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Business-like WRC Could Offer Model for Future

By | September 29, 2003

      The International Telecommuni- cation Union’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) 2003 produced positive results for the satellite industry, but no spectacular wins or losses. Rather, it was an unusually pragmatic meeting that produced some concrete gains for U.S. companies. And this experience could bode well for future meetings.

      This was the conclusion of a panel of WRC participants at a Sept. 23 meeting of the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) at Intelsat’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

      Leslie Taylor, president of Leslie Taylor Associates, characterized the WRC as “surprisingly harmonious.” She said that unlike at many other Arcs over the years there was “no major politicizing issue.”

      Taylor cited a number of agreements as evidence of the productivity of this WRC: 1) approval of a spectrum allocation for aeronautical mobile satellite service (AMSS) in the 14-14.5 Hz, 2) protection of spectrum in the L-2 and L-5 bands for modernization of the GPS satellite navigation system, 3) a compromise agreement that reduces the minimum dish size for fixed satellite services (FSS) in the 13.75-14 GHz band to 1.2 meters (47 inches) while protecting U.S. military radar in that band; and 4) approval for earth stations onboard vessels (ESVs) to transmit on certain bands while in port.

      Boeing [NYSE: BA] is encouraged by the outcome of WRC, particularly the conference’s decision to allocate spectrum for AMSS, which the company is in the process of deploying through its Connexion by Boeing unit. David Weinreich, deputy director (Americas region) of international regulatory affairs at Connexion by Boeing, told the SSPI meeting that the company did a lot of preparatory work before the WRC to secure that allocation. Connexion by Boeing registered early with the ITU for rights to use the 14- 14.5 GHz band on a secondary basis and held talks with FSS and mobile satellite service (MSS) operators to ensure that any interference would be kept to a minimum. So when the WRC came around, most of the groundwork had been laid for the agreement, which will enable the company to secure licenses for its in-flight broadband service from national governments around the world.

      Robert Hanson, vice president of regulatory affairs at Maritime Telecommunications Network, said the company had also been working for several on a compromise to allow its ESV systems to operate in ports without undue interference with wireless systems in the surrounding areas. He explained that his companies ESVs are designed to provide connections with satellites under most maritime conditions that ships experience (hurricanes being an exception).

      Kim Baum, satellite market development manager for SES Americom, said the company supported the WRC effort to reduce the minimum FSS dish size because smaller dishes reduce costs. This should spur deployment of VSATs for two-way Internet access and satellite newsgathering. “Everyone seems happy with the compromise” reached that limits the power of the FSS antennas in the bands also used by U.S. military radar.

      Another positive development cited by Baum was the agreement for broadcast satellite services (BSS) use of the Ku-band, which is not allocated on a global basis to any one service. “So there is a lot of sharing between BSS and FSS systems on a regional level. The WRC updated the sharing rules in a way that protects the smaller BSS antennas used by DirecTV and EchoStar Communications [Nasdaq: DISH], she said.

      All of the participants in the panel expressed optimism that the spirit of cooperation would continue in the working groups leading up to the next WRC.

      –Fred Donovan

      (Leslie Taylor, Leslie Taylor Associates, 301/229-9410; David Weinreich, Boeing, 703/465-3940; Robert Hanson, MTN, 720/635-8162; Kim Hanson, SES Americom, 609/987-4321)

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