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EU frees up 700 MHz for mobile broadband

The EU Council has adopted a general approach on a draft decision aimed at boosting broadband services. The 700 MHz band, which offers high speeds and extensive coverage, would be made available for wireless broadband in Europe by 2020. Broadcasting services would keep priority in the sub-700 MHz band at least until 2030.

Henk Kamp, the Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs, said: “With the opening of the 700 MHz band for mobile broadband an important step towards the availability of broadband for everybody in the EU has been taken. Fast internet is not only important for economic development in the EU, but also for the daily life of its citizens. Together with other measures the 700 MHz band ensures fast Internet in the EU by 2020.”

According to the Council position, EU countries must reassign the 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz) to wireless broadband services under harmonised technical conditions by 30 June 2020. If they are unable to do this they may decide, for duly justified reasons, to delay the availability of the band by up to two years. Reasons for such a delay could include for instance unresolved harmful interferences or cross-border coordination issues.

Member states must adopt a ‘national roadmap’ by 30 June 2018, setting out how they will implement the decision. These roadmaps will be public.

The Council position stipulates that member states must ensure the availability of the sub-700 MHz (470-694 MHz) band for digital television and wireless microphones at least until 2030, based on national needs. This gives the audiovisual sector long-term regulatory predictability as regards the availability of sufficient spectrum, so that it can continue to provide and develop services and secure necessary investments.

Member states would be allowed to use this range for other purposes, including mobile internet services, under certain conditions.

The 470-790 MHz range is currently widely used for digital television broadcasting and for wireless microphones, for instance in theatres, concerts and sporting events.

However, the high speeds and good penetration provided by the 700 MHz band make it ideal for mobile Internet services. The coordinated use of the frequency should promote the take-up of 4G and help to provide high-quality broadband for all Europeans. It should also make it easier to roll out 5G as soon as it becomes available (around 2020). This will allow effective deployment of innovative services such as connected cars, smart cities and remote healthcare.

The general approach will be the Council’s position for negotiations with the European Parliament. The Parliament has not adopted its position yet. Both institutions must agree on the text before it can become law.

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