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Turf war brewing over Europe's 3G spectrum

EC says 'open up'

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The EU is squaring up for a turf war over wireless bandwidth which was previously reserved for 3G services, but which may be opened up to other technologies.

The decision is to be made by the European Commission's Radio Spectrum Committee in October, which may decide that the 2.5 Ghz to 2.69Ghz spectrum should be opened up to rival wireless broadband technologies such as WiMAX and OFDM-based systems. Current 3G services operate on the 2.1Ghz wavelength, but the wavelength is currently reserved for the future expansion of 3G services.

According to a report published by Informa Telecoms & Media, the European Commission is in favour of a British initiative to open the 2.5 Ghz to 2.69Ghz frequency to competing technologies. The initiative is opposed by countries that have significant 3G mobile manufacturing interests, including France and Finland, the global headquarters of Alcatel and Nokia.

Gavin Patterson, principal analyst at Informa, told ElectricNews.net that although Germany's Siemens is also in favour of reserving the frequency for 3G, the German regulator has not yet taken a position on the initiative.

France and Finland wants the EU to mandate that these frequencies be reserved for IMT-2000 technologies only. WCDMA, Europe's dominant 3G mobile standard, is an implementation of the IMT-2000 standard, which can support mobile voice, data, and video communications at up to 2Mbps in a local area network or 384 Kbps across wide area access.

If agreement can't be reached within the Radio Spectrum Committee by December, the issue will move to the European Parliament.

The EU's decision is expected to become law in individual member states by the end of 2007 and spectrum in the 2.5-2.69 MHz band is expected to be allocated across Europe by the beginning of 2008.

Patterson said that if the restriction is not lifted, then only 3G operators will be allowed to bid for licenses, but if the wavelength is opened up then governments can seek competing bids from ODFM and WiMAX operators.

Copyright © 2005, ENN

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