The digitization of terrestrial television broadcasting in Germany is in full swing. Efficient data rate reduction methods are used. The DVB-T system applied in Germany allows to transmit, instead of one TV channel, up to four channels per UHF slot with comparable quality. The frequency spectrum that becomes available in the course of digitization is called the “Digital Dividend”.
The World Radio Communication Conference WRC-2007 decided, based on the principle of the “Digital Dividend”, to open up the upper UHF band (790-862 MHz, channels 61-69) previously allocated to broadcast television, to IMT mobile services. As a result, this frequency range, previously assigned primarily to broadcasting, has been co-primarily allocated to mobile communications. Thus, in the future, digital terrestrial television DVB-T, on the one hand, competes in the use of spectrum with UMTS mobile telephony and broadband transmission methods such as LTE (Long Term Evolution), on the other hand.
Especially in Germany, there are aggravating circumstances in this competition: Two sections of the upper UHF range are assigned to military applications, and wireless transmissions of studio equipment (e.g. wireless microphones) must be considered as secondary users.
After the German Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) has decided about auctioning the frequencies from the “Digital Dividend”, the affected parties recognize unsettled issues such as the possible radio interferences and the cost for their remedy. Criticism includes also “broadband wireless” being elected politically as the panacea for rural Internet coverage, although possible alternative transmission routes present very attractive features.
Regarding the interference problem, the opinion of VisionConsult international is that the evacuation of the frequency range from broadcast television does not mean automatically mobile services will be able to use it easily. Especially the compatibility with broadcast services needs consideration, and the interference potential on the remaining secondary users has to be investigated. In addition to compatibility issues with existing DVB-T receivers and future DVB-T / DVB-T2 receivers, compatibility between mobile services, on the one hand, and broadband cable systems (CATV networks), MATV systems for multiple dwelling units and the studio wireless transmission systems, such as wireless microphones, on the other hand, remain completely unclear. VisionConsult warns to create a status quo today with calls for tender and frequency allocations, without overseeing in its entirety the level of interferences with regard to broadcasting services and secondary users.
With respect to the the overall economic benefits of the “Digital Dividend”, as early as in the fall of 2008, VisionConsult international has carried out a multi-dimensional analysis of the potential, based on various options considering the impact on the overall economic benefits when using the frequency band 790-862 MHz for IMT mobile services, and proposed the investigation to the German Federal Network Agency in a tender. Aspects such as the contribution to GDP, creation and safeguarding of jobs, development of know-how and the sustainable development of infrastructure (urban-rural gap) were just a few of the issues taken into account.