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Communications Networks

EC Decision on Spectrum

Neelie Kroes (@NeelieKroesEU), Vice President of the European Commission’s Digital Agenda announced a decision intended to pave the way for broader 4G spectrum availability. Full text of the decision can be found here.

My summary is that spectrum (1920-1980 MHz paired with 2110-2170 MHz) that was originally authorized for 3G in 1999, will be allowed to be “refarmed” or used for 4G LTE services. The decision mandates that the spectrum be available by June 30, 2014 within the member states. This decision has the potential to increase the available 4G bandwidth to almost twice the amount available in the United States.

In practice, I expect a couple of different dynamics will be at play. The first is that 3G services are already using up plenty of the spectrum, which strikes me that unless a service provider has paid to license quite a bit of spectrum that they aren’t using, that this will play out over time as end users migrate from 3G to 4G services. The additional efficiencies of 4G should make that worthwhile to service providers.

Another consideration is new spectrum auctions intended to satisfy the carrier demand for 4G. Some countries may look at the ability to refarm spectrum as weakening the value of new spectrum auctions, and accordingly may accelerate plans to auction new spectrum while at the same time delaying the ability to repurpose the spectrum until the mandated deadline.

Overall, my personal opinion is that the EC has done a good job in recognizing the interest of the public and laying out a predictable manageable plan that service providers can build their capital investment plans around.

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