World Radiocommunication Conference
Highlights WRC2000 Newsroom
8 May-2June

 Istanbul, 16 May 2000 N 7
 15 May issue

17 May issue   

IMT-2000: progress made

    Discussions continued on a framework on which to build consensus on identifying suitable frequency bands for IMT-2000. The interest in IMT-2000 is best illustrated by the fact that well over one third of all delegations are participating in the working group responsible for the terrestrial component of IMT-2000.

    Countries from the African Group expressed support for IMT-2000, recognizing the compelling benefits for developing countries particularly with respect to applications not available from 2nd generation systems. They however stressed that more time was needed to allow them to evolve from 2nd to 3rd generation networks to enable the significant investments already made to be amortized. The fact that a majority of the population in developing nations live in areas where the immediate availability of IMT-2000 may not be possible in terms of investments should also be kept in mind.

    Several delegates pointed to the difficulty of agreeing on a common set of bands that would satisfy everyone. Many of the candidate bands, particularly below 1 GHz, were used by broadcast applications, first and 2nd generation mobile systems. A possible approach was suggested according to which some regulatory text would provide for the availability of the spectrum below 1 GHz as required, by way of a footnote or within an existing footnote. This approach was widely supported as it would provide the flexibility for operators to evolve from 2nd to 3rd generation at a pace they chose according to market considerations. The intent would be more fully described in a resolution that would also indicate the range of bands where this would be applicable.

    It was considered important not only to give guidance to equipment manufacturers that were eagerly awaiting decisions to move to production but also to make sure that there was no impediment to market forces determining the mix of services that operators may wish to deploy. In response to some statements made by delegations who would prefer to know more about possible adverse impact on 2nd generation operators, whose investments have not yet been recuped, one delegate said: "Evolution will occur any way. There are strong incentives by operators not to miss out on market opportunities nor to be at a disadvantage with other operators who would have access to other bands. There are also incentives for manufacturers to meet needs of operators".

    A minority view however maintained that the degree of flexibility which was demanded by operators belittled the objectives of IMT-2000, that the impact on 2nd generation operators was not sufficiently documented, in particular the possible transition process to 3rd generation from a regulatory and technical perspective and that, as a result, further studies were required before moving ahead.

    After considerable debate and a few minor amendments, the general principles on which to build consensus were approved. They essentially include:

1. the identification of spectrum to the order of 160 MHz beyond the core bands already identified and beyond the spectrum used anywhere in the world for first- and 2nd generation mobile systems
2. the identified spectrum should be global in order to maximize harmonized use, a limited number of which in contiguous global bands
3. a high degree of flexibility through appropriate regulatory provisions
  • to cater for the individual choice by country to decide when and how to make use of the bands in order to meet particular market demand and other national considerations
  • to allow for the use of these bands by all services allocated in those bands
  • to enable countries to determine, at a national level, how much spectrum to make available for IMT-2000 within the identified bands
  • to allow countries to develop their own transition plans tailored to meet their specific deployment of existing systems
4. the need to take account of the particular requirements of developing
5. the need to identify the additional spectrum within the current bands allocated to the mobile service
6. the need to build on the work already carried out by the ITU on IMT-2000 as well as the ability to deploy other technologies in the bands identified.

    The meeting then started to consider the possible candidate bands.

Bands below 1 GHz

    The delegate of Cameroon summed up the reasons why the band below 1 GHz was particularly well suited for developing countries. "First from a technical viewpoint, this band offers propagation characteristics well suited for regions like ours", he said. "Secondly, from an economic viewpoint, this band would make it possible to develop cells which could be bigger than for frequencies above 1 GHz, therefore facilitating coverage at lower cost", he added. "Thirdly, there is an industry basis. We dont have manufacturing capacity. It is therefore vital that this conference identify one band that enables manufacturers to have sufficient economies of scale to produce equipment that respond to our environment", he stressed.

    From the various statements that followed, no specific agreement emerged as the various proposals offered little commonality overall. It was then decided to set up a drafting group to consider the proposals for bands below 1 GHz with a view to preparing a footnote and possibly a resolution. The footnote should recognize that there were differences of use today and that other services had to be protected, in particular the broadcasting and fixed-satellite services while preserving the concept of flexibility for each country to determine its own course while achieving harmonized worldwide use.

Band 1710-1885 MHz

    Strong support was expressed by 16 countries of CITEL for this band because of its good propagation characteristics for pedestrian and vehicular applications, pointing to the fact that the band was large and adjacent to existing core bands for IMT-2000 and would facilitate evolution to 3rd generation systems without costly cell redesign. The band also received the support of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity. European countries stressed that this band was already heavily used by 2nd generation systems but that there was nevertheless a possibility of evolution to IMT-2000 in the longer term and an opportunity to build a framework for the future. On that basis, they agreed to include this band as part of a package that provides a suitable amount of additional spectrum over and above core and 1st and 2nd generation bands.

    The identification of this band for IMT-2000 was however opposed by a number of RCC countries and countries of the Arab and African groups essentially because of potential sharing difficulties with systems already using this band, in particular fixed and broadcasting systems.

    Once again, there was strong expression of support and of opposition. But signs of a possible compromise were clearly seen as countries, which had not identified this particular band as a prime candidate in their proposal, were willing to consider it as part of a package solution.

2.5 GHz band

    For Europe, this was the prime candidate band for IMT-2000 additional spectrum. Because it provided almost all of the 160 MHz and was also suitable for the mobile satellite component, it was found to be very appropriate as part of a package. This band was supported by the US, if considered into sub-bands i.e. one for terrestrial component (2500-2690 MHz) and three for the satellite component (2483.5-2500 MHz, 2500-2520 MHz and 2670-2690 MHz). The US also expressed support for the package solution for all three frequency bands. Strong support for this band was also expressed by the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity countries.

    Several other countries had however great concerns with this band because of sharing difficulties with existing systems, essentially microwave multipoint distribution systems (MMDS) for the fixed and broadcast service as well as wireless local loop. Again, some indication of a possible package solution was clearly perceptible, given the changes in initial positions with respect to that band when considered as part of a package solution. It was increasingly evident that difficulties were more of a national nature and could therefore be accommodated by way of footnotes once the bands had been identified.

Mobile-satellite allocation: the saga continues

    The question as to whether the alternative bands of 1 675-1 710 MHz could be considered at this conference for an allocation to the MSS service flared up in Committee 5 (see WRC2000 Highlights of 11 May under the Quest for spectrum by the MSS).

    Some countries (US, RCC, APT) opposed the possible allocation of this band on procedural grounds, considering that it was not within the competence of this conference as the agenda item did not clearly refer to that band nor was it explicitly foreseen in the agenda. Consequently, delegations had not prepared and were therefore not able to determine the impact on existing and planned systems using this band. For European countries and some countries of other regions, the long discussions at WRC-97 were in response to Resolution 213 and the need to find a suitable MSS downlink. And this justification was integrated in Resolution 220, under recognizing 3. What was being sought was therefore the ability to discuss the merit of this band for the MSS allocation.

    Again in Committee 5, no consensus could be reached. The Chairperson appealed to delegations not to focus on procedural matters and give substance a chance, stressing that there would be opportunities in the discussion to determine whether or not the information needed to make a sound judgment was available, depending on the proposals made in this respect. His plea was reinforced by the UK delegation who said that the informal discussions were promising in terms of finding agreement on the substance.

    It was therefore decided to seek the view of the Plenary of the conference on whether or not allocation to MSS in this band was or not within the competence of WRC-2000. Meanwhile, Working Group 5B would continue to work on the substance leaving the door open to put an end to the discussions, should countries consider that essential information was lacking to assess the impact of the proposals. It was also agreed not to delete Resolution 220, which deals with the MSS downlinks in the 1559-1610 MHz band, until the issue of Resolution 213, covering the possible use of the 1675-1710 MHz band by the MSS, was resolved. The decision was taken to make progress should the Plenary decide that this particular point is part of the agenda.

Telecommunication resources for disaster mitigation and relief operations

    Working Group 4B approved revisions to two key Resolutions on humanitarian assistance: Resolution 644, which relates to telecommunication resources for disaster mitigation and relief operations and Resolution 10 which covers the use of wireless two-way telecommunications by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

    Many delegations applauded the efforts made by ITU and the United Nations to organize the Intergovernmental Conference on Emergency Telecommunications (ICET-98), which gave birth to the Tampere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations.

    Countries, notably from the Inter-American Telecommunications Commission (CITEL), reported on their efforts to implement the Tampere Convention and urged other regions to do so. They further stressed that regional organizations should be reminded to play an active role in promoting the Tampere Convention.

    In particular, countries are urged to find practical ways of facilitating the rapid deployment and effective use of disaster communications by reducing and, where possible, removing regulatory barriers and strengthening transborder cooperation between States. The ITU is invited to continue to study, as a matter of urgency, those aspects of radiocommunications that are relevant to disaster mitigation and relief operations, including mobile and portable satellite terminals. It is also requested to increase its involvement in disaster communications and take action in support of the Tampere Convention.

    Resolution 10 urges ITU Member States to take account of the possible needs of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement for wireless two-way telecommunication means on which it heavily relies (particularly extensive HF and VHF radio networks), when normal communication facilities are interrupted or not available. The Resolution also urges countries to assign to these organizations the minimum number of necessary working frequencies in accordance with the Radio Regulations while taking all practicable steps to protect such communications from harmful interference.

    These Resolutions will be sent to Committee 4 and finally to the Plenary for approval.

Equitable access to the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits

    A report presented by the Radio Regulations Board (RRB) to Working Group 4A sparked an interesting debate and resulted in the creation of yet another Sub-Working Group (SWG4A-9). This report had been prepared in response to a Resolution of WRC-97 (Resolution 80) calling upon the RRB to develop rules of procedures that would cater for the requirement of preserving equitable access by all countries to the radio frequency spectrum and associated orbital positions given that they are recognized as limited natural resources in two international treaties - the ITU Constitution and the Radio Regulations. The rules of procedure were urgently needed in a bid to assist the Radiocommunication Bureau (BR) in examining due compliance with these principles in the process leading up to the recording of frequency assignements in the International Frequency Register. These rules were to be applied from a date to be decided by this Conference.

    The RRB developed a possible approach for consideration by WRC-2000. The criteria implicit in the Radio Regulations (S0.3) require countries, in putting into use frequencies and usage of the geostationary satellite orbit (GSO), to take into account a number of principles. These include the need to ensure rational use, utilize the resources efficiently, use the minimum number of frequencies possible (economical usage), operate in conformity with the Radio Regulations, ensure equity of access by all countries, take into account the special needs of developing countries, take into account the geographical situation of other countries.

    Considering these principles, several members of the Board noted some difficulties likely to be experienced by countries and, in particular, developing countries. The following were highlighted:

    The draft Rules of Procedure gave rise to intense debate. Finally, it was agreed that rather than going ahead with the draft Rules of Procedure, Resolution 80 should be revised to incorporate the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space concerning ways to foster equitable access. The new text would also instruct the Radiocommunication Advisory Group to draw up draft provisions that would link the formal filing procedures with the principles stated in the preamble to the Radio Regulations under S.03. Sub-Working Group 4A-9 was given the task to revise the Resolution.

In brief

Not an official document - For information only
15 May issue 17 May issue