24 March 2014

UPDATE: Extension to the 2M band here in the UK

Posted on the OFCOM website today:

Responses to the Call for Input and Consultation on next steps of the release of spectrum within the frequency ranges 143 MHz to 169 MHz

Summary

 1.1 This document provides a summary of responses to an earlier Call for Input (CFI) regarding the release of VHF spectrum and, taking these responses into account, sets out proposals on how we would plan and release around 6 MHz of spectrum in the 143 to 169 MHz band, returned to civil use by the Emergency Services.

 1.2 This consultation follows on from the CFI we published in July 2012(-1-) regarding potential uses of spectrum in England, Wales and Northern Ireland between 143 and 156 MHz. Given that it is highly unusual for VHF spectrum to become available in such large amounts, especially in significant blocks of contiguous bandwidth of up to 1 MHz, we decided to publish a CFI to seek stakeholder views on potential uses for this spectrum. The CFI closed on 12th October 2012 and we received 29 responses, six of which were marked as confidential. The responses to the CFI identified a number of potential uses that the spectrum could be put to and these included:

Existing Business Radio products on a licensed basis to allow industry sectors such as transport and utilities to maintain and improve their communications systems, for example to deploy wide area trunked networks;

A requirement to facilitate Amateur Radio development applications such as digital Amateur TV and satellite;

Spectrum for maritime and safety of life applications;

Spectrum for a ‘LTE’ type application / service;

An allocation for Citizens’ Band Radio; and

Higher power licence exempt use.

 1.3 Since the CFI, spectrum between 143 MHz and 156 MHz in Scotland has also been returned by the Emergency Services, as has around 0.5 MHz of UK wide spectrum in the range 168 MHz and 169 MHz. The proposals in this consultation also encompass this recently release spectrum.

 1.4 Based on the responses received to the CFI we are proposing to:
Make the spectrum in this range available on a first-come-first-served basis through our current Business Radio licence products. This would be in line with the use of this spectrum in Europe and consistent with the European Electronic Communication Committee (ECC Decision (06) 06)(-2-) which recommends the use of this band for PMR.
Employ an assignment approach that makes new channels available to business radio through a graduated approach in response to spectrum management needs. Our intention is to maintain maximum flexibility for the band should new types of demand emerge in the future.
Allocate 0.4 MHz of spectrum on an exclusive basis to Maritime and Land Search and Rescue to meet the demand of new search and rescue technologies and to ensure safety of life channels have adequate protection from adjacent channel users in this band; and
Make spectrum that is not currently being used for Business Radio in this range available on a temporary basis for Amateur Radio and Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE).

 1.5 Whilst it is anticipated that narrowband PMR use will continue, there is also the possibility of radio use for applications / technologies that have not been present in these areas of spectrum previously. A number of responses to the CFI identified emerging requirements for broader-band applications, particularly among the utilities sector for telemetry, Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and possible ‘LTE’ type applications.

 1.6 We believe that these bands in the longer term may offer particular opportunities for new types of use that are not readily accommodated by our licensing arrangement. The approach we have outlined in this document acknowledges that new demand may emerge and our proposed assignment approach is specifically designed to preserve future flexibility. If demand for wideband access or other technologies (such as M2M or ‘LTE’ type services) emerges we may decide to review our assignment approach and may also consult on alternative allocation models, including an award of available spectrum.

 1.7 As demand for both operational and potential future services in the short to medium term is likely to be low we are also proposing to permit temporary access to 1 MHz of this spectrum (146 to 147 MHz) for Amateur Radio use, until such a time as it is needed by Business Radio or other services. Should additional spectrum be needed to meet operational requirements, we will remove the temporary allocation. Amateur Radio use of this frequency will be on a non-protection/ non-interference basis and will be subject to some geographical restrictions to ensure that there is no interference to neighbouring countries. We propose that the authorisation will be implemented by an individual Notice of Variation (NoV) to the Amateur Radio licence.

 1.8 It is also our preferred policy to grant temporary access to this spectrum for Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE). This is already the case with Business Radio spectrum and we will also continue to apply this policy to these spectrum bands.

 1.9 We welcome stakeholder feedback to this consultation document. The deadline to submit responses to us is 5 pm on 26th May 2014. We expect to release a Statement on this consultation later this year having taken into account stakeholder responses to our proposals.

The full document is available below

Footnotes:
 1.-http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/call-for-input/summary/condoc.pdf
 2.-http://www.erodocdb.dk/Docs/doc98/official/pdf/ECCDEC0606.PDF