The European Commission published on 6 April a Communication on policy objectives for the International Telecommunications Union World Radiocommunications Conference 2012 (WRC 12). WRC 12 is the next quadrennial meeting of governments and other stakeholders to coordinate international spectrum policy and to update the Radio Regulations.
In marked contrast to many Commission documents, the Communication shows the Commission’s nervousness at Europe’s negotiating position in a forum where each Member State is (at least in theory) separately represented. Although the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) develops European Common Proposals, CEPT has more of a technical harmonisation focus than the Digital Agenda policy of the Commission and its members are wider than members of the European Union.
In preparation for the Communication, the Commission asked the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG), which represents the Member States, to provide an Opinion on policy issues likely to be in play at WRC12. That Opinion identified a number of policy areas, which the Commission has addressed in its Communication. In summary these areas (by reference to WRC12 agenda numbering) are:
- Digital Dividend 790-861 MHz (1.17): the aim is for balanced coexistence between EU-wide wireless broadband and diminishing use of aeronautical radionavigation systems on the EU’s Eastern border. Obligations to protect digital broadcasting should remain in force, but no further obligations added.
- Galileo 1283.5-2500 Mhz and 5000-5030 MHz (1.4/1.18): ensure Galileo has frequencies it needs to operate without harmful interference.
- Single European Air Traffic Control 960-116 MHz 5091- 5150 MHz (1.4/1.7): ensure Europe can develop and implement the best system.
- Communications Satellites 21.4-22 GHz (1.7/1.13/1.25/7): oppose any division into national assignments and protect air traffic management objectives.
- Unmanned Aerial Systems 5000-5030 MHz (1.3): protect Galileo.
- Software Defined Radio and Cognitive Radio (1.2/1.19): work towards more flexible approach, but no change to Radio Regulations.
- Short Range Devices (1.22): resist any additional constraints.
- Scientific Research and Climate Change 275-3000 GHz, 22.5-23.15 GHz, 37 GHz, 3-50 MHz (1.6/1.11/1.12/1.16/1.24/1.15): promote new allocations and protect scientific services in relevant bands.
- Tuning Ranges for Electronic News Gathering (1.5): No change to Radio Regulations, but de facto harmonisation through Recommendation.
So far as the agenda for WRC16 is concerned, the Commission suggests that the debate on mobile broadband should not be restricted to particular bands.
The Communications concludes with a wish from the Commission that the role of the EU is bolstered in the ITU – in part no doubt to avoid the rather messy preparation process being followed. The next steps will be for the European Parliament and Council to consider the Commission’s Communication.