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Broadcasters and radio spectrum: The emergence of a European digital dividend in the United Kingdom and Spain

By Cristina Cullell March

Abstract

Most of the countries in the European Union are immersed in the analogue-digital switchover, and it is envisaged that by the end of 2012 all of the countries will have changed over to digital television, giving rise to the digital dividend in Europe. The recently harmonisation of the 800MHz band as the European digital dividend will have different impact on EU member states. In this paper we will address the question regarding the impact of digital dividend harmonisation on national planning for the development of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) in United Kingdom and Spain. Taking these two countries as our reference points, we will see that their DTT transition models differ greatly. In the UK, the digital transition was based on a centralised model designed to release a major portion of the spectrum, whereas the Spanish model is highly decentralized, both regionally and locally. In Spain, the introduction of digital television has sought to respond to regional and local communication needs, virtually casting aside the release of the digital dividend for the provision of wireless communications services other than broadcasting. The lack of European coordination and the limited foresight of the Spanish authorities regarding the increase in spectrum demand will make the digital transition in Spain far more expensive, given the need to reassign the frequencies subject to European harmonisation. Unlike the UK, which had already envisaged the release of a large amount of spectrum, in Spain, the impact of European harmonisation on national DTT planning will inevitably be greater. The structure of this paper will consist of an identification of the regulatory framework and the directives issued by EU institutions in relation to European policy on the development of digital terrestrial television, a prior and necessary step to complete our understanding of EU actions involving the digital dividend. Having analysed harmonisation process of the digital dividend in the EU, we will pay attention to its impact on the national DTT plans of United Kingdom and Spain. --Broadcasters,Spectrum,Digital Dividend,Harmonization,European Union

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