Demand for wireless services is soaring. Even more so with future 5G services in sight. The European Commission's radio spectrum policy helps to make the most of our airwaves.

On the EU level, radio spectrum policy has three main goals, which are:

  • the harmonisation of spectrum access conditions across the Union's internal market, enabling interoperability and economies of scale for wireless equipment;
  • a more efficient use of spectrum;
  • improved availability of information about the current use, future plans for use and availability of spectrum.

In short, spectrum policy is one instrument which works towards the creation of the Digital Single Market.

On 11 December 2018, the EU Electronic Communications Code was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. This includes updated rules for radio spectrum management which aim at creating a stable regulatory environment, improving coordination of spectrum, facilitating the development of 5G networks and reducing divergences between regulatory practices across the EU to boost the single market.

The Code in particular:
•    Calls for long licence durations, coupled with clear rules on license renewals and more stringent requirements to use spectrum effectively and efficiently;
•    defines strict deadlines for the use of pioneer spectrum bands for 5G as well as for spectrum harmonised for wireless broadband networks and services;
•    seeks to ensure better coordination of spectrum policies and assignment conditions across the EU, with a peer review mechanism;
•    facilitates the deployment of 5G networks;
•    provides more means for national authorities to support competition;
•    creates an improved spectrum coordination mechanism.

The new measures also seek to support a more flexible access and use of spectrum by promoting greater use of general authorisations and spectrum shared use with a view to enable the development of new innovative applications and services.

What is Radio Spectrum Policy?

Radio spectrum relates to radio frequencies, which are simplistically speaking airwaves used for wireless technologies and thus is a key raw material for wireless communications. It is not only the basis for well-known communication services such as wireless broadband or WiFi and the future basis for 5G; it also enables current and future services in a diverse range of application areas like:

  • terrestrial broadcasting including news gathering and theatrical production (e.g. wireless microphones and cameras);
  • intelligent transport systems leading eventually to connected and autonomous vehicles;
  • communication networks for law enforcement and emergency services;
  • the Internet of Things including Machine-to-Machine communications (e.g. smart grids, smart farming, smart cities, smart homes, industry 4.0);
  • short-range devices ranging from simple garage door openers via alarm systems, or hearing aids to active medical implants for smart health systems and even further application areas.

Since radio spectrum is a finite resource, governments regulate and manage its use, which is referred to as spectrum policy. The task of regulating spectrum has become more and more complex over recent years, due to the proliferation of wireless technologies and their corresponding requirements.

As more and more people want to take advantage of devices that demand spectrum, we need better coordination of spectrum rules, and smarter technologies. For example, new technologies benefit from the internal market for wireless services based on harmonised EU rules; while more flexible usage conditions help markets to develop and support innovation. Since 2002, the EU's Radio Spectrum Policy has ensured the availability and efficient use of spectrum.

Get involved and contribute

The European Commission and national spectrum regulators work closely together to develop common rules. But radio spectrum policy also has an impact on many stakeholders. Find out how you can contribute and learn more about the current activities in the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) and the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC) .

Spectrum Library

The Radio Spectrum Policy archive contains documents such as relevant EU legislation, Commission Decisions, studies, etc; as well as access to committee working documents.