An EU coordinated approach is suggested as the best way to ensure a successful release of the 700MHz band in the European Union, the European Commission announced this week (10 June 2015), following publication of the results of a public consultation on the September 2014 Lamy report concerning the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band.
The respondents gave their suggestions on how to use the 700MHz band (694-790MHz), on the regulatory certainty for current users of spectrum, the flexibility and harmonisation of use of sub-700MHz for TV (470-694MHz), as well as the European approach at the 2015 World Radio communication Conference (WRC-15).
96 organisations submitted their views on the issue with 61 of them seeing merit in an EU coordinated approach to clear the 700MHz band for wireless broadband usage (63.5% of the respondents), while only four organisations (4.1%) saw no merit in such an approach. 31 organisations (32.2%) did not specify a view either way on the merit of taking an EU coordinated approach.
A vast majority of mobile operators and equipment manufacturers said EU coordination was crucial for the co-existence of the digital terrestrial television (DTV) and wireless broadband in cross-border territories. Various stakeholders from the cultural and creative industries indicated that the scope of regulatory coordination should ensure continuity of digital terrestrial television below the 700MHz band.
A vast majority of the respondents are in favour of establishing a common deadline to clear the 700MHz band and support the Lamy Report proposal of 2020 (+/- 2 years). Stakeholders are generally in favour of a common EU deadline for conducting a review for broadcasting and wireless broadband services market developments shortly after, possibly around 2025.
Commenting on the results of the consultation, Anne Bouverot, Director General of the GSMA, said: “The UHF band is a critical frequency range in the bid to provide consumers with good value, high-quality mobile broadband in urban and rural areas. As reflected in the divergent views in the High-Level Group discussion that took place last year, the future use of this band has been hotly debated by the mobile industry and the historic users of the band, including broadcasters.
“The GSMA is calling for the EC to give member states the flexibility to keep pace with the changing needs of consumers by supporting a co-primary mobile broadcasting allocation in the UHF band at the ITU’s upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) in November, where the future possible uses of spectrum will be decided.
“A co-primary allocation will give member states full flexibility to use UHF spectrum for both mobile and broadcast in the future. If mobile data continues to grow as predicted, national governments will retain the option of reallocating more spectrum to mobile if required.
“This flexible solution will protect consumer interests by empowering people in Europe to choose how they want to access content. It also supplies long-term guarantees for the future of digital terrestrial TV in European countries that rely on terrestrial broadcast services, ensuring a robust future for both industries.”
In addition, the GSMA called upon the EC to:
• Support member states’ requests for release of the 700MHz band, preferably between 2018 and 2020 and potentially earlier for markets that are able to release it sooner, such as Finland, France, Germany and Sweden; and
• Accelerate the review of the sub-700MHz band as the mobile and broadcast markets are evolving quite rapidly, as demonstrated by ongoing 5G research programmes in Europe. A review should take place between WRC-15 and WRC-19.