EU Nations Must Deliver 4G Broadband by 2013

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The EU has told member states to get the 800MHz band cleared for mobile broadband by the end of 2012

European countries have been told to get the 800MHz radio spectrum band cleared for wireless broadband by 2013, in a new policy designed to stimulate mobile broadband use and economic growth.

The European Union wants countries to get the switchover from digital to analogue TV moving, and lay the foundations of a single digital European market, based on wireless data.

Radio Spectrum Policy Programme

The Radio Spectrum Policy Programme, negotiated by representatives of the Council of Ministers and Members opf the European Parliament in the industry, research and energy committee is intended to speed up the development of mobile broadband using radio spectrum freed up by the transition from analogue to digital television.

Although the allocation of these frequencies is a matter for national governments, rules on how to divide up spectrum among internet providers must be agreed at EU level, to allow a pan-European wireless market. The EU is also imposing a timetable: EU countries have until 1 January 2013 to make the 800 MHz frequency band available for wireless broadband services and at least 1200 MHz should be allocated for future mobile traffic by  2015.

The commission will also assess whether it needs to harmonise additional spectrum bands to manage growth in wireless traffic before 2015 and see where efficiency can be improved by future reallocations across the spectrum.

Gunnar Hökmark MEP declared, “This will set up a pan-European telecommunications market where new services can create opprtunities and growth for a 500 million consumer market.”

He continued, “This week’s political agreement on the first Radio Spectrum Policy Programme will pave the way for the EU to take the global lead regarding new services and competitiveness. This will be possible thanks to higher broadband speeds, mobility, coverage and capacity. I am glad that parliament’s ambitious approach has been endorsed by the member states.”

UK lagging behind

Several European countries, including Finland, Germany and Sweden, already have 4G networks, but the UK is lagging behind. Work in the 800MHz spectrum is underway, with Everything Everwywhere and BT conducting a trial in Cornwall.

However, use of the 800MHz spectrum and the 2.6GHz band is waiting for an an auction which Ofcom recently announced would be delayed yet again to allow for another consultation, despite denying in September that it would do so.

The auction has drawn criticism from the major UK mobile networks, while a survey has warned that the delay in rolling out 4G will cost British businesses £730 million a year.

It is claimed that the faster download speeds offered by 4G could save British companies more than 37 million business hours a year, although the first commercial 4G services are unlikely to appear before 2013, with nationwide rollout not completed until at least 2017.

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