ECS 73/2019 Guidelines for Digital Transition: Identification of Available Digital Dividend Spectrum

The Communications Act, 2009 (Comms Act), grants the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA), the exclusive authority to manage, allocate, and assign radio frequency spectrum in The Bahamas.

The evolution of digital technology in the television broadcasting service has availed an opportunity for URCA to advance the objective of the Electronic Communication Sector Policy as it relates to the efficient use of the radio spectrum. The purpose of this Final Decision is to introduce the framework for digital switchover in the Bahamas and identify the available digital dividend spectrum. Digital dividend spectrum refers to the spectrum in the frequency bands from 174 to 230 MHz ( VHF) and from 470 to 862 MHz (UHF), which is freed when a terrestrial television broadcasting service transitions from analogue to digital technology.

In the past decade, one of the most important spectrum management issues for developed and industrialized countries has been the digital switchover (DSO). DSO involves the transition from analogue terrestrial television broadcasting to digital terrestrial television broadcasting (DTTB), the purpose of which is to free up spectrum for existing and emerging wireless broadband communications services. The issue of DSO is relevant to The Bahamas because the national electronic communications industry sources wireless communication equipment from global providers that no longer manufactures analogue devices. For this reason, URCA must identify and provide spectrum for existing and emerging wireless broadband communications services.

To address issues expressed by its member states concerning DSO, The ITU published the Guidelines for Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting (the “Guidelines”) in January 2010.1 According to the Guidelines:
…broadcasting [is] one of the most economic and influential media to deliver content such as news, education and entertainment and to be able to contribute to narrowing the digital divide is now on the verge of a revolution which is expected to affect not only broadcasting itself but also other media.

The Guidelines provide, inter alia:

i. Options for policy and technology choices, and implementation guidelines;
ii. Context, relevancy and impact of choices;
iii. Cost/benefit analysis; and
iv. Generic roadmaps and main activities

Therefore, URCA is guided by the above-mentioned ITU recommendations in setting out the relevant framework for DSO and identifying the digital dividend spectrum.

On 17 April 2018, URCA, in alignment with the above Guidelines, published its Statement of Results and Final Decision on the Proposal to Open Standard Spectrum Bands Currently Specified as Closed in the National Spectrum Plan (NSP) 2014 – 2017. Subsequently, URCA has identified available spectrum in line with the Guidelines.