Memorandum submitted by the British Entertainment
Industry Radio Group (BEIRG)
BEIRG is an independent, not-for-profit association
that works for the benefit of all those who produce, show, distribute
and ultimately consume content made using radio spectrum in the
UK. As such it advocates the interests of the Programme Making
and Special Events (PMSE) sector in the UK.
The PMSE sector is responsible for both content
production and content delivery for live and recorded entertainment.
It plays a critical role in the ongoing success of the British
Entertainment and Creative Industries. It consists of a wide and
diverse community, both professional and amateur, including broadcasters,
theatres, freelance engineers, rental companies, schools and houses
of worship, organisers of events large and small, all of which
use spectrum to relay sound and/or picture data across relatively
short distances. This allows, for example, wireless microphones
to be used on stage in musical theatre, and at events such as
Live 8 and the Olympics. These wireless technologies are
used extensively in the production of entertainment content, to
the extent that they are either essential or add significant value.
As an Independent Report commissioned by Ofcom notes, there are
productions that are simply "not possible without using wireless
This submission does not address the Government's
proposals relating to broadband access as facilitated by wired
infrastructure, but rather how the Government is proposing to
increase the radio spectrum available for next generation mobile
(wireless) broadband and the impact of these proposals on the
PMSE sector. It is also written in anticipation of certain companies
using this opportunity to push the "cognitive" or "white
space" device agenda, devices that may be intended for mobile
Ofcom has decided to clear the entire 800 MHz
band (UHF channels 61-69) of television signals and PMSE services
so it can be released for new services, such as mobile broadband,
via auction. The Government supports this decision, as confirmed
in the Digital Britain White Paper. Whilst Ofcom has decided to
retain some spectrum capacity in lower UHF channels for PMSE use
post-Digital Switchover (DSO), the current timescale for clearance
is aggressive and will severely disrupt PMSE services, to the
extent that their continuation is under threat. We therefore believe
that the Government should take all necessary steps to minimise
disruption to PMSE, including extending the timetable and ruling-out
clearing the band on a regional basis. We would like the committee
to consider including these recommendations in its report.
"Cognitive" or "white space"
devices pose a different problem for PMSE. These devices seek
to make use of unused interleaved spectrumthe white spacein
real time by continually scanning the airwaves for the presence
of licensed users' devices. The theory is that when they identify
unused white space they can operate. The fundamental problem is
that to date, trials in the USA by the Federal Communications
Commission show they do not work properly. These devices are touted
by companies such as Google, Dell and Microsoft as a new communications
technology that could be used for mobile internet access without
a requirement for a wireless telegraphy licence. The main concern
for the PMSE sector with regard to these applications is that
it has been proposed by Ofcom, supported by the Government, that
they will operate on those frequencies due to be reserved for
Cognitive devices are an unproven technology.
If they are permitted into the UK market in line with current
proposals for device specification and spectrum access, will in
all likelihood cause interference to licensed PMSE applications
and consequently undermine the UK's ability to produce quality
content by rendering radio microphones, in-ear monitor systems
and talkback effectively unusable. This will devastate the live
music, theatre and film and TV production industries, amongst
others. As we do not believe that it is possible for guarantees
to be provided that cognitive devices will not, under any circumstances,
interfere with licensed PMSE applications, we strongly believe
that cognitive devices should be deployed in alternative bands
that would not be 'shared' with PMSE applications. We would like
the committee to consider including this recommendation in its
800 MHZ BAND
1. The PMSE sector currently operates in
the interleaved spectrum in channels 61-68 on a secondary
basis, and channel 69 is dedicated for PMSE use UK-wide.
The vast majority of radio microphones and in-ear monitor applications
in the UK operate in these bands.
2. On 13 December 2007, Ofcom decided to
clear channels 63-68 of television transmissions and clear
channels 61-68 of PMSE (as well as those channels in the
600 MHz band) so they could be released via auction, as per
the spectrum liberalisation agenda. At the same time, Ofcom decided
to award channel 69 and most of the remaining interleaved
spectrum to a band manager with obligations to PMSE.
3. Timescale-wise, Ofcom's 2007 position
was that PMSE access to the cleared spectrum would be terminated
on a piecemeal basis as each region switched to digital broadcasting.
Ofcom attempted to provide some security by allowing PMSE temporary
access to channels 63-68 up until the point when new users
needed access to the spectrum, with six months' eviction notice.
4. The timescale suggested by Ofcom in 2007 for
clearing PMSE from the DDR spectrum would create major problems
for the sector, including manufacturers who need time to develop
new equipment, those who use its services, and also threatened
the "broadcastibility" of the Olympics. In addition,
it was difficult to envisage the new owners of the cleared spectrum
wishing to deploy their services prior to the completion of DSO
and hence the spectrum being available UK-wide. Consequently,
BEIRG lobbied hard to extend temporary PMSE access to the entirety
of cleared spectrum (both 600 and 800 MHz bands) UK-wide
until at least after the Olympics in 2012. This position was supported
by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG)
and the arguments backed-up by statements from T-Mobile, Vodafone,
Orange and O2 in August 2008:
(a) Vodafone stated that "The current proposed
timing of summer 2009 for the auction of cleared spectrum
is not realistic, nor is it necessary given that the spectrum
will not be available for launch of mobile services until towards
the end of 2012."
(b) T-Mobile stated that "Whilst Ofcom is
correct that some areas of the UK will be switching off their
analogue TV signal before 2012, the fact is that any nationwide
operator or broadcaster would not consider offering a nationwide
service until after London analogue TV signal is switched off
in 2012, irrespective of the date of auction. Mass market equipment
for mobile operators is unlikely to be available until 2012 at
the earliest, and so there is little value in having access to
this spectrum earlier than this date."
(c) Orange stated that "In any event, it
is not clear why there is such a rush by Ofcom to award the spectrum
"in the interests of citizens and consumers'. Without any
equipment available, there can be no services. The spectrum will
not be released in London until 2012, hence cannot be used until
after this date."
(d) O2 stated that "National access
to spectrum would be needed by mobile network operators to deploy
mobile broadband services".
5. Ofcom have since recognised the importance
of continuity of PMSE access to the cleared spectrum, taking into
account the need to allow sufficient time for an orderly migration
of PMSE from the cleared spectrum and ensuring that a sufficient
stock of suitable equipment is available for use for the London
2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.
Consequently, Ofcom proposed in their consultation on clearing
the 800 MHz band to maintain PMSE access to channels 31-35,
37 and 61-69 until DSO is completed in the UK until
However, things have since changed.
6. The Government stated in the Digital
Britain Report that it "is committed to the timely release
of 800 MHz spectrum and will work with Ofcom to understand
and meet the technical challenges. It has already endorsed Ofcom's
proposal setting out plans to clear channels 61, 62 and 69.
The Government will facilitate this re-planning and will meet
the costs incurred by broadcasters and PMSE users as a result
of these changes".
7. Further to the Government's position
set out in the Digital Britain Interim Report and subsequent White
Paper, it appointed the Independent Spectrum Broker (ISB) to resolve
the Mobile Network Operators' spectrum holdings and allocation
issues, potentially involving a recommendation for the Government
to direct Ofcom to take certain action relating to the clearance,
release and packaging of the 800 MHz band (now channels 61-69 inclusive).
8. In light of these developments, Ofcom
changed its position and has only provided guaranteed PMSE access
to the 800 MHz band until 1 January 2012 rather than
late 2012. We understand that this was done so as not to contradict
any possible future Government intervention to accelerate the
clearance of the 800 MHz band, potentially on a regional
basis. Subsequent to this, Ofcom asked the following in its consultation
on PMSE funding: "How would a decision to clear PMSE from
channel 69 on 1 January 2012 affect you? What could
we and the Government do to provide for an orderly migration in
these circumstances?" These questions have fuelled our
concerns that the timetable for PMSE clearance will be adjusted
again to the detriment of the PMSE sector.
9. The vast majority of wireless microphones
and in-ear monitors in the UK operate in the 800 MHz band.
Ofcom have estimated that 95% of all wireless microphones in the
UK are designed to tune to channel 69. In order to clear the 800 MHz
band of PMSE, all the relevant equipment that operates in this
band in the UK will need to be destroyed or retuned. In order
to continue providing valuable services, PMSE equipment-owners
will need to replace or modify existing 800 MHz equipment
with equipment that operates in the remaining (ie post-DSO) interleaved
spectrum and/or channel 38. Demand for this new equipment and
modification services will need to be met by manufacturers and
other relevant parties. Ofcom have recognised that this process
will take time and therefore proposed a migration period of three
The PMSE Pro User Group has stated that it would take longer than
this; at least three years for development plus a further seven
years for market penetration.
Aside from arguments about how much time is required to migrate
PMSE users from the 800 MHz band in an orderly and efficient
fashion, there are currently significant barriers to this process
even getting underway. In this regard, it is important to distinguish
between PMSE users of "channel 69" and PMSE users of
10. Ofcom proposed to clear channel 69 of
PMSE and include it in the 800 MHz auctions rather than award
it for PMSE use in February this year. Ofcom has since announced
that channel 38 will be cleared of radio astronomy and awarded
to the band manager as a replacement and stated that "users
can therefore now begin to move from channel 69."
However, due to the needs of significant groups of PMSE users,
this is not the case; they cannot move from channel 69 because
use of channel 38 is restricted. Channel 38 is used
for radio astronomy services centered around Jodrell Bank (Cheshire)
and in Cambridge. As a consequence of the requirement to protect
radio astronomy from interference, channel 38 is unusable
for PMSE in large areas of the North East, the Midlands and East
Anglia. In addition, there are areas across the UK where channel
38 can only be used indoors in order to protect terrestrial
TV from interference in neighbouring channel 37.
11. As a consequence of these severe restrictions
on the usability of channel 38, all those who need their equipment
to be useable UK-wide (mobile/travelling productions) or specifically
in those restricted locations (fixed venue) have no option but
to continue to use existing channel 69 equipment and if they
need new equipment to invest in new channel 69 equipment.
12. Whilst Ofcom have said that they will
engage with radio astronomy users to try and reduce the restrictions
on PMSE use of channel 38, the current position is that radio
astronomy's use of channel 38 will continue until 1st January
2012. BEIRG's understanding is that it is in the Government's
gift, and not Ofcom's, to expedite the clearance of radio astronomy
from channel 38. In addition, the restricted use of channel 38 to
indoors only due to the need to protect television transmissions
in adjacent channel 37 will remain until the digital switchover
(DSO) is completed in each region, culminating in London in mid-2012.
13. The upshot of the current situation
laid out above is that a large number of PMSE users of channel
69 will not be able to migrate from channel 69 until
1st January 2012. These are UK-wide users (mobile/travelling productions)
and fixed venue users in the affected areas.
14. If the situation remains as is, with
PMSE retaining access to the cleared spectrum (including channel
69) until 1st January 2012 only and channel 38 only
clear of radio astronomy by this date, for all the affected users
and owners of channel 69 equipment above, the migration to
channel 38 seems to be expected to take place overnight.
Quite simply, BEIRG does not see how this would be possible. Ofcom's
position is that three years will be required for an orderly and
efficient migration to take place and the PMSE Pro User Group
considered that it would take longer.
15. But the question of clearing the 800 MHz
band of PMSE does not just relate to migrating from channel 69 to
channel 38. In order to clear the 800 MHz band of PMSE, users
will need to migrate not just from channel 69, but also from channels
61-69 inclusive, where the vast majority of PMSE equipment
in the UK market operates.
16. In respect of channels 63-68, Ofcom
has stated that the PMSE sector was provided with notice at the
beginning of the DDR on 17 November 2005 that these frequencies
were under threat.
In respect of channels 61 and 62, Ofcom decided on 13 December
2007 that 'this spectrum would be removed from PMSE use.
However, whilst Ofcom had announced that these frequencies would
not be useable for PMSE, no certainty has been provided as to
which frequencies in the post-DSO interleaved spectrum will be
available for PMSE. Ofcom has provided general "reassurances"
about the overall availability of interleaved spectrum, but has
not provided data which shows the definitive configuration of
the post-DSO interleaved spectrum and will not be able to do so
until mid-2010 once the international negotiations for reorganization
of DTT have been completed. As a consequence of this lack of certainty,
the PMSE sector has no option but to continue to manufacture and
invest in equipment that operates in the spectrum due to be cleared
of PMSE and is not able to migrate into replacement bands.
17. Under current plans, migration of PMSE
users from the interleaved spectrum in channels 61-68 into
the post-DSO interleaved spectrum cannot possibly start until
mid-2010. Even then, it is not clear that users will be able to
migrate because the post-DSO interleaved frequencies may not be
available in the locations where users wish to operate their equipment
due to discrepancies in configuration between analogue and digital
television transmissions and channels 21-30 and 41-60 will
still be used for analogue TV up until the point where DSO takes
place in each region. As per the transition time required for
migration from channel 69, we expect it to take at least three
years for the PMSE sector to migrate from channels 61-68.
18. If PMSE access to the 800 MHz band
is terminated before the sector has been able to replace all existing
equipment with alternative equipment that meets the current operational
needs of end users then its ability to offer the wide range of
products and services to citizens and consumers of the UK will
be severely restricted. Under current proposals, this is what
19. We believe that a decision to prematurely
clear PMSE from the 800 MHz band would disrupt the PMSE sector,
particularly travelling productions that need to use more than
8 radio microphones. The need to swap equipment as they move
from venue to venue as dictated by having to adapt to the variation
in frequency allocation will add to costs significantly and potentially
render them financially unviable. We also believe clearing the
800 MHz band of PMSE will threaten the availability of sufficient
stocks of PMSE equipment for the Olympic Games.
20. Whilst we do not believe that it would
be possible to clear the 800 MHz band of PMSE by 1st January
2012 because of the timescales involved in the development,
production and distribution of sufficient equipment to re-equip
the vast majority of the PMSE sector, the following conditions
would help to expedite the migration of PMSE:
1. Certainty about which interleaved frequencies
will be available for PMSE use post-DSOwithout this certainty,
manufacturers cannot develop, let alone supply equipment -and
users cannot determine their needs
2. Ensure that funding provided to those eligible
covers the full costs of replacing all existing equipment that
will be rendered redundant as a result of DSO/DDR with like-for-like
alternatives, including that which tunes to channels 31-37 and
61-68 as well as 69. This will help to ensure that equipment
owners can afford to replace existing equipment. If PMSE users
can afford to replace existing equipment and funding is provided
upon approval, this will stimulate manufacturers in terms of commercial
imperative and help facilitate an early migration, but also early
preparation for the migration (ie users will have the equipment
ready to use at the time the spectrum becomes available to the
extent that it can accommodate their operational needs).
3. Maximise the availability of channel 38 as
soon as possible (as availability of channel 38 is increased,
it will become more suitable to meet PMSE users operational needs
and hence increase the proportion of users who would be willing
4. Ensure that there is a reasonable period of
dual like-for-like availability of (a) channels 69 and 38 and
the (b) pre-DSO and post-DSO interleaved spectrum. Without this
dual-availability, there is a considerable risk that manufacturers
will experience order backlogs, thus increasing the risk of regulatory
and market failure. However, the need for dual availability could
be lessened by allowing equipment owners to stockpile replacement
equipment and use existing equipment in the meantime, which in
turn would need to be facilitated by providing like-for-like funding
5. Provide funding as soon as claims are approved
(to facilitate early migration to channel 38 and/or the post-DSO
interleaved spectrum for those PMSE users for which this is convenient).
6. Equipment that operates in the cleared spectrum
must not be surrendered until replacement equipment can be deployed
in the same way.
7. The funding mechanism would need to be put
in place as soon as possible.
8. Consideration of direct capital injections
to manufacturers to ensure that they have the resources to develop
and produce sufficient equipment to replace all that will be affected.
9. Security of tenure in those frequencies until
at least 2026. Certainty increases the incentives to invest in,
develop and produce more efficient applications for the mass market
that operate on channel 38 and the post-DSO interleaved spectrum.
It will also increase innovation, which will lead to more efficient
use. In this regard, we would recommend allocating channels 38-40 for
PMSE use on a more favourable basis than "secondary use".
10. Licensing arrangements for channels 38-40 must
mirror current arrangements for channel 69, the licences for channels
38-40 must not be any more expensive than those currently
issued for use of channel 69 and users should not be required
to purchase a channel 38 licence until channel 69 expires.
1. "Cognitive" or "white
space" devices pose a different problem for PMSE. They are
being touted by companies such as Google, Dell and Microsoft as
a new communications technology that could be used for mobile
internet access without a requirement for a wireless telegraphy
licence. The main concern for the PMSE sector with regard to these
applications is that it has been proposed by Ofcom, as supported
by the Government, that they will use those frequencies due to
be reserved for PMSE.
2. In respect of "cognitive" or
"white space" devices, the Digital Britain Report stated
(a) "a number of companies have argued that
the so-called wireless white spaces (interleaved spectrum) provide
an opportunity for exciting new wireless services such as enhanced
wi-fi in the UK. These have potential in rural areas to deliver
(b) "There is broad agreement that the opportunities
offered by cognitive devices should be further explored, although
there are concerns about the scope for interference to licensed
users operating in and around the interleaved spectrum and ongoing
questions about technical constraints. Whilst recognising those
concerns, the Government also believes that there are significant
opportunities for innovative services to be delivered, that would
further the achievement of Digital Britain."
(c) "The Government will therefore encourage
Ofcom to carry out the necessary technical work and testing to
establish the parameters for use and will support Ofcom to achieve
the international harmonisation that is required."
3. Ofcom concluded a consultation process
in the Spring of this year on licence-exempting cognitive devices
using interleaved spectrum.
PMSE applications such as wireless microphones have been deployed
in the interleaved spectrum for decades and are essential for
the production of live and recorded entertainment including the
Performing Arts, Broadcasting, News Gathering, Film and Independent
Production, Corporate Events, Concerts, Night Venues and Sports
4. Any interference with PMSE applications
will disrupt content production at its live source. As a consequence
of this interference, the value and benefits this content would
normally generate through its consumption via a variety of media
and exposure to a much wider audience will be significantly reduced
or lost at the beginning of the value chain. Moreover, any interference,
however short in duration and irrespective of whether it is transient,
to PMSE applications is harmful, particularly for live professional
performances. No audio distortions or disruptions are acceptable
to contemporary audiences.
5. Whilst we accept that, in principle,
any device which definitively does not and will not cause any
interference to licensed users should be able to use the same
spectrum as those licensed users on a licence-exempt basis, we
have severe reservations that any form of cognitive device will
be able to meet these conditions. Indeed, cognitive devices could
destroy the PMSE sector's ability to produce content unless it
can be guaranteed that they can not, and will not, cause interference
to licensed PMSE users of the radio spectrum under any circumstances.
We do not believe that it is possible to provide such a guarantee.
Cognitive devices are unproven and have failed repeatedly to detect
and avoid interfering with PMSE, specifically wireless microphones,
as evidenced by the tests carried out by the FCC.
6. Ofcom must take these points into account
when considering whether cognitive access to the interleaved spectrum
should be permitted at all. Based on current evidence, it will
risk devastating live and recorded content production without
guaranteeing any discernible benefits to citizens and consumers
of the UK. Further risks are that (1) devices that do not meet
the requisite technical specifications may be used in the UK nonetheless
or (2) the devices could be adjusted
to remove the interference-protection functions.
7. In light of these risks, we believe that
Ofcom must consider restricting cognitive devices to bands where
there are no incumbent PMSE applications; whilst we do not believe
(and indeed current evidence suggests) that they can coexist with
existing radiomicrophones and other short-range licensed wireless
devices, deployment in alternative available bands will not preclude
future coexistence with new technologies or applications.
8. If Ofcom do insist on allowing cognitive
access to the interleaved spectrum, they should not squander the
benefits of PMSE and DTT to UK citizens and consumers by setting
weak interference prevention standards and allowing a flood of
inexpensive devices to enter the band that will likely interfere
not only with incumbent services, but also with each other.
25 September 2009
section 7.1 Back
page 7 Back
page 10 Back
page 5 Back
pt. 20 Back
page 78 Back
page 4 Back
section 7.16 Back
section 5.115 Back
section 5.114 Back
Digital Britain Report, page 80 Back
Digital Britain Report, page 81 Back
Digital Britain Report, page 81 Back
In a way analogous to mobile phones being 'unlocked' Back