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ABU raises spectrum issues at the ASEAN Broadcasting Regulation Forum in Thailand

ABU made a strong Impact raising the spectrum issues at the ASEAN Broadcasting Regulation Forum which took from 7-8 July 2015 in Thailand. The forum was inaugurated by Air Chief Marshall Thares Punsri, the chairman of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) in Thailand.

The two-day forum with seven sessions addressed various aspects of broadcasting regulation. It was jointly organised by NBTC and International Institute of Communications (IIC) and hosted by NBTC. During the first day of the forum, ABU managed to persuade an audience which comprised mainly of regulators about spectrum requirements for future broadcasting.  The Director of Technology of ABU, Dr Amal Punchihewa informed the audience that the key regulatory policy issue in terms of broadcasting is the availability of frequencies to enable over-the-air, free-to-access media services.

ABU members are spread across 50 countries in Asia-Pacific region. Only five countries have opposed further release of frequencies for other services after the completion of the digitalisation process. Four countries in APAC have carried out complete analogue switch off (ASO). Individual countries those who are yet to realise digital dividend have to complete ASO and restacking of frequencies. As per the ITU-R BT.2140 report, restacking is the process of clearing digital television services from a digital dividend band (e.g. 694-820 MHz) and relocating them in another broadcast band.

Regulators and ITU are aiming at maximising the digital dividend with policy and regulatory frameworks for digital terrestrial broadcasting, including mobile television and spectrum reframing.  Spectrum reframing is the abolition of existing band allocations in the radio spectrum and the more efficient reallocation of the spectrum into smaller bands. It is reassigning of government-regulated electromagnetic spectrum for services with higher value. The users of the existing spectrum are forced out, although they may be compensated in some manner – due to the digital dividend.  ITU and collaborators such as NBTC are extending their support for such activities including provision of assistance in the field of interactive multimedia services to broadcasters in the Asia-Pacific region. 

The Director of Technology recalled that NBTC is a member of ABU and MCMC is a close collaborator of ABU. Both regulators are playing an important role in APAC region as converged regulators.

In the second day of the forum, ABU chaired the final session on Spectrum issues which discussed digital dividend, digital divide, interference and connected devices.