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Caribbean countries likely to insulate TV spectrum from telecom companies

Secretary General of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, Sonia Gill.

Caribbean countries might have to end up passing laws to protect a segment of the radio frequency spectrum that telephone companies badly need to offer new services, according to the Secretary General of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), Sonia Gill.

She told Demerara Waves Online News that the World Radio Communication Conference 2015 (WRC 15), to be held in Geneva, Switzerland from November 2 to 27, would most likely approve the reassignment of certain frequencies that are currently being used by television stations.

The Ultra High Frequency (UHF) segment of the spectrum ranges from 498 megahertz to 694 megahertz.

With several Caribbean countries already deciding t support the re-allocation of the frequencies, she said individual countries would have to pass laws that are necessary to protect their own national broadcasting interests. “Luckily, there are a couple of countries in which domestic legislation prioritizes access for broadcasters to this lower UHF spectrum but not all Caribbean countries have that so it is possible that if the vote in WRC-15 next month goes against the broadcasters that we could have some countries decide to adopt that international decision as part of their national policy framework,” she said.

She said the conference would consider the reassignment of lower aspects of the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) spectrum in the Americas.  “As you can imagine, there is a very strong lobby by the telecoms providers to have greater access to this part of the spectrum in the hope that they could offer additional types of services in the Americas including the Caribbean,” she said.

Gill said the CBU has asked the Caribbean Community (Caricom) headquarters to lobby member-states to vote against the reassignment of the spectrum, but already Bermuda, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados have decided to support removing television transmission from that part of the UHF band.

The CBU Secretary General agreed that the region needs to move with the technology but at the same time the region’s broadcast services need to be given a greater opportunity to develop. “Instead, they are saying if we want broadcasting to move with the times and to be able to innovate in order to sustain itself and serve the societies then we need to make sure that they have access to the spectrum,” she said.

Gill also announced that the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) was currently preparing a spectrum policy for the region under a project funded by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB).