The Slovak Presidency, which made bringing “deliverables” to EU citizens one of its priorities, reached an informal agreement with the European Parliament on the coordinated use of a key frequency band that will allow the introduction of 5G as of 2020.
Yesterday night (14 December) negotiators from the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission reached political agreement on an EU-wide approach for the use of the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band (470-790 MHz) including the 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz).
The agreement foresees the coordinated rollout of the 700 MHz band for wireless broadband by 2020, which will facilitate the take-up of 5G, the next-generation mobile technology that is expected to support driverless cars, remote healthcare and billions of everyday objects connected to the Internet.
“The coordinated release of the 700 MHz band is major leap forward on the (European) Union’s path to 5G,” Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for the digital economy, said in a statement.
The 700 MHz band provides high speeds and excellent coverage. The ultra-high frequency (UHF) band comprises the range 470-790 MHz and is currently used for digital terrestrial television and for wireless microphones for programme-making and special events.
The agreement will provide more valuable spectrum for wireless broadband in the 700 MHz band by 30 June 2020. This band is ideal for providing high-quality internet to users whether they are indoors in a large city, in a small distant village or on a highway.
Árpád Érsek, the Slovak Minister for Transport, Construction and Regional Development, said: “Spectrum is a precious resource that must be used wisely and strategically. Releasing of 700 MHz frequency band for wireless broadband is a win-win solution for digital industry, audio-visual sector, as well as for all consumers. It brings long-term regulatory certainty and is essential for uptake of 5G. This means better connectivity everywhere.”
Andrus Ansip, the Commission’s Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, welcomed the agreement, stressing that it paves the way for 5G, the next generation of communication networks, and the Internet of Things.
Final endorsement pending
Wednesday night’s agreement will need to be formally endorsed by member states and lawmakers before becoming law.
The 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz), currently widely used for digital television signals and wireless microphones, can penetrate buildings and walls easily and cover larger geographic areas with less infrastructure than frequencies in higher bands.
Member states can delay the assignment of the spectrum by up to two years if they have legitimate reasons, such as unresolved coordination issues with neighbouring non-EU countries or if they need more time to reallocate the spectrum from broadcasting services.
“The timely release of spectrum bands is essential to completing 4G and launching 5G. Any delay would slow down mobile broadband deployment,” said Francesco Versace, director of regulation at ETNO, the association of European telecom operators.
Broadcasting services would keep priority in the sub-700MHz band (470-694 MHz) until at least 2030.
Only France and Germany have allowed the use of this spectrum for mobile services, while Britain, Denmark, Finland and Sweden plan to do the same in the coming years.