Commission proposes to ensure availability of radio frequencies for new and faster wireless services
Date: Tue, 09/21/2010 - 17:51
A five year policy programme for planning and harmonising the use of the EU’s radio spectrum has been proposed by the European Commission. The proposal, which will be sent to the European Parliament and EU Council of Ministers for adoption, includes steps to promote efficient spectrum management, and in particular, to ensure that sufficient spectrum is made available for wireless broadband
This will significantly contribute to bringing fast broadband connections to people in remote areas, where it is not economically viable to install cable networks, and to making innovative services available across Europe. Wireless broadband is essential to deliver the target of broadband for all by 2013, one of the key goals of the Digital Agenda for Europe. More efficient and competitive use of spectrum in the EU would also promote the development of innovative technologies and services, to the benefit of consumers and of Europe's overall competitiveness. The proposal forms part of a package of broadband measures presented by the Commission.
The Commission's proposal outlines actions and common principles to ensure that Europe’s finite radio spectrum is used efficiently to best meet the needs of EU citizens, industry and policy-makers. The proposal is based on the Single Market rules of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU - Article 114), given the importance of the availability and efficient use of spectrum for the establishment of a Single Market for electronic communications and for other EU policy areas.
The top priority is to earmark sufficient spectrum for wireless services, including broadband. The Commission proposes that EU countries should complete by 2012 the process of giving licences to operators to use spectrum bands which have already been technically harmonised at EU level for the use of wireless broadband, (the 900/1800 MHz bands, the 2.5 GHz band and the 3.4 – 3.8 GHz band). In addition, EU countries are asked to open up the 800 MHz band (see IP/10/540) to wireless broadband by 1st January 2013, while foreseeing possible derogations until 2015 in exceptional cases.
Efficient spectrum management
The proposed programme also foresees that spectrum should be managed on the basis of principles including spectrum efficiency and flexibility, technology and service neutrality and competition. In addition, collective use of spectrum and spectrum trading would be promoted, also encouraging convergence of authorisation conditions and procedures for bands tradable across Europe. The plan would request Member States to maintain and promote effective competition between economic operators and to avoid spectrum hoarding. The Commission proposes to set up an inventory of existing spectrum uses, technologies and applications to ensure transparency, track inefficiencies and cope with future requirements.
Wireless services and use of devices across borders
The Commission has proposed greater EU-wide coordination on certain aspects of spectrum policy where this is essential to the proper functioning of the EU's Single Market. In order to enhance flexibility and efficiency in the use of spectrum, the Commission and Member States would also promote good coordination between spectrum harmonisation and standardisation (e.g. between standardisation bodies, CEPT - European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations - and the Commission's Joint Research Centre) to assure that services and wireless devices can be used seamlessly across borders. Products which rely on spectrum (like medical appliances and devices to assist disabled persons, wireless product identification tags to be used in shops and in transport, and entertainment applications such as mobile TV or wireless electronic books) would be based on the same technical standards and use the same spectrum band throughout the EU. This would cut costs for manufacturers and give them new business opportunities throughout the EU's Single Market and consumers would have better access to a wider range of products and services.
Reserving spectrum for research and energy saving
Since spectrum is a finite and scarce resource, the programme would also ensure that spectrum was available for policy priorities including research, Earth observation, Galileo, environmental protection, the fight against global warming, public protection and disaster relief and transport. For example, Member States would have to protect the radio frequencies necessary for monitoring the Earth's atmosphere and surface and make spectrum available for wireless technologies with a potential for improving energy saving, including smart energy grids and smart metering systems.
The proposal includes principles to boost the EU’s role in multilateral negotiations, for example at the International Telecommunications Union and the World Radio communications Conferences. The Commission also offers to support EU countries in their bilateral negotiations with non-EU neighbours on spectrum issues to solve coordination and harmful interference problems.
The proposed programme takes full account of the 9 June 2010 opinion of Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG), and feedback received both during the public consultations organised by the Commission and the RSPG and during the Spectrum Summit organised by the Commission and the European Parliament. The programme builds on the first achievements relating to harmonising technical rules for spectrum in the light of the switchover from analogue to digital television broadcasting (the "digital dividend") (see IP/10/540).
Services which rely on the EU’s radio spectrum represent 2% to 2.5 % of annual European gross domestic product, i.e. more than € 250 billion according to an EU study. This includes the European mobile phone industry which supports 3.5 million jobs, generates around €130 billion annually in tax revenues and contributes € 140 billion directly to European GDP.