Future use of UHF band in Europe report given cautious welcome by public safety community

The European public safety community concurs with EC recommendation to reallocate UHF band for mobile services, but wants some 700MHz spectrum reserved for emergency services use

Future use of UHF band in Europe report given cautious welcome by public safety community

The European public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) community has given a cautious welcome to the recommendations in the High Level Group (HLG) report made to the European Commission on the future use of the 470-790MHz UHF band.

The PPDR community concurs with the report’s finding that the reallocation of the 700MHz band for mobile services throughout the EU is the desirable way forward, according to the TCCA (TETRA + Critical Communications Association) and PSCE (Public Safety Communication Europe Forum).

This will ensure capacity for mobile broadband services in the light of steadily rising demand, while serving Europe's broadband coverage targets and delivering the benefits of global economies of scale. These mobile services include the PPDR broadband services that are critical to ensuring the safety of the public.

Although PPDR services are not referenced anywhere in the report, the requirements of the European PPDR community have been clearly stated elsewhere, including through the EU Council’s Law Enforcement Working Party (LEWP), working jointly with the spectrum regulator community (CEPT-ECC). The conclusion, in ECC Report 199, is that a minimum of 2x10MHz spectrum is required for critical mobile broadband data services.

The harmonisation of frequency spectrum for PPDR is a declared policy objective of the European Union and the only place where that will be possible the next 20 years is within the 700MHz band.  

The vast majority of government officials dealing with public safety matters in the EU see use of the 700MHz band as the best way to achieve this. The LEWP position paper, from the LEWP Greece presidency, clearly indicates the unanimously agreed preference by all member states for the 700MHz band.

HLG chairman Pascal Lamy states in his report: ‘I believe there is already one lesson learned on the future use of the 700 MHz band in Europe – this process has been influenced by developments outside Europe, namely the emergence of a globally significant band plan from stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region as well as a concerted effort of some African and Middle Eastern states at WRC-12 to obtain the co-primary allocation of this band to the mobile service in the whole ITU Region 1.

‘It can hardly be imagined that Europe would agree on an alternative long-term option for the 700MHz band, which would be more beneficial for its digital economy and society, other than adopting mobile usage in line with the aforementioned band plan.’

Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the US have already allocated dedicated spectrum for PPDR at 700MHz. A united community within the field of public safety and emergency services is key to ensuring the future safety of frontline officers. This can only be done by allocating spectrum for PPDR in Europe within the 700MHz band, the TCCA and PCSE argue.

The business case for PPDR spectrum is strong. London School of Economics analysis of the use of mission critical broadband by emergency services has estimated a substantially better socioeconomic benefit for this purpose than if the 2x10MHz in the 700MHz band are auctioned for commercial use.

The socioeconomic benefit is estimated to be more than €20 billion p.a., relating to 60% of the European population across 10 selected countries representing three regions. This figure is higher if it is extrapolated to cover the EU28 figure of 500 million people, yielding a socioeconomic benefit of €34.94 billion p.a.

TCCA chairman Phil Godfrey said: ‘Available and harmonised UHF frequencies for the emergency services across Europe is a prerequisite for the effective functioning of this vital sector, not only nationally but also cross-borders. Disasters, man-made or natural, do not confine themselves to convenient geographic regions.’

PSC-Europe President Harold Linke added: ‘Secured and reliable communication is the most important tool that emergency services need when they are on mission serving the European citizens. In the PSCE Forum PPDR users for several years express their need for European wide harmonised UHF frequencies to allow a better cooperation between the services of all EU Member States.

‘The 700MHz band under discussion will be the only chance (in the next 20 years) - for a whole generation - to accomplish this. We should not forget that all European Citizens count on the effectiveness of their emergency services when the next disaster strikes.’

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