On November 5, 2012, the European Commission decided to add another 120 MHz to the radio spectrum portfolio for 4G technologies, such as LTE (Long Term Evolution), around the 2 GHz band.
The paired terrestrial 2 GHz band (1920-1980 MHz paired with 2110-2170 MHz) has been traditionally used by UMTS communications (3G networks) as a result of the so-called UMTS Decision adopted in 1999, which launched the coordinated and progressive introduction of UMTS across the EU by 1 January 2002.
The new Decision makes it mandatory for Member States to open the relevant spectrum by 30 June 2014 at the latest, and lays down harmonised technical conditions to allow coexistence between different technologies. The Decision enforces the harmonised liberalisation of the 2 GHz band (1920-1980 MHz paired with 2110-2170 MHz) in all Member States, avoiding internal market fragmentation in the future use of this band. In implementing the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme, and in particular meeting the target of at least 1200 MHz for wireless broadband services, running the spectrum inventory as well as flexible and shared spectrum use are priorities of the EU spectrum reform to stimulate innovation, efficient use and investment.
The Commission's decision means mobile operators will have more opportunities to invest in improved mobile networks, which benefits the whole economy, and consumers will, over time, enjoy faster data transfers and more broadband services.
Greater access to spectrum for 4G technologies will make a substantial contribution to the Digital Agenda broadband target of universal EU broadband coverage of at least 30 Mb/s by 2020.
The 2020 target is internet speeds of 30 Mbps or above for all European citizens, with half European households subscribing to connections of 100Mbps or higher. Today only 1% of Europeans have a fast fibre-based internet connection. Very fast internet is essential for the economy to grow strongly, to create jobs and prosperity, and to ensure citizens can access the content and services they want. The Commission will inter alia explore how to attract investment in broadband through credit enhancement mechanisms and will give guidance on how to encourage investments in fibre-based networks.