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New EU telecom code plans to make 5G spectrum-sharing easier and boost connectivity

Matteo Natalucci Published 03 October 2017

European Parliament committee package contains proposal for reverse ‘112’ system that will enable national authorities to alert citizens in event of imminent major emergencies and disasters


European Members of Parliament (MEPs) have backed an update of EU rules on telecoms.

The objective of the new pieces of regulation, proposed by the committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) is to improve access to networks across the EU, including making 5G connections available to all citizens. The bill, still to be agreed with EU ministers, also provides for measures to protect EU consumers.

The code contains provisions which aim at making spectrum-sharing in 5G networks easier and promoting end-user access to WiFi-based connectivity, simplifying conditions for access to WiFi and for the deployment of low-power wireless broadband access (small cells) in order to meet the ever-growing demand for connectivity and reduce costs associated with very dense networks.

The committee also introduced a proposal for a so-called “reverse 112 system” that will enable national authorities to alert citizens in the event of imminent major emergencies and disasters, such as a terrorist attack or a natural catastrophe, using geo-localisation tools. This system aims to reduce casualties by instructing people on what to do if they are in danger.

The new code includes a set of spectrum rules for mobile connectivity and 5G that aim to further increase co-ordination and coherence of spectrum management in Europe. New provisions include giving more prominence to general authorisations rather than individual licences, promoting shared use of spectrum, obligations on sharing infrastructure, and coordinating the timing of spectrum assignments. The revenue from auctions is to remain exclusively with EU Member States.

The code introduces common provisions on spectrum authorisation such as minimum licence durations of 25 years, a streamlined process for spectrum trading and leasing, criteria for the application of measures to promote competition, coverage obligations in licences, more consistent and predictable processes for granting or renewing existing usage rights, and clearer conditions for restriction or withdrawal of existing rights. Operators should commit to using their allocated spectrum effectively.

The committee also voted on a separate draft legislation, still part of the same package of proposals, for the establishment of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) , with the objective of implementing electronic communications legislation consistently across the Union.

Under the proposal, BEREC is to act as single contact point for operators who submit notifications for access, and to establish a register at EU level. BEREC will also be tasked with the determination of a single maximum termination rate for the European Union.

Rapporteur for the reform of EU telecom rules Pilar del Castillo Vera said, “Connectivity is the backbone of the Electronic Communications Code. We need increased connectivity and high capacity fixed and mobile networks. These challenges require a regulation that ensures predictability, rewards risk-taking and long-term investment. Investment, competition and regulation shape a virtuous circle that will foster the rollout of ubiquitous, very high-capacity networks and 5G broadband infrastructure”.

Rapporteur for the setting up of BEREC Evzen Tosenovsky said, "I am convinced that with BEREC’s upgraded status and the rules on the BEREC Office aligned with the inter-institutional approach on EU decentralised agencies, both bodies will be more efficient and better fit for their purpose. In the upcoming negotiations however, the new set of tasks assigned to BEREC by the recast Telecom Code should be reflected in adequate staffing and budgeting for the BEREC Office."

Informal negotiations with EU ministers are expected to start promptly, once the EU’s plenary has approved the draft negotiating mandate.

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