LATEST: 5-Jul-2012

A further disappointing development in the dark saga of OFCOM's handling of Digital Switchover and migrating wireless audio equipment to new parts of the frequency spectrum is causing considerable disquiet, not to say disbelief amongst all those involve in the SOS campaign.

Here is a very concise explanation of the situation delivered by colleagues in recent 'LinkedIn' postings.  Those of you linked in should join the group to witness other comments on this.   This is the sort of development that drives many people to send copies to their MPs and the Daily Mail - so please do that if you are minded to do so.



"The company appointed by Ofcom to make way for new 4G services in the 800MHz band are selling equipment into the spectrum which taxpayers paid them to clear.

In 2009 Ofcom announced that wireless microphone users would be evicted from the 800MHz band to make way for new mobile broadband services. Following an industry campaign, Save Our Sound UK, which pointed out the damage being done to the British entertainment industry, the UK Government agreed to fund part of the clearance of the band. To qualify for taxpayer funding, Channel 69 equipment had to be surrendered.

This equipment is now being resold back into the band which taxpayers paid to remove it from, by the scheme’s administrator - Equiniti. A significant amount of equipment has already been sold, and Equiniti are now gearing up their operations to release up to 80,000 channels for use in UK spectrum. Only a fraction of the profit from the sale is going to the taxpayer who financed the scheme – the rest goes directly to Equiniti.

The British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIRG) has repeatedly warned Ofcom about the damage that resale of this equipment could cause to manufacturers, wireless microphone users, and taxpayers. An influx of under-priced equipment, which will not be licensable in just over a year, will grossly distort the UK microphone sale and hire market – and will go against the very purpose of the taxpayer funded scheme.

BEIRG is also concerned that Equiniti’s actions may ultimately affect the attractiveness of the 800MHz band to mobile broadband companies. The price they are willing to pay in next year’s 4G auctions could be considerably reduced.

If this resale continues UK taxpayers will end up paying for this scheme twice over:

- Once in the original funding scheme (including the fee paid by Ofcom to Equiniti)

- Second, in the reduced price mobile companies pay for 4G spectrum auction

Following a meeting with Equiniti today (Wednesday 14th September) Ron Bonner, from PLASA and the BEIRG Steering Committee, stated:

“Equiniti has been paid from our taxes, through Ofcom, to administer the PMSE funding scheme. Equiniti have not paid for the equipment themselves – the public paid for it. Equiniti now want to sell the equipment on for profit, whilst damaging microphone manufacturers’ and the taxpayers’ chance of getting the highest price for the 800MHz band when it is auctioned next year. Ofcom need to step in now to stop this sale, and ensure that the original purpose of the scheme is not undermined by the re-release of surrendered equipment into UK spectrum.”


This came in from OFCOM via BEIRG re the latest development in the long-running PMSE wireless spectrum.

OFCOM has announced a reprieve for the owners of older wireless systems following the postponement of the auction to 'sell-off' the 600MHz band. The announcement read:

"Use of the 600 MHz band was due to finish at the end of 2012 for PMSE because of the planned auction of the band. Following recent international developments relating to the possible future use of spectrum that neighbours with the 600 MHz band, we will not be proceeding with this auction for the time being. Therefore, in the absence of a 2012 award, we have decided that PMSE can continue using the spectrum until it is released for an alternative use. Consequently, access to the band 550 606 MHz for PMSE will continue until at least 1st April 2013 and might carry on beyond that time subject to Ofcom's conclusions about the approach to releasing this band. JFMG will continue to issue 12-month licences but with a condition allowing for revocation with a minimum of six months' notice."

Speculation that tougher enforcement regulations would drive users to purchase new wireless systems may have been premature since confidence in OFCOM's credibility over the issue wained to rock bottom when it was discovered that the company appointed by them to collect 'nearly redundant' systems and to allocate compensation funding was re-selling the old 'nearly redundant' systems back into the commercial market at a heavily discounted rate - breaching at least the spirit and some say the letter of the franchise they had obtained from OFCOM.  Certainly, any fairness and most of the goodwill went out of the window once the re-selling component became known.  Blood is boiling all over the PMSE wireless users community. The best advice may be to ignore OFCOM's declarations on the subject and wait until your wireless kit needs natural replacement. 

The APRS will continue to keep our eye on this ball - or rather balls-up - on your behalf but you can be forgiven should a disinterested yawn creeps over your face.

© APRS, 2010
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