European Public-Safety Broadband Spectrum Debate Continues
Friday, September 12, 2014 | Comments

The debate about the best spectrum band in Europe for public-safety broadband services continues with formal recommendations likely to be released next year and a new spectrum report from Pascal Lamy, former director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The FM49 working group within the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) will recommend three frequency options for public-safety broadband in the 400 and 700 MHz bands. The report is on track to be released for public consultation in 2015. Officials from the European spectrum community said the World Radio Conference (WRC) in November 2015 is its best and unique chance to get a dedicated spectrum allocation for Long Term Evolution (LTE) deployments for public safety.

FM49, which recommends radio spectrum for public protection and disaster relief (PPDR), continues to develop the draft Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) Report 218 on the harmonized conditions and spectrum bands for the implementation of future European broadband PPDR systems.

The report will include the results of the ongoing spectrum compatibility studies in SE7, a working group that addresses compatibility and sharing issues of mobile systems. SE7 received seven total contributions on PPDR at 400 MHz from the United Kingdom, Airbus Defence & Space, Arqiva and IRT specific to PPDR at 400 MHz.

SE7 also discussed eight input contributions on PPDR at 700 MHz from Thales, Bouygues Telecom, EBU, IRT, Arqiva and ANFR. SE7 amended the draft ECC report, taking into account input contributions.

FM49 is also discussing the pros and cons of developing an ECC decision or recommendation as a harmonization measure for the regulatory approach as requested by the ECC. Such a deliverable may accompany the draft ECC report 218 in the public consultation, foreseen to take place after the FM meeting in February 2015.

The United Kingdom said an ECC recommendation is the best option and said the ECC deliverable should not identify a single harmonized solution but rather should recognize that the 700 MHz band is available for broadband PPDR services based on a number of possible access options, including procuring commercial services from a mobile network operation (MNO) to provide broadband PPDR services. The U.K. released a tender for a mission-critical voice and broadband data network that relies on enhancing commercial network(s).

The ECC said the deliverable will not identify a single harmonized solution but rather provide a set of options that could also be combined by administrations at a national level, which will include:

• Deployment/network type (commercial, mobile virtual network operator), hybrid or dedicated structures

• Frequencies/bands (technical compatibility studies will be limited to 400 and 700 MHz)

• Use of the 400 MHz bands

• Use of blocks within the 2 by 30 megahertz pairing of the 700 MHz band

• Use of guard band and duplex gap in the 700 MHz, 698 – 703 and 753 – 758 MHz (with a conventional duplex) or 733 – 736 and 788 – 791 MHz (with a conventional duplex), noting that direct mode operation may be also foreseen. Technical conditions should ensure the protection of digital terrestrial TV (DTT) below 694 MHz.       

FM49 will request the next WGFM meeting to make a decision about the type of deliverable. FM49 also agreed to send a liaison statement to SE7 to request the inclusion of 1.4 and 5 megahertz channel bandwidths in the ongoing studies in the 400 MHz frequency range for broadband PPDR and to request consideration of more realistic LTE parameters based on the information available from other studies and measurement campaigns.

The FM49 and SE7 working groups will meet via web 30 September and in person in November. FM49 also identified the need to exchange information between PT FM49 and PT FM54, the professional mobile radio (PMR) group, and recommended a joint session at the next meetings in 11 – 12 November in Helsinki, Finland.

Separately, French adviser Lamy released a report on how to use 700 MHz most effectively in Europe during the coming decades. Lamy proposed the following:

• The 700 MHz band (694 – 790 MHz) is used by terrestrial broadcasting networks and wireless microphones and should be dedicated to wireless broadband across Europe by 2020, plus or minus two years;

• Regulatory security and stability for terrestrial broadcasters in the remaining UHF spectrum below 700 MHz to be safeguarded until 2030; and

• A review by 2025 to assess technology and market developments.

Although PPDR services are not referenced in the report, the requirements of the European PPDR community have been clearly stated through the EU Council’s Law Enforcement Working Party (LEWP), working jointly with the CEPT-ECC spectrum regulator community. ECC Report 199 said a minimum of 2 by 10 megahertz of spectrum is required for critical mobile broadband data services.

“The PPDR community concurs with the report’s finding that the reallocation of the 700 MHz band for mobile services throughout the EU is the desirable way forward,” said a statement from the TETRA + Critical Communications Association (TCCA). “This will ensure capacity for mobile broadband services in the light of steadily rising demand, while serving Europe's broadband coverage targets and delivering the benefits of global economies of scale. These mobile services include the PPDR broadband services that are critical to ensuring the safety of the public.

“Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the United States have already allocated dedicated spectrum for PPDR at 700 MHz. A united community within the field of public safety and emergency services is key to ensuring the future safety of frontline officers. This can only be done by allocating spectrum for PPDR in Europe within the 700 MHz band.”

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