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New European Commission wants airwaves freed by move to digital TV to work for swift
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New European Commission wants airwaves freed by move to digital TV to work for swift - 28-October-2009, 20:00

European Commission wants airwaves freed by move to digital TV to work for swift economic recovery

The European Commission says that as digital TV replaces analogue TV, four-fifths of the airwaves that used to carry TV broadcasts will be freed up. This means that they can be used for new, innovative services that use radio spectrum, from wireless Internet and more advanced mobile phones to new interactive and high-definition TV channels. Remote regions could be big winners from this as wireless broadband could use the new spectrum to deliver high-speed internet to areas not yet reached by landlines.

The Commission today set out plans for a coordinated distribution of spectrum that encourages investment and competition in these potential new services. According to the Commission, if the allocation of the newly freed airwaves the digital dividend to new services is coordinated across Europe it could give the economy a boost of 20 to 50 billion. The plan for the realisation of the digital dividends full potential involves the European Parliament and EU countries, reflecting the major part they have to play.

The digital dividend is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make broadband for all a reality all over Europe and boost some of the most innovative sectors of our economy. Europe will only make the most of the digital dividend if we work together on a common plan. The Commission cooperated closely with EU countries, the European Parliament, industry and consumers representatives to prepare such a plan, said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

I call on EU countries to speed up the move to digital TV and to make it happen by 1 January 2012. I also urge national authorities to use the digital dividend in a pro-competitive way to open up the market for new operators and new services, maximising the impact on the economy. Only this will ensure the digital dividend is used to bring wireless broadband to parts of the EU where high-speed internet cannot be provided efficiently by other technologies.

The digital dividend proposals adopted by the Commission today ask EU Member States to speed up the switch-off of analogue TV and to complete it by 1 January 2012. Five countries (Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden) and the US have already shown that analogue switch-off can be done quickly.

The proposals also seek to realise the potential 20 to 50 billion economic impact of effective European coordination of the digital dividend (over 15 years compared to EU countries acting alone). To do this, they set out how one part of the freed-up spectrum, namely the 790-862 MHz sub-band (the spectrum that travels far and through buildings), can be set aside to support the emergence of new wireless services (such as 3G and 4G mobile phone services that allow video streaming, full web browsing and fast downloads on a mobile handset. This will contribute to achieving the target of high-speed broadband coverage of 100% of the EU population by the end of 2013.

To maximise the impact of these moves, the Commission said it would harmonise the technical conditions for using the 790-862 MHz sub-band so that the Single Market is not fragmented when EU countries open the sub-band for new services in their country. Service providers and makers of devices and applications can then do business across borders, while consumers will find it easier to use roaming services when they travel. A similar approach laid the ground for the emergence of GSM mobile phones in the 1990s.

The Commission also proposed to address, with the European Parliament and the Council, strategic objectives like the pace of opening the digital dividend to uses other than high-power broadcasting, agreeing a common European position in negotiations with neighbouring countries on the digital dividend spectrum, and the possibility to agree future EU targets for using more efficient technologies in the digital dividend

In the first half of 2010, the Commission will seek the European Parliaments and Councils support on the roadmap, and further debate with existing and potential users of the spectrum on longer term issues before finalising proposals.

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