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450-470 MHz band alignment

1.4.7Lack of commonly configured pan-European spectrum in the bands used by PMR. In evidence submitted to DSI Phase 2 by the European PMR industry body EICTA9 (part of what was then called ECTEL), this was shown as a major obstacle in the development of this sector of the communications market. A 1998 report by the European Radiocommunications Office concluded similarly.

1.4.8RA’s published Spectrum Strategy. There is an industry-wide expectation that this band will be aligned, and some progressive organisations will have already begun their long-term planning. In fact, RA has for a number of years indicated its specific intention to implement the band alignment process. The first band to undergo this process is 450-470 MHz, because of the window of opportunity that will open when the police vacate their current spectrum and migrate out of the band. This spectrum yield can be used as a catalyst for alignment. The alignment intention was reflected in the Government Response to the Stage 3 Radio Spectrum Review (1994), and has for the past two years been notified to all affected licensees in the band.

1.5Why is band alignment happening now?

A major opportunity is presented by the migration of Public Safety users to the Home Office-sponsored Airwave Project. Airwave is a new network specifically for Public Safety users, which employs digital technology in the 380-400 MHz band. Band alignment will be facilitated when 2 x 3 MHz of spectrum in 450-470 MHz is relinquished in England and Wales, with a phased two-stage hand-back based on Airwave Ready For Service dates plus an additional transition period of 18 months. The second stage is due to complete in 2006.

In Scotland, police forces are also joining the Airwave Project, but the timescales for relinquishing the spectrum in the 450-470 MHz band are currently a year behind England and Wales. In Northern Ireland, a separate digital system in the 380-400 MHz band will meet the needs of all Emergency Services. This is scheduled to be operational before the migration of mainland police forces. A similar situation exists on the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

Completion of migration by these services provides a unique window of opportunity to initiate band alignment. It provides an opportunity to align existing services in the band and to boost the introduction of new digital technology, allowing at the same time a fresh examination of the communication needs of the band’s users. This will improve the efficiency of the spectrum’s use, and may be a preliminary to the introduction of spectrum trading, subject to consultation.

The 450-470 MHz spectrum in the Republic of Ireland (over which RA has no jurisdiction) is configured similarly to the UK, with the same duplex spacing and orientation of base transmit/receive, so any change made to the UK band will have consequences for the Republic. RA is therefore in close dialogue with its Irish counterpart. As can be seen from Figure 2, all our near European neighbours already comply with the recommendation or are working towards it.

Figure 2. Implementation of ERC Recommendation T/R 25-08

1.6Risks of not re-planning the band

9 EICTA – European Information, Communications and Consumer Electronics Industry Technology Association.

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