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May 22, 2007  |  Email This Article   |  Print This Article

EU sees € billions from flexible spectrum policies

BRUSSELS (WiMAX Day). At a conference last week in Brussels, Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media, delivered a startling speech on the status of broadband in Europe.

Reding began her speech by stating that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) “is the key for competitiveness and economic growth… Broadband means better access to business services, faster and cheaper ways of doing business, overcoming the disadvantage of distance, attracting inward investment and retaining jobs.”

The thrust of this speech was pointed at including remote and rural regions of Europe in the information revolution, or what is known as the “Digital Divide.” Such regions, Reding argued, cannot remain competitive in the current economy without access to the tools which the rest of the economy utilise.

Next Generation Services
Increasingly, Internet users demand high-speed broadband services that can support the web 2.0 services such as YouTube and MySpace. However, Reding notes that Next Generation services are not just for consumers. Most companies, large and small, rely on the Internet for their business, and “without high quality, fast and symmetric connections, these businesses will in a few years be in trouble!”

Based on current statistics, the rural areas of Europe are well behind in having even low quality connectivity to the Internet. Reding said “at least 10% of EU population (or 50 million individuals!) are still excluded from the benefits of broadband.”

Spectrum reform
One of the key factors that will enable Europe to grow its digital infrastructure is a flexible and market driven spectrum policy. The EU commission has been pushing for a reform of the EU’s policies, and Reding said she will initiate these reforms this summer.

New technologies are seen as key to increasing access to broadband in Europe, and “wireless technologies are crucial for rural areas,” Reding said. Thus radio spectrum in Europe for new technologies is seen as paramount importance, and freeing the 2.6 GHz frequency is a priority “for innovative fixed wireless access applications such as WiMAX so that services can be delivered in both urban and rural areas.”

Reding noted that this flexible spectrum proposal will be “a big windfall of potentially billions of euros a year for the mobile communications community by making the GSM spectrum flexible.”