In July 2006, the Commission mandated the CEPT to develop appropriate technical conditions for frequency bands in the context of WAPECS (Wireless Access Policy for Electronic Communications Services), including the 900 and 1800 MHz bands.

Key considerations were:

  • the need for harmonised conditions of use to facilitate pan-European services,
  • to give consumers freedom to choose services and technologies;
  • and to protect the current use of the two bands for GSM services, for as long as there was reasonable demand for them.

Following technical investigation, the CEPT concluded that UMTS 900/1800 networks could be deployed in parallel with GSM 900/1800 networks in urban, semi-urban and rural areas given appropriate measures to avoid possible interference, called “carrier frequency separations”.

The carrier separations required are: 5MHz or more between two neighbouring UMTS networks; and 2.8 MHz or more between a UMTS network and a neighbouring GSM network.

In September 2009, the European Parliament and the Council modernised the GSM Directive so that the 900 MHz frequency band could be used to provide faster services. In parallel, the Commission adopted technical regulations for the 900 and 1800 MHz bands, so that new terrestrial systems providing pan-European electronic communications services could coexist with GSM services - without interference.

The propagation characteristics of the 900 MHz bands allow longer-range coverage than the other 3G frequencies (1800 MHz or higher). This makes it more appropriate for providing GSM and UMTS to rural or less densely populated areas.