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Towards optimal use of the digital dividend

The digital switchover will free up a large portion of radio spectrum *, known as the digital dividend. A coordinated approach at Community level for allocation of these radio frequencies is essential for reaping the numerous economic and social benefits of the digital dividend.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 13 November 2007 - Reaping the full benefits of the digital dividend in Europe: A common approach to the use of the spectrum released by the digital switchover [COM(2007) 700 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The switchover from analogue to digital television by the end of 2012, even though certain Member States are planning to switch at a later date, will free up an unprecedented amount of spectrum. The frequencies released are collectively known as the "digital dividend".

It is necessary to provide for and maximise the economic and social impact of the digital dividend. The total value of e-communication services that depend on use of the spectrum is in excess of EUR 250 billion a year in the European Union (EU). The roll-out of innovative services by way of the dividend could significantly contribute to achieving the goals of competitiveness and economic growth under the Lisbon Strategy.

The digital dividend will also be able to meet a range of social and cultural needs of European citizens, by effectively combating the digital divide.

For this reason, the Commission proposes implementation of a common spectrum plan at Community level in preparation for ensuring optimal use of the digital dividend.

Fragmentation of the digital dividend

All existing wireless applications, for which there is rapidly increasing demand, such as wireless broadband communications or mobile television, are likely to benefit from the digital dividend.

Current national radio spectrum policies do not, however, promote coordinated access to the spectrum between Member States. According to the opinion (pdf ) of the Radio Spectrum Policy Group, several possible uses of the dividend will not come about without adequate coordination of spectrum access.

The digital dividend is currently scattered in relatively narrow segments across a large number of frequencies, resulting in the distribution of the spectrum anticipated by the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) Regional Radiocommunication Conference. Until switch-off of analogue TV, the digital dividend coexists with analogue. For this reason it is essential to make the spectrum bands of the dividend easier to access for all the Member States.

Adequate spectrum planning

The Commission wishes to reinforce the Community dimension of spectrum planning for the digital dividend by reserving and coordinating common spectrum bands at Community level.

The Member States are invited to work together to encourage consistent and flexible access to the digital dividend with a view to facilitating the introduction of new services.

The digital switchover has characteristics specific to the spectrum situation in each of the Member States (public service obligations, timing differences, etc.). The common spectrum management plan at Community level should be phased in with sufficient flexibility to accommodate these national specificities.

Before determining the most appropriate legal instrument for implementing this harmonised clustering of spectrum bands, the Commission proposes to undertake preparatory work on various economic, commercial and technical issues.

Background

Digital dividend management meets the objectives of the i2010 initiative, itself part of the renewed Lisbon strategy, which considers Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as essential for growth and employment.

Key terms used in the act
  • Radio spectrum: the radio spectrum is only a relatively small part of the electromagnetic spectrum, from 3 Hz to 300 GHz. In line with the range of frequencies, the radio spectrum is divided into frequency bands and sub-bands. These waves enable, for instance, the transmission of mobile communications and fixed wireless communications.
Last updated: 18.02.2008
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