The EU decision on use of 470-790 MHz has, it seems, been a long time coming. However now we have confirmation of Europe’s plans at the highest political levels.

But has anything really changed?

We would argue that this is, in effect, the culmination of something that has been on its way for a long time. It would be too strong to say that the European Parliament and Council of Ministers are rubber-stamping existing technical decisions, but there was a lot of evidence to suggest this was coming.

In April 2016 a document landed in a number of inboxes outlining, at some length, an EC decision on “the harmonisation of the 694-790 MHz frequency band for terrestrial systems capable of providing wireless broadband electronic communications services and for flexible national use in the Union”.

A slightly more reader-friendly announcement came in December last year when an EC press release noted that “the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission have agreed on how to coordinate the use of the 700 MHz band to bring mobile internet services to all Europeans and new applications across borders, thus facilitating the introduction of 5G as of 2020”. By then the UK’s Ofcom had already announced a planned 700 MHz clearance programme.

There had been some discussion of a formal allocation of 694-790 MHz as long ago as WRC-12, and even at WRC-15 there was some resistance from countries that wished to continue to use the band for aeronautical radio navigation services. However, the decision was eventually agreed to identify the band for mobile broadband, in Region 1, in line with both CEPT’s and the UK’s requirements.

So should we be celebrating something we knew was coming? Well, yes, in a way. A formalisation of previous decisions still acts as a strong statement of intent. There’s also a welcome (and very clear) message about timescales: spectrum must be available by 30 Jun 2020 (with the possibility of up to two years’ delay where justified). There’s a deadline of the end of 2017 for concluding the necessary international frequency coordination agreements for DTT re-planning. And 470 – 694 MHz will still be available for broadcasting until at least 2030.

No surprises then? Perhaps. But in a world where promises are often made and not kept, a guarantee of policy continuity — especially over something as important as spectrum harmonisation — is to be welcomed.

Real Wireless is expert in all aspects of spectrum and mobile networks. With world class in-house developed modelling tools we have worked for both regulators and operators, looking at how much spectrum might be required to support the insatiable rise of mobile broadband over the coming decades, what that spectrum might be worth and the increase in the cost of networks as coverage obligations are increased.  With all parts of the ecosystem looking towards WRC-19 and the coming of 5G networks, we are working at the forefront of this evolution (or revolution as some would say) looking at novel 5G technologies and the socio economic benefits of such new technologies. Spectrum is a valuable and diminishing resource. Real Wireless helps service providers to maximize ROI and regulators to optimize impact.

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