Spectrum - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by BSkyB

1.  This submission presents the views of British Sky Broadcasting plc ("Sky") to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee's inquiry into spectrum allocation.

2.  In the past few months, Ofcom has issued a number of important consultations. In addition to the auctions of 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum, Ofcom is considering how best to approach the use of spectrum in the 470MHz-792MHz band, both national and geographic lots of interleaved spectrum.

3.  Sky has engaged with Ofcom in this process, and is now keen to contribute to the CMS Committee's inquiry to explain the new and exciting uses for spectrum, which we believe can be a real driver of economic growth.[53]

4.  In summary, we urge legislators and policy-makers provide for flexibility that will allow spectrum to be used by emerging technologies which will contribute to economic growth.

5.  Technological developments and digital switchover mean that spectrum in the 470Mhz-792Mhz (UHF) bands will increasingly become available. Ofcom has identified a range of policy drivers for ascertaining the best use of this spectrum. We believe that an overall policy objective should be to secure the most creative uses for spectrum that will best drive economic growth.

6.  We further believe that this policy objective can best be achieved by realising the benefits of wireless broadband services (implemented as "Wi-Fi"). In our submission to Ofcom we set out the consumer and economic benefits of Wi-Fi, and why spectrum should be allocated to this technology.

7.  In summary, Wi-Fi operates on open standards technologies and unlicensed spectrum which encourages fierce competition to bring products and services to market in the fastest time to meet customer demand. Wi-Fi standards are currently being updated for UHF operation.

8.  The spectacular growth of devices with Wi-Fi inbuilt[54] has demonstrated that open standards technologies and unlicensed spectrum have a considerable role to play in the delivery of mobile/roaming services to an increasing number of handheld devices in the market.

9.  One of the reasons for the growth in demand for Wi-Fi devices is that they offer consumers a lower-cost alternative to 3G technology which generally involves follow-on costs, such as monthly data charges, in addition to the purchase of equipment. In terms of public Wi-Fi services, Wi-Fi already accounts for over 20% of iPhone data traffic in the US by offloading from 3G networks.

10.  Wi-Fi is also supporting new user applications with higher data traffic demands which are unsustainable over 3G in high population density areas, such as streaming video. Wi-Fi is also increasingly being used in the US as a means of providing low cost calls using VOIP application with T-Mobile reporting that five million of its 34 million subscribers routing calls over Wi-Fi. In the US Wi-Fi offload is widely used by AT&T, T-Mobile, Cablevision, Metro-PCS as a key element of their data network.

11.  We believe that with the growing demand for broadband connectivity outside the home, and the increasing problems of congestion and interference in licence-exempt Wi-Fi spectrum (at 2.4GHz) Ofcom should be looking to secure sufficient UHF spectrum to ensure that this demand can be met.

12.  UHF is particularly attractive for broadband data services because it has far improved propagation characteristics compared to both existing Wi-Fi bands at 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

13.  Ofcom's approach to the release of this spectrum should be designed to maximise the potential uses for this spectrum. In particular, Ofcom should avoid placing unnecessary technical constraints on its use.

14.  Two such restrictions that are being contemplated are limitations on the ability for spectrum to be freely traded, and the imposition of unnecessary blanket technical constraints surrounding the protection of DTT bandwidth. We believe that either of these limitations would constrain the economic potential being fully realised from this valuable UHF spectrum.

June 2011

53   Wi-Fi usage in the home may be generating anywhere between $4.3 and $12.6 billion in annual economic value for consumers in the United States "The economic value generated by current and future allocations of unlicensed spectrum", Perspective Associates, September 2009. http://www.ingeniousmedia.co.uk/websitefiles/Value_of_unlicensed_-_website_-_FINAL.pdf Back

54   there are approx. 5 billion Wi-Fi enabled devices worldwide, a figure which is forecast to grow annually by 20% to 2013 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 3 November 2011