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TELECOMMUNICATIONS : DEBATE REOPENS ON RADIO SPECTRUM.

In advance of a summit' on a European radio spectrum policy, the European Commission is preparing the ground through a public consultation that will run until 9 April. The subject is sensitive for member states, which are far from willing to give up their national prerogatives.

The technical question of radio spectrum is influential economically speaking: the services that rely on it (defence, transport, space applications, television, mobile phones, etc) are worth 300 billion a year in European GDP. In its consultation, launched on 4 March, the Commission raises questions on the economic use of the spectrum: Are there enough frequencies allocated to broadband internet services (keeping in mind that the EU wants to cover all its territory by 2013)? How can SMEs make better use of the spectrum? To what extent would the development of pan-European services benefit from coherent' spectrum management? Should the EU take more action to ensure that the audiovisual frequencies freed up as a result of the switchover to digital ( digital dividend') are allocated to other technologies, particularly wireless internet?

The Commission also raises questions on satellite access to spectrum, particularly the EU satellite navigation programmes (Galileo and GMES), international negotiations, the connection between spectrum and competition, and the impact of radio frequencies on health. How can protection of human health be improved as radio frequencies become increasingly present in the environment? Is further research needed?

In short, the consultation raises broad, general questions that will be discussed at the summit in late March. Three sessions are planned over two days, the first on the role of spectrum in European economic recovery and social inclusion, the second on the use of the digital dividend in the EU and the third (a plenary session) on the multi-annual spectrum programme the Union intends to adopt.

"This consultation will help the Commission in drafting a radio spectrum policy programme to be presented to the European Parliament and Council by mid-2010," states the EU executive in a communique.

Today, the states do more or less as they like with their spectrum, which poses problems for the development of the internal market, particularly for telecommunications. "It doesn't make sense not to have coordination," explained a Commission expert. The summit will therefore identify principles for more coordinated spectrum management but the member states will remain in control of their frequencies. "The idea is to introduce greater coherence." "On the other hand, the placing of frequencies on the market remains a typically national decision," added the expert.

Spectrum was one of the tough subjects of the telecoms package brought to conclusion in late 2009. The Commission had to lower its ambitions for more European management of radio frequencies, notably because the 27 member states rejected proposals for harmonisation of frequency management. Pushed by the Parliament, they agreed at most to more flexibility, coordination and common actions.

ONGOING PROJECT

In November 2009, the Commission recommended harmonisation at EU level of the use of 72 megahertz of frequencies (790-862 MHz) - reserved until now for broadcasters - for mobile services. As it announced at the time, it also plans, "in the coming months," to issue "a decision that will set technical and harmonised instructions for the future use of the sub-band 790-862 MHz for electronic communication networks".

The consultation is available at www.europolitics.info > Search = 267645
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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Mar 5, 2010
Words:551
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