The European Union took an important step towards opening up its GSM networks to accommodate additional technologies as telecom ministers from the 27-nation organization approved proposals Thursday to open the wireless networks.
The European-developed GSM standard now needs only to gain the expected approval from the European Parliament before new 3G features can be implemented.
The European Commission has estimated that free access to the 900 MHz frequencies will cut costs by 40% and achieve a 40% gain in coverage as well. The cheaper access to spectrum is expected to pave the way for low-cost access to voice, video, data, and Web access on mobile devices.
In 1987, the EU began setting aside frequencies between 900 MHz and 1800 MHz exclusively for GSM usage, making it possible for mobile phone service providers to deploy their offerings quickly. GSM caught on across the world and is the dominant global mobile phone standard; AT&T and T-Mobile use the standard in the U.S.
The GSM Association has already earmarked Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology for future use. LTE has been successfully tested at downlink/uplink peak data rates above 100 Mbps/50 Mbps, although those speeds aren't expected to be delivered commercially until sometime in the distant future.
In a related development Thursday, the European Commission approved the Nokia-sponsored DVB-H mobile television standard.
The order carries a strong mandate as the commission stated: "All member states will have to support and encourage the use of DVB-H for the launch of mobile TV services, thus avoiding market fragmentation and allowing economies of scale and accordingly affordable services and devices."
Germany, the U.K, and the Netherlands had opposed the move, which was spearheaded by Nokia.