Tuesday 30 September 2014

Mobile Broadband A Dark Cloud for DAB Radio

Digital radio delays put television pressure on VHF Band III
The UHF band 700 MHz today in use by digital terrestrial television (DTT) will gradually be taken over by mobile broadband on a global scale. Television will have to find frequencies on lower bands and is now looking into the band originally created for television VHF band III which today also hosts DAB radio.

The European Broadcasting Union says that during last year’s discussions mobile services did not show an interest for the lower band (the VHF band), as the technical characteristics of the UHF band offered them an optimum balance between coverage achieved and antenna size. However, since then with continued delays to the deployment of digital radio in Band III, the idea of using those frequencies for DTT has been gaining ground.

This move is rejected by the EBU. Digital radio is now growing rapidly in many European countries and needs the frequencies in Band III to expand in other countries. It is crucial that regulators understand that Band III cannot compensate for a reduction of UHF spectrum available for DTT. Broadcasters need to get involved in their country discussions on spectrum allocations and brief their national regulators, the organization said in a statement.

The EBU says the amount of spectrum available, just 56 MHz, is small compared to what’s planned for DTT in the UHF bands. Some countries do not transmit TV signals in Band III but in other countries as Finland this band is assigned exclusively for DTT.

VHF Band III is in the range of 174-240 MHz and is presently used for both radio (DAB/DAB+) and television (DVB-T). VHF Band II is the FM Band in most parts of the world

87,5-108 MHz. Besides the 700 MHz band in the UHF range the 450 MHz band is also in use by mobile broadband (now in operable in Norway and Sweden).

The DAB dilemma is that it is not technically designed for lower frequency range than Band III. Another problem is that there are still few countries with a significant DAB listening (15-24 % on a weekly basis in Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the UK). Also online radio via broadband has the advantage of a choice of thousands more channels than a couple of DAB multiplex.

Without any success stories it might become increasingly difficult for DAB radio to defend its assigned position in Band III.

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