The term 'radio spectrum' refers to electromagnetic frequencies specifically between 9 kHz (kilohertz) and 3 GHz (gigahertz), with wavelengths between one millimetre and thousands of kilometres. The 3.6 GHz band has been identified as the primary pioneer band for 5G in the European Union. Radio spectrum is the basis for wireless communications such as Wi-Fi and mobile phones but is also key to areas like transport, broadcasting, public safety, research, environmental protection, and energy. Each application uses a specific part of the spectrum, which is why it is becoming an increasingly rare commodity. Governments and regulators play an important role in creating a framework that influences the speed, reach and quality of 5G services.
In 2012, the European Union established a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP) to define key policy objectives and set up general principles for managing the radio spectrum in the internal market. This was followed, in 2017, by a proposal for a decision by the European Parliament and Council on the use of the 470-790 MHz frequency band in the Union. This was initiated and came into effect in 2020.
On 11 December 2018, the EU Electronic Communications Code was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. This includes updated rules for radio spectrum management which aim at creating a stable regulatory environment, improving coordination of spectrum, facilitating the development of 5G networks, and reducing divergences between regulatory practices across the EU to boost the single market.
The EU radio spectrum policy has three main goals:
The harmonisation of spectrum access conditions across the Union's internal market, enabling interoperability and economies of scale for wireless equipment.
A more efficient use of spectrum.
Improved availability of information about current (and future) use and availability of the spectrum.