Digital UK delivers damning criticism of White Space strategy

December 16, 2013 10.57 Europe/London By Julian Clover

TTP White Space Trial iPadDigital UK has set itself on a collision course with the regulator Ofcom after raising concern at the introduction of White Space technology.

The body, which looks after the terrestrial spectrum interests of Arqiva, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, said that while it supported the development of White Space technology, it feared that reception of Freeview channels could be put at risk.

“At least two errors were identified by the BBC during the review period, and despite Ofcom issuing an Addendum on 24 October explaining one of the errors, the fact that the consultation’s conclusion was not altered gives us serious concerns about the adequacy of protection for DTT services from TV white space using the methodology detailed in the consultation,” said Digital UK in a response to the Ofcom White Spaces consultation.

Digital UK has asked Ofcom to give further details on how it intends to manage the potential implementation of white space interference. The body says it has particular concerns around. Proposed levels of DTT coverage; Proposed levels of DTT reception; Coexistence parameters; and Sustainability.

A key issue is the protection of current services. Ofcom says it will protect the headline 98.5% PSB coverage, effectively the Big Five channels (BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5), plus 90% commercial multiplex coverage. “in reality virtually every household in the UK currently has access to terrestrial television, even if not to the level of reception quality that constitutes an official service; further, the proposal will be removing alternative reception options from those in areas where the prediction model does not accurately reflect viewing choices.”

An Ofcom spokesperson said: “Ofcom has designed its white spaces plans in a way that protects against interference to the airwaves. Any suggestion that it will compromise TV services is unfounded.”

Ofcom has been investigating the use of access to white spaces – frequencies that are not being used by existing licensees at all times or at all locations – since 2007.