Plans within the EU to free up 800MHz ‘digital dividend’ spectrum for mobile broadband use cleared another hurdle late Friday, as ministers gave the green light to earlier proposals put forward by the European Commission.
The EU’s ‘Radio Spectrum Policy Programme,’ which has been approved by the Council of Ministers, paves the way for the 800MHz band to be available for mobile broadband services from 1 January 2013 and is seen as a crucial building block in creating a single digital European market. However, the plans continue to be opposed by European broadcasters, which are worried about interference from mobile networks and insufficient spectrum to launch new broadcast services.
"This will set up a pan-European telecoms market where new services can create opportunities and growth for a 500 million consumer market," said EU rapporteur Gunnar Hökmark in a statement.
Under the plan, at least 1200MHz is intended to be put aside for mobile data traffic, after 2013 but before 2015. The Commission will then look at whether there is a need to harmonise additional spectrum bands in order to manage the exponential growth in mobile data traffic.
The Council also endorsed an amendment by MEPs 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.”
The plans have been criticised by the the European Broadcasting Union. "The total amount of spectrum available for digital terrestrial television is reduced to the band below 790MHz,” the body said in a statement. “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 may disrupt reception of digital television.”
The proposals need to be backed by the EU’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee on 10 November, and later by the European Parliament as a whole, before coming into force.