The European Commission today adopted an Implementing Decision on the harmonisation of the 694-790 MHz (700 MHz) frequency band for wireless broadband.

woman in restaurant with mobile phone

The Commission today adopted a set of harmonised technical conditions that lay the ground for the allocation of more spectrum to mobile services in the 700 MHz band. On 2 February 2016, the Commission presented a proposal to better coordinate spectrum within the ultra-high frequency band (470-790 MHz) in the EU and to boost mobile services with more radio frequencies from the 700 MHz band (press release). This initiative will help the EU meet the growing demand for wireless broadband. Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: "28 different approaches to manage radio frequencies in the EU do not make economic sense in the Digital Single Market. We need to better coordinate spectrum in the EU. We proposed a joint approach to use the 700 MHz band for mobile services. It will give top-quality internet access to all Europeans, even in rural areas". Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said: "We cannot have high-quality mobile internet for everything and for everyone everywhere unless we have modern infrastructure and modern rules. With our proposal we show that we can have both: a vibrant audiovisual sector as well as the spectrum we will need for 5G. The 700 MHz band will be ideal for new promising fields like connected driving and the Internet of Things". 

Today's Decision will support the integration of the internal market and harmonise additional sub-1GHz spectrum for wireless broadband coverage in rural areas, thus contributing significantly to bridging the digital divide. Given the harmonised 700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz frequency bands and the technological possibilities of their combined use, the EU is well positioned to provide ubiquitous and high-speed broadband connectivity of up to 100 Mb/s to enable innovative services for citizens, businesses and various connected objects in a digital single market.

The Decision sets out related technical conditions reducing the risk of cross-border interference. It also allocates certain parts of the 700 MHz band for a limited number of additional uses: public protection and disaster relief (PPDR), wireless microphones (audio PMSE), machine-to-machine communications or more downlink spectrum for wireless broadband services. Member States can decide to implement one or more of these uses in co-existence with wireless broadband. Therefore, the Decision allows flexible national use within the 700 MHz frequency band on top of wireless broadband services thus ensuring efficient and harmonised spectrum use. It also ensures protection of TV broadcasting services and audio PMSE use, which will continue to use the UHF spectrum below the 700 MHz band.

This Implementing Decision is complementary to the Commission's legislative proposal of 2 February 2016 to the European Parliament and the Council on the long-term use of the UHF band. The legislative proposal obliges Member States to repurpose the 700 MHz frequency band from its current TV broadcasting use to new mobile broadband use by mid-2020, as part of an overall strategy for the whole 470-790 MHz ('UHF') band across the Union. When doing so, Member States must apply the technical conditions laid down in the Commission implementing decision adopted today. Thus both the implementing decision and the legislative proposal form a package of measures reflecting the Commission strategy on the UHF band.

It is now up to Council and European Parliament to finalise and adopt the legislative proposal on the UHF bands in order to ensure timely access to the 700 MHz frequency band for the provision of next-generation wireless broadband services.

Background

The 694-790 MHz frequency band is the upper part of the UHF band (470-790 MHz) currently used for terrestrial broadcasting. With the legislative proposal on the UHF band of 2 February 2016 (press release), the Commission aims at ensuring a balanced long-term solution for the UHF band which offers additional spectrum for wireless broadband but also safeguards access for terrestrial broadcasting to spectrum in the 470-694 MHz frequency band to the extent necessary to support both Europe's digital economy and audiovisual model. The Commission proposed therein to coordinate the date of release of the 700 MHz band for use by mobile services which comply with the technical conditions set out by today's implementing decision.

The latest (but unrelated) spectrum harmonisation measure at EU level was adopted on the 2010-2025 MHz frequency band for video PMSE. Next steps regarding spectrum harmonisation are expected to be part of the overhaul of EU telecoms rules which will be presented later this year under the Digital Single Market strategy (press release).

Today's Commission implementing decision contributes to the spectrum target set out in the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP) of achieving 1200 MHz for wireless broadband in the Union. It further makes harmonised spectrum available for priority sectors of EU spectrum policy – PPDR, audio PMSE and the Internet of Things (IoT) – also in line with the objectives of the RSPP. Consequently, it also meets the overarching objective of ensuring efficient spectrum use in this valuable spectrum range.

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