Monday, July 13, 2009

Mobile broadband spectrum battles

Following on from Viviane Reding's comments last week, the European Commission has formally opened a consultation period on how the digital switchover spectrum should be managed on a pan-EU level. Predictably, given the success of GSM, they are trying a repeat performance with mobile broadband.

Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and, of course, Finland have already committed to releasing some of the digital dividend spectrum for mobile broadband... and as we've seen from the Digital Britain report, the UK is heading in a similar direction too.

However, the point isn't that regulators are making spectrum available for mobile broadband, the point is what spectrum is available. We're seeing auctions at 2.6Ghz, refarming of 900mhz and now 790-862mhz (the so-called 'digital dividend' band).

You can see why the Commission is claiming that at extra €30 billion in economic benefits could be realised through continued EU co-ordination.

However, this all brings me back to a point I raised last month - who manages the spectrum? Is it the national regulator (you only need to look at Finland to see a regulator happy to plough their own furrow)? Is it the ITU? Well, it should be the ITU. Afterall, its of limited use having an LTE dongle that only works in the. We may as well go back to CDMA v. GSM battle of yesteryear.

So you can see why the European Commission is getting involved. But there are much bigger stakes to play for than just what happens to the old analogue TV spectrum. If mobile broadband is going to deliver real economic benefits, we need to think much bigger. And the ITU needs to step up to the mark.

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