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Regulatory framework for radio spectrum policy

Frequencies are a scarce resource. The extremely rapid technical developments in mobile communication services have resulted in a boom in demand for use of radio frequencies. In this context, the ‘radio spectrum’ Decision establishes a Community legal framework in order to ensure that policies are coordinated and, if necessary, to harmonise and rationalise the use of the radio spectrum within the European Union (EU).

ACT

Decision No 676/2002/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on a regulatory framework for radio spectrum policy in the European Community (Radio Spectrum Decision)

SUMMARY

The objective of this Decision is to establish a policy framework for the use of the radio spectrum, taking account of the economic, cultural, scientific and social aspects of Community policy, as well as considerations of security, public interest and freedom of expression. The Decision is also aimed at establishing a legal framework to ensure that the conditions for the availability and effective use of the radio spectrum are harmonised. The final objective is to protect the interests of the European Community in international negotiations on the use of the spectrum.

Radio waves are electromagnetic waves propagated in space without artificial guide. More specifically, the radio spectrum includes radio waves with frequencies of between 9 kHz and 3000 GHz. This Decision therefore governs the allocation of all radio and wireless communication frequencies (including GSM, UMTS, etc.) in so far as they support the achievement of a well-functioning internal market.

The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) is an organisation for inter-governmental technical cooperation which currently includes 46 European countries.. It carries out studies and technical work to fix parameters which allow different applications to use radio frequencies without causing interference to other applications.

Tasks of the Radio Spectrum Committee

In defining, developing and implementing Community radio spectrum policy, the European Commission is assisted by the “Radio Spectrum Committee”, which is made up of representatives of the Member States and is chaired by a representative of the Commission.

The Committee examines the Commission’s proposals on technical implementing measures to harmonise conditions for the availability and use of the radio spectrum. It is also responsible for issuing opinions on the mandates issued by the Commission to the CEPT on the harmonisation of radio frequency allocation and the availability of information relating to the use of the spectrum.

Role of the Commission

The Commission decides whether the results of the work carried out pursuant to the mandates will apply in the Community and on the deadline for their implementation by the Member States. These decisions must be published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The Commission may adopt measures to achieve the objectives of a mandate issued to the CEPT if it or any Member State considers that the work carried out on the basis of a mandate is not progressing satisfactorily or if the results of the mandate are not deemed acceptable.

If necessary, on the basis of a reasoned request by the Member State concerned, the Commission may approve transitional periods or radio spectrum sharing arrangements in a Member State, provided such exception would not unduly defer implementation or create undue differences in the competitive or regulatory situations between Member States.

Availability and confidentiality of information

Member States must ensure that their national radio frequency allocation table and information on rights, conditions, procedures, charges and fees concerning the use of radio spectrum, are published. Member States may not, however, disclose information covered by the obligation of business confidentiality, in particular information about undertakings, their business relations or their cost components.

Context

The Decision follows several specific Community initiatives, in particular concerning 2nd generation mobile telephone services (GSM Directive), wireless digital telecommunications (DECT Directive) and 3rd generation mobile telephone services – UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System).

Radio frequencies are allocated by international bodies, particularly the World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) of the International telecommunication Union (ITU) and, in Europe, by the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT). Through this Decision, the European Union also intends to play a role in this field under the framework of the EC Treaty. It should also be noted at the same time that European regulations with regard to electronic communications adopted in 2002 included, for the first time, certain aspects concerning the management of the radio spectrum in their field of application.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Decision 676/2002/EC

24.2. 2002

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OJ L 108 of 24.4.2002

RELATED ACTS

IMPLEMENTATION REPORTS

Commission Communication of 6 September 2005: ‘A Forward-looking radio spectrum policy for the European Union: Second annual report’ [COM(2005) 411 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
In this communication the Commission presents a new EU strategy for achieving optimum use of the radio spectrum in Europe. The new strategy advocates more flexible access to the spectrum in order to give market players greater freedom to exploit its resources. To this end, the Commission proposes that, by 2010, exclusive usage rights for sizeable sections of the radio spectrum be made negotiable under rules common to the whole EU.

Commission Communication of 20 July 2004: ‘First annual report on radio spectrum policy in the European Union - State of implementation and outlook’ [COM(2004) 507 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This first implementation report on the Radio Spectrum Decision states that implementation of the Decision has so far been successful. The institutional structure has been put in place, a policy mechanism adopted, and technical implementing measures developed to ensure legal certainty for spectrum harmonisation.
The report highlights the main challenges facing the Commission in its mission to ensure that the radio spectrum is used in an effective manner. It stresses that the implementation of the Radio Spectrum Decision, in partnership with the other actors in this field, should enable the Commission to continue to meet these challenges in the future.

HARMONISATION OF FREQUENCY BANDS

Commission Decision 2004/545/EC of 8 July 2004 on the harmonisation of radio spectrum in the 79 GHz range for the use of automotive short-range radar equipment in the Community [Official Journal L 241 of 13.7.2008].

Commission Decision 2005/50/EC of 17 January 2005 on the harmonisation of the 24 GHz range radio spectrum band for the time-limited use by automotive short-range radar equipment in the Community [Official Journal n° L 21 of 25.1.2008].

Commission Decision 2005/513/EC of 11 July 2005 on the harmonised use of radio spectrum in the 5 GHz frequency band for the implementation of wireless access systems including radio local area networks (WAS/RLANs) [Official Journal n° L 187, 19.7.2005]

See consolidated version .
Commission Decision 2005/928/CE of 20 December 2005, on the harmonisation of the 169.4-169.8125 MHz frequency band in the Community [Official Journal L 344 of 27.12.2005].
Amended by:
Decision 2008/673/EC [Official Journal L 220 of 15.8.2008].

Commission Decision 2006/771/EC of 9 November 2006 on harmonisation of the radio spectrum for use by short-range devices [Official Journal L 312 of 11.11.2006].
See consolidated version .

Commission Decision 2006/804/EC of 23 November 2006 on harmonisation of the radio spectrum for radio frequency identification (RFID) devices operating in the ultra high frequency (UHF) band [Official Journal L 329 of 25.11.2006].

Commission Decision 2007/98/EC of 14 February 2007 on the harmonised use of radio spectrum in the 2GHz frequency bands for the implementation of systems providing mobile satellite services [Official Journal L 43 of 15.2.2007].

Commission Decision 2007/131/EC of 21 February 2007 on allowing the use of the radio spectrum for equipment using ultra-wideband technology in the Community [Official Journal L 55 of 23.2.2007].
Amended by:
Commission Decision 2009/343/EC [Official Journal L 105of 25.5.2009].

Commission Decision 2007/344/EC of 16 May 2007 on harmonised availability of information regarding spectrum use within the Community [Official Journal L 129 of 17.5.2007].

Commission Decision 2008/294/EC of 7 April 2008 on authorisation of mobile communication services on aircraft (MCA services) in the European Community [Official Journal L 98 of 10.4.2008].

Commission Decision 2008/411/EC of 21 May 2008 on the harmonisation of the 3400-3800 MHz frequency band for terrestrial systems capable of providing electronic communications services in the Community [Official Journal L 144 of 4.6.2008].

Commission Decision 2008/477/EC of 13 June 2008 on the harmonisation of the 2500-2690 MHz frequency band for terrestrial systems capable of providing electronic communications services in the Community [Official Journal L 163 of 24.6.2008].

Commission Decision 2008/671/EC of 5 August 2008 on the harmonised used of radio spectrum in the 5875-5905 MHz frequency band for safety-related applications of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) [Official Journal L 220 of 15.8.2008].

RADIO SPECTRUM POLICY GROUP

Commission Decision No 2002/622/EC of 26 July 2002 establishing a Radio Spectrum Policy Group [Official Journal L 198 of 24.7.2002].
This Decision establishes a consultative group, the Radio Spectrum Policy Group, to assist and advise the Commission on radio spectrum policy issues (such as radio spectrum availability and use, harmonisation and allocation of frequencies, the issue of rights to use the spectrum, and pricing, etc.).
See consolidated version .

COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BOARD VESSELS

Commission Decision 2010/166/EC of 19 March 2010 on harmonised conditions of use of radio spectrum for mobile communication services on board vessels (MCV services) in the European Union [Official Journal n° L 72, 20.3.2010].

Last updated: 15.09.2010

See also

  • Further information on radio spectrum policy is available on the webpage dedicated to the radio spectrum on the Commission website.
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