GSMA Calls on the European Commission to Adopt Vision for UHF Spectrum

London — Spectrum-hungry cellular operators are not only found in the U.S. With American telecoms ready to extend their operations into the UHF band that was for decades the domain of television broadcasters, European telecoms don’t want to fall behind the capabilities of the Americans.

An association of European telecom operators has requested that the European Commission examine the UHF spectrum above 470 MHz with an eye toward re-allocating large swaths of it for telecom (i.e., cellular) operations. Although the European Commission was already considering some re-allocation for completion in 2020, that is not soon enough for the GSMA’s members.

Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA, commented on the release of a report to the European Commission on the future use of the UHF spectrum band (470-790MHz). Pascal Lamy, president of Notre Europe, produced the report in his role as chair of the High Level Group, which consists of top executives from Europe’s mobile operators, broadcasters, the wireless microphone community, network operators and technology associations.

“We appreciate the European Commission’s efforts to address the future of this important spectrum and welcome the call for the 700MHz band to be repurposed for mobile broadband in the European Union by 2020,” Bouverot said. “To close the gap with North America and Asia, we believe it is essential that member states have flexibility to move sooner, preferably between 2018 and 2020 and potentially earlier, to respond to the sustained growth in mobile data traffic and the dramatic change in the way citizens across Europe are watching news and entertainment content, relying more and more on the Internet to access programming.”

European broadcasters and telecoms are regulated much differently than in the U.S., so comparing the two regions’ spectrum use and regulatory environment can be confusing. However, it’s clear that Bouverot and her telecom clients think that they need more spectrum and the best spectrum for their purposes is that used by UHF broadcasters.

“We are concerned that the report’s recommendations on the sub-700MHz (470-694MHz) band could put Europe at a competitive disadvantage compared to other regions,” she said. “Limiting Europe’s flexibility on the possible co-existence of mobile and digital broadcast services until 2030 will discourage investment in world-leading mobile networks. We respectfully ask the European Commission to adopt a long-term strategy for the sub-700MHz band that allows individual Member States to decide whether to keep traditional broadcast services in the spectrum or to provide more spectrum for mobile broadband to expand social and economic opportunity throughout Europe.”