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Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

Middle East Spectrum Conference 2011

29 March 2011, Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you here today in Dubai for the Middle East Spectrum Conference 2011.

This conference comes at a particularly opportune time, with spectrum issues now being a top priority for all of us. As Secretary-General of ITU, where spectrum issues are discussed, debated and managed on a global basis, I wholeheartedly applaud such conferences and forums.

We are already seeing many positive developments in spectrum management, with spectrum re-farming and trading now becoming a reality, for example. We are also seeing growing recognition across the sector of the opportunities coming from ‘white spaces’ and the ‘digital dividend’, resulting from the move away from analogue to digital broadcasting.

Today, there is virtually no aspect of our lives which does not make use of the radiofrequency spectrum in some way. It therefore seems quite extraordinary to me that spectrum management is still a comparatively obscure and isolated field of engineering and technology.

Spectrum management is generally overlooked by most university engineering programs and there are remarkably few publications on the subject in the broader public domain.

As a result, engineering professionals tend to find themselves in spectrum management positions without prior knowledge of this field. This means that not only do they have to deal with matters which they have not studied, but of whose existence they may not even be aware.

The situation is complicated further by the fact that many spectrum management tasks and issues go well beyond the limits of engineering science, and require legal and economic experience, as well as ‘soft’ negotiating, communication, and complex project management skills.

Perhaps the really rather small number of spectrum management professionals today, however, is a reflection on just how quickly wireless and mobile applications and services have come to dominate the ICT landscape – and I expect that we shall see more young people entering this important field as the years go by.

The very fact that this conference is taking place here in Dubai is testament to the growing public recognition of spectrum management.

Ladies and gentlemen,

ITU has made concrete efforts to help administrations – especially those in developing countries – by means of a number of publications, including the ‘ITU Handbook on National Spectrum Management’. While very useful in giving a general understanding of the concepts, however, this handbook is limited in linking the theories to their practical application.

As a result we are now considering how seminars, capacity-building sessions and training materials can be used to enrich the knowledge gained from the handbook with ‘best practices’ derived from real-life problems encountered by spectrum managers in the modern world.

ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, BDT, has a number of activities which directly assist countries with spectrum management and broadcasting issues.

These come under the remit of Mr Brahima Sanou, who was elected to office as Director of BDT at ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference, PP-10, in Guadalajara last October.

Activities include:
  • Developing principles and techniques for effective spectrum management;
  • Advising on practical questions from developing countries on spectrum management and broadcasting;
  • Providing an opportunity for expert and high-level consultation for senior personnel from developing countries;
  • Providing information on various aspects of sound and television broadcasting systems/networks and of spectrum management systems;
  • Evaluating existing systems and participating in the evaluation of tenders for equipment; and
  • Participating in seminars and courses organized – at ITU Headquarters or elsewhere – on specialized aspects of broadcasting and spectrum management subjects.

Concrete examples of these activities include:
  • The development of SMS4DC, ITU’s Spectrum Management Software for  Developing Countries;
  • Various training programmes and training courses developed in close cooperation with ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau, BR;
  • Direct assistance to developing countries in terms of spectrum management assessments, the revision of legislation, the pricing of spectrum, and coordination procedures etc;
  • Cooperation with regional broadcasting unions; and
  • Assistance with the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.

Distinguished colleagues,

In terms of ITU’s own work in spectrum management, we are now in the run-up to one of ITU’s most important events, the 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference, WRC-12, which will be taking place early next year in Geneva.

The conference falls, of course, under the remit of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau, and its new Director, Mr François Rancy, who like Mr Sanou in BDT was elected to office at PP-10.

Under his able leadership – and supported by the prevailing team spirit among the five ITU elected officials – I am confident that ITU will be well-prepared to face the challenges of global spectrum management issues.

In particular we must be well-prepared to deal with those challenges related to the implementation of the Radio Regulations – the treaty that governs international radiocommunications.

Also elected at our Plenipotentiary Conference was the new Radio Regulations Board, which is meeting for the first time in Geneva as we gather here today in Dubai.

The RRB’s role is of foremost importance in guaranteeing efficiency and balance in the implementation of the provisions of the Radio Regulations. And this of course includes ITU’s role in the prevention and elimination of harmful interference between radio stations and systems.

Returning to WRC-12, work is well-advanced, and last month saw the successful conclusion of the preparation of the technical basis for the conference at the CPM-11-2 meeting. More than 1,200 delegates met in Geneva to approve the CPM Report which contained over 700 pages of the most recent findings on international spectrum management issues relating to the more than 30 agenda items of the conference.

WRC-12 will address major questions that challenge the future efficiency and responsiveness of spectrum management, including the associated satellite orbit resources.

Among the most complex issues to be considered by the Conference are those concerning space regulations; in this regard, WRC-12 decisions could dramatically affect the way the satellite industry manages access to increasingly scarce spectrum and orbit resources.

One of WRC-12’s key agenda items calls for a thorough review of the international regulatory framework in which the current Radio Regulations are based.

We all hope that membership will have the foresight to adopt the necessary decisions which will lead towards the most efficient framework, and which will respond to the diverse needs of our flourishing industry.

Ladies and gentlemen,

No discussion of WRC-12, or indeed of spectrum, would be complete without mention of the imminent conclusion of the ITU process to establish the radio interface technologies for the next generation of mobile communication systems, which are known as IMT-Advanced.

IMT-Advanced is the next big leap forward in mobile technologies, and follows on from the definition of IMT-2000, which is better known in the industry as 3G.

Enhanced services, which offer significant performance improvements over the initial 3G deployments, are now being rolled out in a number of countries. These new services, which are being marketed as 4G, can be seen as forerunners of IMT-Advanced.

ITU membership has recently determined that only two technologies have passed the selection process for IMT-Advanced, and are therefore qualified to be part of the IMT-Advanced specifications: these are LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced.

Among the key features of IMT-Advanced systems, were requirements for very high spectrum efficiency; for working in the IMT-identified spectrum in the Radio Regulations from 450 MHz to 3.6 GHz; and last but not least, the provision of interoperability to facilitate global roaming.

The IMT-Advanced standards will be approved by ITU’s membership early next year, and we expect IMT-Advanced services to be available in some parts of the world before the end of 2012.

IMT-Advanced brings major improvements over IMT-2000, including:

Increased spectrum efficiency – supporting more users at higher data rates per radio channel;

Fully packet-based architecture – meaning reduced costs, and comprehensive support for broadband wireless data;

Lower latency – for more responsive Internet and multimedia applications;

Improved radio resource management and control – for enhanced quality of service; and

New capabilities for the physical layer of the radio interface – including wideband radio channels, MIMO [multiple input multiple output] smart antennas and flexible deployment options.

This is all very technical, and can make what is a vital and fascinating subject seem rather dull, but what we are doing here in Dubai, and what ITU is doing in Geneva, is nothing short of shaping the future itself.

We live in a world where we take mobile phones, radio, TV, satellite navigation systems, wireless broadband access and so much more for granted.

But none of these things would work without the tireless efforts of spectrum managers, conferences like this, and organizations like ours.

So lets keep working, together, to make the world a better place for all.

Thank you.