DAB lobby. Free Spotify on mobile subscriptions has clearly affected the radio transition, said Ole Jørgen Torvmark, Digitalradio Norge AS. He pointed to polls showing that streaming of music has increased more than radio after the FM switch-off. However, Torgeir Waterhouse from ICT-Norway said, on the contrary it is the FM switch-off that is the cause of the downturn for national radio.

Radio listening has continued to decline in Norway and less than half of the Norwegians are expected to listen to the national channels on DAB+. At the same time, record increases for local radio on FM is reported. At the same time, the Norwegian local federation has clearly put its foot down and said that it wants to continue on FM when the current permit expires in 2021.

It is supposed that the interests of DAB - primarily NRK, MTG and Bauer - are strongly opposed to continued FM broadcasting. DAB will then be at risk not becoming the main platform they have planned for Norway. The NRK initiative about 5G on the FM band is an obvious signal to politicians from strong players. The initiative was also presented just a few days before the Progressive Party (Frp) national conference. Frp is expected to take a decision to retain the FM-band local radio broadcasting also from 2022. (Frp is a part of the three-party government)

Facts about 5G in Sweden
In Stockholm, you now start testing 5G at 3.4-3.6 GHz and 26 GHz bands with 100-200 MHz resp. 1000 MHz bandwidth. Later, the 700 MHz band is also used, as the terrestrial television must leave for lower frequencies in the UHF band.

Read more
5G and PSM - Opportunities in distribution of AV content & services (EBU BPN 109)
The Swedish Post and Telecom Agency's Spectrum Plan for 5G Tests.

Also read
DAB Vision for Alternative Use of FM Band Fades Away
Norwegian Local Radio Will Continue On FM
Why DAB Radio in Norway, But Not in Sweden? 
EBU Outlines 5G EU Policy for Public Service Media