By Constantinos Psillides
WORKING to prevent radio frequency interference on the island, as stipulated in the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) list announced on Thursday, could open up the way for faster and cheaper mobile internet networking in rural areas, according to the head of the Electronic Communications Department Giorgos Komodromou.
Komodromou told the Cyprus Mail that negotiations could lead to freeing up the 800 megahertz (MHz) band, that, according to an EU directive should be strictly reserved for mobile networks.
“If the band becomes available we can licence its use to mobile providers, which in turn will boost signals significantly in rural areas. With the recent introduction of 4G technology, mobile providers can greatly benefit from using this band,” said Komodromou.
He said the reason the frequency isn’t used now is because the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north had licensed its use for analog television.
In order for the 800MHz to be freed, Turkish Cypriot owned television stations must be allowed to broadcast off the same digital platforms as the remainder of television stations.
There was no official information on whether the stations in question had the technology to make the change.
A source within the CyBC with knowledge of the problem told the Cyprus Mail that Turkish Cypriot TV stations were currently in the process of switching from analog to digital.
“We have been asked by private companies for our expertise in the field but we couldn’t offer it due to the political situation. The television stations in the occupied areas are broadcasting in digital in urban areas but still stick to analog for rural areas. If they switch to digital it will free a lot of frequencies and it would benefit everyone concerned,” said the source, adding that allowing Turkish Cypriot owned television stations to broadcast off the digital platform is merely a matter of political decision.
Cyprus TV stations made the jump from the analog to digital in July 2011. Currently all TV channels on the government-controlled areas utilize the two available digital platforms to broadcast.
The switch to digital freed up the band, called the “digital dividend”, and allowed for its use by mobile phone providers.
On January 2013 the EU issued a directive, as per the “Radio Spectrum Policy Program”, ordering all member-states to reserve the 800MHz band for wireless broadband services alone.
Fourth generation (4G) technology allows for considerably faster and more reliable mobile internet. It was introduced in Cyprus on March 11, 2015 by providers MTN and Primetel.
CyTA, the semi-government authority announced it would have its own 4G network up and running sometime in summer.
Komodromou added that faster internet would not be the only benefit from resolving radio frequency interference.
“Any form of radio contact will be facilitated really. From taxi-driver radio contact to aircraft communication.
Resolving radio frequency interference will be beneficial for everyone, especially radio stations.”
He said some radio stations in Cyprus and in the breakaway state broadcast on either the same or similar frequency, causing overlap and interference.
“There are ways to resolve this. We can solve the problem by buying better broadcast equipment which will minimise the interference, change the direction of the broadcasting towers and more. Although, if equipment upgrade doesn’t solve the problem then the two radio stations must reach a compromise,” he noted.
Komodromou said that his department was waiting for official authorisation and direction to start working towards resolving all radio frequency interference