President Jean-Claude Juncker has indicated that ambitious telecommunication reforms, to break down national silos in the management of radio spectrum, are an important step in the creation of a Digital Single Market
Radio spectrum refers to a specific range of frequencies of electromagnetic energy that is used to communicate information. Applications important for society such as radio and television broadcasting, civil aviation, satellites, defence and emergency services depend on specific allocations of radio frequency.
Recently the demand for spectrum has increased dramatically, driven by growing quantities of data transmitted over the internet and rapidly increasing numbers of wireless devices, including smart phones and tablets, Wi-Fi networks and everyday objects connected to the internet.
A study on traffic off-load observed, based on measured smart phone and tablet usage patterns, that 71% of all wireless data traffic was delivered over WiFi in 2012. The study estimates that this figure will grow to 78% by 2016 while cellular traffic is estimated to continue growing at a rate of 66% per year until 2016. The socio-economic value of these bands can be compared to the cost of providing the same amount of data capacity with cellular technologies alone: the study estimated that delivering all the 2012 WiFi data traffic in the EU via mobile networks would have required infrastructure investments of €35bn, and €200bn would be necessary by 2016 to cope with the projected demand.
Radio spectrum is a finite natural resource that needs to be managed to realise the maximum economic and social benefits. Countries have traditionally regulated radio spectrum within their territories. However despite the increasing involvement of the European Union (EU) in radio spectrum policy over the past 10 to 15 years, many observers feel that the management of radio spectrum in the EU is fragmented in ways which makes the internal market inefficient, restrains economic development, and hinders the achievement of certain goals of the Digital Agenda for Europe.
In 2013, the European Commission proposed legislation on electronic communications that among other measures, provided for greater coordination in spectrum management in the EU, but this has stalled in the face of opposition within the Council (some Member States don't even collect full data about it and consider impossible to increase their data availability).
In setting out his political priorities, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has indicated that ambitious telecommunication reforms, to break down national silos in the management of radio spectrum, are an important step in the creation of a Digital Single Market. The Commission plans to propose a Digital Single Market package in May 2015, which may again address this issue.