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Europe Mulls Wireless Broadband Regulation

LONDON — The market for wireless broadband in the European Union will be thrown open to question in October when member states vote whether to introduce a technology-neutral approach to spectrum previously earmarked for 3G systems.

Two camps have formed. One led by the UK and, crucially, with strong backing from the EU, is pushing to adopt a free-market approach to the 3G expansion bands (2.5 MHz -2.69 MHz). The other, led by France and Finland, wants the EC to mandate use of IMT-2000 technologies only.

The European Commission hopes that October’s vote, to be held at a meeting of the EC-led Radio Spectrum Committee, will lead to the 2.5-2.69MHz spectrum bands, currently set aside for W-CDMA, being used by rival wireless broadband technologies such as WiMAX and OFDM-based systems.

If agreement can’t be reached within the European Commission-led Radio Spectrum Committee by December, the issue will move to the European Parliament.

A decision is expected to become law in individual member states by the end of 2007, while spectrum in the 2.5-2.69 MHz band is expected to be allocated across Europe by the beginning of 2008.