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Digital Agenda for Europe
Technical rules agreed for using 4G wireless broadband devices on GSM frequencies
photo: Shutterstock

The European Commission has just adopted technical rules on how the 900 and 1800 MHz radio frequency bands should be opened up to advanced fourth generation (4G) communication devices, according to a press release issued on 18 April 2011. The rules aim to prevent interference problems with existing GSM and 3G devices, and are an important step in bringing wireless broadband access to more citizens and businesses in the European Union (EU). The Commission’s decision, which must be implemented by EU Member States by the end of 2011, is expected to help to achieve the targets of the Digital Agenda for Europe to give every European access to basic broadband by 2013 and fast and ultra fast broadband by 2020.

Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, said in a statement that “the decision opens the way for the latest 4G mobile devices to gain access to the radio spectrum they need to operate, and so further stimulate high-speed broadband services and foster more competition.”

The decision forms part of the Commission’s efforts to ensure that wireless communications gain access to the radio spectrum they require to develop their full potential. In particular, the Commission’s decision sets out technical parameters allowing for the coexistence on the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency bands of GSM (2G mobile phones), 3G systems that add mobile Internet to regular phone services and 4G mobile technology delivering high-speed broadband.

The decision sets up a mechanism for the adoption of technical harmonization rules based on input received from national radio frequency experts. National administrations have until 31 December 2011 to implement the decision in their national rules so that GSM bands are effectively made available for Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) systems. Based on the Commission’s first steps to open the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands in 2009, EU Member States have already had to examine competition between mobile operators and to address distortions of competition.

Technical studies undertaken in 2009 demonstrated that LTE and WiMAX could safely coexist with the other systems already using the same bandwidth. These studies also clarified the technical conditions under which the systems using the 900 and 1800 MHz bands can protect systems in neighbouring frequency bands, such as GSM for railways and aeronautical services, from interference. Member States are obliged to give appropriate protection to systems in adjacent frequency bands.

Source: European Commission.

Many children using social networks are unaware of privacy risks, says survey

    Children’s use of social networking sites by country and age
Question: Do you have your own profile on a social networking site that you currently use, or not?
Base: All children who use the Internet.

In the European Union (EU), 77 per cent of 13–16 year olds and 38 per cent of 9–12 year olds have a profile on a social networking site, according to a pan-European survey carried out for the European Commission. Yet a quarter of children who use social networking sites such as Facebook, Hyves, Tuenti, Nasza-Klasa SchuelerVZ, Hi5, Iwiw or Myvip say that their profile is set to “public”, meaning that everyone can see it. Many of these profiles display the user’s address or phone number. These figures highlight the importance of the European Commission’s upcoming review of the implementation of the Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU. Children’s safety online is an important part of the Digital Agenda for Europe. In 2009, major social networking companies agreed to implement measures to ensure the online safety of children under 18.

Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda said: “Growing numbers of children are on social networking sites but many are not taking all necessary steps to protect themselves online. These children are placing themselves in harm’s way, vulnerable to stalkers and groomers. All social networking companies should therefore immediately make minors’ profiles accessible by default only to their approved list of contacts and out of search engines’ reach. And those companies that have not yet signed up to the EU’s Safer Networking Principles should do so without delay so as to ensure our children’s safety.”

A survey of 25 000 young people in 25 European countries, published in April 2011 by the EUKidsOnline network, shows that 38 per cent of 9–12 year olds say they have a profile on social networking sites, ranging from 70 per cent in The Netherlands to 25 per cent in France. In this age group, 15 per cent say they have more than 100 contacts on their profile, with a high of 47 per cent in Hungary. Social networks are even more popular among teenagers with 77 per cent of 13–16 year olds saying they have a profi le (see chart).

A quarter of children on social networking sites say their profile is open to the public. One fifth of children whose profile is public say this profile displays their address or phone number. In 15 out of 25 countries, 9–12 year olds are more likely than 13–16 year olds to have public profiles.

Only 56 per cent of 11–12 year olds say they know how to change privacy settings on their social network profile. Teenagers have better skills, with 78 per cent of 15–16 year olds saying they know how to change their privacy settings.

The Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU is a self-regulatory agreement signed by social networking companies in which they commit to implement a series of measures on their services in order to ensure the safety of children online. Signatories currently include: Arto, Bebo, Facebook, Giovani, Hyves, IRC Galleria, MySpace, Nasza-Klasa, Netlog,, Rate, SchuelerVZ, Tuenti and Zap. Some of the social networking sites that are popular among youngsters in Europe are not signatories to the Safer Social Networking Principles.

Source: European Commission.


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