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ITU Tackles Problem Of `Paper Satellites’

By | September 25, 2002

      The International Telecommunication Union’s process for reviewing applications for satellite systems is renowned for its bureaucracy, inefficiency, and glacial pace. To be fair, the organization has been working to reform the process, but it still has a staggering backlog of applications – 1,200 at last count. And the approval process for one system takes years to complete.

      The ITU blames the problem on “paper satellites,” that is satellite systems that exist only on the paper submitted to the agency in order to hold open an orbital slot and slice of spectrum.

      To remedy the problem, the ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau is proposing an increase in satellite application fees, stricter requirements for system information at the time applications are filed, and penalties for applicants who don’t meet deadlines, such as canceling the filing if the fee isn’t paid in six months.

      While some of these steps have already been approved by the ITU in various fora, the bureau is looking for backing from the ITU’s Plenipotentiary, its top policy making body that meets once every four years. The Plenipotentiary is meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, from Sept. 23 to Oct. 18.

      The “massive overfiling [of satellite system applications] is due to a number of factors including the realization of the growing economic value of the scarce spectrum and orbital resources,” said Robert Jones, director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. This abuse of the ITU’s satellite approval process blocks access to spectrum and orbital slots and wastes the resources of satellite operators, administrations and ITU, Jones charged.

      –Fred Donovan

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