Wednesday, February 21, 2007

European Commission unveils strategy for flexible radio usage

A boost for more innovative use of radio spectrum was given today when the European Commission unveiled its strategy for introducing more flexible radio frequency usage in reaction to evolving market demands. The strategy provides concrete steps for reducing access and usage restrictions on this critical resource for wireless communications, allowing new ideas to flourish, and removing potential barriers to innovation, economic growth and consumer choice.
“Europe must fully exploit the potential use of certain spectrum bands by new wireless products and services, so as to encourage market development,” said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. “We seek to provide new opportunities for industry through less restrictive regulatory conditions that strengthen competition and increase consumer choice. However, this is a gradual process which will not happen overnight.”
Radio spectrum is used by a broad cross-section of European industry for its communication services, with a total turnover estimated to have been between €240-260 billion in 2006. However, existing spectrum regulations are increasingly inadequate for keeping pace with the convergence of mobile, television and internet services, all of which use wireless communications. The introduction of market-based spectrum management combined with flexible spectrum usage rights could yield a further gain of €8-9 billion per year across Europe.
Today’s Commission Communication on “Rapid access to spectrum for wireless electronic communications services through more flexibility” builds on the Commission’s close cooperation with Member States within the Radio Spectrum Policy Group. It sets out practical steps for a more flexible approach to spectrum management, starting with the identification of several spectrum bands in which current regulatory restrictions need urgent investigation.
Some steps will fall under current telecom rules, because immediate solutions are required and can be pursued as part of the Commission’s existing forward-looking radio spectrum policy for Europe. These include opening up the frequency bands formerly reserved for GSM mobile communications, e.g. for 3G mobile services, and giving new products and services access to the frequencies released by digital broadcasting’s more efficient use of spectrum (the so-called “digital dividend”). Both of these cases have the potential to further develop Europe’s economy and provide real benefits to citizens.
Other steps are aimed at making authorisation conditions in Europe less restrictive with coherent application in all member States across the identified spectrum bands. Such measures will take more time to implement. Discussions with Member States will take place between now and the implementation of the new EU telecom rules.
More freedom to spectrum rights holders to determine for themselves how they will use these rights - requires a more pro-active role be taken by industry. Industry will therefore have greater responsibilities for avoiding radio interference, for delivering seamless consumer services, and for coordinating with other players across converging markets that were once separate i.e. amongst the broadcasting, mobile and IT industries.
(R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)