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EU pushes for spectrum sharing to encourage wireless innovation

Jennifer Scott

The European Commission today called for providers to share spectrum with one another in order to boost wireless connectivity across the region.

In a report entitled Promoting the shared use of radio spectrum resources in the internal market, the executive body claimed technology was now available to allow spectrum frequencies to be used by more than one provider, for more than one purpose.

If deployed, this could free up a lot more spectrum to be used for wireless connectivity, from broadband access to TVs, giving European citizens better connectivity for their smart devices.

“Meeting growing spectrum needs for wireless connectivity is constrained by lack of vacant spectrum and by the high price associated with re-allocating spectrum to new uses, in terms of cost, delays and the occasional need to switch off incumbent users,” read the report. “To satisfy growing demand, more efficient use and innovation are crucial.”

The EC admitted many conditions needed to be put in place before beneficial sharing opportunities (BSOs) were identified, such as ensuring the two purposes didn’t interfere with one another in the same spectrum band or the offering of incentives to the incumbent spectrum users to improve their service and be more willing to share.

However, it still believed it was imperative to offer up as much wireless connectivity as possible to spur more technological inventions.

“To foster the development of wireless innovations in the EU, it is necessary to continuously improve the opportunities for harmonised spectrum access in both licence-exempt bands and licensed spectrum and to establish new tools for more shared use of radio spectrum resources in the internal market,” read the report.  

Radio spectrum is economic oxygen

Neelie Kroes, vice-president, Digital Agenda

The EC has made a list of suggestions to help boost acceptance of its proposals. It will work with member states to create a process that can be mirrored across the EU for identifying possible BSOs; it will support development and roll-out of devices that take advantage of existing ‘white space’ – or unused spectrum areas; and will help create contracts to ensure both parties sharing the spectrum respect each other’s need for consistent service levels and functionality.

“Radio spectrum is economic oxygen… used by every single person and business,” said Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the EC’s Digital Agenda. “If we run out of spectrum then mobile networks and broadband won’t work [and] 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 and to attract more research and development (R&D) investments."

Now the report has been published, the EC is hoping to get the backing of European Parliament and the European Council to push this forward and turn it into legislation. However, it will have to wait until it has received feedback before it can move any further with its proposals.


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