The likelihood of mobile broadband becoming a viable alternative to fixed line access has taken a significant step forward following the EU Council of Ministers approving an amended GSM Directive that will open up the 900MHz GSM band for advanced data services.
While individual regulators, such as Finland's, have unilaterally cleared the refarming of GSM bands for 3G (or even LTE) usage to support wireless broadband services, especially in rural areas, an EU-wide agreement sets the stage for accelerated expansion of these data services, while protecting existing voice phone availability.
By giving the go-ahead to refarm the 900MHz spectrum, mobile operators will be able to provide much wider coverage and better in-building penetration by using this lower frequency. According to the EU, using the 900MHz band should save mobile operators about €1.6 billion in network costs associated with mobile Internet delivery, and could help achieve a European target of growing the number of mobile Internet users from about 92 million now, to 500 million within a few years.
This move could see the UK government increase pressure on the mobile operators to take a major role in achieving universal broadband by using HSPA for populations underserved by wired lines.
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