Ofcom to promote pay-TV competition

Ofcom has released details of its 2009-10 annual plan, placing the release of spectrum through the digital dividend at the top of its priorities, and promoting competition in pay-TV.

A decision on whether Ofcom will move ahead with proposals to force Sky to offer some of its premium channels as part of a wholesale offer is expected in spring 2009. This could take the form of a statement or a further consultation. The current consultation as a result of Ofcom’s pay-TV review, and covering the wholesale proposals and Sky’s plans for the Picnic DTT service, will close on December 9. The timetable is designed to give clarity ahead of the 2009/10 football season.

On spectrum management the regulator says there are now strong prospect for HDTV on both satellite and terrestrial platforms. Ofcom also emphasises the take-up of mobile services including mobile broadband.

“Spectrum is a key resource for the UK economy and society, and we think that in general a market-based approach to spectrum management is the most suitable way to achieve the best use of this resource,” Ofcom says in the draft plan. To date Ofcom has held five spectrum auctions – the UK has run eight in total – and is giving priority to the liberalization of spectrum between 900 and 1800 MHz already used by mobile services. It is also looking at a March auction in the 2.6GHz band, suitable for WiMax operations, but is being held back by litigation from existing mobile operators.

Spectrum released as a result of analogue switch-off, the so-called digital dividend, has also been earmarked as a strategic priority for 2009-10, with movement possibly in early 2009.