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International Frequency Registration Board (IFRB), 1947-1993

After World War II, it was clear that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) needed to modernize its structure and working methods to respond to the dramatic growth of telecommunications and particularly the rapid progress in radiocommunication techniques.  It was recognized that the increasing demand for use of the radio frequency spectrum needed to be coordinated, managed and mediated by an international, neutral body.  The 1947 International Radio Conference (Atlantic City) therefore created the International Frequency Registration Board (IFRB) to act as an administrative body to regulate the use of frequencies.
The creation of the IFRB introduced an entirely new type of administrative body and new concept in the regulation of radio to the Union. The IFRB would create a master frequency list that would enable the notification and registration of frequency use to be tracked. In addition, the IFRB would notify member countries of new registrations giving them an opportunity to raise concerns and objections. The registration of a new frequency would be completed if it conformed with all provisions of the Regulations.
Initially, the Board consisted of eleven independent members elected on a regional basis by an Administrative Radio Conference.  The members of the Board were to be thoroughly qualified by technical training in the field of radio and to possess practical experience in the assignment and utilization of frequencies.  Moreover, for the more effective understanding of the problems coming before the Board, each member should be familiar with geographic, economic and demographic conditions within a particular area of the world.  However, it was stressed that the members of the IFRB were to be considered as “custodians of an international public trust” and not as representatives of their respective Member States or regions.  In 1965, the Montreux Plenipotentiary Conference decided to reduce the number of members of the Board to five as from 1 January 1967.  At the 1973 Plenipotentiary Conference in Malaga-Torremolinos, it was decided that the members of the Board would be elected in future by a plenipotentiary conference.
The duties of the IRFB, as outlined in the International Telecommunication Convention and the Radio Regulations of the time, were:
  • processing frequency assignment notices received from administrations for recording in the Master  International Frequency Register (MIFR);
  • coordinating the use of frequencies for high frequency (HF) broadcasting;
  • compiling and publishing frequency lists reflecting the data recorded in the MIFR, as well as other material relating to the assignment and use of frequencies;
  • reviewing entries in the MIFR with a view to amending or eliminating, if appropriate, those which did not reflect actual frequency usage;
  • studying, on a long-term basis, the usage of the radio spectrum with a view to making recommendations for its more effective use;
  • investigating, at the request of one or more of the interested administrations, harmful interference and formulating relevant recommendations;
  • assisting administrations in the field of radio spectrum utilization;
  • doing the technical planning for radio conferences;
  • participating in an advisory capacity in conferences and meetings where questions relating to the assignment and utilization of frequencies were discussed.
The Board was assisted by a specialized secretariat.
By the late 1980s, there were plans to undertake a wide-ranging reform of ITU to give the Union greater flexibility to adapt to an increasingly complex, interactive and competitive telecommunications environment. In preparation for these reforms, a High-Level Committee on the Review of the Structure and Functioning of ITU proposed separating the international, high-level regulatory activities of the IFRB from the administrative internal management duties within the Board  secretariat.  The Committee also recommended integrating ITU’s regulatory activities in the field of radiocommunications with the Union’s work on the technical and operational aspects of radiocommunications, which were dealt with by the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR) with its own specialized secretariat.  Accordingly, in 1992, the Geneva Additional Plenipotentiary Conference decided to replace the IFRB by a part-time Radio Regulations Board (RRB).  Following a transitional period during which the five full-time members of the IFRB became five part-time interim members of the RRB, the first nine-member Radio Regulations Board was elected at the Kyoto Plenipotentiary Conference in 1994 and took up its duties on 1 January 1995.