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The economic value of spectrum use in the United Kingdom stood at £52 billion in 2011, an increase of 25% since 2006, according to ‘Impact of radio spectrum on the UK economy and factors influencing future spectrum demand’ study done by Analysys Mason. The study also shows mobile services accounting for nearly 60% of this value, while broadcasting accounts for a further 20%. Other sectors considered include the use of Wi-Fi as a substitute for mobile broadband, microwave links, satellite links and private mobile radio.

Although, Wi-Fi technology is readily available and affordable, it still has limited applications. It has to be considered a best effort service, since there is no control of channels, interference of other equipment also operating in the 2,4/5.0GHz frequency spectrum. This makes it better suited for fallback access for mobile broadband, but less suitable for transmission backhaul, especially in densely populated areas, where controlling latency and qos become major issues.

Another key finding is that public mobile communications support a supply chain of infrastructure, equipment, applications and content providers generating annual revenues of around £20 billion and supporting 75, 000 jobs, while broadcasting services support a supply chain worth around GBP16 billion a year and supporting 40, 000 jobs. “Ongoing market, technical and commercial trends all point towards continued growth in the public mobile sector, suggesting its importance to the UK economy will continue to increase,” explains Philip Bates, senior manager at Analysys Mason.


“The licence-exempt sector (including Wi-Fi, RFID and M2M (Machine-to-Machine)) applications and many more uses of short-range devices) is becoming increasingly diverse, and innovators are emerging in the UK offering new ways to deliver licence-exempt services.” Now that digital switchover is complete, the study suggests further consideration should be given on when and how the digital terrestrial TV platform can be upgraded to deliver more HD content, while network improvements could also be made to digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio platforms.

However, upgrading the digital terrestrial platform DVB-T and DVB-S to provide more HD content will require additional spectrum in terms of transponder capacity for satellite and additional UHF/VHF frequencies for terrestrial, if using the current HD technology to broadcast content. Although, the 500 MHz of spectrum the UK government is planning to liberate will deliver more HD content, this is still limited by the underlying HD video standards employed today. Inventing even more efficient video codecs would help to deliver more content using the same spectrum. However, this would also more than likely require another generation of set top box to deliver such benefits.

The study concludes with a series of comments on the implications of the findings for activities to support the future growth of the mobile sector (and other sectors that will be influenced by growth in the mobile sector), upgrades to digital terrestrial TV and radio platforms, better sharing of underutilized spectrum and finally the release of public sector spectrum.


By Angela Sutherland 

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