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Malta postpones 800 MHz band use for wireless broadband

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Malta postpones 800 MHz band use for wireless broadbandThe European Commission has said today that Europeans are suffering because most Member States are too slow delivering 4G mobile broadband spectrum.

The EC said that Member States have provided further evidence of why radio spectrum needs to be assigned with greater co-ordination across the European Union. Half the Union’s member states have requested to postpone the use of the 800 MHz band for wireless broadband due to exceptional reasons, missing the 1 January 2013 they had originally agreed to. This includes Malta, with a derogation requested until the end of 2014.

The European Commission reluctantly granted nine of the 14 requests today.

Opening up the 800 MHz band is an essential for expanding use of popular wireless broadband services.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said “We have agreed to temporary and limited 800MHz derogations for nine countries. This is a pragmatic and final concession. Every delay in releasing spectrum hurts our economy and frustrates citizens. That is why spectrum reform will be a centrepiece of the Commission’s September proposal for a telecoms single market.”

One consequence of Member State delays is that phones considered to be essential devices by citizens are not fully functional in Europe. Phone manufacturers leave out the appropriate radio chips needed to connect in Europe because not enough countries have licensed the same spectrum on time.

The Commission has agreed to postponements for: Spain, Cyprus, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Austria, Poland, Romania and Finland; it refused derogations for Slovakia and Slovenia where the delays were due to the organisation of the authorisation process and not to exceptional circumstances preventing the availability of the band.

Greece, Latvia and the Czech Republic require additional evaluation. Belgium and Estonia were late but have not asked for a derogation, while Bulgaria has notified the continued use of the band for public security and defence purposes.

The 800 MHz band is part of the “digital dividend,” the spectrum freed up by the transition from analogue to digital television technology. In particular, this frequency band has the potential to support wireless broadband throughout an entire country, including remote and rural areas.

So far, only eleven Member States have announced that they have effectively allowed the use of the 800 MHz band for wireless broadband communications (see table in annex).They have done so on the basis of the technical usage conditions specified in the 2010 EC Decision to harmonise the 800 MHz band.

Considerations is assessing the derogation requests included: the difficulty to immediately free the 800 MHz from broadcasting services, cross-border frequency coordination problems (in particular with non EU countries) which made it difficult to free the band..

While benefitting from a derogation, Member States are obliged to ensure that their temporary continued use of the 800 MHz band (for broadcasting purposes, for example) does not hinder the development of wireless broadband in that band in neighbouring Member States.

Such delays demonstrate the need to ensure the timely availability of harmonised spectrum across the EU, including the harmonised timing of assignments and duration of spectrum usage rights for wireless broadband communications, while each Member State continues to set the authorisation conditions and procedure for spectrum.

These and other issues of coordination of spectrum management and assignment for mobile and wireless services will be addressed by the European Commission in the early autumn.

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