The European Commission is poised to back plans this week to set a deadline of 1 January 2013 for EU member states to free up so-called ‘digital dividend’ spectrum for mobile broadband use. According to a copy of the proposal seen by the International Herald Tribune, the plan will require the 27 EU countries to use the 800MHz frequency band to effectively create a single mobile broadband market that crosses national borders. The deadline, if adopted by the European Parliament, would increase pressure on countries such as France, the UK and Italy to redeploy the spectrum for mobile use; Germany is the only major member state to have done so to date. It is argued that using a common frequency will allow equipment makers to mass-produce networks and devices that will work on pan-European basis.
The proposal is part of the European Commission’s plan to use spectrum redeployment to help meet its goal of providing all EU residents with access to broadband offering speeds of at least 30Mb/s by 2020. The 800MHz spectrum is being freed-up across the region by broadcasters as they make the switch from analogue to digital services, though some have been reluctant to do so. The latest proposals are also set to include regulations concerning the building of new high-speed fibre-optic networks by large operators and how these will be opened-up for use by smaller rivals. According to the report, large operators have been lobbying EU officials for the right to charge rivals for access to the networks, which would allow them to offset a portion of their investment costs, though regulators are expected to determine leasing prices on the basis of cost.