Out-Law News 2 min. read

EU law makers reach agreement on spectrum harmonisation in 700 MHz band

EU law makers have reached an "informal agreement" on new legislation that would require every EU country to allocate spectrum in the 700 MHz band for use by wireless broadband providers.

The proposals were first outlined by the European Commission earlier this year and have since been subject to suggested amendments in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which represents the views of the national governments that make up the EU.

Now MEPs and the Slovak presidency of the Council have reached broad agreement on the terms of the legislation. The new law must be formally approved by votes in the Parliament and the Council before it can come into force.

Árpád Érsek, Slovak minister for transport, construction and regional development, said the proposed new law "brings long-term regulatory certainty and is essential for uptake of 5G".

According to the Council, EU countries have until 30 June 2020 to "reassign the 700 MHz frequency band (694-790 MHz) to wireless broadband services", although some countries may be able to delay the reallocation of that spectrum for up to two years if they are unable to meet the 2020 deadline, for example due to difficulties in transitioning broadcast services onto other frequencies.

The Council said: "The 700 MHz band provides high speeds and excellent coverage. Its coordinated use for mobile will promote the take-up of 4G and help offer high-quality broadband to all Europeans, including in rural areas. Increased connectivity will make it easier for citizens to communicate and use internet content and services in their daily life, wherever they are. It improves conditions for business, drives up demand for more services and furthers economic development."

"This targeted assignment of spectrum will also make it easier to roll out 5G as soon as it becomes available (around 2020). 5G will enable vastly enhanced wireless network capacity and ubiquitous connectivity, allowing for the effective deployment of innovative services such as remote healthcare, connected cars and smart infrastructures. Creating the conditions for these new technologies is crucial for Europe's global competitiveness," it said.

At the moment, the 700 MHz band is used to deliver digital TV services and for supporting the use of wireless microphones at events. Under the new rules agreed upon, broadcasters would "maintain priority in the sub-700 MHz band (470-694 MHz) at least until 2030, based on national needs", the Council said in its statement.

"This gives the audio-visual sector long-term regulatory predictability so that it can continue to provide services and secure necessary investments," it said.

In October, UK telecoms regulator Ofcom confirmed spectrum in the 700 MHz band will be made available for mobile data services in the UK by the end of June 2020 at the latest.

At the time, Ofcom said digital TV services would, subject to conditions being met, be allowed to continue to operate over the same band of frequency until at least 1 May 2020 and potentially beyond that deadline if it can be demonstrated that running digital TV services and mobile data services over the same frequency band would not result in interference.

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