Access to high-speed telecommunications has become an integral part of our modern societies and economies. Over the next decade, it means that we need to make top-class connections available everywhere in the EU – and preferably sooner.

But it will be difficult, if not impossible, to do this while we continue with 28 fractured telecoms markets. It holds us back from creating a unified European Digital Single Market (DSM) in Europe.

Radio spectrum is a clear example of the fragmentation problem. It is still unresolved.

The more this natural resource is divided, the less efficient it is.

We can no longer rely on a system set up at a time when connectivity needs were very different from those of today and tomorrow.  The ever-changing technology landscape, the opportunities it creates for new business and industry models: all this makes it urgent to sort out Europe's spectrum issue.

Today's proposal presented by the European Commission for new spectrum to be allocated within the 700 MHz band for wireless broadband services is a major step forward: the first step towards further and better coordination of spectrum.

Firstly, it is needed to cope with rising demand in Europe for audio-visual content and services over wireless networks, which is driven mainly by video consumption on the move. This puts pressure on the bands that are now available for wireless broadband and also on the capacity of existing networks.

At the moment, in most EU countries the entire UHF band is being used by digital terrestrial television channels and wireless microphones. Traditionally, it has been allocated exclusively to broadcasting in Europe and Africa, as well as in large parts of the rest of the world.

Wireless connectivity requires access to appropriate spectrum, however. So our plan is to make overall spectrum use of the UHF band more efficient as we adapt to evolving telecoms and media markets.

At the same time, we want to retain Europe's existing audio-visual model, which offers free-to-view public interest broadcasting and requires sustainable spectrum resources in the rest of the UHF band: the sub-700 MHz frequencies. This way, people can continue to enjoy access to creative content using state-of-the-art digital technologies. 

But the significance of what we plan goes far beyond this. It is a building block for our digital future.

Our proposal should widen broadband coverage for people living in rural areas, where there are still far too many communications black spots. This will help to bridge the 'digital divide' in Europe, one of the main objectives in our DSM strategy.

Progress towards high-speed connectivity - for everyone, everywhere in the European Union - will make it possible to develop innovative services that rely on EU-wide coverage and capacity.

From connected cars and TV to cloud computing and eHealth, tomorrow's digital products and services not only depend on the internet and digital technologies.

They also depend on fast, reliable and effective broadband connections for uploading and downloading data.

These are the networks on which we can build a truly connected DSM. They are the backbone for digital products and services, which have the potential to support all aspects of people's lives and to create economic growth.

Looking to the future, the Internet of Things requires a new generation of communication networks and infrastructure. And that is 5G.

It represents a major opportunity to drive the digital industrial transformation of Europe.

It will clearly take some years before 5G becomes a widespread reality in Europe.

But first, increasing access to the 700 MHz band in a coordinated way - as the Commission has proposed today - will immediately allow 4G mobile services to be rolled out in a more cost-efficient way.

And once industry develops specific 5G standards and associated technology and equipment – hopefully around 2020 - mobile operators should have the right conditions for deploying 5G services.

With 5G, telecom operators should be able to provide specialised network services to a series of new industry partners: from the automotive, to rail, health or energy sectors.

These are some of the reasons why it is so important to prepare the ground for future technology advances, to get the right basic infrastructure and policies in place.  And to do this now.

It is a fantastic opportunity for Europe's people and companies, and also of course, for the European telecoms industry.  It will help us build a digitally enabled society.

Another blog soon.


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