What is “Call to Europe” and why is it so important for the Spanish radio spectrum?

10 Oct 2023

On November 30th 2023, another world event is taking place. Even if it has nothing to do with football, it is indeed somewhat relevant for the whole planet.

We are talking about the World Radiocommunication Conferences (referred to as WRC-23 this year), which emulates the renowned football championship because it is held every four years.

Apart from that, what’s at stake in every edition heightens expectations, that’s why thousands of professionals are already called to attend this 4-week event.

Among the scheduled discussion topics, the most decisive one has a direct impact on the radio spectrum across Region 1 – which includes Europe, Africa and the greatest part of Northern Asia.

The outcome can be so crucial at an economic, social and cultural scale that organizations and companies from 20 different countries – among them Televes, TRedess and Gsertel – have advocated for the so-called “Call to Europe”. This initiative intends to urge the EU representatives to preserve the lower UHF radio spectrum (470-694 MH).

What is “Call to Europe”?

“Call to Europe” makes reference to the group of up to 80 associations and companies from 20 European countries seeking to shield DTT in today’s radio spectrum.

The first “Call to Europe” was introduced in late June 2022, and the second one was made known in November of the very same year.

During this second occasion, manifesto “Save our spectrum!” was made public. This initiative reveals that there are 80 million (43%) European Union households that watch TV via the lower UHF spectrum – originally earmarked for DTT.

It is also warned about the fact that all types of events – plays, concerts and festivals – rely on this  emission.

In order to preserve this status, DTT needs to maintain terrestrial radio broadcasting via the lower UHF spectrum (470 – 694 MHz) – also referred to as "sub700MHz".

The reason for defending this is that this technology allows for affordable, energy-efficient, resource-friendly and sovereign mass transmission. It is also emphasized how resilient the spectrum is in the event of natural or man-made disasters – namely, the Ukrainian conflict. 

Why is “Call to Europe” so important and how is it related to the World Radiocommunication Conferences?

Apparently, protecting the presence of DTT on the sub700MHz band makes total sense, so modifying the radio spectrum should be out of question. 

However, its evolution and technological development is threatened by this year’s World Radiocommunication Conference. The main reason is the booming mobile communications and networks, as they are experiencing an unstoppable technological expansion that requires a larger space to meet the users’ needs.

The mobile industry needs to harness the capacities of 5G, which means that mobile networks will require an average of 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum per country by 2030.

Licensed 5G would require high 6 GHz band, allowing to meet such technological demand through a high-quality service.

Nevertheless, this is not the first time that DTT has to give ground in this aspect: it already did when the first digital dividend had to make 800 MHz band available for mobile networks. After that, during the second digital dividend, it did likewise, only this time was the 700 MHz band.

DTT is now limited to the lower UHF spectrum (470 – 694 MHz). Operating on it would involve negative consequences, that is why they intend to prevent it from being pushed away in favor of mobile networks.

The manifesto – which was brought to the public with the occasion of the second Call to Europe – estates that terrestrial broadcasting via DVB-T2 would be seriously compromised. Also, innovation aimed at broadcasting via 5G-Broadcast would not happen.

In the long-term, these changes will entail significant difficulties to ensure universal, free or cost-free access to contents that are currently free-to-air broadcast.

Companies offering sport information, theater productions, cultural and sport events, conferences, fairs, leisure, as well as companies working for the industry would be jeopardized.

Strategy of the European Union during the World Radiocommunication Conference

Even if radio spectrum is one of the most important debates to be discussed, there are a number of other topics to deal with during this World Radiocommunication Conference of 2023.

Some other issues included in the agenda – which will be dealt with through several specialized technical groups – include, among others: high-altitude platforms; new digital technologies applied to aviation; services for sea communications and safety of life at sea; space-borne radars; satellite and satellite mobile services for the Internet of Things (IoT).

This international meeting will take place this year in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) until mid December.

This event will bring together 193 member states from the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) and 3000 representatives to discuss and negotiate all these issues by consensus. The European Commission has at least already proposed that a common position be maintained in order to guarantee the interests and needs of companies and citizens of the countries of the European Union. Among other things, the future of DTT in Spain and other countries is at stake.