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Reallocation of the 700 MHz band for mobile services throughout the EU is the desirable way forward

11 September, 2014

European public safety community gives cautious welcome to report on the future use of the UHF band in Europe.

The European public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) community has given a cautious welcome to the recommendations in the High Level Group (HLG) report made to the European Commission on the future use of the 470-790 MHz UHF band.

The High Level Group (HLG) on the future use of the UHF band (470-790 MHz) was convened at the end of 2013 by the Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes. It comprised 19 executive-level representatives from the mobile and broadcasting sectors, including the PMSE sector, under the chairmanship of Pascal Lamy.  The overarching objective laid down in the mandate of the Group was to deliver strategic advice to the Commission for the development of a European strategy on the future use of the UHF band (the report can be downloaded here).

The PPDR community concurs with the report’s finding that the reallocation of the 700 MHz band for mobile services throughout the EU is the desirable way forward. This will ensure capacity for mobile broadband services in the light of steadily rising demand, while serving Europe's broadband coverage targets and delivering the benefits of global economies of scale. These mobile services include the PPDR broadband services that are critical to ensuring the safety of the public.

Although PPDR services are not referenced anywhere in the report, the requirements of the European PPDR community have been clearly stated elsewhere, including through the EU Council’s Law Enforcement Working Party (LEWP), working jointly with the spectrum regulator community (CEPT-ECC). The conclusion, in ECC Report 199, is that a minimum of 2 x 10 MHz spectrum is required for critical mobile broadband data services.

British APCO President Sue Lampard said: “The PPDR community is arguably already at the point where data (as well as voice) is deemed ‘mission critical’. This requirement will only grow over the next few years, and additional spectrum will be needed to support that growth.

“The 700MHz bandwidth is ideal for PPDR needs in terms of coverage over large areas and in-buildings. Release of 2 X 10 MHz will provide additional capacity required. Additionally, the opportunity for harmonization to allow cross-border interoperability should not be missed.”

The harmonisation of frequency spectrum for PPDR is a declared policy objective of the European Union and the only place where that will be possible the next 20 years is within the 700 MHz band.  The vast majority of government officials dealing with public safety matters in the EU see use of the 700MHz band as the best way to achieve this. The LEWP position paper, from the LEWP Greece presidency, clearly indicates the unanimously agreed preference by all member states for the 700MHz band.

High Level Group Chair Pascal Lamy states in his report: “I believe there is already one lesson learned on the future use of the 700 MHz band in Europe – this process has been influenced by developments outside Europe, namely the emergence of a globally significant band plan from stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region as well as a concerted effort of some African and Middle Eastern states at WRC-12 to obtain the co-primary allocation of this band to the mobile service in the whole ITU Region 1. It can hardly be imagined that Europe would agree on an alternative long-term option for the 700 MHz band, which would be more beneficial for its digital economy and society, other than adopting mobile usage in line with the aforementioned band plan.”

Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the US have already allocated dedicated spectrum for PPDR at 700 MHz.  A united community within the field of public safety and emergency services is key to ensuring the future safety of frontline officers. This can only be done by allocating spectrum for PPDR in Europe within the 700 MHz band.

The business case for PPDR spectrum is strong. London School of Economics analysis of the use of mission critical broadband by emergency services has estimated a substantially better socioeconomic benefit for this purpose than if the 2x10MHz in the 700MHz band are auctioned for commercial use. The socioeconomic benefit is estimated to be more than €20 billion p.a., relating to 60 per cent of the European population across 10 selected countries representing three regions. This figure is higher if it is extrapolated to cover the EU28 figure of 500 million people, yielding a socioeconomic benefit of €34.94 billion p.a. This analysis and other supporting information can be found here.

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