The European Commission (EC) has announced it will increase the amount of radio spectrum available for 4G networks across the EU, by releasing a part of the spectrum previously reserved for 3G connectivity.
To free the space around the 2 GHz band, member states will be required to change existing spectrum licences by 30 June 2014. The EC says this is the most cost-effective way to expand 4G services while also making better use of available radio frequencies.
The importance of radio spectrum has increased with the arrival of next generation digital networks, while the amount available has been decreasing. Currently, mobile data has to compete for spectrum with TV and radio signals, emergency, military and other services. However, some spectrum has been freed up by shifting broadcast technology from analogue to digital signalling, and also by allowing the use of “white space“.
The space up for grabs will lie between 1920-1980 MHz, paired with 2110-2170 MHz. It has been used by Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) 3G networks, since 2002.
The decision should go some way towards achieving the Digital Agenda target of universal EU broadband coverage of at least 30 Mbps by 2020. It also gives mobile operators more opportunities to invest into the mobile infrastructure, to offer faster speeds and ultimately, better service.
“This extra spectrum for 4G in Europe means we can better meet the changing and growing demand for broadband. I want to see Member States acting swiftly to change existing licenses. We all win from faster wireless connections inEurope,” said Neelie Kroes, EU commissioner for digital policy.
She also promised that Europe will enjoy up to twice the amount of spectrum set aside for wireless broadband in the United States.
The UK got its first taste of 4G last month, when EE (the result of the merger between T-Mobile and Orange) started offering access to its next generation network. Other providers will fight for their piece of the spectrum in the auction at the end of the year, before bringing out 4G services in late 2013.
Recent research from eBay suggests that the delay in 4G roll-out will cost the UK economy at least £120 million, due to lost sales on mobile devices during Christmas period.
The EC decision to free spectrum could cause difficulties in certain countries. Some of the spectrum inEurope is leased by private companies, which would obviously be reluctant to share such a valuable asset.
The Commission is also considering a follow-up measure on the unpaired terrestrial spectrum in the range of 1900-1920 MHz and 2010-2025 MHz, which is currently allocated to UMTS but remains unused.
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