By Steve McCaskill
The European Commission (EC) has called on member states to plan the reassignment of 700MHz frequencies for mobile broadband by 2020 to help accommodate growing demand for data, cross-border application and the arrival of 5G networks.
The proposals would require all 28 members of the European Union to make their plans public by June 30, 2017, and release the airwaves by the same date in 2020. France and Germany have already authorized the use of 700MHz for mobile, while Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom are in the process.
Many countries use the band for digital terrestrial television (DTT) services, but the EC has promised safeguards for traditional broadcasts, with UHF spectrum located between 470 and 694 MHz prioritized for audiovisual transmissions. The EC does want a long-term "flexible" approach for these bands, however.
In the United Kingdom, Ofcom plans to reassign 700MHz for mobile use as early as 2020 and has stressed that no 'digital switchover', similar to the one which concluded in 2012, will be needed. It opposes reallocation of sub 694-MHz frequencies at this time.
"Twenty-eight different approaches to manage radio frequencies in the EU do not make economic sense in the Digital Single Market," said Andrus Ansip, vice president for the digital single market. "Today, we come with our first proposal on how to better coordinate spectrum in the EU. We propose a joint approach to use the 700 MHz band for mobile services. This band is the sweet spot for both wide coverage and high speeds.
"It will give top-quality internet access to all Europeans, even in rural areas, and pave the way for 5G, the next generation of communication network. At the same time, we secure frequencies for the audiovisual sector and boost the development of technologies, which make an efficient use of radio waves. Spectrum is a scarce resource: we need to make the best of it."
The UN-affiliated International Telecommunications Union (ITU) already allocated 700MHz for mobile broadband use on a global scale at the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-15) last year.