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Europe's mobile broadband networks facing capacity crunch

21 Feb 2013

Europe could be left behind in the global market if more is not to done to build out high speed mobile broadband networks.

This was the stark warning given by the vice president of the European Commissions' Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, who said unless new spectrum frequencies are freed up, the region will fall behind the likes of the US and Asia.

"With 10 times South Korea's population, we actually have fewer 4G subscriptions. Mobile traffic is predicted to grow at over 60 percent per year, and our networks are straining," she said.

"Increasingly, mobile phone manufacturers are not European: as these days, eight out of the top 10 handset makers are from elsewhere. And some of those devices, including the latest iPhone, do not support important EU spectrum bands."

As such, Kroes said a co-ordinated approach to ensure a single market of spectrum use that can be used by all devices is vital.

"We need broadband for all, and to roll out faster technologies. We need to benefit from new services, from the cloud to the internet of things," she said.

"We need to boost our economy, and provide new opportunities. In all these things, wireless plays a central role."

Kroes reiterated her desire for 1200MHz of new spectrum to be found for broadband use and specified the 700MHz band as central to this.

"The 700MHz band offers a huge potential: for the Single Market, and worldwide," she said.

"There is huge potential in international harmonisation. So I want to avoid a fragmented approach, balance the interests of incumbent and new users, and deliver the greatest possible benefits for Europe."

To ensure this happens, Kroes said she would be consult with the The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) and those in the mobile and broadcasting industries to discuss the issue in an effort to reach agreement on this issue.

In the UK the 700MHz holding has recently been taken over by digital television, after it was moved from the 800MHz band for the use of 4G signals.

However, Ofcom has said it is already looking at the future requirement to move the television band again to 600MHz to accommodate so-called 5G services.

The rise of mobile internet traffic is has been predicted to rise as high as 130 exabytes by 2016 by network firm Cisco, as the demand for data on the go on smartphones and tablets rockets.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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