47 African countries agree on 2015 digital switchover, freeing 700MHz, 800MHz mobile spectrum

10 Sep 2013

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), working in partnership with the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), has announced that frequency coordination negotiations have succeeded in setting up the mechanism to deploy digital television in 47 sub-Saharan African countries, with the by-product of freeing up the 700MHz and 800MHz spectrum bands for 4G LTE mobile broadband networks. The consolidation of national plans to implement the analogue-to-digital TV switchover in the African region is in conformity with the deadlines of June 2015 (for UHF) and June 2020 (for VHF in 33 countries) set in 2006 by the ITU’s Regional Radiocommunication Conference (RRC-06), which adopted the GE06 TV Plan.

The ITU’s press release states that the frequency coordination agreement puts Africa in a position to allocate bandwidth freed up by the transition to digital TV – the ‘digital dividend’ – to mobile services for both the 700MHz and 800MHz bands from 2015. Decisions of the World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC-12) to facilitate availability of the digital dividend to mobile services will be effective with some technical refinements immediately after the next World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015 (WRC-15), the release added.

Francois Rancy, director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, announced that sub-Saharan African countries have begun submitting official modifications to the aforementioned GE06 Plan following the final frequency coordination meeting held in Nairobi, 17-19 July 2013 and the deadline of 31 August set for notifications. Rancy said: ‘The objective was to enable African countries to allocate the digital dividend to mobile services in the band 694MHz-862MHz, as a regionally harmonised implementation of the decisions taken at WRC-12. This objective was reached by re-planning the spectrum requirements of television broadcasting in the 470MHz-694MHz frequency band.’