The UK government has set aside £550 million to compensate the current occupiers of the 700 MHz band, including Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) broadcasters, as it opens up more spectrum for mobile broadband.
The figure was revealed in the government’s Autumn Statement delivered by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and will be spent over the period of the next parliament, which runs until 2020.
In November 2014, telecoms regulator Ofcom published a consultative document in which it estimated the economic cost of emptying the 700 MHz band. Its figure was similar to the government’s (between £550 million and £660 million).
The Ofcom document specified three main costs. Firstly, there will be extensive modification of DTT transmission infrastructure for broadcasters.
In addition, there will be a cost for consumers, as a proportion of UK households (about 100,000) will need to replace their DTT aerials. An even smaller proportion might need to fit a filter to their TVs to prevent mobile phone signals from interfering with TV reception.
Finally, many audio programme makers and special events (PMSE) users, who specialise in live coverage including concerts, will need to change wireless microphones as they shift to new radio frequencies, as well as train or recruit more engineers.
The government will compensate the various users who are impacted by the freeing up of 700 MHz.
However, the Ofcom document also sounded a brighter note. It estimated that additional mobile broadband frequencies will bring benefits to the UK of £900 million to £1.3 billion because they enable operators to meet increasing demand at a lower cost than would otherwise have been the case.