UK mobile phone users could soon enjoy better 3G coverage. Thanks to new European Commission proposals , 3G services are to be rolled out faster across the country and there will be improved coverage in rural areas.

The EC is proposing to repeal existing European regulations on using frequency bands currently employed by GSM networks (900Mhz and 1800Mhz). This will allow mobile operators to use these more efficient low frequency bands on their old GSM networks for the first time for advanced multimedia applications, such as 3G downloading and video calling.

Higher frequency band 3G signals have a shorter range than GSM signals and require more masts closer together. By using networks employed for regular GSM networks, mobile operators can roll out 3G coverage faster, and cover more of the country, more cheaply. GSM networks' coverage in the UK extends to over 99 per cent of the population, although 3G coverage is far more patchy and varies across networks.

The EC proposals are aimed at accelerating next generation mobile take-up, by making it easier and more lucrative for European mobile operators to roll out new services. The EC believes its proposals could results in a reduction capital expenditure by mobile operators of over 40 per cent over 5 years.

"Radio spectrum is a crucial economic resource which must be properly managed across Europe to unlock the potential of our telecoms sector," commented Viviane Reding, the EU's Telecoms Commissioner.

GSM Directive

"In the EU, we must therefore remove regulatory barriers and facilitate the deployment of mobile communications by allowing new technologies to share spectrum with existing ones."

The proposals to repeal the 20-year old GSM Directive, which allocated frequencies for GSM services and helped establish GSM in Europe, are expected to be in place by the end of this year.