WRC: More 5G frequencies assigned: terrestrial TV frequencies next?


The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) ends with more frequencies assigned for 5G services, terrestrial television frequencies expected to be reviewed for 2023 event.

The four-yearly conference, which this year took place in Egypt, determines how frequencies are allocated around the world, not just for TV and radio but for mobile, industrial and specialist use. It's arranged by the ITU, a United Nations agency.

Following the outcome of the 2015 conference, which saw the some of the frequencies used for terrestrial television in Europe being reallocated to mobile services, and the remaining frequencies being secured until 2030, the 2019 conference was once again dominated by 5G, with additional bands for identified in the 24.25-27.5 GHz, 37-43.5 GHz, 45.5-47 GHz, 47.2-48.2 and 66-71 GHz bands, facilitating development of fifth generation (5G) mobile networks.

But there were attempts to take control of the remaining terrestrial TV frequencies, and ahead of the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference, it's expected that the mobile phone industry and their backers will produce evidence and studies to support the reallocation of terrestrial TV frequencies for 5G by 2030.

A statement by the GSMA - which represents mobile network operators worldwide - confirms the 2023 conference will be used to "identify further low and mid-frequency bands" for 5G, widely seen as including the remaining terrestrial TV frequencies.

UK broadcasters and regulators are already preparing for the day digital terrestrial television loses its frequencies, with the BBC readying itself for an all-IP future and Ofcom policy-making as far back as 2013 planning for the release of TV frequencies in 2030.

Meanwhile, the organisation that sets the standards for digital television is pushing ahead in developing a standard for internet TV: DVB-I, which aims to ensure that linear television can be presented in the same way as traditional satellite, cable and terrestrial TV services on TV sets of the future.

A possible future for terrestrial broadcasting will come in the form of 5G broadcasting, in which television is broadcast in the same way as a mobile network and devices, from mobiles to TVs will access services from the same network.

While some countries have already expressed an interest in creating a public free-to-access 5G broadcasting network, there will be pressure from mobile networks and those ideologically opposed to free-to-access public networks to move towards an all-subscription model, whereby users would have to subscribe to a mobile or fixed line network provider to access any broadcaster's content, effectively providing no free-to-air or truly free-to-access services.