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EC Wants TV Spectrum for WiMax

Upon phaseout of Europe's analog TV signals, the freed-up UHF band could be assigned to the new wireless broadband technology

UHF spectrum should be allocated to WiMax once Europe's analogue television signals are phased out, the European commissioner for information society and media has proposed.

Viviane Reding made the suggestion during a broadband-related speech in Greece at the start of June. Noting that plans were already underway across Europe to open up the 2.6GHz band for mobile broadband usage, which could be WiMax or a variation of 3G, she again called the so-called digital dividend - the freeing up of spectrum brought about by the switch from analogue to digital - a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to tackle the digital divide.

Reding said: "If we want significant wireless broadband speeds at a low price we will need more frequency in spectrum ranges that have high propagation characteristics. Policy makers need to look at the digital dividend created by the switch over from analogue to digital TV very closely to see if they can carve out space for wireless broadband in the UHF space."

The spectrum in question lies between 500MHz and 800MHz. Because this is a much lower frequency range than the 2.6GHz and 5.8GHz bands currently mooted for WiMax and 3G's long-term evolution (LTE), it offers the possibility of far larger cell sizes.

Ofcom is already proposing to repackage UHF spectrum into bundles for use by multiple technologies once the digital switchover is completed.

The telecoms regulator welcomed Reding's words - at least in part.

An Ofcom spokesperson said: "We are confident our proposals are compatible with what is being discussed at a European level. There is a large amount of spectrum - around 112MHz - that will be made available and we have made it clear that there is potential for many different users and uses of that spectrum."

The spokesperson pointed out that a further consultation document on the digital dividend would emerge later this year.

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