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EU spectrum vote leaves digi dividend with Ofcom

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MEPs voted through a raft of amendments to the telecoms industry Framework Review this week, watering down spectrum reform proposals and providing more than enough leeway for Ofcom's digital dividend sell-off.

The changes included the removal of any obligation to charge spectrum users, along with any hint of blocks of spectrum being nabbed at EU level for cross-region services. In fact the final text requires spectrum to be awarded in a technology-neutral fashion, and while it does see the formation of a new regulator that's the recently de-clawed regulator rather than anything that could override nation bodies.

The idea that every user of radio frequency should pay for it, encapsulated in the text "no spectrum user should be exempted from the obligation to pay normal fees" found itself reduced to "any exemption, full or partial, from the obligation to pay the fees or charges set for the use of spectrum should be objective and transparent and based on the general interest obligation set out in national law". So, not paying up is allowed if it's justified (page 164 of full text Word document, as spotted by PolicyTracker).

The right for spectrum owners to resell, or sublet, their licence was reduced to a privilege dependent on approval of the local regulator.

Most welcome to UK regulator Ofcom will be the removal of any threat of EU-mandated blocks of spectrum coming out of the Digital Dividend to be allocated on a cross-Europe basis with the intention of ensuring economies of scale, as recommended by the Toia report. That's been downgraded to an agreement to aim "for better coordination measures at community level on the use of the digital dividend, in accordance with nationally-agreed frequency plans", which leaves Ofcom free to sell off the dividend to the highest bidder in the interests of spectral efficiency.

Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Minister is less impressed: "I welcome the support expressed by the European Parliament for more flexibility and harmonisation in spectrum use, but I hope that even more ambitious solutions can be agreed so that Europe gets the most efficient and consistent management of spectrum possible in order to bring about 'Broadband for All Europeans'".

Ofcom, of course, believes that selling to the highest bidder is the best way to ensure spectral efficiency, and it's highly unlikely Ms Reding is going to be able to come up with any "ambitious solutions" before that happens. ®

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