Frequency spectrum & technology blog

Europe - frequency spectrum allocation summary in 2023

Author: John Stockton, 13.12.2023

As we approach the conclusion of 2023, a significant number of frequency auctions and spectrum allocations to mobile operators have shaped the European telecommunications landscape. It is timely to conduct a comprehensive summary and examination of the currently assigned frequency spectrum resources, both at the national level and within individual mobile network operators.

Europe, being one of the leading markets in the global telecommunications arena, boasts an extensive array of spectrum assets across relevant frequency domains, including Frequency Division Duplex (FDD), Frequency Range 1 Time Division Duplex (FR1 TDD or cm wave), and Frequency Range 2 Time Division Duplex (FR2 TDD or mmWave). However, a notable disparity exists among European countries in terms of the pace of allocating new spectrum assets.

In the developed Nordic markets, such as Denmark, Estonia, and Finland, a noteworthy trend emerges where virtually all available spectrum assets have been allocated to mobile operators. This indicates a proactive approach to spectrum management and a commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements. In contrast, the Southern part of Europe and other markets less focused on technology introductions still predominantly relies on spectrum assets allocated for 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies.

Beyond the Nordic leaders, several other European countries have embraced the future by allocating FR2 spectrum resources through frequency auctions. These countries, by virtue of their forward-thinking spectrum allocation strategies, position themselves as top-tier nations and leaders in the dynamic domain of spectrum management.

More detailed spectrum allocation per country can be found on the chart below:



To gain a more nuanced understanding of the spectrum allocation landscape, a closer look at individual mobile network operators reveals that absolute leaders possess allocated FR2 mmWave spectrum assets. These pioneers are followed closely by operators with robust FDD allocations, complemented by 3.5 GHz Time Division Duplex (TDD) New Radio (NR) spectrum.

Details on the chart further below:



It's crucial to note that while available spectrum assets play a pivotal role, they alone do not guarantee optimal network performance. Various factors, including the number of physical base stations, the implementation of frequency layers per base station, the choice of relevant technology per frequency layer, the utilization of appropriate Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) schemes, and effective radio planning, collectively contribute to the optimal end-user experience.

Determining which networks deliver the best performance requires a comprehensive evaluation, often facilitated through mobile network benchmark tests conducted annually across many European countries. Recently published results from reputable sources such as OpenSignal, Connect Testlab, and Ookla Speedtest offer insights into the mobile network experience and performance awards, aiding consumers and industry stakeholders in making informed decisions.

As we navigate the ever-evolving telecommunications landscape, continuous monitoring of spectrum allocation trends and network performance remains essential to ensure the seamless delivery of advanced services to end-users across Europe. The intersection of technological innovation, regulatory frameworks, and strategic spectrum management will continue to shape the future of telecommunications on the continent.

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