8/12/2009 12:06:00 PM
EU refarms 900MHz spectrum for 3G use
The EU has approved a new directive that allows the use of 3G in the 900MHz spectrum band, owned by Vodafone and O2.
The GSM directive was agreed last week and allows the 900MHz spectrum, which was previously only available for 2G and GPRS, to be used for 3G and next generation services such as 4G.
The final directive is expected to be released by September 2009, when each EU member will then be given six months to implement it.
The UK will be required to examine whether the implementation could distort competition in the mobile market. This process is being addressed as part of the Digital Britain campaign.
The move will increase pressure on O2 and Vodafone to share the spectrum band with rivals T-Mobile, 3 and Orange. It comes ahead of Ofcom’s decision on the allocation of spectrum that is due to be made by September this year, as part of the Government’s Digital Britain report.
Although Ofcom is not obliged by the directive to consider unequal spectrum allocation, it is required to promote consumer interests. Sources said the new directive could force it to consider whether O2 and Vodafone would be given a competitive advantage if they keep the 900MHz under current plans.
The EU said it anticipated savings of up to €1.6bn (£1.3bn) through more efficient management of the radio spectrum. The move is also expected to help towards the European target of growing the number of mobile internet users from 92 million to 500 million within a few years.
EU telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding (pictured) said: ‘This reform will remove constraints on operators so they can deploy new technologies in the GSM bands to develop high-speed mobile broadband services.’