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EU endorses flexible frequency use

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The EU has released a policy document calling for frequencies to be allocated with no restriction put on what they can be used for.

"Europe must fully exploit the potential use of certain spectrum bands by new wireless products and services, so as to encourage market development," EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding said, as Brussels unleashed the document, catchily entitled Rapid access to spectrum for wireless electronic communication services though more flexibility.

"We seek to provide new opportunities for industry through less restrictive regulatory conditions that strengthen competition and increase consumer choice. However, this is a gradual process which will not happen overnight."

In the past, most radio-frequency licenses covered the use of a specific technology in a specific band - so a license might allow the owner to use GSM at 800MHz in the UK, but if the owner wanted to deploy 3G technology at that frequency, they would need another license.

This situation has long annoyed the mobile phone networks, who feel they shouldn't have to pay twice for the same spectrum (should they decide, for example, to deploy WiMAX in one of their 3G frequencies), and say a more open approach would allow new technologies to be deployed more quickly.

There is some argument that particular applications need to be protected by mandating specific frequencies for their use, such as wireless microphone applications, but it's likely that such concerns will be overridden by market forces and the much-promised digital-dividend.

A system that allows the owners of spectrum to use, abuse, or sell-on their property probably makes more sense in a market-driven business such as wireless communications. ®

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