The European Council today took a step towards freeing up mobile broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band across the EU.
The council adopted a general approach on a draft decision that should mean frequencies in the 700 MHz band will be made available for mobile broadband across Europe by 2020.
Broadcasting service would keep priority in the sub-700 MHz band at least until 2030 under the council proposal.
The council’s position will form the basis for its negotiations with the European Parliament, which has yet to agree its own position.
According to the council’s position, EU countries must reassign the 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz) to mobile broadband under so-called harmonised technical conditions by 30 June 2020. If they are unable to do this they may delay the availability of the band by up to two years. But they must have reasonable justification for such a delay, for instance harmful interferences or cross-border coordination issues.
Member states must adopt a roadmap for the switchover by 30 June 2018, setting out how they will implement the decision. These roadmaps will be publicly available.
The 470-790 MHz range is currently used for digital TV broadcasting and wireless microphones, for instance in theatres, concerts and sporting events. But it is ideal for 4G, and later 5G.
The Council position also argues that member states must ensure the availability of the sub-700 MHz (470-694 MHz) band for digital television and wireless microphones at least until 2030, depending on national needs. This timeline gives the audiovisual sector long-term visibility on spectrum.
Member states would be allowed to use 470-694 MHz for other purposes, including mobile internet services, under certain conditions, said the council statement, without giving further detail.
The council’s move was welcomed by the GSMA, which also argued “the rapid evolution in mobile broadband and broadcast services requires Europe to keep all options open for how the UHF spectrum band will be used, in particular in the sub-700MHz band.”