EU sets policy for wider access to radio frequencies

The European Commission has unveiled its strategy for radio frequency usage across Europe, in an attempt to reduce access and usage restrictions.

EU sets policy for wider access to radio frequencies

The Commission estimates that radio spectrum usage generated €240-260 billion in 2006 but is concerned that existing regulations are increasingly inadequate for keeping pace with the convergence of mobile, television and Internet services.

It believes that the introduction of market-based spectrum management combined with flexible spectrum usage rights could yield a further gain of €8-9 billion per year across Europe.

‘Europe must fully exploit the potential use of certain spectrum bands by new wireless products and services, so as to encourage market development,’ said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media.’We seek to provide new opportunities for industry through less restrictive regulatory conditions that strengthen competition and increase consumer choice. However, this is a gradual process which will not happen overnight.’

Some measures outlined in the policy will fall under current telecom rules. These include opening up the frequency bands formerly reserved for GSM mobile communications, for 3G mobile services for example, and giving new products and services access to the frequencies released by digital broadcasting’s more efficient use of spectrum.

Other steps are aimed at making authorisation conditions in Europe less restrictive with consistent rules in all member states. The Commission notes that these will take more time to implement, though no timescale has been set.

The Commission warns that more freedom for spectrum rights holders to determine for themselves how they will use these rights must be balanced by industry taking greater responsibility for avoiding radio interference, for delivering seamless consumer services, and for co-ordinating with other players across converging markets that were once separate, such as broadcasting, mobile service and IT.

As part of the new policy, the Commission has outlined mandatory conditions for using ultra-wideband (UWB) technologies that enable consumer electronics devices such as portable computers, mobile phones, digital cameras and televisions to exchange data wirelessly at high speeds, up to 480Mbps, over short distances.

The policy gives member states six months to allow the use of the radio spectrum on a non-interference and non-protected basis by equipment using UWB technology provided that such equipment meets certain signal strength conditions.

The policy dictates that UWB equipment is either used indoors or outdoors only if it is not attached to a fixed installation, fixed infrastructure, a fixed outdoor antenna, or an automotive or railway vehicle.

‘By removing the cables that link the electronic devices we use in everyday life, ultra-wideband technology can extend the Information Society in many areas of society,’ Reding said. ‘However, to benefit our citizens, it is important that we establish a functioning single market for these devices in the European Union. By adopting a harmonising decision today, the Commission allows innovators to use this new technology throughout the EU, while ensuring no interference takes place with other wireless users.’

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