EU countries must devote 800MHz band to wireless broadband by 2013

New deal paves the way for more spectrum for mobile broadband in Europe

Europe's Council of Ministers has said that all European Union countries must make the 800MHz band available for wireless broadband services by Jan. 1, 2013 as part of an ambitious deal agreed on Friday.

The "Radio Spectrum Policy Program" is designed to stimulate growth in the mobile broadband market by using the radio spectrum freed up by the switchover from analog to digital TV -- the so-called "digital dividend."

The move was first proposed by the European Commission, but now both the Parliament and the Council have approved the plans. In addition, the new text calls for at least 1200MHz to be allocated to mobile data traffic after 2013 but before 2015. The Commission also must assess, no later 2015, whether there is a need to harmonize additional spectrum bands in order to manage the exponential growth in wireless data traffic.

The Council also endorsed an amendment by parliamentarians to widen the scope of an inventory of the existing spectrum between 400MHz and 6GHz in order to identify where efficiency could be improved and ensure that the exponential growth in wireless data traffic can be met by future reallocations.

"Devices like smart phones and tablets are putting our current spectrum allocations under strain. Making the best use of this public resource will ensure we have the rails on which modern communications can run," said Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes, welcoming the deal.

But not everyone is happy with the move to change the use of the 800MHz band: "The total amount of spectrum available for digital terrestrial television is reduced to the band below 790MHz. This reduces the potential for future innovation and development of digital terrestrial services (e.g. HDTV, mobile TV, 3DTV). In addition, interference from mobile networks and terminals in the may disrupt reception of digital television," said the European Broadcasting Union.

Friday's compromise agreement still needs the backing of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee on Nov. 10 and later by the Parliament as a whole.

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Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
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