عربي  |  中文  |  Español  |  Français  |  Русский
 Advanced Search Advanced Search Site map Contact us Print Version
  Home: Office of the Secretary General

WSBR - Washington Space Business Roundtables - The Space Age Turns Fifty 
Washington, United States
26 February 2008

Remarks by ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like, first of all, to thank my friends from Futron, especially Andrea Maleter and Peggy Slye for inviting me at this important event. I would like also to recognize the presence of Ambassador David Cross of the State Department who has been representing the US at ITU Council for so many years.

  • Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a privilege to have been invited here to address you here at this prestigious event today.  I am especially pleased to have been invited to discuss the promise of an industry dear to my heart, which I sought to serve since my early studies at university, in my administration in Mali in 1979 before joining INTELSAT in 1985, until my election to office at the ITU.
  • Last October, the space industry marked a milestone, in the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of the first artificial satellite (Sputnik) on 4 October 1957. Since then, over 6,600 space objects have been launched, with some nine hundred space satellites operated by more than forty countries now in orbit around the Earth.
  • The UN has played a leading role in establishing clear principles to ensure that outer space and space activities continue to enhance the well-being of all countries and humankind. The UN (of which ITU is part) has brokered international treaties providing for the non-appropriation of outer space by any one country, freedom of exploration, liability for damage caused by space objects, space safety and rescue, notification and registration of space activities, dispute settlement and the scientific investigation and exploitation of natural resources in outer space.
  • As the UN specialized agency and focal point for telecommunications, ITU seeks “to ensure rational, equitable, efficient and economical use of the radio-frequency spectrum by all radiocommunication services – including those using the geostationary satellite orbit or other satellite orbits”.[1]
  • Within this mandate, ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector manages international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits. ITU is the international forum where the rights and obligations of Member administrations in obtaining access to the spectrum/orbit resources are agreed. ITU also carries out vital work recording frequency assignments and orbital positions in the Master International Frequency Register and processing satellite filings to ensure that orbital positions and frequencies are compatible and interference-free.

Let me here address a few Key Outcomes of WRC 2007 relevant for the Satellite Industry.

  • The management of radio-frequency spectrum for space activities is agreed and endorsed by the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC). The most recent WRC-07 held in Geneva in October last year was attended by over 2,800 delegates, representing 161 Member States and 94 Observers. It resulted in the adoption of revised Radio Regulations to meet the growing demand for radio-frequency spectrum and achieve the connectivity goals of the 21st century.
  • I was very pleased last night at the diner to see my friend Richard Russell being honoured by the Satellite Industry. Richard had the US delegation at this very important conference. He has played a key role in the success of WRC-07. As you know, WRC-07 brought so many changes to the spectrum allocation.
  • WRC-07 focused on the impact of the latest technological developments in satellite services, mobile communications, digital broadcasting and spectrum/orbit resources for satellite applications (including voice, data, digital and high definition TV, Internet etc.).
  • This key conference extended the existing frequency allocations for Earth-Exploration Satellite Service (EESS) in the exploration of Earth’s resources. EESS provides key services for planetary monitoring, as well as the monitoring and forecasting of natural disasters, weather and climate change.
  • It also approved proposals concerning the use and further development of satellite systems using highly-inclined orbits and high-altitude platforms, as well as compatibility between different space and terrestrial services sharing the same frequency bands.
  • WRC-07 revised the technical and regulatory provisions of the Worldwide Plan for Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) in the 800 MHz bandwidth to facilitate access to this spectrum.
  • WRC-07 was notable for its discussions and agreements on globally harmonized spectrum for use by International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT). Of special interest for satellite industry was the famous C-band where the "No Change" campaign by satellite industry's collective efforts have ensured continuing access for satellite to this band.
  • With regards to space applications, there is a growing demand for the use of spectrum and there is the risk that under-used bands by certain services may be under scrutiny and could be reassigned to new services and applications.  Of course, such decisions are made within the relevant ITU forums through our normal procedure of arriving at a consensus among all interested parties, but here I must emphasize the risk of “use it or loose it” on the spectrum allocation to the Industry.
  • ITU continues to work closely with its Member States, Sector Members and Associate Members to ensure that the needs of the space industry are reflected in the allocation of radio-frequency. This is governed through Study Groups, Radio Assemblies and World Radio Conferences.

The role of satellite communications for Emergency Telecommunications

  • Satellite communications also play a key role in emergency telecommunications and relief efforts in response to natural disasters, which is a top priority for ITU. Space-based communication systems remain intact during Earth-bound natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis. We all remember the dramatic real-time images of 2004 tsunamis fanning out through oceans around the globe – images taken from space.
  • Wherever disasters strike, they leave a legacy of broken lives and destruction, especially for developing countries and small island states that often lack the resources to deal with disasters. However, as Hurricane Katerina proved, no country is immune. Satellite communication systems play a key role in the prevention of natural disasters through remote sensing and early warning systems. Remote sensing systems are useful for disaster planning, and to support relief efforts.
  • Satellite systems also play a key role in saving lives – for example, in its 25th year of operation, the international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System (COSPAS-SARSAT) has been credited with more than 22,000 rescue operations worldwide, including over 5,700 in the United States and its surrounding waters, including more than 350 people in the US last year alone.
  • WRC-07 called for the development of spectrum management guidelines for emergency and disaster relief and identified the frequencies available for use in humanitarian assistance. ITU-R is currently studying which frequency bands would be suitable for public protection and disaster relief (under the Tampere Convention). ITU will develop a database of frequencies available for use in emergency situations to assist Member States with their plans for emergency preparedness.
  • WRC-07 also reviewed the international regulations for maritime mobile service, bringing them in line with current maritime communications technology, including distress and safety transmissions within the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
  • ITU-D is working to forge partnerships with development partners, including local communities, central government, the private sector, civil society and other international organizations, to ensure vital access to ICTs, especially by remote rural communities. It has developed an ITU Framework for Cooperation in Emergencies (IFCE)[2] for the deployment of on-demand ICT applications and services, anywhere, anytime, in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.   

Role of satellite communications in bridging the digital divide

  • Satellites also have a key role to play in bridging the digital divide and meeting the WSIS targets by achieving large-scale coverage of substantial populations quickly. The role of satellites in achieving good connectivity in remote and isolated areas is demonstrated by services enabling sailors deep at sea to be in touch with their loved ones.
  • In October 2007, in conjunction with other partners, ITU convened the Connect Africa Summit, attended by over a thousand participants from fifty-four countries (including forty-three African states). The focus in Kigali was not on aid or charity - no country has achieved long-term prosperity on this basis. Instead, the Summit sought to mobilize investment and business resources are needed to support sustainable growth, employment and development. This Summit established clear development and connectivity goals agreed by the African community, including broadband and satellite connectivity.
  • The Connect Africa Summit is the first to be launched in the Connect the World series.  Connect Africa will be followed by initiatives in all other regions of the world (e.g., Connect America, Connect Asia, Connect Pacific etc) so that for each region, we can focus global efforts to support concrete projects aimed at addressing the connectivity challenges for that region.

Future collaboration of ITU and the space industry

  • To help bridge the digital divide and bring improved connectivity to unconnected areas, a genuine partnership is needed, where UN organizations, governments and the private sector can work together to help achieve the goals set by the international community.
  • Satellite communication systems have huge potential to offer, promising high-capacity transmission capabilities over wide areas.  I would invite you to join ITU in connecting the unconnected by 2012 and to work together with us to ensure that the role and promise of satellite communications are not neglected in telecommunication investment plans for Africa and elsewhere around the globe.
  • ITU will continue to work together in close collaboration with the space industry. ITU-R is carrying out various space-related studies in preparation for WRC-11, including new frequency allocations for space research and exploration, meteorological applications, oceanographic monitoring and the future development of passive services between 275 and 3000 GHz.
  • ITU-R’s studies explore the long-term availability of spectrum for aeronautical mobile by satellite, high-definition TV broadcasting by satellite, and seeking to identify additional frequency allocations for advanced broadband mobile technology by satellite. ITU-R will continue to develop its Handbook for the spectrum monitoring of space emissions.
  • As the space industry celebrates its coming of age with its first fifty successful years, allow me to look forward to the next fifty years of success – success that can only be built on continuing collaboration between industry and government, with the ITU as the forum where true partnership can be achieved.


We have only seven years left to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the targets set by the World Summit on the Information Society. We have seven years left to connect all villages, hospitals, schools governments and ensure that the world’s population have access to television and radio services. The world’s population in regions such as the Pacific is spread over vast areas of land and seas, with sparsely populated and very remote locations. In many developing countries the majority of the population lives in the rural and remote areas. The role of the space industry is therefore very important in meeting our connectivity access targets and to contribute to the well-being of the world’s population. We need to form a global coalition to put together our resources and efforts within a framework of international cooperation and collaboration to bridge the digital divide and meet the MDG and WSIS targets.


[1] Constitution of the ITU – CS196: “In using frequency bands for radio services, Members shall bear in mind that radio frequencies and any associated orbits, including the geostationary-satellite orbit, are limited natural resources and that they must be used rationally, efficiently and economically, in conformity with the provisions of the Radio Regulations, so that countries or groups of countries may have equitable access to those orbits and frequencies, taking into account the special needs of the developing countries and the geographical situation of particular countries”.

[2] http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/emergencytelecoms/events/global_forum/itu-ifce.pdf





Top -  Feedback -  Contact Us -  Copyright © ITU 2018 All Rights Reserved
Contact for this page: External Affairs and Corporate Communication Division
Updated: 2018-06-19