ITU Wraps Up WRC Work

By | July 16, 2003 | Feature

The International Telecommunication Union’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) wrapped up its month of spectrum allocation work on July 4 with key agreements for satellite and terrestrial wireless services.

The WRC approved a compromise worked out at committee level that reduced the minimum dish size for fixed satellite services (FSS) in the 13.75-14 GHz band to 1.2 meters (47 inches) from the current limit of 4.5 meters (177 inches). In exchange, power limits were imposed to cut interference with U.S. military radar in that band.

The WRC also approved a spectrum allocation for aeronautical mobile satellite services (AMSS) on a “secondary” basis in the 14-14.5 GHz band. AMSS, under development by Boeing [NYSE: BA] and other companies, will enable airline passengers to access broadband services in-flight.

“Clearing this critical hurdle paves the way for global introduction of our high-speed in-flight connectivity service beginning next year,” said Connexion by Boeing President Scott Carson.

The WRC also gave final approval to an allocation of 455 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 gigahertz spectrum band for wireless local area networks (WLANs) that use the Wi-Fi standard. The allocation will harmonize the spectrum available for WLANs, allowing manufacturers to achieve economies of scale and lowering deployment costs for networks. Outdoor use of WLAN devices is allowed in the 5250-5350 MHz band.

The U.S. and Europeans were able to reach a compromise on an issue that arose unexpectedly at the conference. The Europeans wanted the radionavigation satellite services (RNSS), such as GPS and Galileo, to undergo a formal coordination process under Article 9 of the ITU’s radio regulations, which deals with FSS system coordination. As part of that effort, the European delegates proposed that Galileo have priority in the coordination process because the Europeans filed at the ITU before the U.S. filed for its GPS modernization plan. The compromise worked out calls for RNSS systems to undergo Article 9 coordination. But that requirement only applies to systems submitted to the ITU after Jan. 1, 2005. In addition, criteria will be placed on RNSS proposals submitted after that date to ensure that the proposed systems are viable. “We didn’t want to have to coordinate with an RNSS system from Benin that would never get built,” one U.S. observer quipped.

The WRC ended up fudging the question of whether earth stations onboard vessels (ESVs) should be classified as fixed or mobile satellite services for regulatory purposes. The WRC agreed to allow ESVs to transmit in the FSS uplinks bands of 5925-6425 MHz and 14-14.5 GHz provided they meet certain technical limitations to reduce interference with fixed wireless systems while the vessels are in port.

The Arab and Japanese WRC delegations also had big satellite wins. The United Arab Emirates was able to secure additional spectrum for its Thuraya mobile satellite service (MSS) system in the 1.5 GHz and 1.6 GHz bands. U.S. interference concerns were allayed by a compromise that excepted the Western Hemisphere from the MSS allocation.

And Japan was able to get spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band for a new satellite radio system it wants to deploy. The Chinese delegates unsuccessfully tried to block the spectrum allocation for Japan because China wanted that spectrum for fixed wireless broadband services.

Europe Pleased

Commenting on the WRC’s impact on Europe, Erkki Liikanen, European commissioner for enterprise and information society, said that the conference “will facilitate the conduct of major community policies critically relying on radio spectrum, such as the promotion of broadband access over diverse platforms including [third-generation mobile service] and wireless LAN, and the Galileo undertaking. Besides these satisfactory results, which we will now analyze in detail, the European approach to WRC confirmed that close cooperation between technical experts and political [bodies] is essential for defending common interests at these complex global negotiations.”

–Fred Donovan

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