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Radiocommunication Assembly gives new directions
for future work of ITU Radiocommunication Sector

Istanbul, 5 May 2000 — Istanbul, the city that has long been a source of inspiration for culture (poetry, music and paintings) over the centuries, has also inspired greatly the first Radiocommunication Assembly (RA-2000) of the millennium which it hosted from 1 to 5 May 2000. Radiocommunication assemblies are normally convened every two to three years, and may be associated in place and time with a world radiocommunication conference.

The Assembly, which was opened by the Minister of Transport and Communications, His Excellency Mr Enis Öksüz, took place under the Chairmanship of Eberhard George (Germany), assisted by four Vice-Chairpersons: Mark Krivocheev (Russia), Masayoshi Murotani (Japan), C. Merchan Escalante (Mexico) and Idrissa Samake (Mali).

In his opening remarks, Robert Jones, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau (BR) paid tribute to the Turkish Administration for their outstanding commitment to organize the Radiocommunication Assembly and the World Radiocommunication Conference in Istanbul. Mr Jones added that this event was unique not just because it was the first ITU Radiocommunication Assembly to be held outside Geneva, but also because of the number of challenging issues that required the understanding and cooperation on the part of all, due to the very limited time available. "Many of these issues result from important changes decided by the Plenipotentiary Conference (Minneapolis, 1998) which require a continuous effort to make the activities of the Radiocommunication Study Groups and, indeed the entire Sector, more efficient", he said.

ITU Secretary-General, Yoshio Utsumi, urged the Assembly to implement decisions of the Minneapolis Conference aimed at reinforcing the role of the Union in the telecommunications field. "There is no need to say that the ITU membership should play an active role in strengthening the Union’s position in an environment where it is being challenged. This is a constant preoccupation for all of us. A number of important initiatives, such as the establishment of the ITU Reform Advisory Panel, have been taken to this end. In the field of radiocommunication, new proposals and suggestions are also needed to achieve this goal and we must give the Council (ITU’s governing body) and the next Plenipotentiary Conference good ideas to carry out the necessary changes", Mr Utsumi declared.

Concluding his remarks, the Secretary-General called on the Assembly "not to forget that ITU is the only organization where spectrum regulators, spectrum users, administrations, equipment manufacturers and service providers and others have established a worldwide forum to talk to each other. Many important projects which depend upon the work of the Radiocommunication Sector have now achieved global application. This can be said of IMT-2000 (International Mobile Telecommunications-2000) and will certainly be the case for many more projects, the success of which will send a signal to the external world of the ever-increasing role of the ITU".

Main issues for RA-2000

For five days the Assembly discussed the results of the work of the Study Groups of the Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) in the period 1997-2000, further improvements to the working methods of the Study Groups, approval of Recommendations, work programme (adoption of Questions and setting of priorities, both for regular work and WRC-related activities), the structure of the Study Groups, including the Radiocommunication Advisory Group (RAG), the Conference Preparatory Meeting (CPM), and the Special Committee on Regulatory/Procedural Matters (SC).

RA-2000 took some landmark decisions on voice over the Internet (VoIP), IMT-2000, fixed-wireless access, mobile for developing countries and on some controversial recommendations dealing with sharing issues.

Working methods

The working practices of the Sector are covered by a series of Resolutions, some of which were reviewed by the Assembly. Of greatest significance was the adoption of a fast track approach for the adoption of technical recommendations when they do not have regulatory or policy implications nor to issues relevant to the work of radiocommunication conferences (which are treaty-making). This measure was in response to a Resolution of the Plenipotentiary Conference (Resolution 82).

Until now, approval of Recommendations (output of the work programme including technical standards) has been the exclusive province of the Member States, either at an assembly or, increasingly, by consultation in the period between two assemblies. In order to give the industry greater decision-making authority and achieve a shorter time-to-market for recommendations to better serve the needs of the market-place, Resolution 82 proposed that Recommendations which do not have regulatory and policy content might be approved directly by study groups without the subsequent and lengthy step of formal adoption by Member States. Study Groups are groups of experts from both the industry and Member States who participate on an equal footing.

The Assembly had the onerous task of establishing categories, identifying what is regulatory and policy and what was not. Most delegations were in favour of the move while some Member States were somewhat cautious in this regard, feeling that national sovereignty and the intergovernmental nature of the organization would be at stake. The case was made that if, during the course of work, a recommendation appeared indeed to have some regulatory or policy impact, the study group would always have the possibility of reverting to the standard approval process.

After a protracted debate, agreement on the fast-track procedure was finally reached. A suitable categorization of the Questions to which this procedure will apply will be carried out by each study group as soon as possible.

Approval of Recommendations

In comparison with previous Assemblies, there were fewer Recommendations submitted for approval as a great majority were adopted through the consultation process when they had been agreed at study group level. The Assembly had nevertheless, some 90 draft new or revised Recommendations on the table spanning a range of issues involving spectrum management, sharing criteria and system specification and in particular, the landmark agreement on the IMT-2000 detailed specifications for the air radio interfaces.

Rights of Associates

The Radiocommunication Sector will be the first to implement a decision of the Minneapolis Conference calling for the establishment of a new category of participants in ITU work known as Associates created to draw on the knowledge and expertise of entities when mutual interests exist. The creation of this new category also aims at encouraging greater participation in the work of ITU by smaller companies, institutions and organizations with highly focused areas of activity.

Thanks to a decision of RA-2000, interested entities or organizations will now be able to join the Sector as Associates, and be entitled to take part in the work of a selected single Study Group and its subordinate groups (Working Parties, Joint Working Parties, Task Groups and Joint Task Groups). Associates will therefore be able to participate in meetings, submit contributions and provide comments before the adoption of Recommendations. In addition, Associates will be able to take part in the process of preparing Recommendations within a single study group. They will however not be entitled to vote.

In defining these rights, the Assembly has further invited the Council to determine a financial contribution for Associate membership to share in defraying the expenses of the Sector and the Study Group concerned.

Structure of Radiocommunication Study Groups

Considering convergence between technologies in use for several types of radio services where the distinction between services and applications is increasingly blurring, RA-2000 decided to merge the sound broadcasting study group (formerly Study Group 10) and the television broadcasting study group (formerly Study Group 11) into a new one (Study Group 6), reducing the total number from eight to seven.

This much-talked about merger had been controversial in the past, but agreement was finally reached, having found a compromise on the scope of the new study group, in particular as regards matters on the "borderline" between ITU-R and the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T).

The new study group will be responsible for satellite and terrestrial broadcasting from end-to-end including vision, sound, multimedia and data services. In particular, it will study those aspects related to production and radiocommunication including the international exchange of programmes as well as the performance of the overall delivery chain to the general public.

The new structure is as follows:

· Study Group 1 (Spectrum management)
Spectrum planning, utilization, engineering, sharing and monitoring
· Study Group 3 (Radiowave propagation)
Propagation of radio waves in ionized and non-ionized media and the characteristics of radio noise, for the purpose of improving radiocommunication systems.
· Study Group 4 (Fixed-satellite service)
Systems and networks for the fixed-satellite service and inter-satellite links in the fixed-satellite service, including associated tracking, telemetry and telecommand functions.
· Study Group 6 (Broadcasting services)
Radiocommunication broadcasting (terrestrial and satellite), including vision, sound, multimedia and data services principally intended for delivery to the general public
· Study Group 7 (Science services)
Systems for space operation, space research, earth exploration and meteorology, including the related use of links in the inter-satellite service; Radioastronomy and radar astronomy as well as dissemination, reception and coordination of standard-frequency and time-signal services, including the application of satellite techniques, on a worldwide basis
· Study Group 8 (Mobile, radiodetermination, amateur and related satellite services)
Systems and networks for the mobile, radiodetermination and amateur services, including related satellite services
· Study Group 9 (Fixed service)
Systems and networks of the fixed service operating via terrestrial stations

The work of these Study Groups involves developing technical, operational and procedural bases for efficient use of the radio spectrum and the geostationary-satellite orbit.

Further, the Assembly appointed or confirmed the chairpersons and vice-chairpersons for the Study Groups, Conference Preparatory Meeting, Special Committee on Regulatory/Procedural Matters, the Radiocommunication Advisory Group and the Coordination Committee for  Vocabulary (CCV); it also confirmed the 8-year maximum term of office for chairpersons as it was felt that this duration provided stability and continuity in the work while offering opportunities for bringing to the Sector fresh talents and expertise. However, the term of office for the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the Radiocommunication Advisory Group was reduced to four years as different factors applied for the RAG than for study groups.

Work programme of ITU-R Study Groups

The work programme approved for the next study period contains some 340 Questions with their priority and urgency for completion of studies. It includes studies on matters related to agenda items of World Radio Conferences or requested by WRC resolutions.

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