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Flexible timeframe proposed for reallocation of 700 MHz spectrum for mobile services across the EU

EU countries will be able to defer the reallocation of a band of spectrum for the exclusive use for mobile services by two years under new plans being considered by law makers.

The European Commission published proposals earlier this year that would require EU countries to “allow the use of the 694-790 MHz frequency band for terrestrial systems capable of providing wireless broadband electronic communications services”, in accordance with technical conditions it will lay out by 30 June 2020.

However, according to updated proposals being considered by the national governments of the EU (15-page / 283KB PDF), EU countries would be able to "delay the availability of the band by up to two years" if "duly justified".

"The reasons for delay could include, but are not limited to, unresolved cross-border coordination issues, unresolved harmful interferences, the need to ensure technical migration to advanced broadcasting standards in presence of large amount of population affected by the process, financial costs of the transition exceeding the expected revenue generated by award procedures or force majeure," according to the proposals.

The draft plans are expected to be endorsed by the Council of Ministers' Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council at a meeting next week.

Last month, as part of the European Parliament's scrutiny of the Commission's original proposals, Italian MEP Stefano Maullu proposed giving EU countries until the end of 2022 to reallocate the 700 MHz band for mobile services.

According to the latest proposals from the Council of Ministers, it is a "necessity" to increase "wireless network capacity" because of "rapidly growing wireless broadband traffic".

"Spectrum in the 700 MHz frequency band provides both additional capacity and universal coverage, in particular for the economically challenging rural and remote areas, in pre-determined national priority areas, e.g. along major terrestrial transport routes and for indoor use and for wide-range machine-type communications," the proposals said.

"Some member states have already launched or completed a national process to authorise the use of the 700 MHz frequency band for bidirectional terrestrial wireless broadband electronic communications services. What is needed is a coordinated approach to the future use of the 700 MHz frequency band, which should also provide regulatory predictability, balance member state diversity with single market objectives and promote European leadership on international technology developments. In this context, member states should be required to repurpose the 700 MHz frequency band in a timely manner in accordance with Union and national law," it said.

In March UK telecoms regulator Ofcom said that the 700 MHz band, currently used by broadcasters and for supporting the use of wireless microphones at events, will be made exclusively available to mobile network operators (MNOs) in the UK by "no later than Q2 2020".

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