Most Stakeholders Want EU to Be Able to Coordinate Distribution of Radio Spectrum

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By Bengt Ljung

June 10 — A majority of stakeholders want the European Union to be given powers to coordinate the distribution of European radio spectrum, the European Commission said on June 10.

The Commission said that 63 percent of responding organizations in a Commission-sponsored public consultation on the future use of the Ultra High Frequency band called for EU coordination to reduce fragmentation in the internal market and to ensure a timely and cost-efficient transition.

Only 4 percent of the 96 organizations responding were opposed to EU coordination, while the remaining 32 organization did not specify a preference. The public consultations reacted to the so-called Lamy Report from September 2014, by former Director General of the World Trade Organization Pascal Lamy.

Along with responses from citizens, the total respondents were 356.

“We need a more harmonized framework for spectrum management in Europe. This is a key objective of our Digital Single Market Strategy,” Commission Vice President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Digital Economy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in a joint statement.

“The more divided spectrum is, the less efficient. More coordination is essential to boost Europe's connectivity and innovation,” the two continued.

Radio waves are a scarce resource and the management of radio spectrum would be done more efficiently through the EU, most of the respondents believed, the Commission said.

UHF 700 MHz

The UHF 700 MHz band is used for television broadcast and wireless microphones, but should be opened up for wireless broadband use, they said.

A vast majority of the respondents were in favor of a common deadline to clear the 700 MHz band. They supported the Lamy Report's proposal of 2020, give or take two years. The stakeholders also favored a common deadline for a review of broadcasting and wireless broadband services market developments around 2025.

To cover the costs of transition from the 700 MHz band, cultural and creative industries asked for EU guidance on what funds are available. Electronic manufacturers requested the EU to promote industry collaboration to reduce delays.

The consultation exercise also showed general support for promoting spectrum-efficient technologies for Digital Terrestrial Television Equipment, i.e. Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial 2 and High Efficiency Video Coding. But a majority of respondents advocated a technology neutral approach and opposed any mandatory measures for the use of a specific technology.

After the consultation, a first step for the Commission will be to make proposals on a coordinated release of the 700 MHz band.

The Commission sees a role for itself as coordinator, but in the past EU governments have been reluctant to hand over national powers.

In its 2013 proposal for a Telecom Single Market, the Commission suggested it coordinate the national auctions to allocate spectrum among EU countries to encourage telecom operators with a European business model. But the governments quickly shot down the proposal.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bengt Ljung in Brussels at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com