European Commission wants operators to use their 3G spectrum for 4G networks

November 6, 2012
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The European Commission has issued a statement today that can best be summed up like this: All that spectrum that’s currently being used for UMTS (3G) networks in the 2 GHz band, let’s let everyone use it for 4G networks by June 30, 2014.

We know what you’re thinking, doesn’t Europe use the 2.1 GHz band for 3G? Yes and no. European networks use paired spectrum, meaning they have a chunk of spectrum that’s solely used for downloading data, and another chunk that’s exclusively used for uploading data. Back in December 1998, the European Parliament said all countries should use ‘the terrestrial 2 GHz band’ to roll out 3G networks. That’s why a 3G phone that works in Italy will also work in France, the UK, Finland, you get the idea. This ‘terrestrial 2 GHz band’ is made up of three blocks of spectrum: 1900-1980 MHz, 2010-2025 MHz, and 2110-2170 MHz. Today’s decision, like we said earlier, is opening up the 1920-1980 MHz and 2110-2170 MHz blocks to use newer technology.

But what’s going to happen to 3G? Great question. Back in July 2009, the EU told operators that the 900 MHz spectrum they own, which was meant to be exclusively used for 2G networks, could be refarmed to deploy 3G networks. These days most major European cities actually have more 900 MHz 3G than 2100 MHz 3G because of the favorable properties of such a low frequency.

So what does all of this mean at the end of the day if you’re a European? The people sitting in Brussels want to show America that they know what they’re doing. Here’s the exact quote:

“The EU will enjoy up to twice the amount of spectrum for high speed wireless broadband as in the United States, namely around 1000 MHz.”

Translation: Our 4G is going to make your 4G look like our 3G. Not today, but soon.

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