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Digital Agenda: technical rules agreed for using 4G wireless broadband devices on GSM frequencies

Technical rules on how the 900 and 1800 MHz radio frequency bands should be opened up to advanced 4th generation (4G) communication devices have just been adopted by the European Commission. The rules, which are important to avoid interference problems with existing GSM and 3G devices, are an important step to bringing wireless broadband access to more EU citizens and businesses. The Commission Decision, which must be implemented by Member States by the end of 2011, will therefore help to achieve the targets of the Digital Agenda for Europe to give every European access to basic broadband by 2013 and fast and ultra fast broadband by 2020 (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).

Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, said: "This Decision opens the way for the latest 4G mobile devices to gain access to the radio spectrum they need to operate, and so further stimulate high-speed broadband services and foster more competition."

The new Decision forms part of the Commission's efforts to ensure that wireless communications gain access to the radio spectrum they require to develop their full potential. In particular, the Commission's Decision sets out technical parameters allowing for the co-existence on the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency bands of GSM (2G mobile phones), 3G systems that add mobile internet to regular phone services (using the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System - UMTS) and 4G mobile technology delivering high speed broadband (using the Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) systems, enabling larger amounts of information to be processed and transmitted). Such coexistence is foreseen in the revised GSM Directive on the use of radio spectrum for mobile services (IP/09/1192).

The Decision sets up a mechanism for the adoption of technical harmonisation rules based on input received from national radio frequency experts. National administrations have until 31 December 2011 to implement the Decision into their national rules so that GSM bands are effectively made available for LTE and WiMAX systems. Based on the Commission's first steps to open the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands in 2009 (IP/09/1545), Member States have already had to examine competition between mobile operators and address any distortions of competition, in accordance with the EU's telecoms rules.

In 2009, technical studies were undertaken to demonstrate that LTE and WiMAX could safely coexist with the other systems already using the same bandwidth. These studies also clarified the technical conditions under which the systems using the 900 and 1800 MHz bands will be able to protect systems in neighbouring frequency bands, such as GSM for railways and aeronautical services, from interference. Member States are obliged to give appropriate protection to systems in adjacent frequency bands.


The GSM Directive of 1987 reserved the use of part of the 900MHz spectrum band for GSM (Global System for Mobile) access technologies such as mobile phones.

The GSM Directive was updated in September 2009 by Directive 2009/114/EC to allow more advanced, next generation wireless technologies to also use this band of the radio spectrum, starting with 3G (UMTS) mobile broadband technology.

At the same time the Commission clarified the technical conditions necessary to enable such action in Decision 2009/766/EC. This decision not only protects GSM, but also obliges Member States to give appropriate protection to systems in adjacent frequency bands.

Information on Commission radio spectrum policy is available at:

Digital Agenda website:

Neelie Kroes' website:

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