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Mid-conference review by WRC-07 Chairman Mr François Rancy


1. What are the main issues being discussed at the WRC-07?

The main issue of the conference is Agenda item 1.4: New allocations and identifications of spectrum for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT). This explains the attendance at this conference of an unprecedented number of delegates: approximately 2600.

Mobile services are now part of everyday life in all countries and there is a need to ensure that this service can continue to grow in the future to adjust to new requirements: higher transmission rates and new mobile applications. In the near future, people will want the same type of service on mobile as already provided in their homes by ADSL, fibre optic or cable.

The importance of this agenda item is related to the fact that there is a need to earmark spectrum at worldwide level to facilitate this development. Currently, most mobile systems are located in the 1 GHz band but, as spectrum requirements increase, there is a need to tap into the higher frequencies.

However, higher frequencies translate into higher costs. Doubling the frequency band by going from 1 GHz to 2 GHz provides more spectrum, hence more capacity to the end-customer, but costs are pushed up because many more base stations are required.

WARC-92 decided on mobile allocations identified for IMT, which we know as 3G, in the 2 GHz bands. WRC-2000 further made identifications for IMT at 2.6 GHz. WRC-07 may identify bands above 3.4 GHz, which would entail further cost increase for deploying mobile networks.

This would result in the provision of mobile services mainly to densely populated areas, such as large cities, and lead to increasing the digital divide between sparsely and densely populated areas. Lower frequencies are therefore needed to provide mobile services everywhere and at a reasonable cost.

A combination of the following would be ideal:

  • Higher frequencies for more capacity and to provide more services to densely populated areas

  • Lower frequencies for less densely populated areas to provide mobile services everywhere, with higher capacity as well.

Access to spectrum by all countries for both of these requirements is one of the main objectives of this conference.

 

2. What are the main difficulties encountered so far on this Agenda Item?

Painful decisions may have to be made by Administrations in order to pave the way for the future of mobile services. Because these services use spectrum extensively, it is not possible to share the same spectrum with mobile services in the same geographic location and the current use of the frequency bands identified by this conference for the mobile service may be put in question. The task before WRC-07 is therefore to minimize the situations where Administrations would have to face such painful decisions.

The future is wireless — but frequency spectrum is limited. There is a need to find new ways of sharing the spectrum and that is the challenge before WRC-07.

One peculiarity of this conference is that the regional groups (Africa, APT, Arab Group, CEPT, CITEL and RCC), which have been instrumental in reaching consensus decisions in past WRC’s, have generally been divided on the choice of the frequency bands to be selected, because different countries have made differents choices in these bands and these choices may be difficult to change now. I am confident that these initial divisions will be overcome and several regional groups have already resolved these divisions.

An important point is the large convergence of the needs of developing and developed countries to reduce the digital divide, and this convergence may form the basis of the success of this conference.

There are two frequency bands creating the most difficulty:

  • UHF band 470 - 862 MHz band — is already used by terrestrial television broadcasting and therefore many Administrations have difficulties in reducing the amount of spectrum that may be used for this purpose in the future. Many however, are expected to make this change, since the switch-over to digital terrestrial broadcasting is expected to result in lesser spectrum requirements for broadcasting.
     

  • 3.4 - 4.2 GHz band for fixed satellite services — many countries are heavily dependant on fixed-satellite service (FSS) links in this band, in particular tropical countries with high rainfall rates, where higher frequency bands may not offer a viable alternative. It would therefore be very difficult for them to change the use of this frequency band in the foreseeable future.

3. What are the solutions proposed to resolve this Agenda Item?

Given this situation, the best solution appears to identify a set of frequency bands for the future, i.e. for the next 20 to 30 years. From this set of frequency bands, each Administration could make a selection to accommodate its requirements for mobile services without sacrificing other essential services, such as television broadcasting or fixed-satellite links. Since this set of frequency bands would be designated worldwide, this would also enable manufacturers to produce equipment in large quantities to be distributed internationally with attractive prices. The economies of scale arising from such a decision would therefore benefit everybody.

The objective is to provide a choice of bands for harmonized worldwide use and roaming. Currently, four bands routinely coexist in the same terminals to facilitate roaming, so it is not unreasonable to think that this number may be slightly increased for services to be provided in the future to facilitate international roaming from one country to another and high-capacity service everywhere.

 

4. Now that we are entering into the second phase of the conference, could you please identify what are the other important topics?

Agenda item 1.11 – This relates to the Protection of Terrestrial Television Broadcasting from the Broadcasting-satellite Service (BSS) in the UHF band. This has been resolved essentially by phasing out the allocation to BSS in this band. The conference has concluded that retaining this allocation would have constrained the development of digital terrestrial Television, which is a priority for many administrations. This allocation was only used by one Administration (Russian Federation) until now without affecting other countries, and this particular use will be allowed to continue.

Agenda items 1.5 and 1.6 — These are two important items which address the spectrum requirements for aeronautical services, such as flight testing of new aircraft, enhanced communications facilities or use by unmanned aircraft in remote areas.

Agenda item 1.10 – This relates to the review of the fixed-satellite service Plan contained in Appendix 30B of the Radio Regulations, which guarantees access to spectrum by all countries to satisfy their fixed-satellite requirements. The associated procedures were established in 1988 and need to be updated in order to take into account new technological developments as well as the requirements of many countries that have since joined the ITU. A number of complex technical and regulatory issues have to be taken into consideration for this.

In addressing the future of wireless communications, several other agenda items are significant, such as #1.2, 1.3, 1.20 and 1.21, that relate to the requirements of earth exploration-satellite services and passive services. Although only a few countries operate scientific and meteorological satellites, these provide key services which serve the whole world. They are used to monitor the Earth’s resources as well as for the prediction and monitoring of natural disasters and the management of emergency situations, for meteorology and prediction of climate changes. These are global assets that need to be protected, which may require accepting constraints on other services.

On all these issues, the conference is making good progress and I hope this trend can be confirmed in the coming days.

 

 

 

 

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