The European Commission has unveiled plans to deal with the exponential growth in mobile and wireless data traffic by enabling wireless technologies, including broadband, to share the use of the radio spectrum.
The EC notes that with new technologies it is possible to share radio spectrum amongst several users – such as Internet providers – or use the spectrum available between TV frequencies, for example, for other purposes. “National spectrum regulation often does not reflect the new technical possibilities, leaving mobile and broadband users at risk of poor service as demand grows, and preventing a single market for investment in such communications markets,” suggests the Commission.
According to the EC, co-ordinated European approach to sharing spectrum will lead to greater mobile network capacity, cheaper wireless broadband, and new markets such as tradeable secondary rights for a given spectrum allocation.
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe said: “Radio spectrum is economic oxygen, it is used by every single person and business. If we run out of spectrum then mobile networks and broadband won’t work. That is unacceptable, we must maximise this scarce resource by re-using it and creating a single market out of it. We need a single market for spectrum in order to regain global industrial leadership in mobile and data, to attract more R&D investments.”
As the first measure of the EU’s new Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP), the Commission is calling for:
1) Regulators to support wireless innovation by monitoring and potentially extending the harmonised internal market bands in which no licence is required (so-called licence-exempt bands) through appropriate measures under the Radio Spectrum Decision (676/2002/EC),
2) Fostering consistent regulatory approaches across the EU for shared rights of use that give incentives and legal certainty to all users (current and new) who can share valuable spectrum resources.
The EC suggests that in order to maximise the benefits of such approaches to share spectrum, regulatory barriers need to be removed and incentives provided at EU level. In particular, new regulatory approaches need to give different users, including current holders, guaranteed rights to use a given frequency band on a shared basis with guaranteed levels of protection against interference.
The ongoing implementation of the spectrum inventory in accordance with the RSPP will provide relevant usage information about frequency bands and thus facilitate the identification of beneficial sharing opportunities (BSO) in the single market for both licensed and license-exempt spectrum. Once established, BSOs can also be recorded in the inventory as benchmarks for other geographical areas or similar use in other frequency bands.