The free-to-air broadcaster is worried that too much spectrum is being set aside for mobile broadband.

Free-to-air television broadcaster has taken exception to a proposal by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) to take away a big chunk of radio frequency spectrum currently reserved for broadcasters and to reassign it for wireless broadband.

The spectrum bands in question are the 790MHz to 862MHz and 694MHz to 790MHz frequencies and are known as “digital dividend 1” and “digital dividend 2” respectively.

Mobile telecommunications operators are champing at the bit for access to the bands, which are ideally suited for rolling out fourth-generation broadband networks using long-term evolution technology. “Icasa states these bands will be vacated by 2015, which does not believe is realistic,” says CEO Marcel Golding.

The proposals are contained in Icasa’s draft radio frequency migration plan and regulations, published on 17 August. The authority is holding public hearings this week into the draft regulations. says the migration plan presents “major stumbling blocks to the sustainability of free-to-air broadcasters”.

“Broadcasters … are concerned that Icasa has not adequately assessed the implications of frequency migration,” it says. “Broadcasters are particularly concerned at the absence of any policy inquiry into the future needs of terrestrial broadcasting and the implications for their business.”

Golding says that given the “significant impact” the frequency migration plan will have on free-to-air broadcasters, expects it to be “carefully developed and its rationale thought through”.

“A major concern is that Icasa is proposing the large-scale migration of TV broadcasters from the spectrum bands in which they have assignments without having considered the future spectrum needs of the TV industry or compensation for affected broadcasters.

“Without defined entitlements after analogue switch-off, broadcasters will be thrown into an environment where they are unable to explore additional services such as high-definition and 3D and compete against TV-like services delivered over new technologies.”

Golding says supports the release of a digital dividend because it “understands that broadband and mobile telecoms have an important role in South Africa’s development”. However, he says that after the switch-off of analogue services, should be guaranteed at least one digital multiplex, or chunk of frequency spectrum, to itself or be compensated for loss of spectrum.

Source: TechCentral – Duncan McLeod