Final press release

World Policy Telecommunication Forum
Geneva, 21–23 October 1996

23 October 1996



The ITU's World Telecommunication Policy Forum wound up this evening amid jubilation as delegates congratulated one another on taking the first significant steps forward in building the new global satellite networks of tomorrow.

The Forum was host to 1061 participants from 129 countries, who spent three days vigorously debating the key issues surrounding the development and implementation of what is known in the industry as GMPCS (Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite).

These new systems, which are often known generically as Big and Little LEO satellites, represent the new wave of personal telephony, promising seamless global mobile fax, messaging, data and even two-way voice and broadband multimedia connectivity via small, hand-held phone sets, computer-mounted terminals and laptops. Most systems are scheduled to come into operation within the next five years, and will be able to offer service to people the world over.

The final day of the meeting saw some intense wrangling over interpretations of wording in the five Opinions and the draft Memorandum of Understanding which made up the Chairman's report on 'Policy and Regulatory Issues Raised by Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite', which was the working document of the Forum. The Opinions cover general principles for administrations, regulators and the industry for the timely deployment of GMPCS, and represent a common vision for the future development of global mobile satellite systems.

When a consensus was finally reached in the early evening on Wednesday, the meeting finished with calls for a standing ovation for Chairman Jonathan Parapak of Indonesia for his deft handling of the complex issues involved and the equitable way he had conducted the event.

Mr Parapak was presented with a set of gold pens by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Pekka Tarjanne, who said he hoped the Chairman would use them in a few months time to sign the proposed Memorandum of Understanding drafted by the Forum.

Making his final speech to the meeting, Mr Parapak expressed his gratitude for the work of the delegations and the ITU Secretariat. "For me, this has been a historic event," he said. "Let us be clear. I salute you all, Ladies and Gentlemen, because you have made history." He said that when he opened the Forum three days earlier, he was amazed at the number of countries represented. "Let us be very proud of what we have done. GMPCS is really about linking people to people. Let us now move forward," he concluded.


Before the close of the meeting, Ambassador Vonya McCann of the US delegation announced that the US government and private sector intends to establish a special 2-week training course in the US Telecommunications Training Institute on satellite regulation and policy for 20-25 high-level officials from the developing world. To be offered in addition to TTI's normal 1997 free tuition programme, the course will be conducted by representatives from the FCC, NTIA, Motorola, Comsat, AT&T, ICO, Iridium, Teledesic and others.

Announcing the new initiative, Ambassador McCann said "This Forum has been an invaluable opportunity for ITU Members States and Sector Members to exchange views on issues of significant importance. While the US talks a lot, we also listen. We have heard the concerns expressed by developing countries about lack of expertise in satellite regulations and policies. We understand the importance of technical training, and look forward to working together."


Speaking at a large press conference held just before the close of the Forum, ITU Secretary General Dr Pekka Tarjanne said "The ITU cannot afford to ignore this technology - this truly revolutionary phenomenon. Every other step forward in telecommunications progress has been a gradual one. In my country of origin, Finland, automatic switches were introduced in the 1920s, but were not universal until the 1970s. Equally, digitization was introduced in the 1970s, but we are still not at 100% around the world. For GMPCS, once the satellites are up they available instantly to everybody around the world. This is why I call it revolutionary. GMPCS facilities will be available to all users."

The concerns of the developing world were succinctly expressed during the press conference by Undersecretary for Communications for the Philippines, Ms Josefina Lichaugo. "My country, like many developing nations, is in a dilemma - we do not want to be left behind, yet the regulatory framework is not yet ready for the introduction of such systems," she said.

In response to a question from a journalist about the unknown aspects of this untried technology the Minister for Communications of Senegal, Mr Serigne Diop, said "There is no technology that is perfect. We do not live in paradise. But we feel that there is a great deal more good than bad in the proposed systems, which is why we have invested in such projects, and why we are here in Geneva at the WTPF."

Mr Abderrazak Berrada, representing the Arab delegations, spoke to the press about the role GMPCS systems could play in the developing world. "We are all, I think, in broad agreement that the potential is there," he said. "We, as you know, have invested in one of the systems, which we would not have chosen to do if we did not think it would be of benefit to our people. We believe that the technology can be used for all mankind. It is absolutely necessary to introduce these systems."

Both the African and Arab delegations welcomed gradual introduction of the widest possible competition in GMPCS markets, which they said would be beneficial to all countries.


The Five Opinions contained in the Chairman's report on 'Policy and Regulatory Issues Raised by Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite' cover the following topics:

Opinion 1 – The role of GMPCS in the Globalization of Telecommunications

Opinion 2 – The Shared Vision and Principles for GMPCS

Opinion 3 – Essential Studies by the ITU to Facilitate the Introduction of GMPCS

Opinion 4 – Establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding to Facilitate the Free Circulation of GMPCS User Terminals (with the draft MoU in annex)

Opinion 5 – Implementation of GMPCS in Developing Countries


The Chairman's Report sets out voluntary principles which have been developed to help national policy makers, regulatory authorities, GMPCS operators and service providers to manage the introduction of new systems. These principles may be summarized as follows:

Principle 1 Early Introduction provides for States, within the context of the national priorities, to facilitate the early introduction of GMPCS for the benefit of all.

Principle 2 International Co-operation recommends a co-ordinated approach by policy-makers and regulators in regards to action related to user terminal licensing and the free circulation of terminals, the acceleration of work underway in ITU Sectors and of frequency co-ordination, and the fostering of participation of developing countries through partnership and assistance.

Principle 3 Global Service Availability recommends the simplification of regulations and practices relating the opening of markets to competition, and warns against discrimination among different countries of categories of user in GMPCS service provision.

Principle 4 GMPCS Regulation recommends the fostering of worldwide competition in services and equipment, and promotes efficient operations to expedite the introduction of basic telecommunications services.

Principle 5 Investment Participation provides for wide multinational participation in the equity ownership of GMPCS systems.

Principle 6 Unauthorized Use recommends that each operator take steps to inhibit the use of the system in any country in which it is not authorized.

Principle 7 User Terminal and Free Circulation recommends the development of class or blanket licences for terminal equipment and handsets.

Principle 8 Universal Access outlines measure to promote access to GMPCS services in remote or rural areas, by the provision of service by operators at a reasonable cost, and by offering transport tariffs by gateway operators and others at a reasonable cost.

Principle 9 Interconnectivity recommends co-operation between national regulators and GMPCS operators to ensure interconnectivity between GMPCS systems, and between these systems and the public telephone networks.

Principle 10 Further Co-operation advises regulators, GMPCS operators, service providers and manufacturers to co-operate with a view to facilitating co-ordinated solutions with a view to the full implementation of GMPCS as soon as possible.


The draft Memorandum of Understanding designed to facilitate the free circulation of GMPCS user terminals was the subject of lengthy discussion on the Forum's final day. The document was prepared in an attempt to overcome specific problems which have the potential to limit the viability of GMPCS systems, while at the same time taking into account the genuine concerns of regulatory bodies.

At present, this kind of equipment is frequently subject to customs controls which restrict user mobility by imposing taxes on the use of 'foreign' equipment, or expressly forbid its use. As well, the need for technical certification of each piece of equipment via national type approval can impede the ability to use such equipment across borders. Controls need to be relaxed - for instance through mutual type recognition - if GMPCS systems, and the global roaming they promise, are to become realities.

Many delegations supported the insertion into the draft MoU of an Article would accord countries the right to demand data from operators concerning traffic originating in, or routed through, their national territory, for the purpose of identifying unauthorized traffic. However, some delegations were concerned that this had the potential to force operators to release commercially sensitive information, or information which had implications for personal privacy. The situation was finally resolved with the addition of a new Article, Article 6, re-drafted in such a way as to protect confidentiality.

The timing for development of the draft MoU was also the source of many final-day interventions from the floor. In the end, it was decided to revise the schedule proposed in the draft document to give potential signatories the opportunity to fully consider the issues contained within the text of the document. Comments on the content of the draft MoU will now be accepted until the 31 December 1996, with work on agreements relating to the free circulation of terminals to commence by the end of June 1997.


During the Forum the key concerns of delegates generally centered around the following broad issues:

Many delegations also raised the issue of the role of the ITU in fostering development of GMPCS systems. There was widespread support for an active role by the ITU in the following areas:


In his closing remarks to the assembly of delegates, Dr Tarjanne praised the Forum as "constructive, creative and efficient." He said that the work of the Forum represented the first steps towards early implementation of GMPCS for the benefit of all mankind. He added that the success of the ITU's first World Telecommunication Policy Forum would pave the way for future events of this kind on key issues in the field of telecommunications.

Full text of the Chairman's Report

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