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September 2, 2014

EU set to receive major mobile broadband boost by 2020

Taking spectrum from broadcasters gains backing from European Commission.

By Vinod

The explosion in mobile data demand across Europe could benefit from increased future speeds and bandwidth with proposals to free up a a key piece of spectrum.

The reassignment of the 700 MHz frequency band, currently used by terrestrial broadcasting networks and wireless microphones, should be completely dedicated to wireless broadband by 2020 in order to cope with the huge surge in demand for data across the continent according to a proposed move.

The proposals were outlined in a new report commissioned by EC Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes and presented by Pascal Lamy, former EU Commissioner and former head of the WTO,

"Pascal’s report lays down a path for creating capacity for fast wireless broadband everywhere and for ensuring a stable and predictable future for terrestrial broadcasting, while allowing those Member States that want to move forward more quickly to do so," Kroes said, admitting that there would likely be some opposition from certain EU member states.

"It would also ensure sustainable co-existence, as both sectors focus increasingly on advanced media services. This is essential to secure our changing digital future and hold our own in international negotiations."

In order to pacify broadcasters, Lamy recommended moving the majority of services to the remaining UHF spectrum to the 470-694 MHz band until at least 2030, a move which he says represents, "a single scheme that could provide a way forward for Europe to thrive in the digital century."

Lamy’s recommendations will be proposed at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015, which will review and revise global spectrum-use rules (including the possible move of the mobile broadband spectrum to the 470-694 MHz band), but Kroes’ backing should go a long way to ensuring its success.

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The report also gained approval from the GSMA, the group which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, which said that it welcomed the call for the 700MHz band to be repurposed.

However, Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA, said that more still needed to be done in order to close the gap with both North America and Asia, as "it is essential that Member States have flexibility to move sooner, preferably between 2018 and 2020 and potentially earlier,"

The GSMA also expressed concern about the recommendation that a decision on releasing the 470-694 MHz frequencies for mobile services will not be taken until 2025. The group believes that such a delay could again put Europe at a disadvantage compared to other regions which activate the spectrum earlier, and called for the European Commission to accelerate the review process for the sub-700 MHz band to no later than 2020.


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