EU Messin’ With Mobile — Some Good, Some, Well…

EU telecom meddler-in-chief Viviane Reding’s effort to get DVB-H made an official EU standard for mobile TV has been successful, giving the technology a boost on the continent. Reding said earlier that the ruling will help make “DVB-H a similar success story as the GSM standard for mobile phones 20 years ago.” It’s not entirely clear why the EU needs to get involved here (apart from rival technologies being developed by North American and Asian companies), while Reding’s apparent belief that this decision will make DVB-H a success on the scale of GSM is more than a bit misguided. There’s this whole issue of consumer demand and simple matters like that.

In any case, the bigger — though less sexy — move out of the EU concerning mobile today is that ministers have backed a proposal to open up existing mobile spectrum to 3G services. This means operators will potentially be able to deploy 3G in the 900 MHz band, instead of only in the 2100 MHz band. The lower frequency penetrates buildings better and propagates farther.

Finnish operator Elisa launched its 900 MHz 3G network earlier this month, and vendors have been working on the technology for some time. However, the move isn’t finalized, and could come under legal challenges in some countries where new entrants launched 3G services alongside incumbent operators. For instance, in the UK, 3 might argue that giving incumbent operators the right to offer 3G services in their existing spectrum represents an unfair advantage and devalues its spectrum licenses.

Still, overall, this is a good thing (assuming it goes through and survives any legal challenges), and could help operators on many fronts as they seek to beef up their mobile data efforts.

(A bit of trans-atlantic explanation: US spectrum licenses don’t generally carry the same sort of stipulations as European ones. For instance, mobile spectrum licenses in the US didn’t mandate a particular technology, resulting in operators running incompatible networks with different standards. In Europe, the use of GSM and UMTS was mandated by governments.)

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