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EU May Push for Competitive Spectrum Trading 68

anaesthetica writes "The Financial Times is reporting that Viviane Reding, the EU media commissioner, wants to spur a pan-European market through which companies could buy and sell cross-border access to the European spectrum regime, including frequencies used by TV, radio, mobile telephone and broadband services. Large European media companies are skeptical about the spectrum trading plan, saying both that there is no logic behind a pan-European telecom model, and that such a plan could interfere with satellite radio. Ms. Reding believes that the change would spur harmonization of the fragmented European telecom band allocation. This change is set to coincide with the 2012 switch from analog to digital TV broadcasting, when a significant portion of the spectrum will be freed up."
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EU May Push for Competitive Spectrum Trading

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  • You can't have a market, till you also have a scarcity. Here the scarcity is not in spectrum, but in technology that can distinguish spectrum.
    Physics wise, spectrum is no different than light and very similar to sound. If a EU tried to create a market of certain colors that people could trade or own a monopoly on, would we see this as a healthy market or even just? FYI, the spectrum market is not about free markets, but maintaining RF control. This is just a way of getting 3rd partys to have "skin in t
    • What the heck? (Score:3, Informative)

      by rmm4pi8 ( 680224 )
      Why do you think that spectrum isn't scarce? Remember that higher frequencies are capable of transmitting more information per channel, but at the cost of shorter range. So there's no need to regulate something like wi-fi, which is high frequency and short range, but even VHF spectrum is pretty crowded with military and public safety users, in addition to FM for radio and TV, and lower parts of the spectrum are extremely valuable due to the ability to transmit long distances and the broad channels needed
      • But with lower range frequencies it is easier to calculate out the source from the overlaping rf waves. Sorta like if two people throw rocks in a pond, you can figure out the first rocks wave pattern by subtracting out the interference of the 2nd rocks wave pattern. Also, if the low end spectrum is that valuable - then locking it into old rf that uses the spectrum inefficently makes no sense, but is exactly what happens when government agencies regulate it and protect rf entrenched monopolies. Finally,
        • When terrestrial TV is shut off, digital TV should (hopefully) expand into that frequency block to increase channels on the multiplex. However, as far as I am aware the general idea is to use most of that space to pump out HDTV on the major channels (The BBC and ITV lot, C4 and five).

          This is purely a physical limitation, the infrastructure won't support higher frequencies over existing transmitters and arials. But since not all of the free space will be used, it can be sold off to something which is hopeful
    • Firstly:
      The RF Spectrum is land, it is a fixed quantity.

      Being land, scarcity comes into play, There's only a limited number of frequencies suitable for ionospheric propogation for example, and these frequencies change with time of day, season, sunspot number and many other factors (which aren't fully understood) so for reliable communications a range of frequencies is needed (and now with Automatic Link Establishment communications over HF is much more reliable).
      Similarly, there's a limit on the fr
      • I'm not qualified to comment on your first two points, but your third is just plain wrong. From Wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]
        Scarcity means not having sufficient resources to produce enough to fulfill unlimited subjective wants. Alternatively, scarcity implies that not all of society's goals can be attained at the same time, so that we must trade off one good against others.
        If trading some goods for others isn't a market, I don't know what is...
      • Markets fail when scarcity is involved. They cease to be efficient, the very definition of failure, so your statement that you cannot have a market until there is scarcity is just plain wrong.

        This is precisely backwards. A lack of scarcity would mean that the resource was in infinite supply and non-differentiable (any given unit of the good is equivalent to any other). A good example of such a resource is air: the supply is (effectively) infinite, and (ignoring pollution in some areas) one liter of air

  • It should be shared.

    Build a wifi/wimax/radio Tcp/ip internet network using these open frequencies.

    Everyone benefits.
    • It should be shared.

      It is to be shared - every EU country will now share their spectrum with one large bidder that lives and exists outside of their country. Jobs will be lost, control will be lost... although it seems to me that identity is all but lost anymore with the EU.

      Why do we even call the EU countries by their original names anymore? Seems to me, they've lost most of their identity already.

      This "suggestion" to share spectrum is really - well, it seems to me - a grab at more power at the

  • Standard static (Score:2, Interesting)

    by w33t ( 978574 )
    This sounds less like a change in the method of comepetition and more like the end result will be a standardization. I like the idea of standards.

    Here in the states, my father is always calling me and saying, "turn the tv to channel 3 quick!" and I'm like what station is channel 3? and he's like "it's channel 3!".

    He never seemed to have gotten the idea that different networks operate on different channels depending upon provider and locale.

    Of course, I know that channel 3 and 10 and 13 are for some reason v
    • Re:Standard static (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:24AM (#15477738) Homepage Journal
      I feel sorry already for the extraterrestrial's SETI programs - they only have a small window of less than a century to grab our raw carrier waves.

      I think it was Arthur C Clarke who suggested this as a reason for the failure of SETI. Nobody else is wasting energy by broadcasting either.

      I think overall the amount of leakage into space from earth will be greater in the future but it will be so heavily compressed and spread across the available spectrum that it may be confused with noise.

      • hmm - do you know if SETI saves any recordings of the past signals they intercept? I know it would be an enourmous archive of mostly nothing, so it seems unlikely.

        After all, the chances are, of course, that if there is some intelligence out there is using some kind of CDMA that they will stick around for a while thus giving us a chance to create the technology which can demux their "noise". But still, I wonder if any thought has been given to signals that we have recived already, but which we may not have h
    • I wonder, do you think that some day television channels will be replaced by URLs of some sort?

      In Europe they are; CNN = CNN, BCC 1 = BBC 1, RTL 2 = RTL 2.
      Has nothing to do with the channel = frequency that' s being used in a particular place or by a particular cable company.

      I understand there are still some old-time local stations in the US that go by names like "Channel 9", but they are local stations (and often have a new UHF frequency anyway).

  • No-Brainer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by toby34a ( 944439 ) on Monday June 05, 2006 @11:45PM (#15477503)
    This is just a pure no-brainer. Let's say that I live on the border of France and Belgium... if the two countries are on different frequencies, I'm going to be SOL on a lot of the services that are going to be brought around with the huge bandwith sale. In the US, the bandwith works because it's standardized across the nation (hence you can go coast-to-coast on your cell phone on the same fricking network). In the EU, this just makes sense to have this same model, because of the area involved. Having your cellphone work in England as well as Turkey should be a good boost for this plan.
    • Err... I'll think you'll find that cellphones in Europe ALREADY work quite happily across the continent. It's a wonderful system called GSM, which the rest of the world has also implemented [so my Australian GSM phone works in OZ, England, France, Dubai etc].
      • The system itself isn't wonderful (at a technological level, CDMA is superior to GSM in almost every way); what's wonderful is the fact that it's been implemented so widely.
    • Re:No-Brainer (Score:5, Informative)

      by orzetto ( 545509 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:45AM (#15477774)
      In the US, the bandwith works because it's standardized across the nation (hence you can go coast-to-coast on your cell phone on the same fricking network).

      Have you ever been to the US with a mobile? There are multiple standards and a mobile that works in Chicago may not work in Austin, TX or Cincinnati, OH. At least that was my experience in 2004 and 2005 with a tri-band I bought in the EU, I am not sure of the technical details but I think the problem is that technologies (such as iDen [wikipedia.org], Digital AMPS [wikipedia.org], and IS-95 [wikipedia.org]) can differ across US states. In Europe it's pretty much all GSM/UMTS.

      Having your cellphone work in England as well as Turkey should be a good boost for this plan.

      They already do. My father's mobile worked fine in Turkey (both Instanbul and at a tourist resort on the south coast, probably not far from Antalya) already in 1997 when I did not have one myself yet. My Norwegian mobile has been tested to work fine in Italy, Ireland, England, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and pretty much everywhere I brought it, except parts of the US.

    • Having your cellphone work in England as well as Turkey should be a good boost for this plan.

      I had several sarcastic remarks about mobiles in the US, GSM and the utter lack of knowledge behind your post. I gave up choosing which one to use :)

    • And ignorant mods give +Insightful to cluelessness like this. Here in good ol' Yurp (and pretty much in the rest of the world, too) we have this thing called GSM, which is quite a nice little standard: it makes our phones work in England as well as in Turkey! And Jakarta! And Johannesburg! And Novosibirsk! And Manaus! In the standardless US on the other hand we can sometimes get to places where our phones would need CDMA or whatchamacallit to work... Standardized indeed!
    • You obviously don't know how the system works in europe. You can roam everywhere in europe for a long long time (much before you could do it in the US)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just finished the chapter "The Men Who Knew the Value of Nothing" in Tim Harford's book "The Undercover Economist", before logging on to /.

    The last online auction of 3G licenses fetched 22.5 billion Pounds against the expectations of 3 billion. The government never knows what the frequencies are worth to the telephone companies, so, let them fight it out in a transparent auction. Devide 22.5 billion pounds with UK's population. It was the biggest auction in history.

    • The real outcome of this was a massive transfer of money from other countries to the UK, rather than true realisation of the value of 3G. As first mover, the UK was fiercely competed over by the companies, in a superbly devised auction. Other countries quickly tried to copy - but after a couple more countries, the global mobile phone operators realised how much money they were spending on the licenses, rather than actually building the networks. Some nations ended up giving away licenses as the telco's s
    • The last online auction of 3G licenses fetched 22.5 billion Pounds against the expectations of 3 billion.

      Interesting that no one ever seems to see these auctions for what they really are -- a government tax on a zero cost medium.
      • Zero cost, but not zero quantity. If there was a plot of government land that they didn't need, I'd rather they sold it than gave it away for free.
  • by malsdavis ( 542216 ) * on Monday June 05, 2006 @11:54PM (#15477536)
    So basically, the companies with the current monopoly are condemning a plan to try and gradually remove their monopoly. How Odd.

    • Not odd at all - they don't want to pay multiple times to maintain their monopolies - it is all an anti-monopolistic plot by money grubbing beaurocrats against the poor and sensitive spectrum monopolies - sniff...
      • Come on now... do you think that your government gives a slightest damn if you are exploited by monopolies? Governments sometimes go after monopolies, because large monopolistic corporations and even more large and monopolistic governments are competing to see who owns you.

        Don't worry though, if the government takes control of capital (Left Wing Socialism), or capital takes control of government (Right Wing Socialism), the end result is likely to be indistinguishable aside from a few cosmetic differences (S
        • Right wing socialism is a contradiction because socialism is by definition the left side of the spectrum (with the left extreme being communism). The right wing is nationalism and in its extreme form fascism. Left wing is "government owned by the people", right wing is "people owned by the government".
          • No... Socialism, as defined by economists, is when the means of production are owned or controlled by the state. The Nazis were right wing socialists (Nazi is short for Nationalist Socialist), as the means of production were exclusively controlled by the state. Claiming that "the means of production is owned by the people" when they are owned by the state, as many leftists do, it a meaningless abstraction - empty rhetoric used to explain away the fact that far-left and far-right societies are usually almost
        • All the leaders you list are notable for running totalitarian regimes, which is at the same end of the wider political spectrum, not the opposite, and why the effects on society are similar. Left-Right-wing politics is simply to simplistic though to take what are basically the same policies on control of media, elections, policing etc. into consideration and so they may appear to be at opposite ends of the political spectrum when actually in the context you are describing they are not.

          With regards to monopo
          • In Europe, power lies in the state, and exploitation is performed by the state. The big health care monopolies, media monopolies, energy monopolies, transportation monopolies, are state run. The large monopolies are by and large one and the same as the state, so there is no reason for them to lobby the political class - THEY ARE THE POLITICAL CLASS!!!

            The EU is attacking "monopolies" like Microsoft, not because Microsoft is a monopoly (because, of course, any state run industry is a monopoly), but because th
  • ... because prices cannot be fixed so easily by the mobile / broadband providers. (national cartels!)

    If you live in Austria you've got the choice between 4-5 different mobile phone providers and none of them offers a flat rate. Germany on the other hand offers a flat rate for 25Euros per month. Best deal you can currently get.... if you live in Germany.

    Same with Broadband. A typicall 2mbit/512kbit connection in Austria costs about the same (45Euros) as a 100mbit connection in Sweden.

    So, I am all for o
  • In eastern Europe, we still do trade Spectrums [wikipedia.org], although nowadays they aren't too competitive.
  • the 2012 switch from analog to digital TV broadcasting, when a significant portion of the spectrum will be freed up.

    2012 switch?
    Here that switch is going to be made in october this year.

    It is going to free up some spectrum, but I don't know if it will be a lot. We now have 3 national channels broadcast in analog, plus a lot of channels only broadcast on satellite and cable.
    The frequencies of analog TV will be given to digital TV broadcasting companies, who will most likely put more channels (the existing c
    • The story is from the Financial Times, based in the UK. Here we are indeed completing the switch to digital TV only in 2012.
      • In a way this is strange... when visiting forums I notice that on the UK market, TV sets with integrated digital receiver seem to be the norm already.
        Here in the Netherlands those are (almost) not available. Yet in October 2006 the analog network will be switched OFF!

        We have to use set-top-boxes.
        The most likely reason for this is that direct reception is almost nonexistent here (the government claims the switchoff will affect less than 100,000 viewers).
        Almost everyone is on either cable, satellite, or di

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