Brussels pushes members to launch 700MHz services by 2020

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The European Commission has laid out its proposals to allow operators to launch mobile broadband services on the 700MHz band by 2020.

The band is already used by operators across Asia and Latin America. Brussels has been exploring the possibility of operators using the band for the past few years and finding an alternative home for the broadcasters which have formerly been using it.

The EC sees the proposals as a key means of enabling its Digital Single Market strategy. Digital Single Market Chief Andrus Ansip said the current approach of 28 different ways of handling radio frequencies across the continent does not make economic sense.

Brussels has given the deadline of 30 June 2020 for the 700MHz band to be assigned to operators. EU members must lay out their plans for network coverage and freeing up the band by 30 June 2017.

A statement said: "Such plans will smooth the transition and ensure good network coverage that will help to bridge the digital divide and create the necessary coverage conditions for connected vehicles or remote health care."

Under the terms of the proposal, audio-visual services will be prioritised to the sub-700MHz band. However, it suggested "a flexible approach for spectrum" should be taken, with companies including Google and Microsoft exploring the possibilities of dynamic spectrum use.

[Read more - "Polite" dynamic spectrum access could lead to innovation spurt]

Last November, French regulator Arcep held an auction of 700MHz spectrum for the country's operators. Germany also sold off chunks of 700MHz to telcos last summer.

Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the UK are among the other Member States aiming to free up 700MHz during the coming years.

Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said: "We cannot have high quality mobile internet for everything and for everyone everywhere unless we have modern infrastructure and modern rules. With this proposal we show that we can have both: a vibrant audiovisual sector as well as the spectrum we will need for 5G.

"The 700 MHz band will be ideal for new promising fields like connected driving and the Internet of Things. I want Europe to lead in 5G. That is why all Member States must act by 2020."