Ofcom report on radio microphones

Ofcom has brought forward detailed proposals for moving DTT (digital terrestrial television) from channels 61 and 62 and PMSE (programme-making and special events) from channel 69.

Ofcom, the digital dividend and radio-microphones: an interim report

Overall, Ofcom believes that if the 800 Mhz band is cleared of present use, it will produce an overall net benefits to UK consumers conservatively estimated at £2-3 billion in net present value. A major reason why the prospective benefits are so large is that it will be possible to provide better mobile broadband services to consumers at lower cost.

However, the PMSE proposals will impact on users of radio-microphones on channel 69 (and other channels in the DDR). Many churches will have bought and licensed radio microphone equipment in order to allow worship to be led freely from anywhere in the church.

The consultation document says this:

To release the whole 800 MHz band, we need to clear channels 61, 62 and 69 of DTT and PMSE. But we need to do this in a way that does not adversely affect the important services that would have been provided using this spectrum. This means finding other spectrum that is a suitable replacement for channels 61, 62 and 69. It also means making sure we plan the change from using one set of frequencies to another very carefully so that we avoid any significant adverse effect on the users of DTT (including viewers) and PMSE [para 1.11].
CLAS is involved in consultations with Ofcom over the impact on churches of the proposal to clear channel 69. At a meeting at Ofcom on 25 February various points emerged:
•   No-one spoke against the 800MHz clearance plan, so it should be assumed that this will progress. For radiomic users the 'headline' is leaving Channel 69 by 2012.
•   Ofcom proposes a cutoff for compensation at 2 February 09 (the date of the consultation publication) but this will be reviewed in the light of responses. This seems entirely unreasonable. If a congregation bought new kit in February, how would they necessarily know that there was a consultation going on? Even if they did, what strategy could they have followed? We shall press this point with Ofcom.
Adrian Pickering, who has been monitoring the issue for the churches made the following points:
•  The need for an assurance that compensation for 'equipment' meant the cost of acquiring it as well: this is particularly important in places where radiomics are not bought and installed by the users (unlike PMSE). Ofcom appeared to understand this, but we need to include it in an early CLAS response so that Ofcom can have informed negotiations with the Treasury.
•   Channel 61-62 radiomic users should be treated on the same basis as Channel 69 regards compensation. This received a sympathetic answer but, again, it needs to be included in the CLAS response to the consultation.
•   He also suggested that whoever was managing moving licensees out of Channel 69 should ask each licensee whether s/he truly needed 'nomadic' (ie UK-wide) coverage. In many cases the answer will be 'no'. However, the risk of interference from ‘cognitive devices’ (subject to a separate, current Ofcom consultation) could result in users continuing to opt for the Channel 38 alternative. Licensed radiomic users need to be assured that they will secure interference-free use.

There was absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for people who are using equipment without a licence (which is required for all but VHF and Channel 70 – and certainly for Channel 69). Anyone using equipment without a licence should not expect any compensation for equipment that is rendered useless as a result of the changes.

[Source: CLAS – 27 February 2009]