EU Parliament Adopts Open Wireless Communications Policy

Paris, May 11th, 2011 – Today, the European Parliament adopted a bill planning out EU spectrum policy for the years to come, including very important amendments in favor of an open access to airwaves. By supporting shared and unlicensed use of spectrum, the Parliament paves the way for the development of the next generations of free wireless Internet communications (“next generation WiFi”). This strong stance in favor of a communications policy promoting innovation and democracy now needs to be approved by EU Member States (via the EU Council) and the Commission.

For years, policy-makers have given licenses that grant only a few operators access to the radio electric resource. Now, advances in radio technologies allow us to envision major evolutions in wireless communications, where access to the spectrum can be shared between all users, without risk of harmful interference. This is what the great success of WiFi networks demonstrate. And this is what can now be pushed further thanks to the first EU radio spectrum policy programme (RSPP) adopted today by the EU Parliament, which opens the door for an open spectrum policy1.

Today, members of the Parliament adopted amendments encouraging unlicensed uses of spectrum, and in particular of so-called “white spaces” (bands of frequencies located between frequencies allocated to industries and left unused)2. Other amendments open the door to the development of small antennas3 that can be used by citizens and businesses in conjunction with land-line broadband networks to build wireless mesh networks4. These technologies can expand mobile broadband coverage in less populated or remote areas, thus bridging the digital divide, in particular when they are used in conjunction with shared and unlicensed uses of the airwaves5

"This vote suggests a growing understanding that the way we grant access to airwaves for wireless communications, and to whom, is of prime importance for both democracy and innovation. By turning parts of the airwaves into a shared resource once again, we can lower the cost of broadband roll-out, help bridge the digital divide and kick-start the new wave of innovation in mobile communications. This vote is a first step in this direction," explains Félix Tréguer, policy and legal analyst for La Quadrature du Net.  

“The EU Parliament cast a very encouraging vote in favor of free and open wireless communications, and successfully resisted the pressure of telecoms and broadcasting industries who want to remain in control of airwaves. We now need to make sure that the Member States and the Commission will actually and promptly follow the opinion of the Parliament towards an open spectrum policy,” concludes Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson of the citizen organization.