The European Commission (EC) has called on all EU member states to make 120MHz worth of spectrum around the 2GHz frequency band available for 4G services, such as LTE.
The paired terrestrial 2 GHz band (1920-1980 MHz paired with 2110-2170 MHz) has been traditionally used for 3G UMTS networks, but the EC now wants it to be liberalised for 4G services across the region.
The decision means it will be mandatory for EU member states to open the spectrum for 4G services by June 30, 2014. The EC said that it aims to provide harmonised technical conditions to avoid market fragmentation in the future use of the band.
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: “This extra spectrum for 4G in Europe means we can better meet the changing and growing demand for broadband. I want to see member states acting swiftly to change existing licenses. We all win from faster wireless connections in Europe.”
Dario Talmesio, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media, welcomed the decision and labelled it a “very strong attempt by the EC to harmonise spectrum” for LTE services. However, he added that such a policy is long overdue.
“The main reason why 4G services are lacking in Europe is because of a lack of harmonisation of frequency bands. By opening up the UMTS spectrum, this will address the harmonisation issue, however, the spectrum bands are already fully utilised in most member states.”
Talmesio added that it will take time for operators to reap the rewards from liberalising this spectrum. It will still be two years before the member state governments will have to open the spectrum bands for LTE services, and then the refarming process will take time, given that a lot of resources have already been ploughed into UMTS services using the spectrum.
“The US market is way ahead of Europe when it comes to LTE services and harmonisation of spectrum, and this will remain the case. While this announcement is a step in the right direction, it is a policy that has come too late,” he said.
Talmesio added that the harmonisation will also be helpful for facilitating LTE roaming in the future, but stressed that the number one priority for operators at this stage is not in stimulating LTE roaming, rather the adoption of the technology within their domestic markets.