EU Commission agrees rollout of 5G mobile broadband

A map of Europe with nodes to represent data hotspots
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Telecommunications services will gain access to a European mobile spectrum band allowing companies to provide ultrafast 5G wireless internet, following a deal between the EU and lawmakers this week.

The deal will facilitate a coordinated rollout of 700 MHz band wireless broadband over the next four years, allowing for the expansion of superfast 5G services essential for the next generation of automated cars and IoT device networks.

"A coordinated strategy for the whole UHF band asserts our European vision," said Gnther Oettinger, European Commissioner for the digital economy, in a statement. "It ensures that Europeans can access innovative services and creative content on the move from their tablets and smartphones, as well as on smart TV sets at home."

"The coordinated release of the 700MHz band is a major leap forward on the (European) Union's path to 5G," added Oettinger.

The agreement, which is the first deal made under the 2015 Digital Single Market Strategy, will see an EU-wide approach for the use of ultra-high frequency broadband (UHF), including both the 694-790 MHz (700MHz) band, and the slightly lower 470-790 MHz band.

The UHF spectrum will be granted to mobile providers to rush extensive ultrafast wireless broadband across all EU states by 2020. Currently used extensively in digital TV services, the UHF band range is capable of penetrating buildings and walls, and is "ideal for providing high-quality internet to users whether they are indoors in a large city, or on a highway," according to an EU statement.

"Better spectrum coordination is vital to provide higher quality internet to all Europeans," said Andrus Ansip, vice-president for the Digital Single Market. "It paves the way for 5G, the next generation of communication networks, and the internet of things."

"We made a first step today with a joint approach to use the 700 MHz band in the EU," added Ansip. "We should progress swiftly on these initiatives which are essential to have first-class connectivity in the Digital Single Market."

Wednesday's agreement, which builds on Commission proposals made in February, will need to be ratified by EU states before becoming law, although negotiators believe the deal will help reduce discrepancies in regulations and provide greater coordination between member states for full wireless coverage.

States are able to delay the rollout of the UHF spectrum up to 2022, provided they have legitimate reasons such as reorganising infrastructure, however national plans for adopting the spectrum rollout will need to be published by June 2018.

Despite the deal, frequencies in the sub 700 MHz band will remain available, with public broadcasting services given priority use until at least 2030. The Commission recommends the lower bands be used in support of the faster 5G network as it provides users with the means to innovate with new technology.

Currently only France and Germany have permitted the use of this spectrum for mobile internet services, although Britain, Finland, and Denmark all plan similar rollouts for mobile services in the next few years.

However Sweden recently announced it would be cancelling plans to make the spectrum available to services other than digital TV, citing concerns over broadband security.

Dale Walker

Dale Walker is the Managing Editor of ITPro, and its sibling sites CloudPro and ChannelPro. Dale has a keen interest in IT regulations, data protection, and cyber security. He spent a number of years reporting for ITPro from numerous domestic and international events, including IBM, Red Hat, Google, and has been a regular reporter for Microsoft's various yearly showcases, including Ignite.