Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
306. Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the proposed sale of channel 69 spectrum and the move to channel 38 for programme making and special events; the effect it will have on the music industry and businesses using radio microphones; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28266/11]
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): The licensing of radio microphones is a matter for the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). I understand that there are currently 49 channels (channels 21 to 69) available for radio microphone use in Ireland in the 470 - 862 MHz band with the majority of assignments made in channel 69. These channels are made available on a non-exclusive basis and are subject to sharing with existing broadcasting services in this band.
At the International Telecommunication Union World Radiocommunications Conference in 2007, it was agreed that channels 61 to 69 would be made available for mobile services. Subsequently, the European Commission in its Recommendation 2009/848/EC, recommended that analogue terrestrial TV services switch off in 2012, and that the above channels should be used for electronic communications services. This switch over will facilitate the roll out of high speed mobile broadband to communities across Europe.
In complying with this Recommendation channel 69 will no longer therefore be available for radio microphone use. As the Deputy may be aware Ireland’s national digital switch over strategy provides for a move to all digital TV services by the end of 2012, with the existing services in the 800 MHz band (including channel 61-69) being switched off at that stage. I understand that radio microphone manufacturers and suppliers have been aware of the fact that channel 69 would no longer be available for wireless microphone use from the end of 2012. In addition ComReg conducted a public consultation on this matter in April 2010.
The consultation highlighted a number of issues including that in June 2009, the UK Communications Regulator (Ofcom) confirmed Channel 38 (606 - 614 MHz) as a replacement for Channel 69 (854 - 862 MHz). In light of the Ofcom decision, and noting that Ireland is a small and open economy and the potential for economies of scale of equipment manufacture and roaming of services, ComReg considered that spectrum for radio microphones should be aligned with spectrum available for radio microphones in larger European markets. Following consideration of responses received to its consultation, ComReg’s view is that it would be appropriate to use a replacement channel aligned with the UK’s channel for wireless microphones and it therefore announced in September 2010 that it would make Channel 38 available on an exclusive basis for radio microphone use in Ireland.
I am advised that there will be no increase in the associated licence fees. The current cost of a licence for the possession and use of programme making and special events equipment, including radio microphones, for an event is a €12 administration fee and €12 per piece of equipment. This licence fee was established in 1986 and has remained unchanged since that time. As the Deputy will be aware ComReg is obliged to recover its administrative costs for the management of such licensing schemes.
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