New EU rules on spectrum ignore interference issues, group says

New LTE devices could disrupt everyday consumer electronics

The latest text to set new rules on spectrum use in the European Union fails to deal with the potential problem of interference in consumer equipment, according to a trade organization.

The new Radio Spectrum Policy Program (RSPP) document was approved by the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and a European Parliament committee, but does not answer "the simple question of what the European consumer is supposed to do if a new device interferes with their television, Internet connection or any other consumer equipment operating on the same frequency," said Cable Europe Managing Director Caroline Van Weede.

Under the RSPP, all E.U. countries must make the 800MHz band available for wireless broadband services by Jan. 1, 2013. In addition, the new text calls for at least 1200MHz to be allocated to mobile data traffic after 2013 but before 2015.

However, the coexistence of new and existing services could cause complications. Current regulations specify the sort of immunity requirements required to withstand interference from products allowed on today's market. However, newcomers to the 800MHz band that "speaks loudly" could drown out other sorts of communications being executed by consumer equipment (such as television tuners or cable modems).

"There has been no consideration given to how new services will affect existing equipment. Cable Europe's members have carried out testing in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K. But there has been no proper impact assessment carried out by member state administrations when defining the technical conditions for introduction of new radio services," said Cable Europe spokesman Gregg Svingen.

Cable Europe's laboratory testing identified some negative impact of the release of spectrum between 790-862MHz (the 800MHz band) involving interference from new mobile services to existing broadband and TV cable services.

Signals from devices using LTE (Long-term Evolution), a standard for wireless communication of high-speed data, can affect end-user electronic equipment, Cable Europe noted. In other words, mobile LTE devices used near a television set-top box or cable modem could cause interference, including loss of streaming video or VoIP telephony services, interrupting e-commerce activity and other day-to-day online activities.

"We are not saying that new services should not be introduced -- on the contrary! But if new services will be launched, appropriate impact assessments should look at equipment lifecycles to see how long legacy equipment will be around and how we can best accommodate coexistence between services," added Svingen.

"The interference issue is not new. It was signaled to the European Commission and national administrations as soon as it was identified. Spectrum in Europe is something that almost every single E.U. citizen relies upon daily in some form. Given its importance, it is disappointing to see that interference has not been given adequate attention on the technical level," said Cable Europe Labs Managing Director, Peter Percosan.

The final text of the RSPP must still be approved by the European Parliament as a whole, most likely in the first quarter of 2012.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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