EC: UMTS spectrum must be available for LTE by mid-2014


Considers removing unpaired 2GHz spectrum from mobile landscape

The European Commission has said that member Governments must, by June 2014, allow mobile operators to deploy LTE services in spectrum that is currently reserved for UMTS.
The EC has released a Decision making it mandatory for Goverments to allow operators to refarm 3G spectrum for LTE use. The spectrum bands in question are at 1920-1980 MHz paired with 2110-2170 MHz. These are the bands currently used by operators for UMTS, or 3G, services. 
The Commission also added that it is looking at the re-allocation of unused unpaired, or TDD, spectrum in the band, and is considering “alternative applications to terrestrial mobile broadband”. That could have implications for operators who had been considering opening services using previously unused TDD spectrum (1900-1920 MHz and 2010-2025 MHz) at some point in the future. The Commission has already issued a Mandate to CEPT (European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations) to study suitable applications and develop appropriate technical conditions and sharing arrangements for the unpaired spectrum in those bands.
The EC is committed to allocating a total of 1200MHz of spectrum available for 4G technologies, and said that opening up the 2GHz UMTS bands would bring the total available spectrum to 1000 MHz. It said this is twice the spectrum the USA has made available for 4G technologies. 
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." 
A similar EC Decision enabled EE's recent re-farming of 1800MHz spectrum for LTE use, so such decisions can have tangible impact upon market dynamics. One proviso is that re-farming 2100MHz spectrum would require compatible devices, thereby adding another LTE band to the device landscape.