Foreign Policy Blogs

The EU's spectrum of opportunites

The EU is currently deciding how to advise EU governments on how to divide a very nice and potentially valuable present. It is the airwaves that are currently used to broadcast analogue television, but which will be free when digital television becomes the norm in the next years. The “digital dividend”, as it is called, is the 72 MHz of broadcast airwave or “spectrum” (see diagram below) that will become free for use, and television, mobile phone & internet companies are very interested in providing solutions as to how it could be used to provide more of their services.

The Financial Times reports that Mobile Phone operators are currently being favoured by the EU’s Governments,  potentially allowing them to provide data services at speeds 20 times the current speed. The last time such broadcast space was sold, Governments realised a bonanza of millions for the 3G licences from mobile phone companies, though it is probable that such sums will not be reached in current strained economic times.

Information Society Commissioner Reding has called for the spectrum to have an economic & societal benefit, and has recommended that some of the dividend be allotted to providing wireless internet for all across Europe, one of her major policy goals. She estimates that this would have an incremental value of up to 200 billion in terms of the creation of job opportunities and the extension of Europe’s leadership in ICT. One analyst in the FT considers that this “societal” outcome is going to be the focus for the digital dividend, though the lure of ready and immediate cash for the EU’s governments cannot be discounted.

spectrum A graphic showing the spectrum that will become available for use. (Image courtesy of BBC.)



David Garrahy

David Garrahy works in Brussels monitoring European Union activites. He is originally from Ireland and studied a Degree in Law & European Studies at the University of Limerick before earning a Masters in Globalisation at Dublin City Universty. Previously he has worked in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission and as a Legislative Aide for an Irish Senator. His involvement in the EU has included working for the Irish Forum on Europe and campaigning in Referenda in favour of the Nice & Lisbon Treaties.

Area of Focus
Europe; Globalisation; European Comission.


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