back to article Ofcom sets out next DECADE of spectrum policy: Use it or lose it

Ofcom plans to spend the next 10 years looking for unused spectrum, flogging off what it can but focusing on utilisation like it should, and wants to know if there's anything missing. The consultation on "Spectrum Management Strategy" is long, and has more reiteration than most documents emerging from Riverside House. It's also …

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a Decade?

If planning a decade ahead is hard for the regulator, what about the system designer. We are now expected to plan, research, test, manufacture, and sell a system with no certainty about the future availability of the bandwidth we will be expecting our customers to use?

I'd want to be guaranteed access to a frequency band for at least 30 years before bother.

I can recall the 1950s and 60s, when allocation was done first by considering the physical properties of the band (line of sight, ground wave propagation, multi-skip, multipath immunity, rain attenuation) and then deciding what class of service it would be suitable for. After that there were international agreements between regulatory authorities. Only then were the people who wanted to make money allowed into the discussion.

One of the things that has rather horrified me in recent years has been the way vested interest has muscled into bands (the unlicenced 2.4 & 5MHz bands were supposedly for any sort of access - door bells, CCTV, industirial telemetry, door openers, remote cranes) but wifi has dominted them almost compeltely. Then there were the white space enthusiasts who wanted to use guard bands that had been designed to simplify the design of selectivity of equipment in adjacent channels.

Yes, there is more demand than spectrum. But that is an arguement for letting the regulators take decisions in the public good, not be pushed about by meganationals.

To be fair, I think that Ofcom is doing its best to behave correctly, and it is very careful about prior consultation. But it only regulates these islands, and can be bullied by a steamroller already running from elsewhere. I think the European authorities could have been more proactive.

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Re: a Decade?

An upvote for

"I can recall the 1950s and 60s, when allocation was done first by considering the physical properties of the band (line of sight, ground wave propagation, multi-skip, multipath immunity, rain attenuation) and then deciding what class of service it would be suitable for. After that there were international agreements between regulatory authorities. Only then were the people who wanted to make money allowed into the discussion."

But you ought to wash your keyboard out for suggestion Ofcom is behaving correctly:

White Space

PLT (in denial)

LW/MF/SW/VHF Interference issues

Digital TV allocated space.

Interference to Digital TV

Supporting Mobile Operators view on Roaming charges

Policy to replace VHF-FM with DAB

Policy to replace DTT entirely by Satellite, Cable and Fibre.

Eventual total abolition of Terrestrial Broadcasting

--- and much more!

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HMB

Re: a Decade?

I'm all for a thoughtful assessment of the varying pros and cons of different sections of spectrum, but what's all this nonsense about companies and WiFi?

When spectrum costs money, companies only buy it if it's profitable. It's only profitable if people want the services the operator plans for it. The end result is that spectrum goes to the end user that wants a service according to the free market economy approach. It's not always a perfect fit, WiFi shows us that, but it's still a good model that works for things like Mobile Phones. I will accept that sometimes the spectrum is granted for too long, but that's a spectrum allocation error, not one of business. I also accept that companies should use it or loose it too.

I'm shocked and disturbed that you're so against the proliferation of WiFi. I don't think you could have got it more back to front. We've never been able to do more with radio, never had it more capable, never had it smarter, never had so much damn bandwidth and you're attacking the principle enabling technology!?

The reason WiFi is dominating the band is because so many people want it. Nothing could be more democratic and fair.

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Re: a Decade?

Fair enough. I'd put their uselessness down to being told to be useless by Brown, Cameron, et. al.

But as you say, it might be built-in.

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To be fair

Ofcom is rubbish but probably better than Comreg.

We need a new concept of regulator. A better definition of "good utilisation" of Spectrum, Consumer protection and a long term strategy that is about reliable and interference free USE of the spectrum. Revenue raised from Licences should be irrelevant. Possibly even zero. After all you can have VAT on the services Mobile companies sell. Corporation tax is a can of worms.

There is also MUCH MORE to spectrum management than either WiFi type applications or Mobile Operators. Ofcom have forgotten this.

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I read somewhere that ofcom were considering buggering about with the freeview bands in a few years, thus rendering up to 30% of current digiboxes/tvs unable to tune in. If true, what a great way to stimulate tv sales and thus tax for the govt at the expense of the public eh. Currys, dixons et al must be creaming themselves at the prospect.

If they want to obsolete something, how about killing the awful current uk DAB radio system and doing it properly next time.

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What's wrong with DAB radio? (Just curious)

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"What's wrong with DAB radio? (Just curious)"

It sounds worse than the fm system the govt want to phase out due to a lot of stations saving money (space on a DAB mux is a lot more expensive than fm) by using dreadful bitrates and sometimes mono only. It has really bad coverage countrywide and doesnt work very well in moving vehicles. It also degrades horribly in bad reception areas compared to fm, with fm you get a bit of hiss, with DAB you get a horrible mix of pops and clicks that make the audio painful to listen to. The recievers eat up power and cost 3 times as much to buy. The mp2 standard it uses is old tech and used only in the uk, everyone else uses DAB+ which is much better in both sound quality and reception.

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Anonymous Coward

What's wrong with DAB (continued)

And for the road warriors out there, DAB appears to have no capability for RDS-style traffic updates. For those unfamiliar, an FM-RDS radio with Traffic Programme capability can automagically switch from the station you are listening to, to the local station's traffic bulletin, and back again, without user intervention. As a former 15K miles/year driver, I don't want a car radio that doesn't do that.

DAB is doomed to failure.in the UK.

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Re: What's wrong with DAB (continued)

DAB is great, when you can get it... but in reality, it never works right, the quality is bad, and in the end I use my mobile to stream radio when at home and end up using FM in the car, even though my car has a DAB radio.. I am only 15 miles from the radio station I listen to, yet it pops and stutters until i get to around 7 miles out when I use DAB!

I have no idea whether my car radio can handle DAB+, I just hope they future proofed it (considering how much I paid for the car they had better have!)

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450mhz

450mhz is certainly suitable for LTE. This band was used years ago for NMT analog phone standard... those companies who held on to licenses (especially in eastern europe) basically laughed all the way to the bank as they found CDMA and EVDO ran just fine in the 450mhz band.

They found GSM unsuitable because a) It was already technologically obsolete and b) the 22km distance limit is a big problem at 450mhz where a site can otherwise go much much farther.

They found UMTS unsuitable because a) early on when Qualcomm pushed CDMA+EVDO, UMTS was not even in commercial deployment yet. b) The allocations were weird, although the full NMT band is 450-470mhz, the carriers would get weird allocations... they might have 10 or 15mhz, but not necessarily contiguous, so some found they could not run even a single 2x5mhz UMTS channel, whereas 2x1.25mhz CDMA and 2x1.25mhz EVDO channels fit better. LTE supports 2x1.4mhz for similar situations.

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