Stagnant spectrum policy

Ministry of Transport and Communications
Publication date 7.12.2015 8.32
News item
Permanent Secretary Harri Pursiainen (Photo: Tomi Parkkonen)
Permanent Secretary Harri Pursiainen (Photo: Tomi Parkkonen)

The World Radio Conference considered how to make radio spectrum reserved for television available for mobile broadband use. Led by the European Commission, the EU countries, with the exception of Finland, pushed for a policy that the transition would not occur in Europe until the 2030s.

The United States, Canada and many countries in Asia want to allow the transfer right away. The only EU country agreeing with this notion was Finland.

The broadband operators and device manufacturers in Europe are in need of additional spectrum, but they were not listened to even in their own countries. The industry is being punished by demands that old frequencies should be locked away for the use of public broadcasting companies for two decades.

In Finland, the communications industry was unanimous in the matter, including media companies. Even the stakeholders in television broadcasting understand that television services will move to broadband networks. Additional frequencies for them would help the TV industry as well, as this way network capacity is sufficient for programme distribution.

Finland is yet again the spectrum rebel. Twenty years ago, the radio frequencies for GSM phones were defined using EU standards. Finland gave out frequencies for third generation mobile phones, as it was crystal clear that GSM traffic would move there, as it did of course. Europe resisted for a while and then eventually followed suit.

If Europe only begins to wake up to current technology trends in the 2030s, the Americans and Asians will already be controlling the services and device markets. European services will lag behind because the decision-makers decided to extend the life of ageing technology long into the future.

In most countries, the media and broadband frequencies are controlled by different ministries. This diminishes the dynamics of communications policy when compared to Finland, for example, where all spectrum matters are in the same hands.

Pricing broadband is an even greater reason for the difference in views. The good operators in Finland offer broadband on a fixed-price monthly basis. Our prices draw international attention, because broadband TV is not expensive for the users. Yet, our telecommunications operators are doing well.

A lot more data moves across Finnish telecommunications networks than other countries. The more affordable the services are, the more they are used. The telecommunications network does not get used up even though more bytes travel through it. Good pricing keeps the bytes in motion and the services thriving.

The World Radio Conference postponed the decisions until 2023. Until then, Europe will not progress. America and Asia can launch right away. Europe gave them at least an eight-year head start.