Wireless camera systems will play a key role in Channel 4's coverage of the Cheltenham Gold Cup horse-race on Friday (14 March) but the end is nigh for the spectrum that will be used to carry the pictures.

Twelve digital wireless systems will be in place to capture the race for production company Highflyer. They include wireless Steadicam for parade ring footage, tracker cameras for following the horses and Mac Cam which covers racing pundit John McCririck.

However, the lucrative frequency band - around 2.6GHz - that will be used on Friday is to be auctioned by Ofcom to the highest bidder, likely to be mobile phone companies, potentially complicating coverage of future sporting events.

Joint Frequency Management Group, which manages and allocates frequency bands for programme-making, looks after spectrum for Cheltenham. It said in its most recent newsletter to members: “Whilst licensees have been well aware of the impending loss of [spectrum], it is the risk of adjacent channel interference caused by the auctioning of these bands to mobile users that is of real concern.”

Malcolm Smith from the Spectrum for Programme Makers Forum said that his group was working with Ofcom to come up with a plan that would allow enough spectrum for effective coverage of events like Cheltenham. “Ofcom has suggested a band manager that would look after all the spectrum that programme-makers need - the question is how much would they charge for that spectrum,” he said.

Ofcom wants wireless cameras to move to a higher frequency. It said: “Our analysis has shown that the majority of outside broadcast applications could be migrated to 7.5GHz. In preparing our award of the 2.6GHz band we have worked with [programme-makers] and taken their views into account, for example, in considering adjacency issues.”

Mark Houghton, general manager of Broadcast RF, the equipment hire company providing the Link Research wireless systems to NEP Visions at Cheltenham, is not convinced: “7.5GHZ is not bad but the low frequencies are very good for doing non line-of-sight work.”

Read more about the Gold Cup coverage.