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The International Dimension to the Digital Dividend

The ITU Member countries agree changes to the international table of frequency allocations at the ITU World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC). These often take place in Geneva, the Headquarters of the ITU. The WRC07 changes included a new footnote co-allocating the band 790 to 862 MHz (the 800MHz band) to the mobile service from 2015, alongside the existing broadcast and fixed service allocations.

The ITU WRC 2012 decided that the spectrum from about 694-790MHz would be co-allocated to the mobile service after WRC 2015. It also tasked a study group to identify compatibility issues, the lower frequency boundary and a mobile service channel plan before the WRC2015.   

Within the European Union there are two committees that handle matters relating to Radio Communications and Radio Spectrum. They are the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) and the Radio Spectrum Committee .

At a European level, the UHF band and its use is a major policy issue. In June 2008, the European Telecoms Council developed a common position on the 800MHz band. The Council emphasised the importance of Member States closely co-operating in coordinating their spectrum usage. The Council also recognised the importance of identifying spectrum  for broadcasting or alternatively for other uses. The Council also stressed the importance of subsidiarity and a non-mandatory approach.

In parallel, more detailed work has been ongoing to identify spectrum for non-broadcasting services such as two-way services (i.e. mobile or broadband) or one-way services such as mobile multimedia. Various EC committees, such as Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) and the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC) , do this work. The EC also issued mandates to the CEPT to contribute to the information which informed the RSC . The Radio Spectrum Policy Programme  was adopted in 2012. It required Member States to authorise mobile telephony use of the 800MHz band by 2013.

The 800MHz band is now available for mobile broadband in EU Member States. This is on account of the changes made to the international radio regulations at WRC07 and WRC2012. This outcome also resulted the work listed in the previous paragraph.    DTT will stop using 694-790MHz by late June 2020. EU Member States consider that broadcasting will continue to use the band below 694 MHz. Some non-broadcasting one-way type services could also be put in this spectrum.

The European Commission are seeking early progress on formally identifying more spectrum for wireless broadband services. This is because there is a lead time for manufacturers for the development of the necessary equipment. In spring 2013 the EC issued a mandate to CEPT to consider the long term future of the UHF band. The CEPT has completed this work. The European Commission, Member States have agreed a Decision on the 700MHz band. The focus has now shifted to spectrum for 5G services. The WRC in 2019 will consider suitable frequencies above 24GHz for 5G telephony and broadband. The WRC will review the UHF band again in 2023. Countries will determine the long term national future of DTT shortly after that.