Europaparlamentet

Radio Spectrum - Towards a sustainable approach

Pressmeddelande   •   Feb 14, 2007 17:11 CET

An unlicensed model, tradable rights and standards regarding the service and technology neutrality, within a very clear framework, are the key principals for a future European policy on radio spectrum, says the European Parliament in an own-initiative report drafted by Fiona HALL (ALDE, UK) and almost unanimously adopted.

MEPs stress that there could be more unrestricted use of spectrum and “welcome the Commission's proposal to adopt differentiated spectrum management models including the unlicensed model which provides additional flexibility by allowing for free access within some technical limitations." They consider " that developing the right mix between the different type of licensing models manners will be important in achieving EU policy objectives” However, the freeing up of spectrum raises a number of issues for existing users and therefore needs to take place within a very clear legal framework.

For MEPs, the principle of service and technology neutrality is the key to a more efficient use of spectrum. When access to spectrum is without restriction on the service to be offered on a particular bandwidth or the technology to be used for the delivery of that service then spectrum-dependent innovation is able to flourish, underlined the House.

MEPs emphasise that spectrum management should not only be based on a market-driven approach but also needs to take into account wider social, cultural and political considerations. Adequate amounts of spectrum should be allocated to meet the needs of consumers and of services of public and general interests. The stability and continuity of media services provided by broadcasters needs to be secured but on the other hand a level playing field for new entrants and for new technologies is important since room for innovation must be guaranteed.

In the EU, the regimes for assigning spectrum to interested parties differ from Member State to Member State and this divergence can cause additional delays and costs. Therefore, the Parliament takes the view that "the EU will require efficient and responsive guidelines for common decision-making mechanisms and that, furthermore, a European register will be needed with the completion, expansion and accessibility of the EFIS database." So, Member States are called upon to support enhanced cooperation measures between spectrum management authorities.

MEPs consider that the introduction of a market-based approach to spectrum will be most effective if based on a consensual agreement backed by regulators, operators and other actors." They highlight that a common agreement at political level be reached for their implementation, in accordance with the existing division of competences between the European Union and the Member States.

Summing up, MEPs underline that the European Union "needs to adopt a sustainable approach to spectrum which will promote competition and the development of innovative technologies, inhibit the hoarding of frequency rights and the aggregation of monopolies and benefit consumers, and that this approach should take into consideration technological change as well as the needs of market players and of citizens."

Background:

During the past decades technological progress has started to change the quality and the notion of communications, signalling the beginning of a new era of communication and information diffusion based on powerful electronic superhighways. Fibre optics, semiconductors, broadband integrated networks, intelligence networks, UMTS and multimedia broadcasting have been major achievements of the last decades.

The deployment of many of these technologies is dependent on the existence of enough spectrum for the players that would like to enter the market. Spectrum is a “scarce” resource with two specific technical characteristics. On the one hand, it is an indefinite, renewable resource in that using it does not make it "used up". On the other hand, it has been allocated into portions, each with a specific use. This means that once a spectrum portion is occupied by one user, it cannot be occupied by another. As spectrum is needed in all electronic communications the demand is very high and at present there does not appear to be enough spectrum width available to meet that demand.

Up to now the system used for spectrum allocation has operated at four levels (international, European, inter-regional and national), with the result that six to eight years elapse between the request for allocation and the assignment of a frequency. With a view to avoiding interference, spectrum bands have traditionally been allocated for specific uses and specific technologies. However, the rapid development of technology and the convergence of telecommunications, media and electronic devices have created a dynamic environment for which the traditional approach is too slow and inflexible to deliver the spectrum access needed.


Ref.: 20070208IPR02896
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