Insights Council of European Union adopts draft decision to boost broadband services by making 700 MHz band available by 2020.

The Council of the EU has agreed its position that the 700 MHz band, which offers high speeds and extensive coverage, should be made available for wireless broadband in Europe by 2020, and that broadcasting services should keep priority in the sub-700 MHz band until at least 2030.

According to the Council position, EU countries must reassign the 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz) to wireless broadband services under harmonised technical conditions by 30 June 2020.  If they are unable to do this they may decide, for duly justified reasons, to delay the availability of the band by up to two years.  Reasons for such delay could include, for instance, unresolved harmful interferences or cross-border coordination issues.

Further, Member States must adopt a “national roadmap” by 30 June 2018, setting out how they will implement the decision.  These roadmaps will be public.

The Council position stipulates that Member States must ensure the availability of the sub-700 MHz(470-694 MHz) band for digital television and wireless microphones until at least 2030, based on national needs.  This will give the audiovisual sector long-term regulatory predictability on the availability of sufficient spectrum, so that it can continue to provide and develop services and secure necessary investments.

In addition, Member states should be allowed to use this range for other purposes, including mobile internet services, under certain conditions.

The 470-790 MHz range is currently widely used for digital television broadcasting and for wireless microphones, for instance in theatres, concerts and sporting events.  However, the high speeds provided by the 700 MHz band make it ideal for mobile internet services.  Coordinated use of the frequency should promote the take-up of 4G and help to provide high-quality broadband for all Europeans.  It should also make it easier to roll out 5G as soon as it becomes available (around 2020).  This will, the Council says, allow effective deployment of innovative services such as connected cars, smart cities and remote healthcare.

This general approach will be the Council’s position for negotiations with the European Parliament.  The Parliament has not adopted its position yet.  Both institutions must agree on the text before it can become law.  To read the Council’s press release in full and for a link to the draft decision, click here.