EU lawmakers approve plans for coordinated mobile broadband boost

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers on Thursday approved plans to coordinate the rollout across the bloc of the 700MHz spectrum band for wireless broadband by 2022 to provide faster mobile broadband and improved access to Internet services.

The 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz), currently widely used for digital television signals and wireless microphones, can penetrate buildings and walls easily and cover larger geographic areas with less infrastructure than frequencies in higher bands.

The EU hopes that the new allocation of the 700 MHz band will facilitate the launch of the next-generation 5G mobile technology that is expected to support driverless cars, remote healthcare and billions of everyday objects connected to the Internet.

“5G will change the logic of our economies. Successfully launching 5G in the European Union will require the efficient use of spectrum,” said MEP Gunnar Hokmark, who steered the legislation through European Parliament.

“This proposal is a first and very important step forward.”

Member states will allocate the 700MHz band to wireless broadband services by June 30, 2020, but can delay it by up to two years for legitimate reasons such as unresolved coordination issues with neighboring non-EU countries or if they need more time to reallocate the spectrum from broadcasting services.

Thursday’s vote means that the European Parliament can start negotiations with EU member states to reach a final accord, after which the proposal will become law.

“Europe needs to ensure enough spectrum is allocated to mobile broadband in order to cope with future data traffic needs,” said Lise Fuhr, Director General of ETNO, a trade group representing telecoms operators such as Orange, Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica.

Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by David Goodman