updated 03:25 pm EDT, Mon July 27, 2009
EU to Allow 900MHz 3G 4G
The European Union on Monday greenlit using 900MHz airwaves for both 3G and 4G cellular data in the continent. A change to the GSM Directive now lets existing 3G technology, like UMTS, operate on the same lower frequency as GSM and will give it both longer range and higher practical speeds than the 1,800MHz and 2,100MHz bands used today. It won't be dependent on a particular format and is built with upcoming 4G formats like Long Term Evolution or others in mind.
Officials hope the gesture will both speed up existing networks as well as spur on extra competition from companies that previously couldn't easily launch 3G services of their own. The extra range of the 900MHz band will also reduce the number of cell stations needed to cover a given area and is potentially less expensive to run than existing European 3G.
Adding the choice for 3G mirrors efforts in the US, where 850MHz 3G on AT&T has been available for years but where major cities like New York and San Francisco are only now moving to the frequency. Their dependence on 1,900MHz 3G has been one of the primary causes of network congestion in these cities in the wake of the iPhone 3G and 3GS releases.
The EU anticipates the updated GSM Directive coming into effect in October. Future support depends both on carriers adding 900MHz 3G or 4G as well as carrying devices that can use the spectrum for data, not just voice.