Digital Single Market
Digital Economy & Society

Results of the Lamy Report Public Consultation on 700MHz spectrum band

Article
The European Commission has just published the results of a public consultation on the September 2014 Lamy report concerning the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band. The results of the consultation suggest that an EU coordinated approach, a common roadmap as well as a cost-efficient transition are needed for a successful release of the 700MHz band in the European Union (the upper part of the UHF band). Following the adoption of the Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe, the Commission will make specific proposals regarding coordinated release of 700MHz band.

356 contributors - citizens and organisations - have expressed their views on the Lamy Report and the future use of the 700 MHz Broadcasting Band. The respondents gave their suggestions on how to use the 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz), on the regulatory certainty for current users of spectrum, the flexibility and harmonisation of use of sub-700 MHz for TV (470-694 MHz), as well as the European approach at the 2015 World Radio communication Conference (WRC-15).

EU Coordination

Figure 1: Most stakeholders see merits in an EU coordinated approach to release the 700MHz band

Out of 96 organisations, 61 organisations see merits in an EU coordinated approach to clear the 700MHz band for wireless broadband usage, representing 63,54% of the respondents, while only four organisations (4,16%) see no merits in such an approach. 31 Organisations (32, 29% of the respondents) have not specified whether or not they see merits in an EU coordinated approach.

The respondents argue that EU coordination reduces fragmentation on the internal market and contributes to the harmonisation of the network coverage obligations and establishment of the common standards for receivers. It also contributes to the development of a spectrum strategy for complementary users such as Program Making and Special Events.

According to the stakeholders, the EU coordination entails the cross-border coordination of bi-lateral and multi-lateral frequency rights, as well as negotiations with third countries. A vast majority of mobile operators and equipment manufacturers additionally finds EU coordination crucial for the co-existance of the digital terrestrial television and wireless broadband in cross-border territories. Various stakeholders from the cultural and creative industries indicate that the scope of regulatory coordination should ensure continuity of digital terrestrial television below the 700 MHz band.

A vast majority of the respondents are in favour of establishing a common deadline to clear the 700 MHz band and support the Lamy Report proposal of 2020 (+/- 2 years). Stakeholders are generally in favour of a common EU deadline for conducting a review for broadcasting and wireless broadband services market developments shortly after, possibly around 2025.

Funding and Financial Resources

Regarding funding arrangements, particularly cultural and creative industries ask for clear EU guidance on the availability of funding and financial resources needed to cover the costs of transition and clearance of the 700 MHz band that is currently used by broadcasting and other cultural-related services such as Program Making and Special Events. This guidance is required to ensure that Member States progress in a timely and coordinated manner towards the release of the 700 MHz band. Electronic manufacturers moreover urge the EU to promote industry collaboration to reduce delay and to fully reap the benefits from economies of scale.

Spectrum-efficient Technologies

There is general support to promote spectrum-efficient technologies for Digital Terrestrial Television equipment (i.e. Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial 2 (DVB-T2) and High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC)), and to mandate measures at the EU level to ensure usage of the latest technologies. However, most of the respondents reject mandatory measures to use a specific technology. According to the respondents, such an approach will go against technological neutrality and the industry should be able to choose the most adequate and suitable technology.

Flexible Downlink-only Use

A vast majority of stakeholders does not support the flexible downlink-only (unidirectional wireless broadband services towards receiver-only in the band) use of the spectrum below 700 MHz for wireless broadband services. Some respondents base this opinion on the potential technical compatibility or not with digital terrestrial television (DTT) while others reject it for being too restrictive and ask for the inclusion of uplink too (bidirectional wireless broadband services) which enables provision of full internet access services.

The EU at the World Radiocommunication Conferences

There is broad support for a common European approach to the sub-700MHz band at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15).

Figure 2: Most of stakeholders see merits in a common EU position at the WRC-15

Out of 96 organisations, 64 organisations support a common EU position at the WRC-15, representing 66,66% of respondents, while five organisations (5,21%) are not in favour of such approach. 27 Organisations have not specified whether or not they see merits in an EU common position at the WRC-15, representing 28,12 % of respondents.

The telecom operators state that an EU coordinated approach should pursue a co-primary allocation of both broadcasting and wireless broadband, but the cultural and creative industries extensively reject such a co-existence of broadcasting and wireless broadband services in the band. They support a 'no-change' approach.

Next steps

The Commission launched a study to gather further quantitative data related to the costs and benefits of transition in the EU (SMART 2015/0010: 'Economic and social impact of repurposing the 700 MHz band for wireless broadband services in the European Union').

The Commission is engaging with the Member States in Council to ensure a coordinated position for World Radiocommunication Conference 2015.

Based on the Digital Single Market Strategy, the Commission will make specific proposals regarding the coordinated release of the 700 MHz band.

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