ECC launches major review of an attractive band of spectrum

We hear a lot about the pressure on spectrum; the growing demands for mobile broadband are well known, but there are many other demands as well. So it may seem strange that 40 MHz of spectrum lies in the technically attractive 'L-Band' but is significantly under-used. Of course, there is a story behind this (see below), but under-used spectrum is an opportunity, and this one is particularly interesting. The ECC is working to enable this attractive spectrum to be used to better effect.

At the end of 2010, the ECC started a review of the use of the L-band (1452 - 1492 MHz). A survey undertaken by WG FM PT 45¹ indicated that currently there is a very limited usage of the band. Accordingly, the CEPT administrations, together with industry, proposed a wide variety of possible future applications that could be used in the L-band. The ECC then decided to assess which future use(s) would be the most appropriate for CEPT to investigate as candidate applications. This is a unique review process which may open the way for new applications in this frequency range in order to promote a more efficient use of the spectrum.

Current situation

The band 1452-1492 MHz was identified for digital radio broadcast services at ITU's World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC) in 1992². In Europe, it is allocated for use by terrestrial and satellite digital audio broadcasting (DAB) services in most countries:

  • Terrestrial segment: 1452-1479.5 MHz (27.5 MHz)
  • Satellite segment: 1479.5-1492 MHz (12.5 MHz)



 Figure 1: Overview of the Regulatory situation in the frequency range 1452 - 1492 MHz

The frequencies from 1452 to 1467 were originally included in a Terrestrial T-DAB plan agreed at Wiesbaden in 1995. This was superseded by the Maastricht Special 2002 Special Arrangement, covering the 1452 to 1479.5 range, which in turn was revised in ConstanĊ£a in 2007. This revision in 2007 was to allow a wider variety of systems (especially mobile multimedia systems) to be deployed as long as they fit within the Plan and Agreement. This provides additional flexibility to administrations in terms of technology use on a national basis (see CEPT Report 18). The satellite segment of the L-band has been designated for use by Satellite Digital Audio Broadcasting Systems by ECC Decision (03)02.

After the Maastricht agreement was revised in ConstanĊ£a in 2007, the more flexible utilisation framework sought to encourage administrations to grant licences. However, the ECC survey indicated that the L-band remains to this day, unused in most European countries. In particular, almost none of the T-DAB and S-DAB deployment and usages have actually materialised in the band. This lack of take-up was also identified by the Radio Spectrum Policy Group survey in a Report on the future of digital audio broadcasting³. A harmonised approach to use of a frequency band provides for more technical efficiency, and the CEPT has a strong interest to find a new harmonised approach for the L-Band. This approach should achieve a more efficient actual use of this frequency range, to provide services that people will use.

The candidates

The ECC is considering proposals for the following as possible future applications in the L-band:

  • Terrestrial broadcasting for distribution of audio and video content in a one-to-many mode based on DAB technology or other standard (e.g. DVB-H, DVB-T2...).
  • Mobile broadband: digital terrestrial system providing data (IP-) access to mobile devices.
  • Mobile multimedia downlink providing a supplemental downlink to carry text, voice, images, sound and video content in unicasting, multicasting and/or broadcasting mode to associated mobile station receivers.
  • Satellite broadcasting: digital satellite, or hybrid terrestrial satellite, system for distribution of audio and video content in a one-to-many mode.
  • Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE): wireless microphone systems used in commercial applications like installations in sport / events centres, musical and theatres, conference centres and city halls.
  • Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR) radiocommunications used by responsible agencies and organisations dealing with maintenance of law and order, protection of life and property, and emergency.
  • Broadband Direct-Air-to-Ground Communications (BDA2GC) to deliver broadband connectivity from ground stations to aircraft to be used by passengers onboard.

A new Project Team to lead the L-band review

In May 2011, WG FM established a new project team, FM50, in order to identify which future use(s) of the L-band would be the most appropriate for the CEPT area. The work is expected to be conducted in collaboration with other groups within the ECC, and other organisations (e.g. ETSI, EBU, etc.). Impact analysis will be a significant element of the work. As agreed by the project team, the following criteria will be considered to carry out this analysis: compatibility with the current regulatory framework; possibility to combine/share with other applications/uses; extent (maximisation) of social and economic benefits; timeframe for availability of equipment on a large scale and for application deployment - status of standardisation; potential for economy of scale (need and potential for harmonisation within and outside CEPT).

FM PT 50 held its first meeting at the end of July 2011 at the ECO's premises and elaborated its study outline together with the outline of the draft ECC Report that will have to be developed. The 2nd meeting, in Rome in September 2011, finalised the description of the study criteria and started the analysis of the candidate applications.

The outputs of the work are expected to be finalised in the summer of 2012, and the ECC will then have a basis to consider its next move with this potentially valuable range of spectrum.

Benoist Deschamps (ANFR, France)
Marc Le Devendec (ECO)
Christiane Seifert (BNetzA, Germany)

¹Project Team 45 of Working Group Frequency management
²The ITU Radio Regulations allocate the band 1452 - 1492 MHz to the Fixed, Mobile, Broadcasting and Broadcasting Satellite Service on a co-primary basis in all Regions with the exception of the mobile aeronautical service which is excluded in Region 1.
³See RSPG10-349 and its Annex