The digital dividend


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The digital dividend

  1. 1. 58 • EBR #2 2012 Harmonization The business side of spectrum ▶ THE EVOLUTION FROM ANALOG to digital tel- evision provides a range of opportunities. For terrestrial broadcasting, digital tv offers enhanced picture quality and the opportu- nity to provide more numerous services, in multiple formats, within the same radio- frequency channel. These benefits alone are sufficient drivers for the transition from analog to digital tv. But importantly, the improved coexistence opportunities offered by digital tv also provide substantial spec- trum-efficiency benefits – meaning that less spectrum is required for broadcasting. This offers a major opportunity to refarm or re- allocate the resulting available spectrum for other uses, such as mobile broadband. This is often referred to as the digital dividend – widely acknowledged as a major micro- economic reform. In Australia, the digital dividend has been determined to be the MHz located be- tween MHz and MHz. To realize this dividend, Australia is progressing through three key steps: ᕡ Completion of the switchover to digital television through analog television switch-off. ᕢ Clearance, or restack, of digital television services from the digital-dividend band. ᕣ Reallocation of the cleared spectrum to new users, following the decision on the preferred band-plan for the digital dividend. This final step, specifically Australia’s The digital dividend: the Australian perspective Spectrum availability and harmonization are vital to the commercial success of mobile broadband and LTE. This goal is not yet secured however, with different band plans competing for adoption. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) considers the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) MHz band plan to be the best option for making the most of the digital dividend. Australia’s digital dividend (694 to 820MHz) APT Europe US 850MHz band in use for 3G networks 698MHz 803MHz 790MHz 698MHz The three band plan options: the Asia-pacific APT 700MHz plan, the European CEPT 800MHz plan and the US 700MHz plan. 806MHz Band 5 Band 20 Band 12 Band17 Band 12 Band13 Band14 Band13 Band14 Band17 Band 20 Mobile transmit Mobile transmit Mobile transmit Mobile transmit Base transmit Base transmit Base transmit Base transmit 862MHz The three competing frequency band plans
  2. 2. EBR #2 2012 • 59 The business side of spectrum Harmonization choice of the apt MHz band plan for its digital dividend, is the focus of this article. SWITCHOVER AND RESTACK Australia commenced its digitization jour- ney on January ,  when digital (dvb-t/ mpeg-) television services commenced. This started the simulcast of analog and dig- ital television services that, while progress, is still underway in Australia in . In October , the Australian govern- ment set a timetable for the progressive switch-off of analog tv leading up to the end of the digital/analog simulcast. The switch- over to digital-only television started in June  and will be completed nationwide by the end of . With digitization well underway, formal work towards the restack of digital tv ser- vices, and ultimately the yielding of the dig- ital dividend, started in July  when the Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy directed the acma on a range of issues related to the replan- ning of digital television services. This di- rection set several high-level objectives for the acma’s restack work, including the key target clearance date of the end of ,  months after the final analog switch off date. Following the Minister’s action, the acma, in conjunction with industry, has been developing the restack channel plans neces- sary to realize the digital dividend. This work has now progressed well; the required plans have now been developed for almost all of Australia. In Australia, the reallocation of the digital -dividend spectrum will be achieved by auc- tion. A key aspect of any spectrum auction is defining the spectrum product, with the underlying band-plan a critical component of that definition. In defining the spectrum product, the acma has given considerable attention to the fundamental band plan that will underpin the new licenses. BANDPLAN CONSIDERATIONS Australia is not the only – and certainly not the first – country working toward the real- location of a digital dividend for mobile- broadband services. Other digital-dividend band plans already exist, giving the acma a number of options to choose from. In making its band-plan decision, the acma identified a number of criteria impor- tant to its consideration and assessment of options. First, the authority was looking for an efficient band-plan in terms of how much spectrum would be made available for har- monized mobile broadband. The second consideration was the extent of the utility of that spectrum – with a key objective being the availability of MHz channels optimal for lte, and ideally the availability of more than one MHz channel. Finally, the oppor- tunity for spectrum harmonization was, of course, a key consideration to ensure the re- alization of benefits related to roaming and economy of scale. The three digital-dividend band-plan op- tions that were available in the Australian spectrum-planning context: the apt MHz plan, the European (cept) MHz plan, and the us MHz plan. The red X in the diagram on page  illustrates the incom- patibility between the cept MHz band plan and the MHz plan that was already in use in Australia. The first decision to be made regarding a suitable band plan was a simple one. The Eu- ropean MHz plan covering  to MHz overlaps with a sizable proportion of what is referred to in Australia as the MHz band, which starts at MHz. The MHz band is extensively used in Austral- ia, particularly for the widely deployed Tel- stra network. Little analysis was required to determine that the adoption of the Europe- an plan was simply not an option for Aus- tralia – not only would it overlap with an existing mobile-broadband service, but it would leave a large part of the digital divi- dend unused and essentially wasted. The remaining two options for Australia were the us or apt MHz band plans – both of which are designed to fit within a  to MHz digital dividend. THE US MHZ BAND PLAN The us plan, much of which was developed over  years ago and in some ways has been overtaken by technology developments, cov- ers the  to MHz dividend range and is split into two bands: the lower and upper MHz bands. The lower MHz band is structured around the previous use of the band by tel- evision services using a MHz channels ras- ter, the result being a notional -by-MHz fdd arrangement with a MHz center
  3. 3. 60 • EBR #2 2012 Harmonization The business side of spectrum gap. This provides the possibility of a -by-MHz band for mobile-broadband use consistent with gpp arrangements. The center gap also potentially offers additional spectrum for tdd or supplemental down- link opportunities, but no gpp specification for this segment has been developed to date. The bottom MHz fdd pair is only use- able in areas where the adjacent tele- vision channel is not in opera- tion, resulting in a -by-MHz gpp-compliant arrange- ment in these areas. The upper MHz band is more complex and segmented than the lower band. First, it in- cludes a -by-MHz segment suitable for mo- bile-broadband applica- tions, but consistent with gpp arrangements, only -by-MHz is usable. Fur- ther up the band is a segment adjacent to the public-safety broadband segment. Together these segments offer the possibili- ty of -by-MHz of spectrum suitable for mobile broadband. It should also be noted that the upper MHz band provides the -by-MHz re- quired for public-safety narrowband appli- cations. However, use of the spectrum for narrowband applications is not an objective for the acma; narrowband public-safety use is accommodated elsewhere in the spectrum in Australia. Overall, the us plan offers, in areas where the adjacent television channel is not in use, -by-MHz for gpp-compliant mobile- broadband use and, importantly, only per- mits MHz-wide channels in these areas. In areas where the adjacent tv channel is used, this bandwidth decreases to -by- MHz of available broadband spectrum. THE APT MHZ BAND PLAN In contrast, the apt MHz band plan is simple and is ultimately efficient and highly usable. It demonstrates the benefits that can be achieved by taking a clean-sheet approach to spectrum planning that, while not always easily achieved, almost always provides an optimal outcome. The apt MHz plan is designed to fit in the same  to MHz dividend range as the us plan, but provides -by-MHz of fdd-suitable spectrum – essentially the lim- it of what is practical within the spectrum available. This is in contrast to the us plan, which only offers, at best, the possibility of -by-MHz for mobile-broadband purpos- es consistent with gpp specifications – and even that requires the inclusion of spectrum flagged for public-safety broadband use. Another major point of difference is the utility offered through the sizes of possible lte channels. The apt plan offers multiple combinations of large channel bandwidths, such as two MHz pairs, three MHz pairs or four MHz pairs. In contrast, the us plan, again consistent with gpp arrangements, only permits a maximum channel size of MHz and at best three MHz pairs, again including the public-safety segment. One other point of comparison should be considered in addition to the raw spectrum available. It is a lower-profile factor, but is perhaps just as important. Specifically, the band-plan decision should include analysis of the potential for self-interference when a single user device involves the use of both lte transmitters utilizing spectrum around MHz and gps receivers. Given the ever- growing importance of location-based ser- vices and applications, this is a potentially serious issue that could affect the utility of the band. In developing the apt plan, this issue was explicitly considered and was one of the main reasons why a conventional duplex arrangement was chosen. In this arrange- ment, the lte transmissions from the user equipment operate in the lower part of the band – well away from the gps second har- monic frequency. Finally, for countries that intend to con- tinue to operate tv services right up to the MHz boundary, the lower edge of the us band plan is immediately adjacent to the MHz boundary, providing no explicit guard band between tv and lte services. In fact, in the us band plan, a guard band is only achieved through the prohibition of use of the lowest MHz block in areas where adja- cent television services operate. In contrast, the apt plan explicitly provides for a MHz guard band between mobile broadband and digital television – greatly assisting in the coexistence of services. STATUS OF THE APT MHZ PLAN The final key criteria that the acma consid- ered when selecting its preferred band plan was harmonization. In terms of gpp standardization, global work on the apt plan is progressing well. Following completion of work on the band iStockphoto
  4. 4. EBR #2 2012 • 61 The business side of spectrum Harmonization plan in the apt Wireless Group (awg) in , the band plan has been considered as a work item for Evolved Universal Terrestri- al Radio Access (e-utra) Release . Fol- lowing recent meetings, the awg was ad- vised that work on the item was progressing well and scheduled to be complete in June . Across the Asia-Pacific region, interest in the apt band plan has been extensive, as might be expected, and many countries are now committed to, or are seriously consid- ering, its adoption. In addition to Australia, which has pub- licly and formally committed to the plan, other apt countries such as Cambodia, In- dia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singa- pore, South Korea and Thailand are also ac- tively considering the adoption of the apt plan in its entirety – or in some cases, vari- ants of the plan that would retain many of the harmonization benefits. Outside of the apt, a number of other countries, particu- larly in South America, are attracted to the benefits of the apt plan and are considering its adoption. The final point – perhaps the most inter- esting of all – is a very recent development relating to the future of the apt plan. The  World Radiocommunication Confer- ence (wrc) had a surprise outcome. The wrc agreed to allocate spectrum in Region  (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) from the MHz to MHz band to the mobile service with a proposed date of effect of  to allow for the necessary technical studies to be concluded. Essentially, this decision re- sults in an opportunity for a second digital dividend for parts of Region , and offers the attractive possibility of the apt plan form- ing its basis. Importantly, while much of Europe can achieve an initial digital dividend through existing mobile-service allocations and through the use of the cept MHz plan, this alternative has not been possible in some countries where the MHz band is also used and where the cept plan would there- by be incompatible. The scenario is similar in Australia, where the use of the MHz band precluded consideration of the cept MHz plan and led to the adoption of the apt MHz plan. In Region  countries not using the cept MHz plan, the wrc de- cision now enables the apt MHz plan to be adopted. While the existing European MHz plan and the apt MHz plan are not entirely compatible because the top of the apt plan and the bottom of the European plan over- lap, the adoption of a variant of the apt plan that only uses the bottom MHz paired re- sults in a surprisingly beneficial fit. The viability of this partial compatibility is fur- ther improved because the European plan is reverse-duplex – meaning that the apt and European plans dovetail neatly at the boundary. While it does not offer a complete harmo- nization scenario, this possibility does offer many benefits – such as common chipsets and partial roaming capabilities – further multiplying the already considerable bene- fits of the apt plan. The recent wrc decision therefore has major implications for the possible adoption of the apt MHz plan, either in part or in full, in the major Region  markets such as Europe and Africa. The decision clearly re- sults in a potential increase in the already considerable harmonization benefits. CONCLUSION The digital dividend is a major microeco- nomic reform in Australia, and government and industry alike are highly motivated to make the most of the opportunity. In this context, the acma’s decision to commit to the apt MHz plan was a carefully con- sidered one. The acma objectively assessed the various options available and applied a number of key criteria to its analysis. Spe- cifically, the authority looked for a band plan that was efficient, maximized utility and of- fered the benefits of harmonization. After completing its assessment, the acma chose the apt MHz band plan as clear- ly the best option for Australia. The author- ity’s representatives believe that the reason- ing that led to the adoption of the apt plan in Australia is likely to apply to many other countries as well. In spectrum management, the right an- swer sometimes requires a judgment call and the balancing of several perspectives, but in this case, the best alternative for Australia was obvious. ● AUTHOR ▶ CHRIS CHAPMAN is the inaugural Chairman and CEO of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and an Associate Member of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. He has held a number of senior management positions with the Seven Network, Stadium Australia Management, Optus, and Babcock & Brown. He has also been the Chairman of Film Australia and SportsVision Australia, and is a previous member of Australia’s National Film and Sound Archives’ Advisory Council. He holds an LL.B. and a B.Com from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and has completed the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program. (