Here you will find the most important questions and answers about “SOS – Save Our Spectrum”.
- What exactly are the cultural and creative industries?
- What have the cultural and creative industries got to do with radio microphones and wireless production facilities?
- How important are the cultural and creative industries?
- Why are radio frequencies in such short supply?
- Who decides, who can transmit and where?
- What is the difference between a primary and secondary user?
- Why are radio microphone users losing their frequencies?
- Where have radio microphones been transmitting until now?
- What does the “digital dividend” actually mean?
- What does “digital dividend 2” mean?
- What does “digital dividend 3” mean?
- Can’t wireless microphones and mobile radio communications use the same frequencies?
- Why must frequencies/productions be interference-free?
- Why does PMSE actually need the UHF TV band?
- Where will PMSE still be able to transmit in the future? Is there a substitute for the lost frequencies?
- How much spectrum does PMSE require?
- Why does Programme Making and Special Event production (PMSE) need primary user status?
- Why is the deployment of wireless production facilities continually rising? Why not use cable?
- How much spectrum does the mobile communications network require?
- Why do mobile network operators want to use the UHF TV band, if the technology doesn’t need it?
A) Cultural and creative industries
1. What exactly are the cultural and creative industries?
The cultural and creative industries are a very important sector of the economy in Germany and in Europe in general. Numerous studies have proven this to be the case.
In 2009, the Conference of Economics Ministers defined the sector as follows:
“The cultural and creative industries include all those companies, which are primarily focused on the creation, production, broadcasting and/or media coverage of cultural/creative goods and services”.1
The following individual sectors or submarkets are associated with these industries:
The term “cultural industry” covers nine submarkets – the music industry, the book market, the art market, the film industry, the radio industry, the performing arts, the design industry, the architectural market and the press market. Advertising and the software and games industry represent the creative sectors. Therefore, a total of eleven submarkets make up the cultural and creative industries.1
1 = Source: BMWi (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Technologie – Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Technology) (ed.) (2013): Monitoring of Selected Economic Key Data on the Cultural and Creative Industries 2013, extended version. Download (German):
BMWi_Monitoring Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft Deutschland 2013.pdf (2.0 MiB, 1,376 hits)
2. What have the cultural and creative industries got to do with radio microphones and wireless production facilities?
Many individual sectors associated with the cultural and creative industries use wireless production devices or are dependent upon the content they produce. Examples:
- the music industry
- the film industry
- the broadcast industry (radio and television)
- the performing arts (e.g. theatres and stages, on which musical events are performed)
- the advertising sector (radio and television)
- the software and games industry (addition of sound effects and music)
People wishing to support and promote the cultural and creative industries – as the politicians of all political parties keep on insisting – must open the way for the development of wireless production facilities. This includes the provision of an adequate high-quality wireless spectrum. Only in this way is it possible to increase the attractiveness of stage productions and improve sound quality both in the studio and during live productions – as required by consumers.
3. How important are the cultural and creative industries?
According to a study undertaken by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the cultural and creative industries employed more than one million people in 2013. At the same time, these industries contributed 145 billion euros to the gross domestic product in Germany, placing the cultural and creative industries amongst the top 3 sectors in Germany. As a job creator, they are on a par with the traditional industries of car manufacturing and mechanical engineering. Germany is the main location for the cultural and creative industries in Europe, both in terms of value creation and the number of people it employs.
That alone should be sufficient to ensure that the cultural and creative industries are well promoted and protected from harm. But there is yet another important factor: the sector has an extremely positive effect on its economic environment, on “event and cultural tourism”, for example, promoting regional development and supporting the hotel and catering sector. The cultural environment is often a decisive factor when companies are looking for a place to set up business. One further point: it is the availability of high-quality content, which increases demand for high-tech entertainment electronics.
Download the BMWi study (full text, German):
BMWi_Monitoring Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft Deutschland 2013.pdf (2.0 MiB, 1,376 hits)
B) Frequency usage: the basics
1. Why are radio frequencies in such short supply?
Like a hectare of meadow or woodland, frequency bands are a limited resource. Anybody who has tried to find a particular station on a radio waveband knows that transmission ends at some point when you move to the right or left.
A large number of users are interested in using radio frequencies. For example:
- wireless production facilities (radio microphones, in-ear monitoring systems)
- terrestrial television (DVB-T)
- the armed forces
- civilian emergency services (police, fire brigade, ambulance services) – authorities and organisations that provide emergency and security services
- mobile communications (the mobile telephone networks and mobile broadband internet)
- local networks (WLAN)
- flight safety and monitoring (communications and radar)
These scarce resources must be shared out fairly, so that every interested party is able to use them.
2. Who decides, who can transmit and where?
Frequency usage is a political decision. International conferences and committees play a crucial role in ensuring that radio systems are able to function across countries, unaffected by interference in border regions if possible.
The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) is “at the very top” internationally. The WRC is organised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The ITU is a special organisation of the United Nations (UN).
At European level, decisions are made by CEPT – Conférence Européenne des Administrations des Postes et des Télécommunications (European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations).
The ministries and authorities of the participating states play a key role in preparing international conferences and setting their agendas. And they are also responsible for implementing international decisions.
In Germany, decisions relating to radio and television transmission frequencies are made at regional level. Each of Germany’s regions registers its individual needs with the Federal Network Agency. The broadcasting frequencies that may be used are, however, first decided by the WRC and only then implemented in national law.
The German Federal Ministry for Traffic and Infrastructure (BMVI) is responsible for preparations for the WRC and has created its own working group with the name “WRC-15”. Subordinate to the BMVI is an executive authority known as the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA). Despite its subordinate position, the Federal Network Agency influences frequency policy at a national and international level with its specialist personnel and supervises correct day-to-day usage of the frequencies. The ministry has been decisive in promoting the recent “digital dividend 2” frequency auction. This auction has deprived wireless production facilities of significant frequencies, but is currently not planning to provide them with any replacement spectrum. This is the reason for the “SOS – Save Our Spectrum” initiative.
3. What is the difference between a primary and secondary user?
When numerous users are allowed to use the same frequency range, rules have to be made, so that there is no interference between users. The law therefore distinguishes between radio services in accordance with their importance. A primary or co-primary user has higher priority and does not need to take other frequency users into account. Secondary users, on the other hand, must ensure that they do not interfere with primary users. Secondary users must also ensure that they do not interfere with each other. In practice, this has worked for decades with regard to PMSE application.
C) Loss of production frequencies, digital dividends
1. Why are radio microphone users losing their frequencies?
Germany’s politicians and the Federal Network Agency want to use the proceeds from frequency auctions to replenish their own coffers – see also motorway tolls. They do not understand, however, how perilous the situation has become for frequency users.
The users of wireless production facilities have not been particularly well organised so far. So, they have been unable to join forces to preserve their frequency spectrum. Their voice was simply not loud enough to be heard by the politicians.
In contrast, the mobile communications lobby is very strong. In the current digital dividend (dividend 2), they have for a second time been given frequencies previously used by wireless production facilities (PMSE).
It is this situation, which the “SOS – Save Our Spectrum” initiative would like to change. Together with our partner, APWPT (Association of Professional Wireless Production Technologies), we are representing the interests of PMSE users, as a counterweight to the mobile communications lobby and for the intelligent use of the available frequency spectrum.
2. Where have radio microphones been transmitting until now?
Primarily, radio microphone and in-ear monitoring systems (IEM) have previously transmitted in the so-called UHF TV band. The UHF TV band originally spanned the range from 470 MHz to 862 MHz. The band was not, however, completely filled with TV broadcasters. There were significant gaps between the individual channels, in which wireless production facilities were able to operate.
Today this situation has changed dramatically. Due to the digital dividend 1 and 2 frequency auctions, the UHF TV band has become smaller and now provides less space for wireless production facilities. During the first digital dividend, the 790 – 862 MHz frequency range was stripped away. Once the already agreed digital dividend 2 auction has gone ahead all over Europe, the frequency range 694 – 790 MHz will also be lost. The UHF TV band will then only span the range 470 – 694 MHz. Within this remaining spectrum, television and radio microphones will be confined to the narrowest space. Digital dividend 3 is already being planned and, if it goes ahead, it will eat up the remaining frequency spectrum. If these plans are implemented, wireless microphones will effectively become “homeless”.
Insert the graphic: UHF TV band and spectrum loss
3. What does the “digital dividend” actually mean?
Following the changeover from analogue terrestrial television to digital DVB-T, parts of the frequency spectrum were freed up, because when broadcasting, digital TV needs far less bandwidth. This saving of frequency is known as “digital dividend”. The first digital dividend of saved frequencies, in the spectrum 790 to 862 MHz, was auctioned in Germany to mobile network operators in May 2010. These frequencies are to be used to expand the new mobile communications standard LTE network for mobile broadband internet.
After the auction, the UHF TV band became smaller, only spanning the range 470 – 790 MHz. Wireless production facilities and TV transmissions were forced to switch their operations to this frequency spectrum. The spectrum had, of course, already become noticeably narrower. The estimated cost to users in Germany of re-equipping and replacing wireless production facilities ran to several hundred million euros. Old equipment had to be scrapped, even though it was still in good working order, because interference-free operation was no longer possible at the frequencies previously used.
4. What does “digital dividend 2” mean?
Digital terrestrial television DVB-T is shortly to be converted to the new transmission standard DVB-T2. When transmitting, DVB-T2 will require less room in the radio spectrum so, once again, UHF TV band frequencies will become free. But, as in the case of the first digital dividend, these frequencies are once again to be sold off to mobile network operators, so that mobile broadband provision can be extended. This time, the frequencies to be sold are in the 694 – 790 MHz range.
The German government and the Federal Network Agency had decided that this range should come under the hammer in May/June 2015 – done already. Wireless microphone technology will again be forced out of its allocated frequency range. As in the case of the first digital dividend, a massive amount of equipment will have to be scrapped. This time, however, the scrapping will involve recently purchased equipment and this cannot be avoided, because there will be insufficient frequency to allow any kind of re-allocation. The remaining TV spectrum will then be reduced to 470 – 694 MHz. This spectrum will not be sufficient to simultaneously accommodate both an event production of today’s expected magnitude and digital terrestrial television.
To complicate matters, the conversion from DVB-T to DVB-T2 will mean both standards having to be broadcast in parallel for a certain time. This so-called “simulcast” phase will probably last for several years and will occupy additional frequency channels. Only tiny gaps in the spectrum will then remain for wireless production facilities.
The EU, the German federal government, Germany’s regional governments and the Federal Network Agency are all aware of this frequency shortage. They have stated, that adequate alternative frequency spectrum will be provided for wireless production facilities. But their promises have not been followed up with any concrete action.
And so, if viewers want to continue watching terrestrial television in the future, they will be forced to purchase either a brand new television set or a set-top box able to receive DVB-T2. Thanks to digital dividend 2, old television sets will end up on the scrap heap like the soon-to-be redundant wireless production facilities.
5. What does “digital dividend 3” mean?
Digital dividend 3 refers to the remaining UHF TV spectrum – the frequency range 470 – 694 MHz – which is still in place following reduction of the band through digital dividends 1 and 2. Both in Germany and internationally, efforts are already being made to once again allocate this spectrum to the mobile network operators. This would mean radio microphones and programme and event production facilities losing their home on the UHF TV band forever. For physical reasons, wireless production facilities are very much dependent on this particular spectrum (see “Why does PMSE actually need the UHF TV band?” Cross-linking ). The “SOS – Save Our Spectrum” initiative is now campaigning for the protection of these frequencies and is, therefore, vehemently opposed to digital dividend 3.
D) Frequency requirements of wireless production facilities
1. Can’t wireless microphones and mobile network communications use the same frequencies?
No, unfortunately, that is not possible. Operating a radio microphone at frequencies used for mobile communications networks only results in high levels of audio noise. The mobile communications network has much higher transmission power and causes interference to wireless production facilities. If two spectrum users attempt to transmit at the same frequency, only the more powerful of the two will be successful. In this case, the successful user will be the mobile phone user or the nearest mobile phone mast.
The transmission power of a mobile phone base station is around 1,200 watts and a mobile telephone transmits at around 2 watts. By comparison, a wireless microphone uses in the region of 30-50 milliwatts (mW). Mobile telephones are, therefore, 66 times more powerful and base stations are around 40,000 times more powerful.
Listen to typical LTE interference (mobile phone network interference on a wireless microphone channel):
2. Why must frequencies/productions be interference-free?
Wireless production facilities are used so that the public can understand the spoken word and to give viewers a unique visual or listening experience. This is especially the case with audio or video productions and at live events. Imagine a concert, a theatrical performance, a film or a football game, at which no sound can be heard! Or even worse – deafening audio interference. The event would be aborted, recorded material could not be transmitted or sold and the public would be extremely annoyed.
Listeners expect quality. And particularly if they have been asked to pay good money in the form of an entrance ticket, for example. Poor audio quality detracts from the performance and dissuades others from participating.
Such a situation would threaten the survival of producers since, as a rule, they provide advance funding for events. Producers normally rent the premises and the necessary equipment, pay for the stage to be constructed, finance the marketing of the event, employ the technical staff and sign up the artists.
The quality expectations of listeners and viewers are just as high in the sphere of radio and television broadcasting. For this reason, broadcasting corporations are given primary user status: broadcasting has to be protected from interference from other spectrum users. The production of broadcasting content, on the other hand, has to be carried out on a secondary user basis and is, therefore, not protected from interference. This is a serious contradiction. In order to guarantee transmission quality (especially during live transmission), the status of wireless production facilities must in future be elevated to the same level as broadcasting itself. In other words – to primary or co-primary status.
3. Why does PMSE actually need the UHF TV band?
Wireless production facilities primarily work on the UHF TV band: this is currently, until the new spectrum owners switch on their infrastructure, still the frequency range from 470 to 790 MHz. PMSE needs this spectrum because this particular frequency spectrum has especially favourable physical qualities. The radio waves in this spectrum are propagated with a range of 100 metres or more, even at low values of transmission power. In addition, scenery and backdrops can be moved around and programme presenters and artists can mingle with the audience without impairing the sound signal. This is an absolute necessity, given today’s entertainment formats.
This frequency spectrum offers further technical advantages. In those cases, where a lot of wireless channels need to be used simultaneously, these can be arranged next to each other, without interfering with each other. Moreover, the antennae can be made relatively small and still retain a high level of efficiency.
4. Where will PMSE still be able to transmit in the future? Is there a substitute for the lost frequencies?
Yes, there are alternative options. These include the L band (1,452 – 1,492 MHz and 1,492 – 1,518 MHz, 1,525 MHz) and the so-called LTE duplex gap in the 800 MHz spectrum (823 – 832 MHz), or the duplex gap in the 1,800 MHz band (1,785 – 1,805 MHz). However, politicians and the Federal Network Agency have so far neglected to make any decision that would give wireless production facilities secure, long-term prospects.
L Band: due to the broadcasting conditions, this offers fewer application options than the UHF TV spectrum but, in principle, it can nevertheless be used. The German government promised the users of wireless production facilities the 1,452 – 1,492 MHz frequency spectrum in 2010 in a decision by the Federal Council. Consequently, the Federal Network Agency opened that spectrum for PMSE in 2013. In addition, the EU is recommending that member states also open the adjacent spectrum (1,492 – 1,518 MHz) to wireless production facilities. This has also been implemented in Germany. Despite that, however, the German Federal Network Agency is set to recommend at the WRC to be held in November 2015 (WRC 2015) that both bands should be allocated to mobile network operators in future. The German government and the regions allow the Federal Network Agency to decide (although the government itself could do so) how frequency should be managed in Germany ahead of the WRC 2015 discussions. This is tantamount to stabbing all manufacturers and users of wireless production facilities in the back and destroying any remaining planning option.
Duplex gaps: in Germany, the decrees of February and March 2015 officially allocated these to PMSE users. In the 823 – 832 MHz spectrum (the decree of February 2015), however, there is interference from neighbouring mobile communications frequencies. So, for professional productions, this frequency spectrum is at the present time either completely unusable, or only of limited use. No such interference has been shown to exist in the 1,785 – 1,805 MHz frequency range (the decree of March 2015). Both spectra can be used free-of-charge, as they have been declared available for general use.
We are demanding the following: the German government must finally stand by its word and recommend long-term allocation of the L band to PMSE. And the band should be allocated with no “ifs” or “buts”, in other words, with primary or co-primary user status, in order to guarantee productions will be completely free from interference. In addition, the government must oblige mobile phone manufacturers and operators to ensure that the duplex gaps are free of interference.
5. How much spectrum does PMSE require?
This question has already been examined by the Federal Network Agency in an official study carried out in 2008. It was established, that wireless production facilities in the centre of Berlin needed 96 MHz of bandwidth per day.
However, the study only examined daily requirements. Big events of national and international interest require much more than the 96 MHz of bandwidth recommended in this study. Such events often use as much as the whole of the currently available UHF TV spectrum – totalling around 320 MHz. Examples are the Eurovision Song Contest, national and regional elections, top football games (German Cup, Champions League), the Olympic Games, world championships, open-air concerts, open-air theatre and special events, such as the Pope’s visit or further VIP visits.
Politicians have so far failed to mention how, following the loss of the 700 MHz band, such events will be covered or how the sector’s growth will be dealt with. Without a replacement spectrum, there will be massive restrictions and Germany will be sidelined as a venue for the cultural and creative industries.
6. Why does Programme Making and Special Event production (PMSE) need primary user status?
Alongside broadcasting (earlier analogue, now digital terrestrial television, DVB-T), wireless production facilities have always been a secondary user. In the past, however, there were still sufficient frequency gaps between the individual channels and a problem never arose. Since the advent of the digital dividend, those days are over.
In the future, wireless production facilities will need the status of a primary, or co-primary user to ensure productions are interference-free. Only this will prevent them from being limited, suppressed or driven out. PMSE production has to be free to develop in accordance with its frequency requirements. Otherwise, in the future, the public will no longer be offered the contemporary formats it knows and loves or the quality it desires. And no further development could then take place.
Listeners and viewers expect high-quality radio and television programmes. For this reason, broadcasting corporations are given primary user status: broadcasting has to be protected from interference from other spectrum users. The production of broadcasting content, on the other hand, has to be carried out on a secondary user basis and is, therefore, not protected from interference. This is a serious contradiction – especially in a spectrum of higher user density. In order to guarantee transmission quality (especially during live transmission), the status of wireless production facilities must be elevated to the same level as broadcasting itself. In other words – to primary or co-primary status.
7. Why is the use of wireless production facilities continually rising? Why not use cable?
Since 2008, the use of wireless production facilities has been steadily on the increase. Manufacturers estimate an annual growth of around 10 percent. The main reasons for that level of growth are how flexible they are to use and the low costs. Furthermore, sound quality and clarity of speech ensure that events are successful.
Radio microphones do not limit movement on stage and promote creativity. Even a simple talk can be made more lively, if the speaker is able to move around and does not have to remain behind a desk. The technology makes it easier to interact and communicate with the audience. Stars use this technology to great effect; only wireless technology gives them the artistic freedom to perform on stage in the style, to which their fans have obviously grown accustomed.
The flexibility of the technology is also apparent during setting up and dismantling. In the past, endless amounts of cable had to be laid and secured to prevent accidents. With wireless technology, that is no longer necessary. So, both time and manpower are saved. Even the cost of renting an event location has been reduced, because setting up and dismantling times have become shorter. As elsewhere, the events sector is subject to economic pressures, so the use of wireless technology is an important factor in this respect.
The technology’s flexibility is also demonstrated by the ease with which the number of microphones can be increased and the speed at which they can be adjusted to changing conditions, including deployment at locations other than those originally planned.
“Going back to cable” is simply no longer an option and would be the death knell for many shows and events as we know them today – more especially, for television shows and modern musicals. It would also spell the end for not only Germany’s buoyant cultural and creative industries.
E) Frequency requirements of mobile communications networks
1. How much spectrum does the mobile communications network require?
The EU Commission has predicted that mobile communications networks will need a bandwidth of 1,200 MHz in 2015. The Federal Network Agency has made this estimate the yardstick for their actions.
In 2014, the internationally active telecommunications advisory company LS telcom examined whether there was actually a need for 1,200 MHz. LS telcom’s examination established that inappropriate assumptions had been made in order to arrive at the final figure. For example, an average population density of 220,000 persons per square kilometre had been used, although the highest population density anywhere in Europe is actually only 17,889 persons per square kilometre (in Monaco).
LS telcom also discovered, that so far only about 50% of the spectrum allocated to the mobile communications network is actually being used. So, in the foreseeable future, there would appear to be no need to allocate further spectrum to mobile network operators. There is no pressure to make any policy decisions right now. On the contrary, there is plenty of time to develop long-term, reliable solutions for all spectrum users.
Download: summary of the LS telcom study (German)
LS telcom_Welchen tatsächlichen Spektrumsbedarf hat der Mobilfunk.pdf (518.2 KiB, 1,343 hits)
2. Why do mobile network operators want to use the UHF TV band, if the technology doesn’t need it?
Mobile network operators mainly want the UHF TV band (470 – 862 MHz) for economic reasons. In acquiring it, mobile network operators hope to make cost savings and earn additional income.
On account of its physical properties (wave propagation), the frequency spectrum could be used to provide mobile internet coverage to large areas from a very small number of transmission stations. That would mean less investment, but these savings could only be made at the expense of bandwidth or speed. In this large radio cell, the greater the number of users connecting to the internet, the slower the connection will be for each and every one of them. The UHF TV band is, therefore, only suitable for providing internet connection by radio in very sparsely populated areas.
The mobile network operators could also extend mobile internet in their existing 800 MHz, 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz frequency spectra. But this would require a much denser network of base station transmitters and would, therefore, mean extra expense.
Experts also suspect that mobile network operators are using digital dividend to simply “stockpile” valuable spectrum, because they are planning to move into television broadcasting in the future. Mobile network operators believe they have found a secure, long-term source of income. The consequences for viewers are, however, that in addition to paying their radio and television licence fees, they will also be forced to pay for reception. A significant price rise is in the offing.