30 August 2009
PLASA to bid to become industry-aligned spectrum manager
As most of the industry knows, in Spring next year, Ofcom will be holding a 'beauty contest' for a band manager to manage the spectrum for PMSE users. The best applicant will be awarded a package of radio frequencies or 'spectrum bands' that content producers depend on for use of essential wireless equipment, including radio microphones and wireless cameras. PLASA - the lead body for the events, entertainment and architectural sectors - has recently announced its intention to apply.
For Ofcom, 'beauty contests' are an unusual way of releasing spectrum. Generally speaking, bands that are 'freed up' for whatever reason are auctioned and awarded to the highest bidder. However, Ofcom have recognised that this would not work in the case of the Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) sector, which would be faced with market failure if forced to bid against users with deeper pockets.
So, thanks to the efforts of the British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIRG) and PLASA, the sector's ongoing spectrum access will hopefully be secured by Ofcom awarding the frequencies to a band manager with special obligations to PMSE. However, as those who have read the consultations will know, it is not as simple as that. Under Ofcom's current proposals, the band manager's obligations to the sector will cease in 2018, thus any protected access will disappear at that point. To put it bluntly, the band manager will be able to license its frequencies to whoever it wants, and charge whatever it likes.
'This', says Matthew Griffiths, 'is the primary reason for PLASA putting its name forward; as band manager, we would be committed to the needs of the PMSE sector up to 2018 and beyond. But in order to do this, we need to win, and in order to win, we need to satisfy Ofcom's selection criteria and show them that we can do the job. Our current efforts are focused on this.'
The immediate next step for PLASA (and all other applicants) is to respond to the consultation on detailed award design. Once this is finished and the responses digested, Ofcom expect to make the regulations in Autumn, invite applications in Winter and make a decision in Spring 2010. Keep an eye on this process, as the industry will be invited to comment on the applications.
Notes to Editors:
PLASA is the lead professional body for businesses that supply technologies and services to the event, entertainment and installation industries. Operating from offices in Europe and North America, the Association provides business support services to its growing worldwide membership, writes industry standards, leads the development of qualifications and focuses on improving the business practices adopted by the industry. With over 1100 members worldwide, it represents one of the largest member networks in the industry.
PLASA also runs successful media and events divisions and is responsible for the industry-leading magazines Lighting&Sound International, Lighting&Sound America and Protocol and the PLASA Show in London, together with the European and North American regional PLASA Focus events.