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Harmonising spectrum for enhanced connectivity: ready for 5G and innovation

The Commission has adopted implementing decisions to ensure that the EU’s radio spectrum policy meets the growing demand for broadband and for innovative digital applications. 

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The implementing decisions will, respectively, make spectrum bands ready for 5G applications, as well as harmonise spectrum, for short-range devices (two decisions) and for systems like Wi-Fi. The initiative will ensure that the EU’s radio spectrum policy reflects the latest technology developments. Radio spectrum is a crucial resource in today’s world of wireless systems and gadgets. It is the basis of Wi-Fi networks, as well as a range of wireless devices. Timely and harmonised spectrum management allows us to use the same devices across the EU and ensures they can all function without interference. The Commission, together with EU countries, coordinates radio spectrum to ensure harmonised conditions across borders in the EU.    

Ready for 5G innovations

5G will provide advanced, faster, interactive connectivity to users, but also to objects. It means that we will be able to collect and share the data generated by objects, which will in turn feed the research across all sectors – from medicine, to transport, manufacturing and farming. Thanks to real-time data analysis and collection, 5G will also be an enabler of AI and more efficient and sustainable systems. It will serve critical applications in health monitoring, diagnosis and care; smart homes and smarter energy consumption; industry automation and connected and automated mobility.

The Commission implementing decision on 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands will make these frequency bands ready for use by 5G applications, while ensuring technology and service neutrality. This will enable better connectivity for critical applications in health monitoring, diagnosis and care; smart homes and optimised energy consumption; and connected and automated mobility for safer and more efficient transport systems. Alongside the harmonised ‘pioneer bands’ for 5G, the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) identified the need to make the bands used for earlier generations of mobile communications (2G, 3G, 4G) also available for the latest technology developments. Updating the technical and regulatory conditions for these bands will contribute to creating an environment ready to welcome innovative applications.

Intelligent transport, waste management and other Internet of Things systems & research: Updated conditions for use of spectrum pave the way 

Short-range devices typically include hand-held or portable appliances that we can easily take with us across borders. They range from everyday consumer gadgets, like smartphones and earphones, to bar code readers used in retail and logistics, as well as medical device implants. These wireless devices also serve our communities – they are embedded into intelligent transport, waste and energy management systems, helping to make them more efficient, sustainable and reliable.

The Commission implementing decision on short-range devices (SRDs) aims to take into account new technology developments related to short-range devices. First, the implementing decision updates key definitions related to transport and traffic telematics, which include short-range devices crucial for collecting and transmitting vehicle information in Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). Tracking, recording and transmitting data generated by vehicles can essentially improve the reliability and safety of transport systems. It can allow for traffic optimisation and ultimately reduce costs, for example, of cargo transport. Second, the implementing decision adds Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) applications to the regulatory setting of short-range devices. More precisely, it sets out the technical conditions for spectrum use by NMR applications. Researches use NMR across medicine (i.e. MRIs), chemistry and other industry sectors to study matter.   

Updating the regulatory setting of short-range devices ensures wider understanding and consistency across the industry. In step with the latest technological advancements, it marks the eighth update of the rules harmonising technical conditions in the area of radio spectrum for SRDs.

5 GHz Wi-Fi in vehicles, on board aircraft and drones: Updating the technical conditions

We use Wireless Access Systems (WAS) including Radio Local Area Networks (RLAN), such as Wi-Fi, inside buildings (indoors) and outdoors to cover a small area with wireless connectivity. The implementing decision builds upon and further develops the basis of technical conditions that allow wireless connectivity based on 5 GHz Wi-Fi, including in airplanes, trains, cars, buses and other road vehicles. This initiative aims at reducing possible harmful interferences to other devices that use spectrum, such as  meterological and military radars, as well as equipment used for Earth and space exploration. Equally so, the decision is key for enabling new possibilities for connectivity on board vehicles and across the transport sector.

Specifically, the decision on the 5 GHz band clarifies that indoor Wi-Fi is possible in all three sub-bands: 5150-5250 MHz, 5 250-5 350 MHz and 5470-5725 MHz . Outdoor Wi-Fi, can use the 5 470-5 725 MHz band and also the 5150-5250 MHz band (with restrictions). At national level, Member States can authorise indoor wireless connectivity installations on trains, where use is more easily controlled and limited, in the 5 250-5 350 MHz and 5 470-5 725 MHz frequency bands. More so, Wi-Fi systems on board large aircraft can continue using the 5 GHz band until the end of 2028. By 2028 suitable Wi-Fi equipment operating in the lower 6 GHz band (as harmonised by the previous Commission implementing decision) should be available on the market to be used on board large aircraft. This transitional period will safeguard current investments, while allowing the airline industry enough time to adapt. Finally, the decision also addresses wireless connectivity for drones, which will be able to use specifically only the 5 170-5 250 MHz band.

The importance of EU Radio spectrum policy

Upgraded, fast and reliable networks will be the springboard for the digital transformation and better services and products across Europe. The Commission and Member States have set ambitious objectives for the rollout of advanced networks. According to the 5G Action plan, by 2025, 5G networks should cover all urban areas and major transport routes. More so, one of the targets of the Commission’s proposed Digital Decade policy programme is to cover all populated areas with 5G and bring gigabit connectivity to all EU households by 2030.

 

For reference: 

Commission Implementing Decision on the harmonisation of the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency bands for terrestrial systems capable of providing electronic communications services in the Union

Commission Implementing Decision on the harmonisation of radio spectrum for use by short-range devices within the 874-876 and 915-921 MHz frequency bands

Commission Implementing Decision as regards the update of harmonised technical conditions in the area of radio spectrum use for short-range devices

Commission Implementing Decision on the harmonised use of radio spectrum in the 5 GHz frequency band for the implementation of wireless access systems including radio local area networks