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700MHz Clearance - Grant scheme released

Ofcom has released the proposed grant scheme for pro-audio users when the 700 MHz band is cleared in May 2020.

The UK Government tasked Ofcom with designing a grant scheme to help PMSE (Programme Makers and Special Events) equipment owners displaced by the 700 MHz clearance. Ofcom anticipates that the scheme will launch in mid-2019 — approximately one year before completion of the 700 MHz clearance programme. The proposed scheme will support PMSE equipment owners that have to vacate the 700 MHz band earlier than expected. Specifically, it will provide PMSE equipment owners with funding equivalent to the residual value of PMSE equipment operating in the 700 MHz band which they need to replace at the time of clearance.

Below is a summary of some of the salient points as identified by BEIRG's political consultants. All PLASA members who will be directly affected are encouraged to DOWNLOAD THE FULL CONSULTATION AND RESPOND.

Executive summary

The headline figure is that eligible claimants will be entitled to 47% of the retail price of their equipment, based on a calculation using the average asset life and average age of all equipment on the market.

  • There is no funding for ancillary equipment, research and development, or any other associated costs of clearance. (This was a surprising inclusion since Ofcom estimates of the cost of the scheme in earlier consultations and statements included an allowance for some additional costs)
  • Equipment that operates below 694 MHz is not included. This is because Ofcom believe that most equipment will have a large enough tuning range to remain useful after DTT has been repackaged or that it will have resale value in the secondary market as the equipment will still be useful in other areas of the country. There is, however, a process for claims in the event of "exceptional circumstances," which Ofcom will administer on a case-by-case basis
  • The scheme will open in mid-2019 and claimants are expected to register their intention to claim before the scheme opens.

Eligibility criteria

Ofcom's guiding principle for assessing eligibility is "PMSE equipment owners operating legally who will incur a loss attributable to Ofcom's decision that they should lose access to the 700 MHz band in May 2020."

As such:
  • Claimants must either have held a licence in the 700 MHz band in the past 2 years (i.e. between 17 October 2014 and 17 October 2016) or be able to produce verifiable evidence that their business is based on hiring out PMSE equipment rather than using it, therefore not requiring a licence.
  • Claimants will only be able to claim for equipment that belongs to them, evidenced by supplementary information including at least one of: receipts, asset register entries, or insurance documentation.
  • Equipment being claimed must be in working order.
  • Equipment being claimed must have more than 50% of its tuning range in the 700 MHz band.
  • Equipment being claimed for must have been purchased before Ofcom issued the notice in the 2016 Statement.

Tuning range of eligible equipment

Ofcom have taken the view that equipment can only be claimed for if it has more than 50% of its tuning range in the 700 MHz band. Ofcom's provisional view is that most PMSE equipment that operates below 694 MHz is likely to have a sufficiently broad tuning range to cope with changes in interleaved spectrum access due to the repackaging of DTT. Ofcom also expects that equipment rendered unusable in a specific location below 694 MHz will have a resale value on the secondary market as it will still be usable in other areas of the country.

For equipment that straddles the 700 MHz band, Ofcom looked at the tuning ranges of equipment from the two largest PMSE equipment manufacturers by market share. They found that equipment which straddles the two bands either has only a few MHz in the 700 MHz band, or has more than 50% of its tuning range in the 700 MHz band. Equipment with only a few MHz of its tuning range in the 700 MHz band is likely to be substantially unaffected by clearance.

Please take time to download the consultation and comment if you are affected by these proposals: