Monday

29th May 2017

Focus

EU agrees deadline for 5G internet plan

  • New rules on radio frequency coordination should help make fast wireless internet available througout EU (Photo: Peter Teffer)

National governments agreed to European Commission plans to free up bandwidth to be dedicated to mobile internet by 2020, in a compromise deal on Wednesday (14 December).

Under the plan, states have committed to freeing up the 700 megahertz (MHz) band, meaning most of them will have to move digital television to a lower band.

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EU countries agreed, in a deal with the EU parliament on Wednesday, to a 30 June 2020 deadline by which the migration should be finished.

However, the 2020 deadline is not completely binding.

“If they are unable to do this, a delay of up to two years is possible in duly justified cases,” said a press release by the Council of the EU, where national governments meet.

What constitutes a “justified case” is not defined in the press release.

It did say that “the coordinated use of a key frequency band ... will allow for higher speeds and better access to mobile internet across Europe”.

“This means better connectivity everywhere,” said Arpad Ersek, Slovak transport minister in the press release.

EU countries also agreed to create national plans for organising the frequency reassignment.

While the commission had originally proposed that these plans should be ready by 30 June 2017, the compromise deal gives them until 30 June 2018.

Still, EU digital single market commissioner Andrus Ansip welcomed the deal on coordinating radio frequencies, referred to as radio spectrum in EU circles.

“Better spectrum coordination is vital to provide higher quality internet to all Europeans,” said Ansip.

"It paves the way for 5G, the next generation of communication networks, and the internet of things."

The spectrum rules were proposed by the commission in February, but were expected to face opposition because states see auctioning of bandwidth as a valuable resource, and they were wary that the commission would want that income.

Ansip's predecessor Neelie Kroes failed in a previous attempt to set EU-wide spectrum rules.

EU rules on 700 MHz: technical issue or power grab?

The EU executive is trying to convince EU countries to commit to some coordination in the assignment of a specific set of radio frequencies, after it failed to garner support for broader, common rules.

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