Looking ahead to a summer of spectrum

May 5th '23

There aren’t many people who’ll be present at both the Coronation of King Charles III and the Eurovision Song Contest, but a common presence at both of these very different events will be Office of Communications (Ofcom) spectrum engineers.


Ofcom’s spectrum teams are gearing up for a summer of varied events across the country. And the year’s busy period kicks off with the Coronation in London followed by Europe’s biggest musical bash taking place in Liverpool over consecutive weekends.


Ofcom’s colleagues’ presence will be vital in making sure these events go smoothly on the day and also to help global audiences enjoy them as they’re broadcast.


The scale of these events – and the worldwide interest they generate – mean there’ll be lots of international broadcasters present, helping a global audience to watch from home.


And that’s where Ofcom come in.


  • What’s Ofcom’s role in these events?

Some of the essential kit used by broadcasters and events staff – for example wireless cameras and microphones, in-ear monitors, and communications equipment such as walkie-talkies – operates at different frequencies on the radio spectrum.


For events like these with a global reach, there’ll be lots of broadcasters in attendance – and that means lots of equipment. At the Coronation, for example, there will be 36 users including broadcasters, with 800 individual spectrum frequencies allocated between them.


And it’s vital that all of these individual pieces of equipment operate safely and don’t interfere with each other – or with any other technology used on or near the venue.


This is particularly important for an event like the Coronation, where security and safety are paramount and it’s vital the emergency services can communicate without interruption to their equipment on the day.


  • Before and during the event

To make sure this happens, Ofcom helps to plan spectrum use before events take place, and has a team on site at lots of major sports and cultural events like the ones happening over the summer.


Spectrum is a finite resource that’s in extremely high demand when major events bring large numbers of broadcasters together. So, a huge amount of planning takes place before events like these.


Organisations such as broadcasters are licensed and authorised to use spectrum at an event, and specific bands of spectrum are allocated to each of them. By allocating each of these dedicated frequencies, Ofcom can help to avoid instances of interference.


And when the events are underway, the programme-making and special events (PMSE) and spectrum assurance teams are on site working collaboratively, checking equipment used by broadcasters, licensees and event personnel to reduce the risk of interference.


On site, the spectrum engineers have a proactive role, The spectrum engineers using dedicated monitoring receivers to watch for unlicensed transmissions, and when they spot an unknown signal use radio test equipment such as spectrum analysers to identify equipment and operators and establish whether they are licensed and using the correct spectrum frequencies.


  • A packed calendar

Ofcom experts work behind the scenes throughout the year, and are the unsung heroes who help to make sure these massive events go off without a hitch – to the relief of the organisers and audiences who enjoy them in the flesh or at home.


The Coronation and Eurovision Song Contest might be rare additions to the calendar, but Ofom’s colleagues will be working hard elsewhere throughout the summer and beyond at locations across the UK.


From major sports events such as the Formula 1 British Grand Prix, Epsom Derby and FA Cup Final, to the UK’s biggest gigs and festivals such as Glastonbury, Radio 1’s Big Weekend and Download Festival, Ofcom will be there.


What is spectrum?

You can’t see or feel radio spectrum. But any device that communicates wirelessly needs spectrum – such as televisions, car key fobs, baby monitors, wireless microphones and satellites. Mobile phones use spectrum to connect to a local mast so people can make calls and access the internet.


Why does Ofcom manage spectrum use?

Only a limited amount of spectrum is available, so it needs to be managed carefully. Certain bands of spectrum are also used for different purposes. For example, mobile companies use different parts of the spectrum to TV companies. So, it needs to be managed to prevent services interfering and causing disruption to people and businesses.


Source: Ofcom


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