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Brussels, 29 September 2005

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Commission proposes advancing the single market for radio spectrum use

The European Commission today presented a new EU strategy for an optimal use of radio spectrum in Europe. Radio spectrum is a critical input for many sectors relying on wireless transmission such as broadcasting, transport systems and mobile telephony. How we manage this essential resource in Europe has a significant impact on consumer choices, growth and innovation potential. The proposed EU strategy aims to lower the barriers to access radio resources and to take advantage of the synergies resulting from a common European approach.

“Radio spectrum is fast becoming the lifeblood of the Information Society, whether you use a mobile phone or watch a TV broadcast.” said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. “The direct economic contribution of industries using the radio spectrum is already considerable, between 1 and 2% of national GDP in the EU, but could be greatly increased if national regulators and all stakeholders can identify common approaches at EU level to create a single market for equipment and services using radio spectrum.”

The development of an integrated EU market for innovative wireless devices and services promises to boost investments and economies of scale, assist trade flows, reduce prices and widen choices for consumers. It is however critically dependent on a common approach at EU level to managing radio spectrum resources. At the moment, radio spectrum usage is still fragmented among the 25 Member States, which prevents this important economic resource from being efficiently exploited across Europe. This is why the Commission proposes to develop common EU rules for a number of promising new mass-market applications, including Ultra Wideband and Broadband Wireless Access technologies as well as “wireless barcodes” for Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFIDs).

The new Commission strategy in addition advocates overcoming the rigidity of traditional radio spectrum management approaches, where administrations tie usage rights of individual spectrum bands to specific transmission technologies and too narrow service definitions such as broadcasting or mobile communications. A greater flexibility in access to spectrum will give market players more freedom to use radio resources as they choose. This is an essential condition for achieving the full potential of radio spectrum resources and for keeping pace with technological advances and convergence both of technology platforms and of services.

As part of its spectrum reform strategy, the Commission also proposes that, between now and 2010, the exclusive usage rights for significant parts of the radio spectrum ought to be made tradable according to common EU rules. Independent estimates indicate that significant net gains (around €8-9 billion/year) could be achieved by introducing market mechanisms in order to put spectrum to its most promising uses throughout the EU.

As a de-regulated access to spectrum can encourage the development and use of innovative technologies, the Commission’s new strategy finally foresees investigating further the opportunities to make available licence-free radio frequencies to allow different users to share bands as already the case for WiFi radio access. This will ultimately widen the choice of the wireless applications for the consumer.

In the Commission’s view, a better use of the spectrum can also be achieved by seeking actively to free up parts of the radio spectrum for new uses. For instance, the current transition from analogue to digital broadcasting may lead to a considerable “spectrum dividend”. The Commission wishes to begin a discussion with the EU Member States on the extent to which part of this spectrum could be made available for new pan-European services, including converged applications such as mobile TV and data services.

The new Commission strategy on radio spectrum is part of Commissioner Reding’s initiative “i2010– a European Information Society for growth and jobs”, adopted by the Commission on 1 June 2005 (see IP/05/643).

For further information :

European Commission website on Radio Spectrum Policy:

Communication “A forward-looking spectrum policy for the European Union – second annual report”, COM (2005) 411

Communication “A market-based approach to spectrum management in the European Union”, COM(2005) 400

Communication “EU spectrum policy priorities for the digital switchover in the context of the upcoming ITU Regional Radiocommunication Conference (RRC-06)”, COM(2005) 461

On the i2010 initiative:

See also : MEMO/05/345

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