Radio Spectrum Management in the European Union
Doctoral thesis, 2019
This thesis work was conducted to explain how the radio spectrum is managed in the European Union (EU). The radio spectrum is the natural resource which makes modern wireless communication possible. Like other natural resources, the radio spectrum is managed by nations within their national territories. Although nations have permanent sovereignty over the radio spectrum, the countries member of the EU share with the EU institutions the responsibility to manage such resource. The fact that EU and national institutions co-manage the radio spectrum generates a tension between the stances of the EU and the EU member states with respect to how the radio spectrum should be used. On the one hand, the EU aims to develop a common approach to radio spectrum use by promoting centralisation of decisional power to the EU level. On the other hand, the EU member states oppose major limitations to national sovereignty over the radio spectrum, protecting their right to dispose of their national resources in accordance with their national interests. A coordinated approach to radio spectrum management at EU level has only recently been set up. For this reason, the extent to which roles and responsibilities are divided between the EU and the EU member states has not been thoroughly investigated.
This thesis concentrated on identifying entities which manage the spectrum resource in the EU and the mechanisms used by such entities. To address these two aspects, qualitative data on EU legislative interventions in radio spectrum policy was collected to show variation over time of distribution of decisional power between the EU and the EU member states. Moreover, the phenomenon of business lobbying was studied to understand the importance of influencing EU legislation for commercial radio spectrum users. The external representation of the EU in international negotiations on radio spectrum use was also analysed to show the dual nature of the EU, being simultaneously one unitary entity and a conglomeration of several sovereign states. In addition, the use of soft power by the EU to develop a common approach to radio spectrum across the EU was discussed, in particular with respect to radio spectrum sharing.
This research work showed that radio spectrum management is a very complex matter where there is no clear-cut division of responsibilities between the EU and the EU member states. Over time, the EU has developed a more systematic approach to radio spectrum management, designing specific mechanisms to promote EU-coordinated radio spectrum use. At the same time, there are certain areas of radio spectrum management where the EU plays a mere advisory and coordinating role, while relevant decisions are taken at national level. Technological progress has often motivated the EU to put pressure on the EU member states for further integration. In this regard, it can be expected that future technological developments will drive further changes in the distribution of responsibilities between the two levels of governance.
radio spectrum management.