Continuing a process of making spectrum allocations technologically neutral and expanding the technologies available for mobile terrestrial services, the European Commission on 19 April issued a press release that it has adopted a decision setting out technical rules for refarming GSM spectrum (PDF) in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands for use by 4G services.

This decision further amends the original Commission Decision 2009/766/EC (PDF) that harmonized the use of those frequency bands for mobile terrestrial services. That decision in October 2009 set technical parameters for UMTS in the bands, to be implemented by Member States by May 2010. This latest decision sets technical parameters for LTE (Long Term Evolution) and WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) systems, giving Member States until 31 December 2011 to adopt their national laws or regulations to reflect the new technical parameters.

The decision became effective on 27 April, when it was published in the Official Journal (PDF) . This publication will give roughly eight months for Member State implementation, similar to the earlier harmonization decision. Implementation does not mean, however, that Member States must immediately grant licenses for the new services – case law and prior practice requires only that the Member States adopt technical rules to permit the service and not necessarily issue licenses.

The point of the technical parameters is to ensure that the existing GSM and 3G services are able to co-exist with new 4G services without interference. This follows technical studies carried out by the CEPT under a Commission mandate in 2009 which demonstrated that such co-existence was possible. (These studies are contained in CEPT Reports 41 and 42 - both PDF.) The parameters in an annex to the decision in turn refer to ETSI standards that are still being finalized, which contain the real “meat” of the technical standards.