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IP/11/302

Brussels, 14 March 2011

Digital Agenda: Commission requests Hungary and Spain to ensure availability of GSM frequencies for new mobile services

The European Commission today formally requested Hungary and Spain to comply in full with the EU's updated GSM Directive by ensuring that the 900 MHz frequency band can be used for faster mobile services such as mobile internet. Opening this radio spectrum band to more advanced access technologies like Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) is an important part of efforts to promote more rapid and widespread roll-out of wireless broadband services. The Directive is therefore an important element in meeting the objective of the Digital Agenda for Europe to give every European access to basic broadband by 2013 (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200). Member States agreed to implement the amended GSM Directive into national law by 9 May 2010. The requests to Hungary and Spain are in the form of reasoned opinions under EU infringement procedures. If Hungary and/or Spain failed to inform the Commission of measures taken to comply with their obligations under the amended GSM within two months, the Commission could decide to refer them to the Court of Justice and request the Court to impose financial penalties.

The amended GSM Directive (2009/114/EC) requires the 900 MHz radio spectrum band to be opened to other systems capable of providing advanced broadband services, particularly UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), which are compatible with existing GSM use. This is to enable the co-existence of GSM (2G mobile phones) and UMTS systems (3G phones that add high-speed mobile internet to regular phone services) on 900 MHz frequencies. The Directive required Member States, no later than 9 May 2010, to modify any national provisions which prevented the use of UMTS technology in the 900 MHz band.

Hungary and Spain have not yet adopted or notified the Commission of national measures. As a result mobile telecoms operators in these countries are potentially denied access to radio frequencies in the 900 MHz band for UMTS services and customers are potentially denied access to high-speed mobile internet services. The Commission has therefore today decided to formally request these countries to take appropriate measures within two months to implement the updated GSM Directive in full.

The European Commission will continue to monitor the effective implementation of the GSM Directive in all EU countries to ensure that GSM spectrum bands are made available for 3G technology, taking into account any potential competitive distortions that could occur.

Background

The original GSM Directive (87/372/EEC) allocated certain radio frequencies (in the 900 MHz band) for GSM services.

In September 2009, the amended GSM Directive (2009/114/EC) was adopted in order to allow new advanced, next generation wireless technologies to co-exist with GSM in the 880-915MHz and 925-960 MHz frequencies (see IP/09/1545). The Commission also adopted an accompanying Decision, setting out the technical measures allowing for the co-existence of GSM (2G mobile phones) and UMTS systems (3G phones that add high-speed mobile internet to regular phone services) on GSM frequencies. The Directive also includes the possibility of including technical usage parameters for further non GSM systems for which compatibility may be established at a later stage.

The implementation of these measures may lead to changing the allowed use of specific radio frequency bands and sub-bands, i.e. the "re-farming" of frequencies.

The Commission has proposed to further harmonise the use of radio spectrum in the context of the Digital Agenda for Europe. In September 2010 it presented the proposal for a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP) (see MEMO/10/425). The RSPP would facilitate the provision of fast broadband connections to people in remote areas, and help to make innovative services available across Europe.

More on radio spectrum:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/radio_spectrum/index_en.htm

An overview of telecoms infringement proceedings is available at:

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

Digital Agenda website:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/digital-agenda/index_en.htm

For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/11/162.


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