Friday, 6 February 2009

Ofcom rethink on digital dividend spectrum? Mixed emotions.

I read an article on the BBC website with interest yesterday. It looks like the deal brokered by Lord Lloyd Webber (which makes him sound like some sort of UN special envoy), to preserve some of the digital dividend spectrum for wireless microphones, may have collapsed. It's probably revenge, on behalf of the people of the UK, and indeed Europe, for the horror that is the UK's 2009 Eurovision entry, which he co-wrote with Dionne Warwick. I'm not a big fan of Eurovision at the best of times (although I did love the Latvian Pirates and crazy French guy last year) but our latest effort is truly awful.

The upshot is that Ofcom has reviewed the award of the 790-862MHz digital dividend spectrum and now has decided to bring it into line with other European markets by moving PMSE (mostly wireless microphones) and digital TV, which previously had operated within the digital dividend band, to a lower frequency.

So, with more spectrum available for mobile broadband and more harmonisation, I should be happy right? Yes, except that I go to quite a lot of festivals and I'm going to pray that it doesn't affect my enjoyment of the dulcet tones of Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, The Courteeners & Badger at Glastonbury Festival this year. Evicting radio mics from the top end of the 800MHz band could mean chaos for the live events industry. Equipment will be rendered useless and events that have run hitch-free for years could end up disappointing thousands of attendees. I can understand the thinking behind reusing that spectrum. However, Ofcom has a public service obligation that surely requires it to consider the public good. One thing is for sure, if Ofcom does ultimately evict wireless mics, it needs to quickly find suitable alternative spectrum and compensate the entertainment industry. Doubtless there will still be glitches though.
Surely there must be some other way to get back at Andrew Lloyd Webber? Revoke his peerage for crimes against music perhaps?

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