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Europe and ITU pledge more broadband spectrum

ITU will formulate plan for new radio bands in time for 2015, while European Parliament passes rules for digital dividend

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 20 February, 2012

READ MORE: Spectrum | Europe | Broadband | LTE

US Congress has opened the way to open up new spectrum with the auction of broadcasters' airwaves, while keeping the white spaces in those bands licence-exempt. But other jurisdictions are taking action to open enough spectrum for the demands of mobile broadband, and last week the GSM Association said that more than 150 countries have backed plans to identify additional frequencies for this purpose.

At the World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC-12) in Geneva, which has been running for four weeks, it was announced that the ITU ( International Telecommunications Union) is to launch an "intensive multiyear work program" to study options for additional IMT spectrum, which will be presented at the next conference - though that is not until 2015.

"We look forward to working with governments and regulators over the next three years to identify the spectrum needed to deliver the vision of providing low cost, ubiquitous broadband all over the world," said Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA, citing World Bank calculations that a 10% increase in mobile broadband penetration can boost GDP by 0.6% in developed countries, 0.81% in developing economies, and as much as 1.4% in some low income countries.

Meanwhile, Europe is poised to accelerate the availability of harmonized spectrum for LTE, with the European Parliament voting in favor of the Radio Spectrum Policy Program (RSPP), which will reallocate frequencies. The RSPP guidelines were drawn up by the European Commission. National regulators are responsible for allocating spectrum, but will need to follow the guidelines, which have been approved by member states in order to create harmonized bands and a unified digital services market.

According to the roadmap, the 800MHz digital dividend band must be made available for wireless broadband services in all European Union countries by January 2013, to support what the EC calls "exponential growth in the use of wireless broadband services" as well as improved rural coverage.

"The RSPP will optimize the use of frequencies to the benefit of all users of smartphones and other mobile digital platforms," said Gunnar Hökmark, the Swedish parliamentarian who steered the legislation through the process.

At Parliament's request, at least 1200MHz more spectrum must be allocated to mobile data traffic by 2015, with 4G, mobile TV, transportation, civil protection, smart grid and smart metering named as key applications. The EC will also assess whether there is a need to harmonize additional bands in the 400MHz to 6GHz range to cope with rising data levels.

The European wireless communications industry supports an estimated 3.5m jobs, generates 2.5% of GDP and represents about €250bn of economic activity each year in Europe, according to the EC's statements.

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