Juncker makes spectrum a top priority

| PolicyTracker

The new President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has included the reform of spectrum management in his first priority (economic growth) for his five-year term. His manifesto says he wants to promote economic growth by breaking down “national silos… in the management of radio waves”.

Attempts to break down silos in the UHF band so far this year suggest that this will be no easy task.

At the start of this year, PolicyTracker thought that European institutions might have a coherent policy by July on the UHF bands below 694 MHz. But this still seems be eluding the finest engineers and most skilful deal-makers on the continent.

Back in January, a “systematic” ECC study that was looking to harmonise conditions in the 470–694 MHz band was already well under way. Its leader, Jaime Afonso, told us that “now is the time to come forward.”

The European Commission had also launched a study of broadcast-broadband convergence, to be undertaken by Plum Consulting and Farncombe. Part of its terms of reference included how to regulate sub-1 GHz spectrum to allow for future developments in audio-visual content distribution.

Perhaps most importantly, the Commissioner responsible for spectrum, Neelie Kroes, set up a High Level Group (HLG) to examine the UHF band. The idea was to gather all the major players in the UHF band and encourage them to come to some sort of agreement on how to use it. Its leader Pascal Lamy said the UHF band “is one of these areas where we can in the short term do things to help Europe going forward”.

But where are we now? The ECC study identified four scenarios but said that the status quo was the most likely outcome, while Plum Consulting and Farcombe reported last week that the case is yet to be made for broadcast-broadband convergence in the bands.

As for the HLG, we don’t know yet. A report is meant to be delivered “by July” but a spokesperson for the Commission could not give us a precise date. All we know for sure is that the HLG held a meeting on 20 June.

The former prime minister of Luxembourg may find that one of his biggest priorities also turns out to be one of his biggest challenges.

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