As our appetite for mobile data increases, mobile providers in Europe have been putting pressure on regulators to consider spectrum re-allocation in a number of frequencies, including 700 Mhz, sub 700 Mhz (470-694 Mhz), 1427-1518 Mhz (or “L Band”), and in the 3.4-3.6Ghz or (“C band”) frequencies.
There was general consensus from the World Radio Conference 2015 (“WRC”) to support spectrum re-allocation for mobile broadband use in the 700 Mhz range and L Band, and more limited spectrum re-allocation within the C Band.
Following the outcome at WRC, it seems likely that the European Commission’s proposal on spectrum re-allocation anticipated for later in January 2016, will support the general use of 700 Mhz bandwidth for mobile broadband, and further spectrum re-allocation initiatives in the L Band and C Bands. Spectrum in the 700 Mhz bandwidth is widely seen as being particularly suitable to support broadband in rural areas, and is already being used by certain mobile broadband providers in the UK for that purpose today.
However, despite lobbying from the GSMA Group, which represents a number of leading mobile operators in the EU, there was insufficient European support at the WRC for re-allocation of the sub 700 UHF band (typically 470-694 Mhz). A number of European countries opted for these frequencies to be retained for terrestrial television use and not subject to spectrum re-allocation for broadband use.
This will put Europe at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the USA, and a number of Arab and African countries, which have decided that this sub 700 frequency can be used by mobile operators.
Use of more of the C Band (in particular 3.6-3.8Ghz bandwidth) remained contentious for countries across Africa, which use this band for satellite navigation.
The next WRC is not until 2023. Watch this space. As our hunger for high speed data and all things mobile become ever more voracious, there is likely to be a need for greater use of the spectrum re-allocation tool in the coming years. If Europe holds back, it is its economies which will suffer.