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IP/10/66

Brussels, 28 January 2010

Commission asks Bulgaria to apply EU rules making radio spectrum available for devices that help senior citizens - hearing aids and social alarms

The European Commission today started legal action against Bulgaria and called on it to make sure the technical requirements are in place for hearing aids, social alarms and emergency buttons at home, for old and disabled people. Bulgaria has not followed EU rules saying the 169 MHz frequency band should be made available to applications of social value and electronic services such as asset tracking and paging systems. EU rules aim at harmonising use of this radio spectrum band in the EU to facilitate the development and take-up of such applications. Bulgaria should have complied with the Commission Decision on this band by 1 January 2007 and to an update of these rules by 31 October 2008.

“The European Commission Decision makes it easier to use the 169 MHz band for applications such as social alarms, hearing aids, reading and tracking systems” said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. “We have left Bulgaria enough time to solve potential issues and ensure that the 169 MHz band would be available in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, even after intensive contacts with the Commission, the Bulgarian authorities did not adopt relevant measures in the N ational Radio Frequency Plan. This is a violation of EU law and it goes against the Bulgarian people's needs."

The current Bulgarian Radio Frequency Plan, last modified in 2006, allocates the 169.4 - 169.8125 MHz frequency band to radio services which are restricted for the purpose of national security and defence. According to EU rules, 169 MHz band can be used not only for legacy paging systems, but also for hearing aids, social alarms, asset tracking or tracing systems and meter reading systems. Across the EU, the 169 MHz band is mostly used by hearing aids. Bulgaria has not yet included the EU requirements in its frequency management act − the National Radio Frequency Plan ( Национален План за Разпределение на Радиочестотния Спектър). Although the Bulgarian authorities have declared their intention to do so in letters to the Commission, no concrete results have been achieved so far.

The Bulgarian government has two months to respond to the letter of formal notice sent by the Commission today. If the Commission receives no reply, or if the observations presented by the Bulgarian government are not satisfactory, the Commission can issue a reasoned opinion (the second stage in an infringement procedure). If after that Bulgaria still fails to fulfil its obligations under EU law, the Commission can refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Background

Spectrum harmonisation Decisions which build on the Radio Spectrum Decision 676/2002/EC are important for market players using or intending to use radio frequencies, and for product and service developers. They help taking advantage of harmonised conditions at EU level and help to consolidate the internal market in areas such as telecommunications, transport and research and development. The implementation of spectrum harmonisation Decisions by EU Member States is systematically monitored by the European Commission.

The Commission Decision 2005/928/EC as amended by the Commission Decision 2008/673/EC lays down harmonised conditions for the availability and efficient use of the 169,4-169,8125 MHz frequency band for various communication applications such as hearing aids or social alarms and electronic services such as tracing and asset tracking or paging systems. It also provides a frequency plan and channelling arrangements for the applications concerned.

A detailed overview of the telecoms infringement proceedings is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/implementation_enforcement/infringement/


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