At the moment, the 700 MHz band is mostly used for broadcasting and wireless microphones. The broadband and telecoms sectors are both keen to secure the future use of this highly sought-after band for deploying new wireless and digital services The consultation will run until 12 April 2015 and will help the Commission define a long-term strategy for the UHF band.
What's the issue?
The UHF TV broadcasting band (470-790 MHz) is currently used across the EU for digital terrestrial television (mostly received via rooftop antennas and free-to-air) and wireless audio equipment. Meanwhile, these frequencies are becoming particularly appropriate to provide wireless broadband at higher speeds and with better geographical coverage.
The International Telecommunications Union - the United Nations body responsible for ICT issues - agreed in 2012 that the 694-790 MHz band ("700 MHz band") could be used either for broadcasting or for mobile services in the EU as of 2016, depending on Member State choice. As radio waves know no borders and in the ambition to further develop the EU Digital Single Market, the EU needs to seize this opportunity and develop a coherent position on the future use the UHF band.
The Commission is seeking views from the industry, academia and users of TV and/or wireless broadband services on two options proposed in the Lamy Report:
1. "2020-2030-2025" formula with the aim of enabling Europe to fulfil Digital Agenda for Europe broadband targets in three steps, while giving broadcasting a clear path to invest and develop further:
- The 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz) is currently used by terrestrial broadcasting networks and wireless microphones) should be dedicated to wireless broadband across Europe by 2020 (+/- two years);
- Regulatory security and stability for terrestrial broadcasters in the remaining UHF spectrum below 700 MHz to be safeguarded until 2030;
- A review by 2025 to assess technology and market developments
2. The "flexibility option", which proposes downlink-only wireless broadband use of UHF broadcasting spectrum in the 470-694 MHz band). Thereby, broadcasting use would always have priority, while specific channels or locations not used for terrestrial broadcasting could become available for downlink-only wireless broadband applications depending on national circumstances.
The Commission particularly hopes that consumers and their associations will give their views as any future developments in this field could affect the quantity and quality of broadcasting services and could mean that equipment, including TV sets needs upgrading or replacing as well as the development potential of wireless broadband services.
This consultation is one of several channels which will help the Commission draw up a strategy for UHF bands in the course of 2015. Recommendations from the Lamy report, and views of the Member States (via a Radio Spectrum Policy Group Opinion) and related public consultation will also help influence future policy in this field and in particular short-term preparation of a coherent EU position for November's World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 which will discuss international treaties governing the use of spectrum.
As stated in the Commission's political guidelines, breaking down national silos and developing common approach to managing radio-spectrum use across the EU is a political priority for the new Commission. A forward-looking approach to spectrum and an ambitious reform of EU telecoms rules will be part of the Commission's forthcoming plans for a connected digital single market