Commission proposes to boost mobile internet services with high-quality radio frequencies

Brussels, 2 February 2016 - The Commission presented a proposal to coordinate the use of the 700 MHz band for mobile services. It will improve internet access for all Europeans and help develop cross-border applications.

Radio frequencies know no borders: spectrum needs to be better coordinated at EU level to avoid interferences and to allow innovative services, such as connected cars or remote health care, to work across the continent. The EU also has to cope with the growing demand for wireless broadband. By 2020 there will be nearly eight times as much mobile internet traffic as today. The Commission today takes action to meet these challenges. As part of its strategy to create a Digital Single Market, it proposes a balanced long-term approach for the use of the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band (470-790 MHz). Currently, this band is mainly used for TV broadcasting. According to the proposal, more spectrum will be made available for mobile services in the 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz) by 2020. This band is ideal for providing high-quality internet to users, wherever they are, be it a large city, a small distant village or on a highway. Frequencies in the sub-700 MHz area (470-694 MHz) will remain available, as a priority, for audiovisual services. This approach will make sure that Europeans can have access to creative content on tablets and smartphones – an increasing trend – but also through classic TV services. Today's proposal is also in line with the most recent international agreements on the use of the UHF band including the 700 MHz band.

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: "28 different approaches to manage radio frequencies in the EU do not make economic sense in the Digital Single Market. Today we come with our first proposal on how to better coordinate spectrum in the EU. We propose a joint approach to use the 700 MHz band for mobile services. This band is the sweet spot for both wide coverage and high speeds. It will give top-quality internet access to all Europeans, even in rural areas, and pave the way for 5G, the next generation of communication network. At the same time, we secure frequencies for the audiovisual sector and boost the development of technologies which make an efficient use of radio waves. Spectrum is a scarce resource: we need to make the best of it."

Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said: "We cannot have high quality mobile internet for everything and for everyone everywhere unless we have modern infrastructure and modern rules. With this proposal we show that we can have both: a vibrant audiovisual sector as well as the spectrum we will need for 5G. The 700 MHz band will be ideal for new promising fields like connected driving and the Internet of Things. I want Europe to lead in 5G. That is why all Member States must act by 2020."

The proposal comprises two major elements:

  • in the 700 MHz band: a common schedule for making it effectively available for wireless broadband use under harmonised technical conditions, and related coordination measures in support of this transition;
  • in the sub-700 MHz band: long-term priority for the distribution of audiovisual media services to the general public, along with a flexible approach for spectrum use to cater for different levels of digital terrestrial television (DTT) uptake in Member States.

Today's proposal will make it easier and will reduce costs to develop innovative devices and services across the EU: no need to switch between different bands anymore and to adapt to divergent national requirements.

Coordinated transition towards 2020

The Commission proposes that the 700 MHz band should be assigned to wireless broadband by 30 June 2020 at the latest in all EU countries. This will be in line with the deployment of 5G, foreseen as from 2020. To meet this deadline, Member States will need to adopt and make public their national plans for network coverage and for releasing this band by 30 June 2017. They will need also to conclude cross-border coordination agreements by the end of 2017. Such plans will smooth the transition and ensure good network coverage that will help to bridge the digital divide and create the necessary coverage conditions for connected vehicles or remote health care.

Two Member States (France, Germany) have already authorised the use of the 700 MHz band for mobile services. Further Member States (Denmark, Finland, Sweden, UK) have outlined plans to repurpose the 700 MHz band in the next few years.

The Commission counts on the swift adoption of today's proposal by the European Parliament and Member States in order to ensure a predictable and timely transition.

Read more, on EC's website, here...

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