Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today in Paris for the 37th Meeting of the EUTELSAT Assembly of Parties. I would like to say a special thank you to the Executive Secretary, Christian Roisse, not just for inviting me here today, but also for having agreed to join us on the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.
The Broadband Commission was launched last year by ITU, in conjunction with UNESCO, to help stimulate broadband infrastructure roll-out across the whole world, and to bring the benefits of broadband to all the world’s people.
The Commission is co-chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim, Honorary Lifetime Chairman of Grupo Carso. Along with Christian Roisse, we also have over 50 other Commissioners from the highest walks of life across the public and private sectors.
We have already been very successful in raising broadband as a vital issue of global concern at the highest political levels – including at the 2010 MDG Summit, which was held in New York last September.
We are now focusing on specific areas such as health, education, science, multi-lingualism etc, through working groups that will report to the Broadband Commission later this year.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is almost sixty years since the Telstar satellite made the first live transatlantic television transmissions possible – and I can honestly say that the history of the satellite industry has never ceased to amaze me.
As many of you will know, I started my own career in the satellite sector in Mali, and I have always been a huge enthusiast of, and advocate for, satellites as an essential technology.
Satellites are essential – not just in gathering meteorological information; delivering a wealth of television programming across the globe and instantaneous coverage of breaking news and sporting events; providing critical navigation and tracking systems; and enabling remote sensing and monitoring applications; but also in helping to bridge the digital divide.
Satellites can easily reach corners of the earth which are hard to access by other means, and they are also absolutely crucial following disasters or emergencies.
New satellite-based early warning systems now being put in place already help communities around the world minimize the impact of disasters.
The already tragic death toll in Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami, for example, could have been even higher had satellite-based communication systems not been in place.
Of course, as we are all aware, the increasingly congested skies above our heads require careful management and monitoring, on a global basis, with intensive cooperation and discussion to avoid the risk of interference.
That is one of the most important parts of ITUs work, as the sole global agency charged with managing the world’s shared radio spectrum and orbital resources.
With ever more overcrowding in space – especially around ‘prime’ geostationary orbital slots – that means working hard to free up unused capacity, and we continue to make special efforts in that regard.
In 2009, ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau asked all administrations to review their recorded satellite networks and to remove unused frequency assignments and networks from the Master Register when they have not been in regular use.
This was followed by more specific requests concerning the operation of the C, KU and Ka bands.
I cannot emphasize too strongly that this process serves the best interests of all administrations, operators, and the industry as a whole.
These efforts have resulted in the total or partial suppression of around 100 satellite networks over the past two years.
In the spirit of cooperation and consensus that lies at the very heart of ITU’s mandate and mission, ITU also held special workshops in Geneva, Singapore and Wroclaw on the efficient use of spectrum and orbital resources.
These workshops were attended by top-level representatives from across industry and government, who shared presentations on key concerns, engaged in constructive and productive debate, and proposed a number of practical steps that could help resolve current problems.
These results are encouraging. But, given the increasing flow of satellite networks being recorded in the MIFR – around 250 per year – we all know that additional regulatory, operational and / or financial measures will be needed to ensure that rights to use vital spectrum / orbit resources are not unduly kept without being used.
I am hoping that Council this year and the World Radiocommunication Conference next year will provide us with further opportunities to address these issues and perhaps consider appropriate revisions to the Radio Regulations – so that we can continue to fulfil our mandate of providing fair and equitable access to scarce resources, for the benefit of all the world’s people.
I am also very much aware of continuing issues of blocking access to the GSO and harmful interference, and would actively continue to encourage administrations to honour the Radio Regulations, and to resolve issues, when they do occur, through coordination discussions aimed at reaching agreements satisfactory to all parties, in the spirit of Resolution 2 (Rev.WRC-03).
Notably, at its most recent meeting, the Radio Regulations Board urged the Administrations of Iran, France (as the notifying administration of EUTELSAT) and Saudi Arabia (as the notifying administration of ARABSAT) to do precisely this – to enable the operation of networks in the vicinity of 26ºE, thereby avoiding mutual harmful interference and ensuring efficient utilization of the radio frequency spectrum and geostationary orbit.
As instructed by the RRB, the Bureau is closely monitoring the situation and will report on the results achieved at bilateral or multilateral meetings, which will be starting next week in Geneva.
It will be for membership to decide, of course, but it may be time to strengthen the Radio Regulations in regard to such issues – and in this case, WRC-12 would seem to be the best place to achieve this.
We are fortunate to be working in a sector which has so much importance and meaning in the modern world, and I urge each and every one of you to continue ‘making a difference’ as we strive to bridge the digital divide and bring the unrivalled benefits of ICTs to all the world’s people.