66th meeting of the Radio Spectrum Committee - December 2018

The 66th RSC meeting was held last 5-6 December in Brussels.

Highlights included the debate on harmonised conditions enabling accommodation of 5G systems (3.6 GHz and 26 GHz), as well as the update of the technical and operational conditions for ultrawideband (UWB) systems.

For the 3.6 GHz band, the European Commission (EC) submitted a revision of its draft decision, amending Decision 2008/411/EC on harmonisation of the 3400-3800 MHz band. Despite the controversy and long discussions around this proposal, it was possible to agree on the text ahead of adoption of that decision. The dispute centred on the fact that the EC proposal refers to the need to make large contiguous spectrum blocs (80-100 MHz) available in the decision, whose paramount aim is to harmonise technical conditions suitable for 5G. Indeed, even though it was not contested that in certain situations such amount of spectrum may be needed in the scope of 5G, by far most countries insisted on the idea that the ‘market’, per the spectrum allocation process, would hold the role of deciding how much would actually be necessary (e.g. depending on the business model meant to be implemented). Upon conclusion of the debate one of the decision’s recitals was modified, although mention of the 80-100 MHz figure is still included in the decision’s technical annex. Several countries, among them Portugal, imposed a reservation on this matter in the meeting’s minutes, particularly regarding the fact that this RSC proposal oversteps its responsibilities and constitutes a precedent for future technical harmonisation decisions.

Regarding the 26 GHz band, and in wake of the comments received in writing, the EC services submitted a revised draft implementing decision on designation and availability of the 26 GHz band for broadband electronic communication services containing harmonised technical conditions for 5G. The main questions raised by the member states included licence-exempt use, the need to ensure coexistence with established satellite services and fixed connections, and the deadline for applying the decision. A stable version of the draft decision that will now be subject to vote at the next RSC meeting this coming March was thus agreed on.

Bearing in mind the permanent mandate of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) on UWB, a first draft with the updated technical conditions was notably submitted, the aim being to introduce new wireless applications based on UWB. Considering that it is stable, the EC will prepare a revised version of the UWB Decision in order to obtain a favourable opinion from the RSC.