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450-470 MHz band alignment

Annex A: Draft Regulatory Impact Assessment


Alignment of the 450-470 MHz Band


2(i)Issue and objective

The radio spectrum is a scarce resource, and for some radio services there is a growing demand. Therefore there is a need to ensure that spectrum is used efficiently to meet current and future demand. To meet this main objective, RA intends to re-plan the 450-470 MHz band over a period of five years. Services operating in this band in the UK do not currently operate on the same channel plan as in Europe. This is because the base-transmit (mobile-receive) and the mobile-transmit (base-receive) frequencies are the opposite of those found in mainland Europe. RA proposes to re-plan the spectrum in line with Europe for the following reasons:

to harmonise allocations in accordance with Europe;

to reduce the cost of introducing digital equipment. Equipment providers would gain economies of scale in equipment, due to commonality on a European scale;

to release spectrum by re-planning the band in an efficient manner. Such spectrum could allow existing systems to develop and grow, and could make it technically easier to introduce new equipment. Further spectrum may be released if users migrate to digital equipment;

to reduce long-term interference from mainland Europe suffered by radio users in this band;

because the Emergency Services may require harmonised spectrum; and

to facilitate the consolidation of military spectrum.

The timing of re-planning the 450-470 MHz band has become pertinent due to the migration of police services in England and Wales out of this band, which will be completed in 2006, and the subsequent migration of Scottish Police services approximately one year later. This migration gives RA an opportunity in the form of a free block of spectrum that could be used to re-plan the 450-470 MHz band. The result could be the release of extra spectrum from re-packing existing users into harmonised spectrum.

2(ii)Risk assessment

Risks of not re-planning the band:

In the future, there may be an increase in demand for spectrum, to expand existing radio services or to provide new services, which could exceed supply. This could delay or hinder the development of such services.

Some radio users in the band may continue to experience Continental interference.

Current spectrum may be used inefficiently (although more efficient technology could be introduced).

Existing users or new users wanting to provide radio services to UK customers and Europe will not be able to operate on the same frequencies as in Europe, as the band will not be harmonised.

Release of military spectrum for civil use may be hindered, as the current spectrum configuration does not support non-operational military requirements.

Risks associated with re-planning the band:

In the transition period, failure to co-ordinate between users moving to new frequencies may result in interference to each other and to other radio users. A risk is that users will not move according to the new band plan.

During the transition period, some users may require parallel running. There is a risk that equipment will not be available, or available on time, to operate on old and new frequencies.

The increase in costs incurred by existing radio users from moving to new frequencies (e.g. the increase in cost of shared sites) may have been underestimated. Uncertainty may cause users to move to more costly systems in order to meet their business needs.

In the transition period, additional spectrum may be required either for parallel running or as guard bands, to move current radio users to new frequencies.

The Home Office may be delayed in migrating to its new digital system, hence delaying implementation of the new band plan.

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