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EU deal for low frequency 3G delayed

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European mobile operators will have to wait a while before they can deploy 3G technology into 900 and 1800 MHz, thanks to a power struggle between the EU Commission and its Parliament.

There's widespread agreement that operators should be able to deploy 3G technologies into the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands, where they currently operate 2G networks, but the move still has to be formally approved, and the question of who makes that approval is unresolved.

If it's just a matter of removing the restriction then the EU Commission has the authority to do that alone, but allowing the commission to allocate the spectrum to 3G services is a step too far for the EU Parliament, as it would leave the commission able to regulate bands without reference to MEPs at all.

If the change can get incorporated into the coming overhaul of EU telecommunications regulations then it would have Parliamentary oversight, and, according to a source tracked down by Policy Tracker, that's just what the Parliament would like to see.

Radio spectrum used to be, and often still is, licensed for use with a particular technology, such as 2G GSM services. Licence holders are only permitted to use the specified technology in the spectrum they paid for, even if that technology is redundant or was never developed.

In the UK, Ofcom has made it clear it wants to see spectrum allocations unregulated by technology; allowing the market to decide on the best use of frequency. But the EU still feels there's benefit in use harmonisation, which means maintaining technology restrictions.

It seems unlikely this will be more than a delay in legislation, though for those waiting for 3G coverage it might be an irritation. Finnish operator TeliaSonera isn't waiting for EU approval and has already started testing 3G technologies at 900MHz, with full confidence that the EU will eventually get round to formally approving such a service. ®

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