Nº 10 2012 > ITU Telecom World 2012 | Special report
Addressing the spectrum challenge
The principal challenge of spectrum management is coping with the rapid increase in mobile data traffic around the world, explained François Rancy, Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau. “And as spectrum cannot be expanded, it must be taken from someone or somewhere”, he said.
“The important thing for us is predictability in terms of long-term customer needs, so that we can make sure today’s investment creates tomorrow’s jobs,” said Qualcomm’s Vice President, Public Policy and Government Affairs, Isabella De Michelis di Slonghello.
Wireless is an obvious solution to delivering broadband in terms of mobility and lack of infrastructure build-out costs, but spectrum shortages will remain. Intel’s Director of Broadband and Regulatory Policy John Roman suggested that a way out would be to “Assign spectrum in a service- and technology-neutral manner, repurpose and rebrand frequencies released by the transition to digital television, and assign new frequency bands for new innovative consumer applications”.
GSM Association Director General, Anne Bouverot, called on operators, governments and regulators to work together to free up spectrum. “We need a lot of spectrum for consumers to do what they want with mobile devices and for economies to benefit from that”, she said.
Chairman of Spectrum and Networks Group at DigiTAG, Bernard Pauchon, representing the broadcasting industry, pointed to the differing market maturities and needs in different regions of the world, in particular with regard to the digital television process.
Regional specificities were also the concern of Yousuf Al-Balushi of the Omani Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. “We in the region face the issue of overlapping border areas, where harmonization of spectrum is vital”, he said, suggesting that “governments should migrate to another band, implement a spectrum-sharing approach, and fund spectrum migration through auctions”.
Jacques Stern of French regulator ARCEP called for a focus on digital regional development and a drive for competition to properly monetize spectrum space. Reallocation of military frequencies and reclaiming white spaces were also suggested, but participants considered that it was up to government to solve the spectrum shortage.
Digital television migration
Country representatives are working to meet the ITU’s deadline of migration from analogue to digital television transmission by mid-2015. But a repeated theme among participants in a session on this topic was the often prohibitive cost of the migration process.
“We have embraced the 17 June 2015 deadline for the migration of terrestrial television, but the cost implications are enormous for a developing country like Zambia,” said Kennedy Sakene, Zambian Minister for Telecommunications. “This is a very, very tight deadline. However, we are doing everything possible to meet it.”
John Sydney Nkoma, Director General of the Tanzania Regulatory Authority, explained that his country had decided to shorten the dual broadcasting period, thus bringing forward the switchover and saving costs. “At the moment we are simulcasting — this is very expensive”, said Mr Nkoma. “So we have agreed to end this period by 31 December 2012, well before the ITU deadline of 2015.”
Lesotho’s Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Tšeliso Mokhosi, underlined that his country could not afford to make mistakes. As a small landlocked nation, entirely surrounded by the regional economic power-house of South Africa, “we have to pay close attention to what South Africa is doing”, said Mr Mokhosi. As a result, Lesotho’s digital migration is mirroring closely the work that is taking place in South Africa.
Despite the cost, the switch to digital presents opportunities. In Mauritius, the government anticipates reallocating some capacity from analogue to digital systems. “The Information Communication Telecommunications Authority is working on the planning of the digital dividend, with a view to reallocating some megahertz from analogue to digital broadcast,” said Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Tassarajen Pillay Chedumbrum.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the government is also undertaking a process of liberalization. “The terrestrial television network is going to be liberalized, with access to independent broadcasters to produce and broadcast on these frequencies”, said Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister for Post and ICT, Bruno Nabagné Koné.
In Indonesia, “migration from analogue to digital means the release of some spectrum”, said Tifatul Sembiring, Indonesia’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology. “We have not determined yet precisely what to use that released spectrum for, but we will certainly use it for advancing information and technology for the benefit of all the people of Indonesia.”
Natee Sukonrat, Vice Chairman of Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, admitted that his country was a little behind in making the switchover, but he hoped to take advantage of being late, both by learning from the mistakes of others and by benefiting from the latest technological advances.