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WRC Deals Come Fast and Furiously

By | June 30, 2003

      As the International Telecommunication Union’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) enters its final week in Geneva, expect a flurry of activity on the spectrum front at the plenary level. Big issues that involve lots of money need to be worked out quickly.

      Commenting on the progress so far, WRC Chair Veena Rawat said that “a number of extremely important, but delicate issues have been settled” at the committee level. She added that “intensive activity is going on to resolve other difficult issues.”

      Last week, the WRC delegates worked out some compromises at the committee level that will be considered during the plenary session. One committee reached an agreement that will lower the minimum dish size for fixed satellite services (FSS) in the 13.75-14 GHz band, in exchange for power limits to cut interference with U.S. military radars that operate in that band.

      The agreement, pushed by the U.S. delegation, will allow the U.S. Department of Defense to continue operating radars in this band with only minimal interference, while allowing FSS operators to expand their services. The agreement also provides an expanded 10 MHz protective band for the Space Research Service used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for satellite relay links and support of the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station programs.

      The accord will allow earth station antennas for geostationary FSS systems to have a minimum diameter of as little as 1.2 meters, down from the current 4.5 meter limit. To protect military radars, however, the satellite systems will have to abide by power limits set at -115 dB.

      In addition, a committee agreed to allocate an additional 455 MHz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band for wireless local area networks that use the Wi-Fi standard. Under the deal, the lower end of the 5 GHz spectrum will be used for indoor applications. Interference mitigation techniques and power limits will be imposed to the wireless systems to protect existing services in the whole 5 GHz band.

      The committee also agreed to allocate spectrum in the 5 GHz band to Earth exploration satellites and space research. The committee members further agreed to protect radionavigation systems that use the band by upgrading them to primary status. The upgrade will protect military radar systems.

      Another issue that has been the subject of much negotiation is the question of high altitude platform stations (HAPS). These are new projects that aim to provide wide-area fixed wireless services from balloon-like devices located in the Earth’s stratosphere. Some countries want to use the 47.2-47.5 GHz and 47.9-48.2 GHz bands for HAPS use.

      Several countries, however, said there needs to be a lower frequency allocation for HAPS because of the excessive rain attenuation that occurs at 47 GHz. A WRC committee agreed to permit the use of HAPS in the 27.5-28.35 GHz and 31-31.3 GHz band.

      In addition, a resolution was approved at committee level that will pave the way for the deployment of new technologies for wideband and broadband public safety and disaster relief applications.

      The new resolution identifies a number of frequency bands/ranges to achieve regionally harmonized spectrum for advanced public protection and disaster relief solutions.

      While many issues were worked out, there was a fundamental disagreement in committee last week regarding earth stations on board vessels (ESV). Should ESV be considered as a fixed-satellite service or a mobile-satellite service? The Arab states consider ESV to be a mobile maritime satellite service and want the provisions in the ITU regulations to be amended by this conference to reflect that. However, Asian, European and American countries regard ESV as a fixed-satellite service. So this will need to be worked out this week, although with numerous other issues on the WRC agenda.

      –Fred Donovan

      (John Alden, U.S. WRC delegation, 011-41-79-540-1059; Keith Stimpson, ITU, 011-41-22-730- 5260)

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