back to article What will we do with 600MHz?

4G licences are getting all the attention these days, but the switch to digital released another big chunk of radio spectrum which no one seems to know what to do with. The 4G licences currently being discussed by Ofcom stretch across 790-862MHz (known as 800MHz), and 2.50-2.69GHz (the 2.6GHz band), but switching off analogue …


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  1. pear


    A decent digital radio platform...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ".......broadcast TV has had its day"

    Wow, a bit premature to say this, remember your not the only person in the UK.

  3. Gulfie

    Why put anything there at all?

    Call me boring but I don't see the point of rushing to put anything in this spare bandwidth. We have more TV channels than we know what to do with, most of the non-mainstream ones seem dedicated to repeats and shopping.

    I used to work in student radio. Which was tremendous fun but nobody kidded themselves we were running a professional operation. I can't see how local community TV stations would be any better. They're also going to cost a lot to run, the content will be poor, the viewing figures likely to be lower than S4C... why?

    I'm assuming what we have here is a push to make money, to sell the spectrum or at least rent it out. Can't we just accept that pushing more channels, especially as content can be more cheaply provided over the 'net, is a very short term viewpoint and apparently pointless.

    If the government wants to promote community 'TV', surely it would be more forward-looking to make it 'net based (no costly transmitter infrastructure), and a basis to drive bandwidth improvements between the exchange and the end-user? At least then we could see that thought had been put in beyond 'make money' to 'drive to enhance infrastructure'.

    Our national infrastructure seems to be stagnating. Nothing is done unless it can (a) somehow put money in the government coffers or (b) be done in such a way as to excessively line the pockets of big business. Power generation. Telecoms. Transportation. Water. Health. Education. Infrastructure problems can't be sorted quickly but there is no excuse for not developing and applying an intelligent long-term strategy to any of these areas.

  4. Refugee from Windows

    Not good for much else

    Why they're trying to serve this up as something else beats me. It's long enough range for broadcasting but that's too much for short range devices, and who on earth wants local TV?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Super Wi-Fi

    White space devices would seem a good fit -- Ofcom have already consulted on the databases necessary to support it.

    The Wi-Fi Alliance have their eyes on white space and there's IEEE standardisation through 802.11af.

  6. censored

    Local TV Won't Work

    Most community stations are run on a shoe-string, cobbled together to be just about listenable and struggling through with no cash.

    This is no slight on them, as they do some great work. Just pointing out that TV is more expensive to produce, more difficult to put together, takes much longer to make and harder to make look watchable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Have you seen "Wayne's World"?

      Excellent. Bodacious.

      Bring it on!

      1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Have you seen "Wayne's World"?

        I don't think 'bodacious' ever appears in Wayne's World, but since you're the primary pedant around here I guess you had to slip up sooner or later. Happy weekend!

        1. amanfromearth
          Thumb Up

          yes, correct

          It's in Officer and a Gentleman..

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Channel 5

    "Channel Five was equally adamant that there's no demand for additional free-to-air broadcast capacity."

    Two problems are immediately apparent with that statement. Firstly there is very little appetite for most things broadcast by Channel 5, so their experience is not necessarilly shared by other broadcasters. The second is that most of the Freesat viewers I know tell me there are some worthwhile channels available on there that don't crop up on Freeview. So I would say that the popularity of Freesat is an indication that there is appetite for more free to view channels.

    Broadcasters like C4 and ITV seem to have filled Freeview with +1 channels which hardly anybody uses regularly. The only reason I can see for this is to hog the channels in case they think of a legitimate use later, or maybe just to stop anybody else using them. We're probably never going to see those extra free to view channels from Freesat on Freeview unless we boot all the +1 channels.

    So why doesn't Offcom actually test public opinion (there's a radical idea) and see what use people would like best for this particular chunk of spectrum? It would make more sense than listening to the likes of Channel 5 who clearly have no idea what the public want.

    1. Dave Murray

      Anonymous Problems

      Actually I find more shows to watch on 5* and their other channels than the BBC and C4 channels combined these days and I haven't watched the ITV channels in over 10 years. I'd rather watch repeats of American cop shows than Britain's Got Strictly Glee Factor. And, the main C4 channel I watch is E4+1, when I can find something worth watching that is. But, since I don't agree with your world view I must not be a legitimate viewer.

      Perhaps Offcom should continue to talk to people in the industry rather than members of the public who clearly have no idea what people want?

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Just because...

        ... you like channel five doesn't mean everybody (or anybody) else does.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Isn't Channel 5 the one owned by Dirty Desmond? A man once described as Ruport Murdoch without the taste, talent or scruples.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it have to be used up?

    I'm not averse to letting it simmer for a bit. For if you put something on it it'll be decades before something else might come along. Maybe give it to HAMs for a while and see if anything interesting comes out of that.

    I've been thinking that short-term licensing might be interesting. Like, a broker for chunks of spectrum for definite time periods and certain places. Maybe do it electronically. You could even have a few "technical" frequencies through which you communicate with the broker to allocate the space you need. But that's just a wild idea. Something to try out in a spare chunk of spectrum, perhaps.

    On another note, if someone'd step up to organise a comms system like gsm or tetra or a combination or something, say to investigate ways to build such a system with privacy guarantees built right into it as the current systems so vividly don't have, then I'd support trying it out in that handy dandy 600MHz band.

    1. John Sager

      I was thinking the same thing

      A temporary amateur allocation of, say, a couple of channels (16MHz) might be interesting. Limit it to digital modes (of any bandwidth within 16MHz) but allow some digital beacons. Perhaps the Royal Surrey Gas Board could promote it with Ofcom. I might even try to comment along these lines if & when Ofcom do a consultation.

  9. MJI Silver badge

    HDTV decent bit rates

    BBC HD at 1920x1080 and a decent bitrate.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. MrT
      Thumb Up

      Nice reworking...

      ... of the old "We'll go mayhem for 27AM" tag from back in the day when the UK licensed FM-CB in the face of imported longer-range kit.

      Mine's the one with the petrol-pump scrambling 200-mile range burner in the back...

  11. dave 46


    Just data, I'm fed up of not being able to VPN into work unless I drive into a town to pickup a 3G signal.

    Take the lake district, only 1 provider (3) has a single mast anywhere within the park.

    I know disconnecting and getting away from it all is the ideal, but if you have responsibilities you cannot get away from the lack of wireless data in in the rural UK is a pita.

  12. Tom 38

    HD - lots and lots of HD

    If we can get 8 additional HD channels in the UK, then we should do it. Unless you have Sky, we still have the most pitiful HD experience going. BBC 2,3,4 in HD, a BBC stream for red button HD, and HD +1 versions of BBC 1,2,3,4.

    Job done.

  13. AlexH

    Community Television

    Given how difficult it is for most 'communities' /not-for-profits to produce a sporadically-updated website that doesn't completely suck, let alone something like a radio station, I really don't see a future in 'Community Television'.

    Given the report though, someone, somewhere, and his mates, know something I don't. Let's take potential program types:

    * Fictional works/Dramas - a monumental amount of effort is required to make something half as polished and watchable as something pretty mediocre already on TV. Mum's of the cast will watch it on sufferance.

    * Local news - what news could unpaid volunteers possibly find out above and beyond local newspapers, which are already dire: who would want to sit through a 20min news bulletin produced by their local paper?

    * A communication channel for local organisations - would you rather read their website/newsletter or sit through 15 minutes awful video? Broadcast at a predetermined time...

    * Local councils/NHS PCT (whatever) using it to broadcast advice and information and such - I can really see people tuning in to THAT.

    The list goes on - can ANYONE tell me what I'm missing that people WOULD watch on this 'Community Television' thing? (not a rhetorical question - please, enlighten me)

    1. John Sager

      You did ask...

      Viewers' Wives.

    2. David Neil

      I seem to recall something like this before

      Broder TV used to have a "whats on locally" thing I caught a couple of times whilst visiting my parents on the Solway coast.

      Was a real time trip to see a local gala day or village fete being advertised just after the news, made me yearn for a gentler time when all a 12 year old was exposed to was a copy of Look-In

    3. galbak
      Black Helicopters


      Run the feed from local council CCTV's into the bandwidth. You could add so many eyes to the people monitoring the cctv in control rooms, Extend the home watch idea. And scare off the casual vandals who will know that someone is bound to be watching the cameras.

      On the other hand, it would show the tax payers, exactly how crap the CCTV cameras they paid for are.

  14. Richard Gadsden 1

    Channel M

    There is a local station (originally RSL) in Manchester, called Channel M. It's on Freeview (channel 200) if you're inside the area.

    It covers a big geographical area compared to community radio, has the support of a proper media group (GMG), and a university (Salford) producing programming for free.

    And it's still terrible.

    That's a best-case scenario for comunity TV.

    1. marksi


      Has Channel M not closed down?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Nobody knows

        Which rather reflects its number of regular viewers.

      2. Chad H.

        Channel M

        Hasn't closed, but did scale back operations to no new conemt; however GMG is promising a bug relaunch.

  15. MrT

    Isn't 829MHz...

    ...already in use by one of the digital TV mutexes (?mutices?)? This is used by the channels that seem to get fragmented most often (Quest, FiveUS etc) - the ones down around 700MHz are more capable to getting through stuff to the receiving antenna. If Ofcom trying to sell of stuff that is already in use?

    1. MrT

      From Ofcom...

      "800 MHz clearance

      In order to align the frequencies released by digital switchover for alternative uses with those released by other European countries, UHF channels 61 and 62 will be ‘cleared’ of digital TV services over the coming years. UHF channels 39 and 40 (which were previously among the channels due to be released for other uses after switchover) will instead now be retained for TV broadcasting."


      So "yes" is the answer to my earlier question - they're clearing out the current tenants first.

  16. Ashley Stevens

    Mesh networks

    It should given over to peer-to-peer wifi-like mesh networks. This is the modern version of 'community', community TV is a 1980's concept.

    If communities want to use it for video transmissions they can do video over IP. But if they want data, or peer-to-peer backup, or city-wide internet access they can do that too.


    1. AlexH
      Thumb Up

      well volunteered!

      for the thankless task of sweating blood and tears to get everyone to buy into a community-operated wireless network, then spending the rest of your days as the troubleshooter for it all...

  17. Harry

    How about ...

    ... using it for the replacement of that grotty quasi-obsolescent DAB that ofcom is hopelessly trying to promote, but everybody else knows simply isn't fit for its purpose ?

  18. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Don't want local TV

    It'll just be used as an excuse to soak up taxes making content biased towards the city or county council as they're holding the purse strings. Fortunately nobody will watch it anyway.

  19. bazza Silver badge


    The range of comments here shows just how little thought about "what comes next" OFCOM have had. Mesh? Perhaps. Data? Maybe. TV? In this Youtube world you must be crazy. Radio? FM will never die. No one here has come up with a credible killer application that will make everyone think "I gotta get one of those".

    To make widespread use of such a broad band someone somewhere would have to come up with the ASICs and other parts to exploit it. Any kind of usage based on anything else is going to be inefficient, expensive or both. No one is going to invest in a spectrum maximising ASIC just because little old Britain has a bit of bandwidth unused around about 600MHz. There just isn't the market size to support it. The USA has a similar problem - no one does truly good CDMA based phones because only 250million Americans use it whilst the other 5 billion in the world use GSM/UMTS. The best we can hope for is that Europe too frees up the same band, and then perhaps someone might be bothered to make something of it.

    The analogue->digital TV switch over has been a widely accepted fact largely because Freeview is definitely better. The BBC deserves credit for resurecting the whole idea. So the fact that there's bandwidth at 600MHz with nothing to do is sort of immaterial - most people have already benefited.

    The analogue->digital radio switch over however is surely in deep trouble. There is no apparent true benefit to the end user. There is no perceived alternative use for the bandwidth. Like 600MHz, it will be a valueless 'asset' stuck on the government books. I suspect that most countries aren't bothering to even try any more. So what on earth does OFCOM think anyone will want the old FM bands for even if they do manage to push us all on to DAB? Mobile phones? TV? Answer - nothing unless there's a large international market for the requisite ASICs and parts. If people lose their good FM service and are forced to re-equip for a worse DAB service, there will be hell to pay if no good comes from the surplus FM bands.

  20. Dan Beshear

    US don't use 606-614 MHz

    Here that frequency range (channel 37 on our system, 38 on UK's) is reserved for astronomic observation studies, like this

    I don't know specifically what energy transition happens in that frequency range, but apparently it was considered important enough to prohibit terrestrial transmission in that range.

  21. Fuzz

    Just make freeview better

    Aside from the 4 HD channels, the quality of freeview is terrible. We don't necessarily need more HD channels but more bitrate on the existing channels would be a step in the right direction.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With that long a wavelength

    It has to be something mobile not TV which can use power to overcome the distance.

  23. Dave Clarke 5

    Fixed Wiresless Access Gets My Vote

    My company distributes broadband in the rural areas using the 5.8GHz band. Because of the frequency. it's really only a line of site thing. Being able to use 600MHz as well would be a godsend for us because the penetration is better and we would be able to get our signal to more people. In the USA they use the 900MHz band for the same thing so I am sure it would not be that difficult to mod the kit for the UK.

  24. copsewood

    Should go to those most serious about providing remote broadband

    We don't need more crap TV channels, as if we haven't got enough crap TV already.

    There still are too many places too far from their exchange to get a decent ADSL connection, which are also too expensive for fibre to the cabinet rollout. There's no way it will become economic to provide cable TV/Internet in such remote places. This adversely impacts local economic development and makes life in such places backward.

    Bidders should have some background in Internet Service Provision and should succeed based on who wants to put the most money into accounts reserved for subsequent spending on installing transmitters, receivers, marketing and otherwise rolling out the service. The effect should be public revenue and tax neutral, in the sense that what the successful bidders pay up front can then be respent on their own rollout. This should get the maximum economic provision for net access for those least well provided and is a better alternative to proposed digital access schemes involving cross subsidies.

  25. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Porn ^H^H^H^H^HCommunity TV

    What's wrong with broadcasting Community TV on those channels? Local TV for locals ... none of this crap about "community standards" because it would be just the community that get to watch it if they choose ... the receiver sets would be a small market to it's a stimulus to British Electronics manufacturers and could employ some of the government employees that the current bunch of pols is so keen to push out of their jobs.

    I remember watching Community TV in New York about 10-15 years ago ... it was very educational and informative .... it was some Animal Lovers Show ... about Hamsters I seem to recall.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    data please!

    +1 for rural broadband

    got plenty of telly channels & there is always satellite if I wanted more

    Rural broadband would allow rural IPTV for niche stuff if you wanted it.

    Can't see any market for local TV out of the big cities (if it even exists there)

  27. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Could it be both?

    If people want to use it for point-to-point rural data type stuff do it. If people want to use it for community TV, do it. If either steps up, it'll be fallow. I don't see why it should have to be all one or the other.

    It sounds to me like you all are pretty lucky to have a (admittedly full of crap, but isn't all TV?) Freeview system. Here is what I can get over the air (note the channel numbers are "fake" -- for some reason, when the US did it's digital transition, they made it so the "channel number" and the *actual* channel number don't match up at all so for instance 2 is up in the 50s somewhere).

    2 -- CBS.

    2.2 is a music station.

    9 -- ABC.

    9.2 is actually just called "9.2", it has a few extra episodes of shows 9 would air otherwise.

    12 -- PBS. There's 3 of these.

    15 -- Fox

    20 -- WB. But the program guide is not filled in so my DVR records off 26 instead.

    20.2 AntennaTV -- old shows and movies. This just came up a week or 2 ago.

    26 -- Also WB.

    26.2 is ThisTV.

    That's it! And, some of these channels are almost 70 miles away, so I have a large Grey-Hovermann antenna and 20dB amp to get what I do get (without it, I'd get 20/20.2, 12.1/12.2/12.3 and maybe 15). This is hooked to a high-quality USB tuner. Sometimes I'll get 7 (NBC) with 7.2 and 7.3 (RTV and ThisTV -- both show old shows and movies) and 28 (another Fox.) 7 and 9 are both VHF so they seem to be qutie picky about interference and antenna aiming (I'm not aimed at the stations at all, i must be picking up a strong reflection, they don't come in at all if I actually aim the antenna at them!)

    You're also lucky to have centralized sites. I luckily found a compromise aim where I only lose one station (48 - PaxTV) but some of my stations are NNW (2, 7, 9, 28 and 48 if I got it), some are NE (20, 12), 15 is south, 26 is due east (if I had a little better antenna 4, 6, 8, 18 are also due east.)

  28. Charlie 3

    Rural broadband

    +1 for rural broadband.

    Ofcom love to complain about the quality of rural DSL. Here they have an opportunity to help.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    600MHz TITS!

    paris because... well, you've seen it.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Use this frequency if it is safer then current spectrum for Mobile Phones

    Stop People..!

    Let's not forget that the frequencies that are currently used are harmful to human health.

    There's plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Human DNA is harmed by the radiation emmitted by phone masts - let alone the harm caused by mobile phones.


    Mobile phone technology remains the biggest Mass Experiment on Humanity!

    So very soon coming to a backyard near you will be the next generation of 4G masts at 1.8GHz and 2.4GHz blasting microwave radiation 24x7x365!

    This is already happening without regard to how close it is to residential areas.

    I've had to fight one being put about 60m from my home.

    If 800 MHz is safer then lets use it - to heck with standards in other countries - they should follow suit.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Ah yes, another AC who thinks....

      ....that non-ionising radiation is dangerous at ranges that mean it can't even warm you up by 0.01C. 60m? If you're worried about that what about that phone 6cm away from your head when it's operating?

      "There's plenty of anectodal evidence....." eh? Right, so it's not evidence then, it's anecdote.

      Come back when you understand scientific rigour, until then no one will take you seriously.

    2. Tom 38



      There's plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Human DNA is harmed by the radiation emmitted by phone masts - let alone the harm caused by mobile phones.


      Well done, come on to a scientific biased website, and use a phrase like 'anecdotal evidence'. Son, if its anecdotal, it's not evidence, it's just a story you heard from some guy. 'anecdotal', from 'anecdote' - 'private story'. Well done.


      So very soon coming to a backyard near you will be the next generation of 4G masts at 1.8GHz and 2.4GHz blasting microwave radiation 24x7x365!


      It's good they get a day off in leap years though, one less thing to worry about.


      I've had to fight [a mast] being put about 60m from my home.


      Who won, you or the mast? Watch out, those masts fight dirty, all of a sudden they can FRY YOUR BRAINS, even though when testing we noticed no such thing - they are that devious.

  31. pAnoNymous

    if you broadcast it they will watch

    how about 24hr BBC3/4, more HD, ondemand/iPlayer content and if all else fails what's BT up to these days?

    a lot of tax paying citizens are going to stick to Freeview - so how about taking their interests into account?

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