The allocation and management of radio spectrum in Europe are administered by national regulatory authorities. These authorities work together within a harmonised framework established by international and European policy initiatives.

Managing the spectrum use

There are three essential roles in radio spectrum management:

  • Planning radio spectrum allocation

  • Establishing technical conditions for radio spectrum usage

  • Assigning radio spectrum to users

European Radio Spectrum Policy, working with national authorities and international regulatory bodies, sets the framework and boundaries for the ‘how, what and when’ of spectrum management in Europe. This ensures that radio spectrum use is coordinated nationally, regionally and globally; and that regulation is appropriate and relevant to today’s technical and societal challenges and demands.

Video tutorial: an introduction to the process of managing spectrum in the EU.

Allocating and assigning spectrum

Planning and assigning radio spectrum to users is the responsibility of Member States, via the appropriate national authorities. These processes are also subject to common EU rules for the single market, and international radio spectrum agreements.

For planning purposes, spectrum is divided into bands and channels that have varying sizes and bandwidth. In general, lower frequency bands have smaller bandwidth capacity than higher frequency bands. This means that higher frequency bands can carry more information. In contrast, lower frequency bands have longer range. These types of characteristics determine the suitability of frequency ranges for particular services.

National governments and agencies organise and manage both how spectrum is partitioned between various uses (allocation); and how and to whom licences are given for the use of channels or blocks of spectrum (assignment). National governments also choose which process to use, such as competitive tendering for licences.

Managing the radio spectrum

Taking into consideration coordination at global level, EU Member States manage the radio spectrum in their national responsibilities in line with EU level legislation. National authorities are represented in the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC) and EU technical harmonisation measures are adopted on the basis of preparations by CEPT.

The European Commission regularly checks the status of national implementation of EU measures by requesting detailed information such as on frequency allocations. Supply of this information by Member States is a clear legal obligation. The information collected by the Commission is made publicly available for stakeholders.

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