Managing the international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources is at the heart of the work of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R).
ITU is mandated by its Constitution to allocate spectrum and register frequency assignments, orbital positions and other parameters of satellites, “in order to avoid harmful interference between radio stations of different countries”. The international spectrum management system is therefore based on regulatory procedures for frequency notification, coordination and registration.
Major tasks of ITU-R also include developing standards for radiocommunication systems, ensuring the effective use of the radio-frequency spectrum and studies concerning the development of radiocommunication systems.
ITU-R further carries out studies for the development of radiocommunication systems used in disaster mitigation and relief operations and these can be found within work programmes of the Radiocommunication Study Groups. Aspects of radiocommunication services associated with disasters include disaster prediction, detection, alerting and disaster relief. In certain cases, when the “wired” telecommunication infrastructure is significantly or completely destroyed following a disaster, radiocommunication services are the most effective in disaster relief operations.
Radiocommunication systems have been expanding at an incredible rate in the last decades. Their importance as development infrastructure and as a major asset for governments, the telecommunications industry and the general public is unquestionable.
Radio-frequency spectrum is a natural resource, and its rational and efficient exploitation can enhance a nation's productivity as well as the quality of life of its citizens. In order to derive its full benefits it is critical to develop and implement efficient national frameworks for spectrum management.
The ITU Radio Regulations, and particularly its Table of Frequency Allocations, have been revised and updated almost regularly in view of the enormous demand for spectrum utilization. This is critical to keep pace with the rapid expansion of existing systems as well as the spectrum-demanding advanced wireless technologies that are being developed. The ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), which convenes every three to four years, is at the core of the international spectrum management process and constitutes the starting point for national practices. WRC reviews and revises the Radio Regulations, an international treaty establishing the framework for the utilization of radio frequencies and satellite orbits among ITU member countries, and considers any question of a worldwide character within its competence and related to its agenda.
Equitable access to spectrum and orbital resources is of special concern, given the uneven needs of developed and developing countries. As a consequence, the principle of a priori planning of spectrum and orbit resources is considered in conjunction with a series of plans established by radiocommunication conferences.
Through its various activities covering the implementation of Radio Regulations to the establishment of recommendations and guidelines on the usage of radio systems and spectrum/orbit resources, ITU-R plays a vital role in the global management of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits. These limited natural resources are increasingly in demand from a large and growing number of services such as fixed, mobile, broadcasting, amateur, space research, meteorology, global positioning systems, and environmental monitoring that depend on radiocommunication to ensure safety of life on land, at sea and in the skies.