The European economy would receive a financial boost of at least 95 billion (75 billion) over the next 20 years, if one quarter of the UHF band were instead allocated for mobile broadband services, according to independent study published by Spectrum Value Partners.
The report, Getting the most out of the digital dividend, was commissioned by Ericsson, Nokia, Orange, Telefnica and Vodafone, and claims to be the first comprehensive economic analysis of the costs and benefits of allocating different quantities of UHF spectrum for mobile broadband and broadcast use throughout Europe.
Although the size of the benefits differ between individual Member States, the potential 95 billion windfall to the European economy represents additional value specifically associated with the use of the UHF spectrum. It is in addition to the 2.5 trillion generated by the European mobile industry using other spectrum in the same period between 2008 and 2027.
The study also shows that, with the remainder of the band, broadcasters are expected to generate more than 750 billion for the European economy during the same period, reflecting the large individual and social benefits from terrestrial broadcasting. It assumes that all existing free-to-air analogue broadcast TV channels will continue to be provided in either high definition or standard definition formats, and finds that the majority of the value which could be created by broadcasters is already provided by existing analogue channels, rather than by the launch of new digital-only channels.
The study also finds that much of the value associated with the use of UHF spectrum for mobile services is attributed to providing wider and lower-cost broadband coverage. Together with a 12MHz guard band to prevent interference between mobile broadband and TV services, the mobile industry would need between 40MHz and 140MHz under a wide range of plausible demand scenarios. This could help generate a range from at least 63 billion to as much as 165 billion of additional value for the European economy.
It also concludes that allocating at least 92MHz (including the guard band) of UHF spectrum, to mobile operators - a quarter of the total UHF band currently used for the provision of broadcast services - would be most likely to maximise additional value for the European economy as a whole.
Finally, the report says, delaying the release of UHF spectrum by three years would cost Europe 20 billion.
The efficient use of the UHF spectrum is vital if Europe is to remain a global leader in both broadcasting and mobile communications in the coming decades, says Richard Feasey, Public Policy Director at Vodafone. We join the European Parliament and the European Commission in urging Member States to act now. The study, for the first time, bridges the gap between the two sectors and provides policymakers with the tools to work out how best to use the digital dividend in each Member State. It shows all of us the enormous economic consequences of those decisions. We intend this study to be a major input into the Regulatory Impact Assessment which the European Commission has said it intends to undertake this summer, but which we believe should also be undertaken by each and every Member State over the next 12 months. If we delay further, Europe will pay a heavy price.
Catherine Trautmann, MEP and rapporteur in the current review of EU telecommunications legislation, has also suggested that every Member State should be required to establish a National Digital Dividend Plan. The US completed an auction of UHF TV radio spectrum in March, this year. To date, only three European Member States have developed firm proposals for the digital dividend in Europe.