Paris, 7 November 2007
Today, ARCEP is making available to all interested parties the results of its public consultation launched on 13 July 2007, by publishing all the contributions to the consultation and a summary of these responses.
The goal of the public consultation was to collect the analyses and opinions of all interested parties, in order to enlighten public authorities in their work on the digital dividend conducted under the aegis of the Comité Stratégique pour le Numérique.
ARCEP received some 50 responses from local authorities, operators and electronic communications providers, industrialists, television and radio stations.
The number and variety of contributors confirmed the interest in and importance of this issue.
ARCEP launched this public consultation as part of a larger work on the digital dividend steered by the Comité Stratégique pour le Numérique. It addresses the frequency needs for electronic communications services access networks and aims to provide information for a study on the subject requested by the Comité Stratégique pour le Numérique.
While most contributions dealt strictly with the uses and services covered by the public consultation on issues linked to new frequencies for electronic communications services access networks, others addressed the broader issue of the digital dividend and presented analyses on the frequency needs of other uses, and broadcasting in particular.
Under these conditions, in order to reflect the contributions received in all their wealth and diversity, the summary recaps the responses received to the questions asked by the consultation, but also includes the analyses on additional topics raised by certain players.
This summary was prepared in order to provide an overview of the contributions received, although it cannot replace a thorough reading of the individual contributions of each of the players, which are available on ARCEP's web site.
SUMMARY OF THE CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PUBLIC CONSULTATION
Below is an abridged summary of the responses to the public consultation, which the reader is invited to read in full for a better understanding of the contributions.
France’s digital development is now well underway. Today, the developments of mobility services and fixed access to high-speed internet are at the source of profound modifications to how we communicate and gain access to information and content.
We now find ourselves beginning a new stage. Mobile communications services are preparing to follow the same evolution as fixed services; that is, an accelerated transition towards high-speed and very high-speed access (questions 1 to 3). In this way, mobile access should naturally become part of the extension of high-speed and very high-speed fixed Internet offers, to guarantee consumers—both professionals and the general public—the continuity and ubiquity of personal access to Internet services, on a wide variety of terminals, outside their work or home. These services will have to be available everywhere and anytime with the same comfort and wealth of use as high-performance wired access. Furthermore, a need was expressed for the implementation of high-speed mobile professional networks.
In a few years, mobile technologies will be able to provide performance equal to market expectations. So, by the beginning of the next decade, systems at speeds of one to tens of Mbit/s are expected, and after 2015 speeds of around 100 Mbit/s (questions 2 and 20).
This new stage in our country’s digital development is essential on economic, cultural and social levels. No one must be left behind because they live in an area that isn’t covered. This is why covering the country in very high-speed mobile access is a major political concern (question 4).
Only by providing additional low frequencies will we be able to cover the country extensively with very high-speed mobile at the speeds expected for the next decade (question 10). Indeed, low frequencies—less than 1 GHz—have significantly better physical radio propagation properties than high frequencies, which make them suitable for extensive coverage, both inside and outside buildings. Needs for additional low frequencies have been evaluated and are well known (question 11).
So, national coverage of very high-speed mobile access will depend directly on the availability of new low frequencies, that is, under 1 GHz. If these resources are not made available, there will be a huge breach between dense areas covered by very high-speed mobile (a few dozen Mbit/s) and other areas, corresponding to about 70% of the country and 30% of the population, covered by much lower speeds (questions 5 to 11).
Furthermore, as for access to fixed networks, wireless high-speed technologies have an important role to play in reducing the inequalities between already existing areas which could be strengthened even further with the move to very high-speed (questions 12 and 13). Mobile networks with extensive coverage will be even better able to contribute to reducing these inequalities in static use, as demand moves towards high-speed access available everywhere under the same conditions of comfort as high-speed wired access (question 12). In this regard, access to new low frequencies is a necessary condition for mobile networks to be able to contribute to the country’s coverage in very high speed (question 15) and coverage inside buildings (question 16).
Sufficiently early identification of harmonised additional low frequencies is important for the French and European economies. The 2007 World Radiocommunication Conference is an important step in this regard (questions 17 and 18). It is crucial that a low frequency band be harmonised on at least a European scale (questions 21 and 29) and that it be available across the entire continent (question 26). If such a decision were taken in 2007-2008, equipment could be available by the beginning of the next decade for national very high-speed mobile coverage (questions 22, 23, 24, 27 and 28). The expected results of national very high-speed mobile coverage are great, especially their expected impact on economic growth (question 19).
The reassignment of digital dividend frequencies, located below 1 GHz, is a unique opportunity to allocate new low frequencies to telecommunications. Indeed, we won’t get another chance for several decades. So the choices made in reassigning the digital dividend are crucial for the development of our country and its regions.
Moreover, the introduction of high-definition television services is a major development. These services are or will be offered by terrestrial microwave networks, satellite networks, cable networks and high-speed wired networks (topic 5.1).
In this regard, the place of microwave transmission in the provision and consumption of high-definition television services is highly disputed. Some players promote the use of terrestrial microwave transmission to provide all channels in high definition. However, other contributors contest this logic, considering that providing all channels in high definition could be accomplished through the additional use of other previously mentioned broadcasting methods (satellite, cable, very high-speed wired networks), thereby limiting the use of terrestrial microwave transmission, which requires large amounts of frequencies.
The choice of terrestrial microwave transmission for the family TV set is in sharp decline in the consumption modes of television services to the benefit of other broadcasting methods because it cannot propose all the offers which consumers have come to expect. Audiovisual uses have changed and now follow a definite trend towards delinearisation, interactivity, personalisation, content self production and more diversity.
Contributors also mention the development of mobile television services (topic 5.2). Several players, especially from the telecommunications sector, but also a very small number of contributors from the broadcasting sector also discussed the question of complementarity between mobile networks (where mobile television offers already exist) and future broadcasting networks to mobiles in the UHF band (TMP), as well as satellite projects like DVB-SH.
Certain contributors also addressed the question of broadcasting additional channels on digital terrestrial television (topic 5.3), as well as that of other uses such as digital radio in the III or L bands, wireless microphones and RFID systems (topic 5.4).
Finally, several contributors looked at the question of assigning the digital dividend in the UHF band. Some players consider that the volume of the digital dividend can be known only once analogue television has been effectively closed. Others, on the other hand, provide technical evaluations and UHF frequency distribution scenarios for the end of analogue.
These show that the UHF band will be able to support more than the seven digital multiplexes currently planned for the end of analogue broadcasting (question 17, topic 1). Some mention the possibility of increasing or even doubling the number of television multiplexes while freeing up some channels for other telecoms or broadcasting services. It seems possible that part of the digital dividend could be used as a quite large frequency sub-band, while keeping the current and future capacity of broadcasting services as is already planned by the law. Finally, levers which would improve the efficiency of spectrum use, such as the earlier implementation of MPEG4 and so-called SFN isofrequency engineering are also mentioned.
The question of the timetable for the decisions regarding the digital dividend is broadly discussed (question 17, topic 2). Many players highlight how essential it is to identify a part of the digital dividend as a sub-band, which is harmonised at least at the European level early on. Other contributors, from the broadcasting sector, consider that any decision on the digital dividend is currently premature and should be delayed until after analogue television is no more.
The question of assigning the digital dividend itself was the object of a number of different approaches (question 17, topic 3). Some contributors focus on the needs related to national coverage in very high-speed mobile and would like to see a reasonable share of the digital dividend attributed to this use, in the form of a sub-band. Other contributors promote allocation diagrams intended essentially to implementing high definition television via microwaves, as well as broadcasting to mobiles (TMP).
And last, some contributors underline that broadcasting service offers must help to develop very high-speed fixed and mobile networks. These networks constitute effective means for broadcasting content which, while encouraging the preservation of pluralism and the development of cultural diversity, will in return provide the growth relays needed by programme and content providers.
Procedures are proposed which aim to reasonably combine the joint future opportunities of broadcasting and telecommunications in a context of convergence.
Public players contributions ()