How to transform the "digital dividend" into consumer benefits and up to €50 billion in economic growth for Europe?
Date: Fri, 07/10/2009 - 13:25 Source: EU Comission press department
The change from analogue to digital TV in Europe will free up radio frequencies for use by new services. The EU is well placed to benefit from this “digital dividend”: Germany, Finland, Luxembourg, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium (Flanders) and major areas in Austria have already switched off analogue terrestrial TV transmissions, and other EU countries will follow by 2012. On 12 June, the USA also switched to digital TV transmissions
Unleashing the full potential of the switchover is on top of the EU's telecoms policy agenda as the newly available radio spectrum can improve the way we communicate and access audiovisual content. Used efficiently, it will also bring economies of scale and improve the EU’s competitiveness by increasing innovation in equipment and wireless services, as well as by facilitating access to mobile broadband. Last month, the Commission launched a consultation to determine how to better work together at EU level to get the most from this unique opportunity. The consultation will run until 4 September 2009.
"The digital dividend comes at a critical moment when we want to connect all parts of Europe to high-speed broadband, ensure high quality broadcasting, and expand consumer choice in future wireless services," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "Europe will only achieve all of this if it adopts a coordinated approach using radio spectrum in the most efficient way. Depending on the choices we make, the potential impact of the digital dividend can be increased by billions of euros. We want to better understand what the public, broadcasters, mobile operators and other market players think of these choices before we finalise our proposals."
The freed up radio spectrum can transmit data over long distances and across borders, so decisions about it made in one Member State impact areas up to several hundreds of kilometres away. Without coordination, this precious resource may not be used to maximum efficiency, and some services may not be available in parts of Europe or parts of some countries.
Most of the potential uses for the digital dividend are mass consumer services, in both television and mobile broadband. There are huge potential economic benefits in ensuring that the same equipment can operate in the same frequencies across the EU. This will create significant economies of scale for equipment manufacturers and drive down the price, which will in turn stimulate further consumer demand and make these services more accessible.
Appropriate European coordination would increase the potential economic impact of the digital dividend by an additional €20 to €50 billion between now and 2015. In the long run an additional benefit of € 30 billion could be realised beyond 2015 through further EU coordination.
Given that by 2012 digital TV will completely replace analogue transmission and that several Member States want to quickly use the potential of wireless solutions to achieve full broadband access, EU countries need urgently to agree upon a common approach now. The Commission proposes to adopt an EU roadmap – a set of common, coordinated actions outlined in today's consultation. To ensure that a clear and predictable regulatory environment prevails for regulators and industry alike in making the best use of the digital dividend, the Commission is also considering a plan harmonising the 800 MHz band, particularly suitable for new generations of mobile broadband
The EU roadmap would outline the benefits of spectrum coordination while giving Member States flexibility to address local and national specificities, for example in broadcasting. The roadmap will also increase the overall availability of radio spectrum beyond what could be achieved by individual Member States and enable the delivery of more affordable and interoperable services.
The Commission will present a final proposal as quickly as possible after the closure of this public consultation.
Analogue TV has occupied a broad segment of the radio spectrum, but as digital TV uses it much more efficiently, fresh spectrum is now becoming available for new uses. The "digital dividend" freed by the switchover is very attractive as the signals in this range travel very far and equipment can be easily used indoors. As a result, there are many potential candidates for access to this part of radio spectrum in addition to TV broadcasters.
In November 2007, the Commission issued a Communication which outlined the need, and possible approaches, for achieving appropriate EU coordination on spectrum. Today's consultation is the main follow-up and follows discussions with national regulators and stakeholders and an ongoing socio-economic study to examine the potential impact of different scenarios for using the digital dividend.