EU Science Hub

Radio spectrum and wireless services

Radio spectrum is not just a key resource for the Digital Single Market (DSM), it is the fundamental element of modern society which cannot exist without wireless technology, be it for mobile communications, satellite television, anti-collision radars, or microwave ovens, just to name a few.

The proliferation of wireless devices, fuelled by advances in semiconductor technology and the emergence of new applications such as the Internet-of-Things will inevitably result in a shortage of usable radio spectrum, often referred to as “spectrum crunch” unless new and more efficient ways of spectrum usage can be found.

Traditionally, wireless services were allocated fixed bands in which they could operate, and countries have regulated radio spectrum within their territories. As a consequence, certain parts of the spectrum are very busy whilst others are heavily underused. To realise the maximum economic and social benefits a common European framework for using radio spectrum more efficiently must be established.

In setting out his political priorities, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has made clear that aligning spectrum policies across the EU is an important step in the creation of a Digital Single Market and for providing full wireless coverage throughout the EU.

Protecting the quality of wireless services

Using spectrum more efficiently means that certain parts of the spectrum will be shared by multiple wireless systems using different technologies. Spectrum regulation has to make sure that all these systems coexist without interfering with each other in way that negatively impacts the quality of service experienced by the users. After all, it is hundreds of millions of EU citizens who use applications and services provided over wireless connections every day.

The JRC supports the definition of robust spectrum regulations and the development of harmonised European standards by studying and analysing coexistence scenarios, evaluating spectrum sharing solutions, and providing opinions to the European regulatory and standards bodies.  The scope of its activities comprises both simulations and experimental verification through lab tests as well as field measurements and pilot trials.

Standards in wireless services

The emergence of new wireless applications and devices has dramatically increased the demand for radio spectrum, with the ensuing risk of causing harmful interference to primary radio services. Based upon tests and measurement in the radio-frequency and microwave domains, as well as in digital signal processing, the JRC aims to develop and validate suitable algorithms to evaluate the impact of emerging wireless communication technologies on existing wireless infrastructures.

It also supports the development and testing of technologies to ensure the availability of efficient communications systems for security applications. On this basis, the JRC technically supports the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in the development of new standards for public safety communication and smart infrastructures with high bandwidth capability in Europe.

By preparing the technical input to new standards in wireless communications, the JRC is also contributing to the development of software defined radio (SDR) and cognitive radio (CR) technology, which are promising technologies that will allow flexible use of radio spectrum.