Commission proposes to remove restrictions on radio spectrum for innovative wireless services
European Commission - IP/07/1170 25/07/2007
Brussels, 25 July 2007
The Commission today proposes measures to make it easier and more lucrative for mobile operators in Europe to offer and develop innovative wireless technologies. By opening radio spectrum for advanced mobile data and multimedia services (such as 3G services that allow video streaming and fast downloads on a mobile handset), the Commission proposals, if they become law, will increase the number and choice of wireless services available, and will expand their geographic coverage to the benefit of all European citizens. The new EU measures will also reduce network deployment costs for Europe's wireless communications industry.
"Radio spectrum is a crucial economic resource which must be properly managed across Europe to unlock the potential of our telecoms sector," said Viviane Reding, the EU's Telecoms Commissioner. "In the EU, we must therefore remove regulatory barriers and facilitate the deployment of mobile communications by allowing new technologies to share spectrum with existing ones. This proposal is a concrete step towards a more flexible market driven approach to spectrum management in Europe. It will increase competition in the use of spectrum bands and enhance accessibility of European citizens to multimedia services."
Mobile networks can best operate using low frequency bands, such as the frequency bands used today by GSM mobile phones. In line with the Barroso's Commission drive for better regulation (see IP/05/96), the Commission proposes to repeal the GSM Directive of 1987. This Directive at the time helped make GSM a success in Europe by allocating certain radio frequencies (900 MHz and 1800 MHz) to GSM services. Today, it is out of date as it prevents more advanced, next generation wireless technologies from using the spectrum currently reserved to GSM services.
To respond to technological changes and to the emergence of new pan-European communications services, the Commission proposes, together with the repeal of the GSM Directive, a new Decision that will allow new technologies to coexist with GSM in the frequencies of 900 MHz and 1800 MHz, while preserving the continued operation of GSM in the EU.
This new Decision has been prepared by the Commission alongside national radio spectrum experts. Based on technical studies by Europe's association of spectrum and telecom authorities, CEPT, it aims to ensure harmonious coexistence of the various systems in and around this spectrum band within the European Union and its neighbouring countries.
In the Commission's assessment, the proposed measures will have a positive economic effect on the sector and promote the take-up of new wireless services. Estimates given by the sector itself suggest that in Europe the wireless communications industry may achieve cumulative capital expenditures reductions of up to 40% in network costs over five years.
The proposed repeal of the GSM Directive requires the formal approval of the European Parliament and EU Council of Ministers. The Decision simply awaits formal adoption of the Commission. All measures proposed are expected to be in place by the end of this year.
Today's Commission proposals are part of a whole package of measures to implement the Commission's strategic approach to promote a more flexible use of spectrum, an important element of the reform of the EU Telecom Rules (see IP/06/874), as stated in the Commission's Communication on "Rapid access to spectrum for wireless electronic communications services through more flexibility" (see IP/07/205). By adapting the regulatory environment to facilitate the deployment of advanced mobile communications, today's proposals contributes to the objectives of the i2010 initiative which promotes an open and competitive internal market for information society and media services for the benefit of European citizens (see IP/05/643).
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