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ITU’s WRC Nears End

By | July 2, 2003

      The International Telecommunication Union’s World Radiocommunication Conference is heading down the home stretch as it prepares to wrap up a month’s worth of work at the end of this week.

      The WRC plenary, the body that has the final approval authority over spectrum deals, is considering a number of agreements that were worked out in committee, according to sources familiar with the deliberations in Geneva. These include an agreement 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 radar systems.

      Another agreement the plenary is considering is one to 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 that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) uses 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 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, the WRC plenary has approved a worldwide allocation in the 1.4 GHz band for feeder links serving nongeostationary low-Earth orbit (LEO) data satellites, so-called “Little LEOs.”

      The plenary also approved a resolution that paves the way for the deployment of new technologies for wideband and broadband public safety and disaster relief applications.

      The resolution identifies a number of frequency bands/ranges to achieve regionally harmonized spectrum for advanced public protection and disaster relief solutions, including the use of satellites and wireless communications 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 a lower frequency allocation is needed 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.

      During the conference, there has been disagreement 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.

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

      –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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