EU to tackle radio spectrum access

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At an EU summit in late March, the EU will talk about how the bloc can reallocate radio spectrum to catch up with US broadband coverage. But the issue is hotly contested, a situation which an EU consultation launched yesterday (4 March) will seek to resolve.

The European Parliament and the European Commission will jointly host stakeholders at an EU summit on March 22 to discuss the controversial topic of how the bloc can distribute radio spectrum among an array of powerful industries and services including defence, transport, space applications, television and mobile phones.

The EU executive's consultation will ask consumers and companies to spell out their stance on a Europe-wide spectrum policy that could provide the frequencies to carry all stakeholders involved while tackling social inclusion and environmental health.

The consultation, due to close on 9 April, will likely reopen a debate that has already seen Internet service providers, regulators and the EU at loggerheads.

Brussels had previously lambasted the German regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur (BNA), for giving large incumbent operators favourable bidding rights in its planned spectrum auction.

With a few adjustments to placate the EU, the BNA will begin its auctions in April this year.

Brussels also has its own goals in mind with a plan to roll out high speed broadband coverage across the entirety of EU territory by 2013.

By 2012, member states will be expected to have completed broadcasters' transition to digital technology, a process already complete in Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The switchover – dubbed the 'Digital Dividend' – will potentially release a significant amount of high quality radio spectrum for new services and new technologies.

Background

Radio frequency spectrum is a limited part of the electromagnetic spectrum as a whole, but it is extremely important due to its capacity to carry codified messages. This makes it an essential resource for telecommunication services such as mobile telephones, TV and radio broadcasting, satellite and broadband communications.

On 13 November 2008, the European Commission presented its proposal for renewed use of radio spectrum to take advantage of the digitisation of television, foreseen in the EU by 2012. 

In November 2009, the European Parliament and the Council agreed to modify EU telecoms rules and called on the Commission to propose a multi-annual Radio Spectrum Policy Programme. The general objective of the programme, defined in revised EU telecoms rules adopted last year (MEMO/09/513), is to "set out the policy orientations and objectives for the strategic planning and harmonisation of the use of radio spectrum".

Timeline

  • 22 March: Planned EU summit on spectrum policy.
  • 9 April: Deadline for replies to spectrum consultation.

Further Reading

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