Topic: Band Management

Broadcast and mobile communications provider Arqiva provides infrastructure and services for terrestrial broadcast, satellite and wireless access across the UK, Europe and US. Among its most recent acquisition is JFMG, the band manager for Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE), which illustrates its commitment as the UK’s leading spectrum manager. We caught up with Julian McGougan, Head of Public Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Arqiva, to discuss why other countries should mirror the success of UK band managers:

What are the benefits to others in replicating the JFMG model?

Managing spectrum for PMSE in the UK is unique as it isn’t an activity undertaken by a regulator, but by the private sector. Ofcom’s desire to serve a wider audience of spectrum users through innovative resources means that JFMG will act as a test bed for future developments. Innovation is a pre-requisite to optimizing spectrum liberalisation and other users will benefit from building on the skill set laid out by JFMG.

What are the long term benefits of band managers?

For the private sector, these are twofold: companies requiring spectrum will have easier and cheaper access to spectrum sources, and spectrum owners will have a channel to market for their “white spaces” that will create a revenue stream in return. For Government and regulators, band managers will increase the efficiency with which spectrum overall is used.

Is there money to be made out of band management or do organisations have to look at the bigger picture?

Yes there is, although probably not much from PMSE. The UK suffers from artificial spectrum scarcity which is why Ofcom is driving the development of band managers, aiming to create a more dynamic market through new and alternative spectrum reuse. At present companies and public sector organisations have little incentive to reuse or sell their spectrum, and the secondary market is illiquid. Band managers must strive to lower entry barriers for these organizations by making it easy and cost-effective for their unused spectrum to be made available to others.

In your opinion, is Ofcom ’s move towards spectrum liberalisation the right one?

In general, yes. However, proposals for future regulatory oversight of PMSE spectrum management are too restrictive and will prohibit band managers from fulfilling expectations. Hopefully responses to Ofcom’s recent consultation into band management will bring about some re-thinking.

What’s your view of Ofcom’s proposed guidelines and regulations for the PMSE band manager?

Too restrictive, overly regulated and costly. Prohibitive compliance procedures means costs are ultimately passed onto the end user. With high volume, low value trades such as PMSE this isn’t viable. And Ofcom is strongly discouraging the band manager satisfying alternative uses for spectrum, such as local TV, even where there is no PMSE demand which makes no sense at all.

How do you see band managers influencing the market in the future?

Band managers have a crucial role to play in providing alternative access channels to spectrum, lowering barriers to entry. Creating a dynamic market can only be achieved through improved consumer choice and innovation. Band managers will offer innovative forms of spectrum access to the market.

Personal – given the choice:

Thriller or documentary? Thriller

Tube or bus? Tube

Scandinavia or Caribbean? Caribbean

Julian will be presenting at the forthcoming spectrum management event being held on27th November 2009 in Central Hall, Westminster, London, UK. For more information contact sarah.sasson@atdi.co.uk

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