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Geneva, 11 October 1996 — The International Telecommunication Union will this month host the first-ever world Forum on new types of satellite systems due to come into operation in the next few years.

The World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF) will be held in Geneva from October 21 - 23. With the topic of 'Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite' (GMPCS), the event will focus on the policy and regulatory issues which need to be addressed in order to facilitate the introduction of these systems.

Proposed new Big and Little LEO and MEO satellite constellations promise users seamless global communications via pocket-sized handsets or small fixed terminals. Unlike the communications satellites currently in operation, these new GMPCS systems will make use of moving satellites, called 'non-geostationary satellites', located in Low- or Medium Earth Orbit. The global coverage which can be provided by such systems raises a number of complex issues in the areas of national sovereignty, service and equipment licensing and interconnection with other carriers.

In order to fully cover the issues surrounding new global telecommunications services, the Policy Forum will consider a common set of policy and regulatory issues raised by the following kinds of satellite systems:

  • existing and planned global and regional satellite systems providing mobile personal communications voice and low-speed data services and operating in the geostationary orbit (GEO MSS);
  • existing and planned satellite systems operating in non-geostationary orbits and providing mobile narrow-band services, excluding voice, on a global or regional basis (i.e. 'Little LEOs' or 'Little' NGEO MSS);
  • satellite systems planned to come into operation in the next two to five years in order to offer narrowband mobile services, including voice and relatively low-speed data, on a global or regional basis and to operate in non-geostationary orbits - including Low Earth Orbits (LEOs), Medium Earth Orbits (MEOs), and Highly Inclined Elliptical Orbits (HEOs) - (i.e. NGEO MSS);
  • satellite systems planned to come into operation in the next five to ten years in order to offer fixed and transportable, multimedia broadband services on a global or regional basis and to operate either in geostationary or non-geostationary orbits (GEO and NGEO FSS).

In spite of their different technical characteristics and different service offerings (i.e. fixed vs. mobile, narrowband vs. broadband), all these systems share certain characteristics that distinguish them from traditional intergovernmental organizations providing satellite services and give rise to essentially similar policy and regulatory issues.

The aim of the Forum will be to reach a consensus between government and the industry as to the best way forward in introducing GMPCS systems. Participants will strive to develop principles which could be used to harmonize national approaches to the fundamental issues surrounding GMPCS implementation, and to formulate basic guidelines which will promote the implementation of this new technology in both developed and developing countries.


Prior to the event, a Special Information Session will be held for interested participants. To take place on Sunday 20 October from 10h00 to 18h00, the session will commence with introductory remarks by the ITU Deputy Secretary-General, Dr Henry Chasia, followed by a number of panel sessions comprising representatives from the leading GMPCS operators, telecoms administrations, and regulators. Panel sessions will be followed by questions from the audience. During the lunch break, ITU Secretary-General Dr Pekka Tarjanne will speak on the issues surrounding the introduction of mobile satellite services, and of his hopes for the Forum.
The World Telecommunication Policy Forum has been convened because of a decision by ITU Members at the organization's 1994 Plenipotentiary Conference. At that event, it was decided that the many new issues raised by GMPCS technology, were, by their global nature, beyond the scope of any single country, and warranted an international forum which directly involved both telecommunication administrations and private industry.

The WTPF will offer a unique opportunity to hear the decision-makers from governments and the industry debate the crucial issues of GMPCS and develop the global strategies which will underpin the communications networks of tomorrow. Delegates will come from the ITU's 186 Member States and more than 400 Sector Members, as well as from academic and research establishments and other international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization. The event is also open to attendance, but not direct participation, by the general public and the media.

A World Wide Web site has been established for the Forum, providing additional information such as technical backgrounders, feature articles on GMPCS, Frequently Asked Questions, the Report of the Secretary-General, a Forum agenda, and Position Papers from some of the main operators.

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