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Satellite Industry Fares Better Than Expected at WRC-15

By Caleb Henry | December 1, 2015
      ITU WRC-15

      WRC-15 Closing Press Conference. Photo: ITU

      [Via Satellite 12-01-2015] Outcomes from the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) 2015 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-15) turned out to be more favorable than many feared leading up to the event, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland from Nov. 2 to Nov 27. The four-week conference, attended by roughly 3,300 participants and 162 of the ITU’s 193 member states, made critical decisions regarding the use of spectrum around the world. In the balance hung the fate of C-band, which stretches from 3.4 to 4.2 GHz, as it was being disputed between the satellite industry and the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) industry.

      In a Nov. 27 press conference and accompanying press release, the ITU stated that the lower portion of C-band from 3.4 to 3.6 will be identified for mobile broadband communications, with the rest of the band preserved for satellite. A same-day release jointly issued by the Asia Pacific Satellite Communications Council (APSCC), Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA), EMEA Satellite Operators’ Association (ESOA), Global VSAT Forum (GVF), Interference Reduction Group (IRG), Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI), World Teleport Association (WTA), and others said that the decisions reached affirmed the importance of satellite, which was increasingly concerned that large quantities of spectrum would be ceded to IMT.

      Based on conclusions from WRC-15, regulators identified 3.4 to 3.6 GHz to IMT for ITU Region 1, which comprises Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Russia; Region 2, which consists of the Americas; and a handful of countries in Region 3 — the Asia Pacific — which will sign a footnote allowing potential IMT use of these 200 MHz.

      With the exception of Region 2, a “No Change” position was adopted for the majority of C-band ranging from 3.6 to 4.2, with only a few countries in Region 2 identifying the 3600 to 3700 MHz band for IMT.

      “During the proceedings of the conference there were tough times, but we were able to surmount all those difficulties,” Festus Daudu, chairman of WRC-15, said during the press conference.” And so, on a general note, I believe every sector or every service is leaving here happy with the fact that the resources have been distributed equally, and I have not seen a situation whereby a particular service has been marginalized.”

      Daudu added that WRC-15 also serves as a litmus test for the ITU’s ability to respond to emergency situations, chiefly evidenced by the ability to produce a decision on allocating spectrum for global flight tracking.

      “We have been able to protect both the current investments and the future investment for satellites and for the broadcasting industry,” added Francois Rancy, director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. “These two industries were extremely concerned during these four years preparation by the possibility of a decision by this conference which would create uncertainty about their future. If we had started to open new bands in addition to the ones which have already been opened at the 2007 conference, this would have led to a lot of instability for these two industries. So the result is very much balanced and very positive for everybody.”

      Rancy said the conference was on the verge of allocating another 200 MHz of C-band from 3.6 to 3.8 GHz for mobile broadband in many countries using footnotes, but ultimately decided not to pursue this method. “We don’t want that because we want to preserve harmonization and also simplicity of the regulations,” he explained.

      Beyond C-band, the IMT industry gained spectrum in L-band from 1427 to 1518 MHz, and in the 700 MHz band from 694 to 790MHz. The 700 MHz band expanded from a regionally harmonized band in the Americas and Asia Pacific to a global one, and is prioritized for critical emergency services in Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR). L-band mobile-satellite service operations occur in the adjacent 1518 to 1559 MHz band.

      The satellite industry made some gains at WRC-15 as well. In Ku-band, the industry gained a downlink allocation in the 13.4 to 13.65 GHz band in Region 1 and country-specific allocations in the 14.5 to 14.8 GHz in several nations. Regarding Earth Stations in Motion (ESIMs), the conference adopted new regulations in part of the Ka-band satellite spectrum ranging from 19.7 to 20.2 GHz and 29.5 to 30 GHz. The new regulations are to facilitate the global roaming of such terminals, which are used for satellite broadband connectivity to mobile terminals, while preventing interference with other services and applications. WRC-15 also adopted several agenda items for future conferences regarding additional spectrum for satellite, and regarding frequency bands for 5G. The conference rejected proposals to consider globally harmonized 5G spectrum in C-, Ku- or Ka-band at WRC-19, instead agreeing to evaluate high-frequency bands above 24 GHz for 5G mobile services. WRC-19 will also include studies on IMT spectrum above 6 GHz.