back to article TV's digital dividend could be superfast broadband

Lord Carter could recommend that the government give away the old analogue TV spectrum to telecoms companies in exchange for commitments to invest in fibre rollout for high speed internet access, according to the latest leak from his forthcoming Digital Britain report. Flogging the UHF band to the highest bidder once it is …


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  1. Neil

    UHF TV band won't be freed up

    Following the digital switchover, the UHF TV band won't be empty: the Freeview Muxs are transmitted on the same band. Currently 6 channels are used by DTV multiplexes in most areas, which I believe is typical. Its quite possible more will be commissioned when analogue is switched off (reusing the existing transmission gear)

    In the same way as with analogue transmissions, the transmitters will have to be on discrete channels so that there's no interference between adjacent sites.

    Therefore, most of the band will still be in use, and won't be available for gifting to the telecoms companies...

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Other interests?

    "strategy has been promoted by Nesta, an innovation quango. Its chief executive Jonathan Kestenbaum"

    I expect the next article on this topic to reveal that Jonathan Kestenbaum has a financial interest in a wireless broadband ISP or equipment manufacturer.

    The last thing I want is for my TV to stop working because some numpty has imported wireless kit from HK that doesn't have adequate filtering - these bands will be adjacent and the target areas for wireless broadband (in these frequencies) will be those that are in the countryside and thus have a weak TV signal too.

    Still, I'm sure the gubermint will find a way to screw the populace over this!

  3. Mark Lockwood

    High speed wireless data services

    That sounds like just what I would want

    Unfortunately, prefixing it with BT means I won't

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Giving things to BT seems like a mistake

    Auctioning anything seems like a mistake: we're all still paying for the stealth tax which was the 3G bandwidth auction.

    But giving stuff away to BT to allow it to entrench itself as the local loop provider doesn't seem smart either.

    And then, as the other commentors have mentioned, the available bits of the spectrum aren't that great/useful anyway, being rather geographically chopped-up, so is it really such an attractive proposition, even to a would-be fibre provider with a monopoly.

  5. Steve Foster

    FTTH Costs

    While it may well cost £29bn to go and rip out all the copper and replace it with FTTH, no-one is suggesting this should be done all in one go!

    BT and other wire-based telco's already have to have budgets/billing processes in place for a) laying new connectivity as new premises are constructed, and b) replacing old/broken wires as the need arises.

    All that is really needed for FTTH to work is to insist that all new cabling be done with fibre and ban the rolling-out of any more copper.

    The incremental cost (after absorbing the aforementioned budget/billing) to execute a planned roll-out of FTTH everywhere over (say) 10 years should be well under £3bn per annum.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Any bets on what the government will prefer...?

    I can just picture the cabinet having a jolly old laugh about the report, before excising those pages that suggest that, y'know, prompting companies to provide us, the proles, with good broadband is a better idea than pocketing billions of pounds for ill-advised bank buyouts, ever more-repressive ID card schemes etc et-frickin-c. Unfortunately, the unexpected success of the 3G spectrum sale (success for the government rather than the network operators) means the government *expects* to make rather a lot of money from selling the UHF licences, and will be factoring that into long-term budget planning.

    On the other hand, Labour shouldn't still be around then, so who knows what'll happen?!

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Bandwidth 101

    You use broadcast media (the Sky) for broadcast data. You use point to point media (wires, fibres) for individual data.

    Once folk get that into their head, the rest will follow. It will then become obvious that the bandwidth currently used for UHF TV is still best used for UHF TV because the idea it will provide any useful kind of high speed datacoms is laughable (and that's before we get into any discussions about HD over Freeview needing loadsabandwidth).

    This Carter bloke, he's the one that used to be in charge of NTHell and then in charge of Ofcon, right? So...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Only a few £billion

    OK, so if Gordon B Ruin has a few £billion to spare, should he use it to

    1) Build Broadband Britain

    2) Put it towards his ongoing bailout of failed British Banks (the ones that couldn't tell the difference between a gamble and an investment, unlike say the CoOp, or HSBC, or a couple of others)

    Answers on a postcard to...

  9. Dave

    Wrong Approach

    Surely the correct approach here is for the state to invest the money so that it owns the fibre network, which it can then lease on equal terms to telcos and individuals and make a small profit to cover repairs and enhancements and to help lower our taxes a bit. Wrap it in safeguards so that future governments can't flog it off for a quick cash fix, nor raise the price to extortionate levels, and we're all good to go.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Attacks a tax?

    Shhh... don't give any of the politicos the idea that lumping large prices on to bidders at auction is a way to get the bidder to put up costs that (effectively) means the winner is merely collecting taxes for and on behalf of the government because the initial cost was so high anyway (n.b. it is the end user (sometimes called customer) that pays).

    Of course, as the sums involved will be quite hefty a bit of borrowing might be required (banks?), and a small percentage handling fee of a whole lot of dosh is far better than a small percentage handling fee on a whole little of dosh (banks?)

    So you see, while the initial approach seems good (headlines: Govt gets 9.6 trillion for XYZ) the winner has to extract that 9.6 trillion from its customers (we could call this inflationary, we could call it a proxy tax, we could call it an inflationary proxy tax?)

    I prefer to call it daft. Just plain old daft.

    There is only a finite amount of dosh knocking about yes?

  11. Anonymous Coward

    As an addendum...

    to my not yet appeared post as AC.

    I thought I should describe the <ahem> 'concept (?) (see below) as an aspect or manifestation of the greedy algorithm. But that would not do a great deal of justice to the greedy algorithm.

    No, the concepts are more related a newer breed of inflationary algorithm - an initially publicly acceptable manifestation of the inflationary algorithm.

    Scenario 1 - Sgt Bilko algorithm in failed mode

    1.1 Hardware & services in UK are provided from the public purse by government decree

    1.2 Said hardware & services are resold back to the public

    1.3 Public get a bit fidgety and restless. "Hey! Have we not already paid for these?" said the public?

    Scenario 2 - (un)civil servant algorithm

    2.1 Hardware & services in UK are provided from the public purse by government decree

    2.2 Said hardware & services are resold back to a enterprising organization

    2.3 Said enterprising organization adds levies to its costs incurred because of the framework government used

    2.4 Public servants rejoice that using a proxy (abovementioned enterprising organization) has avoided errors in Sgt Bilko (failed) algorithm described above full of confidence that the lifestyle, hopes and aspirations that are reasonable for one to wish for have now been formally endorsed.

  12. Graham Lockley

    Why ?

    Why do most of the people involved in these high speed fibre/wireless etc. visions only see Television Mark 2 as the probable use ? With all the available channels out there its still nearly impossible to find something decent to watch outside of the five 'terrestrial' channels so why do they think this crap streamed in HD down fibre is going to be any more inviting ? Actually finding anything of worth in the five main channels is hard enough. Of course with all that bandwidth we will be able to have interactive TV as in 'Choose which camera you want to watch BB from'


  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Bandwidth 101 - question?

    Bandwidth 101 - are you saying none of that spectrum, none of 16 channels I think, could be used to fill holes in establishing a universal Broadband service? By Broadband I mean, a best effort service of up to 8-24-50-100 Mbps, but more importantly the underlying data transport would support a minimium speed and quality to support key services.

    I am not sure how spectrum for fibre would be traded. It would be a shame if digital britain was written around how iPlayer was to be delivered everywhere as opposed to using our digital commons to deliver better home working and better telecare solutions on a universal (UK) basis.

    At least, there is a debate going on, which is healthy.

    The 3G auction heist - where Telco's in effect got to bid to regain their wives (or husbands) was a one off stunt, which we the consumer continue to pay for in SMS and calls to other operator charges. Although the auction is top of Ofcom 09/10 action, it would be good, if practical, if at least some of that spectrum could be put aside to aid a Universal service.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Lambs to the slaughter

    The gov are mugs if they sign up to the idea that business would hold up on its end of the deal. They'd take the spectrum then find all sorts of reasons to be short of the odd bit of cash when it came to the crunch - just like the Olympics aren't going to be built on private sector largesse after all.

    And this 29 billion number being bandied about is news to me. I've previously heard 5bn for FTTC and 15bn for the full monty FTTH. The BSG wouldn't have a wee bit of an interest in bigging up costs would they, hoping the taxpayer will add a bit of extra swill to the trough, perhaps.

    Ofcom had the opportunity to split Openreach off from BT as a national infrastructure provider, but blew it - or given the subsequent job handouts, chose to blow it. Nevertheless the government should ignore the BT whining, nationalise openreach and ensure equal access for all SPs to the new network and charge accordingly. The alternative of a Phorm-funded BT fibre monopoly forever and a day isn't especially palatable.

    Pirates, cos BT BSG etc are

  15. Glyn


    The digital tv signals I've seen all break down into blocks at the slightest whim, which I heard a bloke on the telly say was because the analog signal was interfering/overriding the digital one and this would no longer happen once the analog was turned off

    Does this sell off mean that the analog won't be turned off and I'm doomed to blocky pixelated picture forever?

  16. J.Butler
    Thumb Down


    Virgin can't deliver anything even approaching their advertised speeds, let alone anything able to support their current customer base AND HD.

    Pipe dreams.. Virgin never deliver.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please give us more TV bitrate...

    ...cos most Freeview channels are horrible to watch. With a bit more bandwidth it could be DVD quality.

    I sometimes wonder if it's a conspiracy, degrade "SD" to make "HD" seem more appealing?

  18. SImon Hobson

    Re: UHF TV band won't be freed up

    A couple of corrections.

    Firstly, I believe there are no plans whatsoever to add more digital muxes - that would take away from the spectrum to be flogged off and so hit Gov coffers. So six muxes it is then, and no more - unless you are one of the millions of people on the thousands of local fill-in transmissions that will only get the three main muxes.

    Then, once analogue is turned off, I believe the digital signal is capable of running as a "single frequency network" where all the transmitters use the same frequency. So instead of every transmitter using a different frequency to any adjacent ones, and so having to use large numbers of channels over the country, we'll only need the six leaving most of the spectrum available for flog off.

    @AC 12:56

    No, they aren't going to do any higher bitrate - that would mean less channels per mux and would require more muxes. Since that would mean less spectrum to flog off, it isn't going to happen.

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