EU states resist plan for 25-year spectrum licences - report

Tuesday 25 April 2017 | 10:14 CET | News
Update: 26 April 2017 | 12:32 CET
Germany and Italy are among 15 EU states resisting the European Commission's proposal to set a minimum 25-year duration for mobile spectrum licences, Reuters reports. A position paper by the countries, seen by the news agency, said mandatory fixed licence durations were "disproportionate and insufficiently flexible to be able to respond to market developments". Excessively long licence durations risk "preventing innovation if relevant frequency bands are awarded for longer than the life cycle of a technology," the paper said. 

The paper was signed by Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK. Increased spectrum trading or the possibility of withdrawing a licence from an operator if it is not used are not sufficient counterbalances to the long licence durations, the paper also said. These depend either on the good will of operators or require lengthy withdrawal of rights procedures with subsequent legal uncertainty due to cases of litigation, it said. 

Currently spectrum licences in Europe are awarded for around 10-15 years, except for Britain, which has awarded unlimited ones. Operators are in general in favour of the longer duration, which they say gives them more certainty for investment plans. 

The countries also take issue with the Commission's proposed peer review mechanism to review national regulators' draft measures on spectrum allocation. "A peer review process as proposed ... is based on the idea that any award decision can be checked against an ideal model," the paper said. The mandatory peer review would create an "immense bureaucratic burden" on national administrations and the Commission as well as creating legal uncertainty and risk stifling innovation. 

The Commission's proposal is still under consideration by the European Parliament and states, which need to reach a compromise before the legislation can be adopted. 

Andrus Ansip, the European commissioner for the Digital Single Market, said he was disappointed with the reported opposition to the spectrum proposals, noting this goes against many EU states' calls for improving the business investment climate. In a blog post, he warned that resistance to further coordination of spectrum licensing in the EU could hold back the roll-out of 5G and see the region make the same "mistakes" as with 4G. 

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