Ladies and gentlemen,
As members of an industry organization that serves some three billion people
across the region, I hardly need convince you of the unique and vital role
satellites play in the delivery of ICT services.
Encouragingly, despite the global recession, the satellite business in Asia
remains in very good shape. Transponder fill rates are generally high, and
operators are enjoying solid revenues from transponder leasing, thanks largely
to strong demand for Direct-to-Home television and increasingly pressing
broadband application requirements.
Asia’s phenomenal economic growth and seemingly insatiable appetite for advanced
ICT services is also helping the region weather the crisis, with investors
favouring the high-growth-potential markets of Asia over more saturated markets
in the Americas and Europe.
And while broadcasting services still account for the lion’s share of satellite
capacity, new services and applications are emerging. Mobile communications are
already becoming an important new business driver for the Asian satellite
industry, with satellites providing important backhaul capacity for mobile
operators, as well as helping bring access to hard-to-service areas, where
difficult terrain or sparse population density rule out more conventional
At the same time, VSAT networks are beginning to gain ground as a low-cost
solution for both urban and rural environments, providing high-speed data
services for corporate networks, rural internet access and other key services
like distance learning and telemedicine. Internet trunking services and the
fledgling mobile TV market, which looks set to boom in Asia as handset
availability, service provider networks and local content ramp up, will also
contribute to strong ongoing demand for satellite capacity.
In short, satellites have emerged as one of the key enablers of economic and
social development across the world’s most dynamic and populous region, where
vast distances, geographical challenges, the high-speed demands of new
technologies, and increasing pressure to realize economies of scale make
satellites the obvious, and often only, choice.
All this is good news for CASBAA members, and good news for ITU, too, since a
thriving satellite industry and the increasing deployment of satellite-based
services helps us fulfil our mandate of connecting the world’s people.
But while growth is always good, it is not without its challenges.
I think we all understand the need to ensure that, in the rush to meet strong
market demand, we do not compromise the services – and the very considerable
investments – we’ve already committed to.
Ladies and gentlemen,
ITU is the sole global agency charged with managing the world’s satellite
orbital resources. This is a task we undertake with great care, in the knowledge
that accurate, efficient and impartial coordination of satellite positions is
critical to the health and development of the industry.
Many of you are aware that it is becoming increasingly difficult for government
administrations to obtain suitable new GSO positions and frequencies in both the
planned and non-planned satellite services, and to fully coordinate them in
accordance with the provisions specified in the Radio Regulations.
Space is getting very crowded: 30 years ago, we talked of six degrees of
separation between satellites for interference-free operation. Today, in the
geostationary orbit, we’re currently down to as little as 0.5 degrees of
separation for the same purposes.
As a consequence, it is getting much harder to ensure the exclusion of unwanted
signals from a neighbouring system – a very serious risk to both service
delivery and the multi-million dollar investment that each and every satellite
It is no exaggeration to say that efficient use of spectrum and orbital
resources is one of the most crucial challenges facing the international
community in its efforts to promote ICT development and achieve the connectivity
access targets set by the Word Summit on the Information Society.
In the area of coordination, ITU is now receiving filings for satellite networks
with characteristics far beyond what may be considered reasonable for normal
operation and service delivery – even allowing for a good degree of flexibility
with regard to future use.
For example, the proposed service area is restricted to the territory of one or
several administrations for coordination requests that include steerable beams.
But the area over which these beams can be steered is now being defined in
filings as ‘worldwide’.
Moreover, some antenna gain contours submitted in coordination or notification
notices contain high gain areas outside the service area. This can lead to
almost absurd coordination requirements. One example: the coordination
requirement for a satellite network requested in mid-2007 involved 40
administrations and 600 networks.
At the same time, ITU is witnessing an increase in complaints of harmful
interference. Independent information on the real use of the world’s spectrum
and orbit resource often shows considerable divergence from information
submitted to ITU by administrations.
This means that, despite concerted efforts by ITU over recent years, ‘paper
satellite’ issues – that is, fictitious frequency assignments recorded in the
Master International Frequency Register – still persist.
In addition, there have also been some recent reported problems between
satellite systems and new WiMAX deployments operating in the 3.5GHz band.
To tackle these problems, last month ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau issued an
official Circular Letter requesting that all administrations review their
recorded satellite networks and remove unused frequency assignments and networks
from the Master Register. I cannot emphasize too strongly that this process
serves the best interests of all administrations, operators, and the industry as
In the spirit of cooperation and consensus that lies the very heart of ITU’s
mandate and mission, last month we also held a special workshop at our
headquarters in Geneva on the efficient use of spectrum and orbital resources.
This workshop was attended by top-level representatives from across industry and
government, who shared presentations on key concerns, engaged in constructive
and productive debate, and proposed a number of practical steps that could help
resolve current problems.
A steady move to state-of-the art technology, for example, is one very effective
way of improving spectrum efficiency. Work in areas like satellite solar panel
technology, adaptive modulation and coding, digital compression, improved earth
station spatial selectivity, adaptive-array earth station antennas, and
multi-carrier based transmission techniques allows for higher transmission rates
with less spectrum and reduced interference.
At the same time, simplifying satellite operating parameters could help resolve
the problem of perceived GSO scarcity in some parts of the orbit, where
potential GSO capacity may be substantially greater than what is really
In the area of steerable beams, recognition that the vast majority of satellites
with steerable beams will serve a small coverage area, with only a very slim
chance of repositioning, could avoid the need to record large reposition areas –
a practice that may currently be hindering the entry of new satellite systems
and while encouraging warehousing of the spectrum and orbit resource.
ITU could also consider introducing a regulatory procedure that discourages
inaccurate claims of beam coverage. In doing so, we would naturally seek to
strike a balance between the long-term rights and need for flexibility of
satellite operators, and the need to manage finite spectrum and orbit resources
more efficiently for the benefit of the global community as a whole.
Finally, greater use of the non-geostationary satellite orbit, particularly the
highly elliptical orbit, could provide another solution for some operators.
I was greatly encouraged by the evident commitment and cooperative spirit
exhibited by all workshop participants, many of whom represented competing
commercial interests. These leaders and technical experts recognized the
importance of laying their rivalry to one side and working together under the
auspices of ITU to find solutions to problems that affect us all.
Likewise, in the area of WiMAX, let me state first and foremost that ITU
supports and promotes all means of extending ICT access to underserved areas.
Satellite and WiMAX both play an important and complementary role in achieving
That said, we recognize that there is potential for interference between any
radio services when they are deployed on an uncoordinated basis. Some such cases
are beginning to arise with frequencies used by WiMAX and FSS networks operating
at around 3.5 GHz, in both overlapping and non-overlapping bands.
In 2007, the World Radiocommunication Conference took the important step of
imposing stringent requirements for the protection of existing and future
satellite services in the C-band. In addition, ITU-R Study Groups 4 and 5 are
currently actively examining technical issues relating to potential
interference, with a view to a quick and effective resolution adapted to the
needs of all ITU members.
Ladies and gentlemen,br />
There can be no doubt that efficient and equitable use of spectrum and orbit
resources requires a coordinated and transparent international approach. Since
the birth of the very first commercial satellite systems in the 1960s, ITU has
been serving as the industry’s faithful partner, performing the vital technical
coordination and oversight functions essential to the ongoing growth of the
But effective management of these resources also requires the goodwill and
cooperation of industry and governments. For satellite communications to
continue to flourish, we must all play by the rules.
A decision to ‘go it alone’ not only risks millions of investment dollars, it
puts others’ investments at risk. Just as we would all wish to be protected by
international frameworks and regulations, so we must respect such frameworks and
I thus urge industry and governments alike to work more closely with ITU to help
resolve the current issues of overcrowding, increasingly lengthy delays imposed
by unwieldy coordination requirements, and the chronic problem of paper
A concerted effort on all our parts will open up plenty of new windows of
opportunity, while ensuring fair access to the shared global resources to which
we are all heir.