The GSMA is welcoming an initiative driven by the Finnish Ministry of Communications to develop a unified approach to the allocation of Digital Dividend spectrum, ie, the spectrum that will be freed up by the switchover from analogue to digital TV, within the Baltic Sea region. The Finnish Ministry today hosted a Baltic Sea Summit on the Digital Dividend in Helsinki attended by government delegations from all the Baltic Sea states, namely Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden.
Tom Phillips, GSMA Chief Government & Regulatory Affairs Officer, has stated, "The leadership of Minister Lindén has been significant. There are many millions of citizens in the Baltic countries who will only have access to high speed broadband if mobile can use the Digital Dividend spectrum. By ensuring that Baltic countries harmonise their plans with the wider European region, their citizens will benefit from the scale economies of a 500 million population market."
The objective of the summit was to discuss how best to maximise the economic and social benefits promised by the Digital Dividend in the Baltic Sea region. Allocating some of the Digital Dividend to mobile broadband will increase Internet penetration and have a significant positive economic impact by driving innovation, job creation, productivity and competitiveness. However, harmonisation of the spectrum on a regional basis is needed to drive down handset and network equipment costs and make mobile broadband affordable to consumers.
The characteristics of the low-frequency Digital Dividend spectrum in the 790-862MHz band mean that it is ideally suited to the roll-out of mobile broadband in rural areas. This is of particular importance in the Baltic region where population density is typically lower than in other parts of Europe. However, in many of the Baltic Sea states, legacy aeronautical systems as well as analogue broadcast systems occupy parts of the 790-862MHz band. There are also multiple border issues which threaten to complicate coordination. A key objective of the Baltic Sea Summit was to consider ways to overcome interference with aeronautical systems and mediate between military and broadcast use of Digital Dividend at a regional level.
Harmonisation of digital dividend spectrum at EU level is an important element in the greater spectrum debate in Europe, which currently faces an urgent need for more spectrum to accommodate significant increases in mobile broadband usage. Extending coverage to rural areas and ensuring that the Digital Divide between town and country is lowered is also a vital element of EU policy.
The European Parliament's decision to liberalise the 900MHz spectrum band through amendments to the GSM Directive forms a part of this exercise, and is also fully supported by the GSMA. Work on the Digital Dividend must continue alongside this to ensure universal connectivity is GSMA policy.
Timo Ali-Vehmas, Vice President of Compatibility and Industry Collaboration at Nokia, commented, "Consumers will increasingly demand wider availability of mobile broadband, which will enable innovative solutions which deliver on the promise of the converging worlds of Internet and mobility. The mobile industry urgently needs clarity on the availability of spectrum bands and regulatory issues, to accelerate the efficient and cost-effective implementation of these mobile broadband solutions. The 790-862 MHz band is important, as it has significant potential to provide excellent coverage over large geographical areas...We welcome the Finnish Ministry's leadership of regional discussions to achieve this."