A flat-rate, pan-European mobile broadband network could become a reality if the European Commission succeeds in its efforts to convince the 27 EU member states to reserve a uniform slice of broadcast spectrum.
The EC proposal urges governments to redeploy a section of their low-frequency spectrum, a portion that has traditionally been used exclusively by television broadcasters for analogue transmission.
The spectrum is referred to as the “digital dividend” that will be freed up as a result of the full transition from analog to digital television, which is set to happen by 2012.
Some markets are considering opening these “golden frequencies” to other services, such as mobile or new LTE networks.
The golden frequency band (790-862 MHz) has the benefit of both strong coverage capacity and a large potential for penetration into homes.
The commission’s report says that to grant them to mobile communications would be the ideal scenario for bridging the divide between cities rich in telecoms networks and the more sparsely-covered countryside. They also hope it would boost investment in future high-speed wireless networks.
Under the commission’s proposal, the new networks would be rolled out harmoniously across the EU. The body representing radio frequency regulators in Europe, the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG), led by Dániel Pataki, head of the Hungarian telecoms regulator, has backed the plan.
The European Broadcasting Union, which represents television broadcasters, expressed concern that the pan does not allow enough spectrum for HD broadcast or to sell and develop two-way services.
The plan is also being pitched as a recession buster, with the commission claiming that an EU-wide wireless broadband network would generate from €20 billion to €50 billion in new economic activity through network construction and on-line businesses set up by residents in rural areas.