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Digital dividend delays main obstacle to 4G in Europe, says report

Delays in assigning the so-called ‘digital dividend’ spectrum at 800MHz are the main obstacle to 4G mobile development in the European Union, according to the EU’s latest report on telecommunications markets. 

According to the report, only 21 of the EU’s 28 country’s have completed allocation of the digital dividend, with only Denmark, Germany, Latvia and Malta meeting the original 2012 target for the authorisation of the specific spectrum bands.

According to the report, the delay in assignment of the 800MHz band has significantly slowed the rollout of 4G mobile across the EU. Only 15 member states currently have LTE in the 800MHz band.

The report noted that 14 member states4 applied for derogation from the obligation to assign spectrum by  January 1 2013. Twelve member states were granted derogations for periods between six months and three years while in two cases the derogation was refused. In six cases the derogation deadline expired during 2013. Poland remains a notable laggard following the annulment of its auction in February this year.

Some member states have already gone further by committing to allocate the 700MHz band currently used for digital broadcasting to wireless broadband. In Finland, the 694-790MHz band will be available as of January 1 2017, and in Sweden as of April 1 2017. In France, the principles of the reallocation of the 700MHz band for mobile services have been partially approved, although the report noted that interest in the 700MHz band for wireless broadband is not expected to materialise before 2020.