EU puts 20 year span on 5G spectrum licences

The European Parliament, the EU Council and the European Commission have agreed to set a 20 year time span on the awarding of 5G spectrum licences. The industry had lobbied for 25 years.

The agreement frees up the process for getting 5G spectrum auctions underway. It is hoped they will be complete by 2020.

EU countries will use the 3.6GHz midband and 26GHz millimeter wave spectrum bands.

“We are laying the groundwork for the deployment of 5G across Europe. It is vital because many applications, from connected vehicles to smart cities and telemedicine, will not happen without first-class connectivity. Let’s now agree as soon as possible on other elements of the new EU telecoms rules that we proposed,” says EC vp for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip.

Negotiations on other parts of the European Electronic Communications Code are ongoing. The goal is to find an agreement as soon as possible to stop Europe falling further behind China and Korea.

“The EU is ready to lead on 5G deployment,”says Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, “with this political agreement, co-legislators set in stone the roadmap on spectrum for 5G that we put forward last October and which paves the way for the 5G gigabit society envisioned by the Commission in 2025. It is time to deliver. This can happen only if telecom, vertical industries and public authorities agree to join efforts and go in the same direction.”

A hopeful EU thinks 5G will accelerate the introduction of autonomous cars, smart cities, wireless virtual reality, and ultra high-speed mobile internet services.



  1. Welk it may simply be, robetc, that in its present cash-strapped state the EU is simply trying to maximise the financial return

  2. This is very true SEPAM, but we wouldn’t want whoever installed the GPRS infrastructure at Heathrow in 1998 to have the exclusive right to keep on providing GPRS, and only GPRS, ad infinitum.

    • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

      That is indeed what this is about. Now we have a lot of embedded systems using some of the oldest mobile data systems. The volume is so large that there is an agreement the frequency band will practically forever be reserved for this. However the old tech is very inefficient in terms of bandwidth use, energy requirements, speed and more. This prevents more efficient reuse of old frequency bands. This was from before the IoT craze. And now it will appear to be lower risk to stay with the old system.

      5G was supposed to overcome all these issues.

      There is a difference between mobile data embedded in easily accessible or short life time products such as a lift or remote home heating system on one hand and deep embedding in long lasting infrastructure. Making a long term promise will probably be necessary to transition out from the old bands rather than cementing its use forever.

  3. Now there’s a thought Fred. When the EU disappears – to be succeeded by a free trade area managed by civil servants under the control of European states (hopefully sooner rather than later) – will all these EU treaties, agreements, licenses and regulations be scrapped, renegotiated or maintained?

  4. So use of the spectrum is leased, not owned. That seems quite reasonable. If a system is earning its living it will be worth investing in when the licences are renewed . Strategic applcations can be ring-fenced to ensure continuity. The world will have moved on some way if the last 20 years are anything to go by. The framework could easily benefit from restructuring by then. The spectra won’t dissappear, it will be far too useful. No-ones’ IOTs will be excommunicated. I can’t see what is controversial, other than the industry having to settle for 20 rather than 25 years. Big deal.

    • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

      There are things that have remarkable resistance to the march of time and progress, things like infrastructure. Rebuilding bridges, dams, tunnels, air ports and more are meant to be in place for decades. Trimming down spectrum licenses from 25 to 20 seems strange, not protecting huge investments is just crazy. 5G was supposed to be the solution for IOT and more but without guaranteeing the networking part you risk enormous redesigns.

      Much of the infrastructure in the West is worn down after WWII rebuild. Now is the time to rebuild and guarantees are therefore urgent.

      • It doesn’t follow. If systems are installed for 50 years and there is no guarantee of infrastructure for more than 20 then what does that say? Someone’s judgement would be called into question at a very high level.
        I can’t see it makes any more difference than changing contractors on the supply grid for instance. Despite our gut instincts to the contrary, these management bodies are not crazy. Spectra has been managed adequately so far and no one is going to invest in a 50 year critical infrastructure project without being fairly sure that their investments are secure, or that a better alternative will be available in good time.
        There is a slightly hysterical whiff of “EU beauracrats” about the spin on this story.

  5. Well, will the EU last 20 years? Maybe not the way things are going.. So, the spanner is already in the works !
    Ho, hum …

  6. An interesting point SEPAM. I suppose the infrastructure will remain on but the right to use it will expire – a curious situation.

    • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

      That part about expiring rights will probably cause early adopters to become late adopters. Nobody wants to risk having to rewire deeply embedded infrastructure or be held hostage to dramatic price increases.

  7. SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

    Just 20 years? That will put a spanner in the works for those planning to use 5G in infrastructure like buildings, roads, large structures and more, objects with life times in excess of 50 years.

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