WRC-07 Report

[10-31-07 – Satellite News] GENEVA — During the first week of the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07), administrations from Asia, Africa, and Latin America made clear their broad and deep support for keeping the status quo for satellite services by calling for no change to the current use of the C band. This campaign, which exhorts the Conference not to identify international mobile telecommunications (IMT) systems in C-band  has been gathering pace throughout the past year, driven by both national policy imperatives and the satellite industry.

    In the weeks prior to the meeting, the number of countries expressing positions in support of protecting C-band for satellite use outnumbered those in favor of identifying C-band for IMT. Since the opening of the conference, support for protection of the whole band for satellite services has increased in strength from an already solid base. Governments have been assisted by the argumentation of regional and international satellite operators, spearheaded by SES Global, Inmarsat and Intelsat as well as regional operators such as Arabsat and Rascom, and network integrators such as Schlumberger, which all attended the WRC to rally their constituencies.

    Advocates of no change in C-band allocations have come from many parts of the world, each with their particular reasons for supporting the position. These include concerns based on pre-existing interference between IMT-like technologies and satellite services which have, in some examples, ruptured Interpol‘s communications in Gambia and caused severe problems to Bolivia’s direct-to-home satellite services during the 2006 FIFA World Cup. African governments have been at pains to emphasise the importance of C-band in areas that experience rain fade and the risk to satellite services if neighboring countries were to implement IMT. Asian governments, in clear allusions to recent tsunamis, have emphasised the role of satellite communications in disaster and emergency circumstances, as well as the growing demand for those services. 

    Proponents of an IMT identification in the band have been limited to Europe and Japan, which ten to argue that the ITU owes them some form of compromise or concession on the use of the C-band. This approach has been at variance with the number of other frequency bands which are also being targeted by IMT — an appetite that has not been lost on the delegates here. 

    While a number of countries remain undecided, there is evidence that many of them, along with countries which originally submitted documents in favor of identifying the C-band for IMT, are beginning to waver, leaving Europe and Japan increasingly isolated. There is a growing consensus that enough spectrum to fulfil the requirements of the IMT community can be found in the other bands, such as those below 1 gigahertz or at 2.4 gigahertz, which will relieve the pressure on C-band for an IMT identification.

Some Areas Of Confusion

    Press articles published after the Radiocommunication Assembly, held in Geneva two weeks ago, created an element of confusion by claiming that WiMax had become part of IMT-2000.  In fact, the Assembly added to the family of IMT-2000 third generation by adding OFDMA TDD WMAN technology which is a specific subset of IEEE 802.16e technology, otherwise known as Mobile WiMax. OFDMA TDD WMAN is a TDD technology focused on application in the 2.5 to 2.69 megahertz IMT-2000 band and is not the fixed WiMax technology which is being licensed in many parts of the world in the 3.5 megahertz band. 

    The IMT lobby’s attempt to blur the distinction between the mobile and fixed WiMax technologies — and what is IMT and what is not — has led a number of countries to push for an identification of IMT in the C-band under the mistaken belief that they have already licensed an IMT service when in fact they have licensed a fixed service which already is allocated as co-primary in the C-band throughout the world.

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