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The road to WRC-23: Accelerating digital transformation across the Asia-Pacific Region

*This article has been adapted from my remarks at the 1st Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) Conference Preparatory Group for WRC-23 (APG23-1). Living these challenging times while adapting our lives to face the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the fundamental importance of telecommunication services and our work as telecom regulators. As ITU moves into a new study cycle, and I want to recognize the achievements of WRC-19 and look into the preparatory work for WRC-23. Revisiting WRC-19 milestones WRC-19 was one of the biggest conferences we have had, with over 3,400 participants representing 163 Member States and 129 organizations. The Conference updated the Radio Regulations and opened the path for the introduction of new technologies by:

  • Identifying additional frequencies that may be used for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) in the millimeter wave bands. APT was a protagonist in achieving these results with many operators in the Region having already deployed 5G networks;
  • Identifying additional bands that may be used for high-altitude platform stations;
  • Defining a regulatory framework for large constellations of non-geostationary orbit satellites, which may help expand connectivity to remote areas;
  • Modifying the technical conditions applied to wireless access systems in the 5 GHz band, which will enable a greater use of Wi-Fi and other RLAN technologies; and
  • Ensuring that the protection of existing services remained a foundational requirement in the international regulation of the radio spectrum.

Surely the outcomes of WRC-19 will accelerate the digital transformation throughout the world. All these achievements would not have been possible without the contribution and collaboration of the various Regional Groups. Reaching consensus for updating the international treaty that governs the use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite-orbits takes time and effort. It requires a comprehensive preparatory process followed by extensive negotiations leading up to and during the conference. And the Regional Groups played a key role towards building the global consensus needed for decision-making. The 2020 Edition of the Radio Regulations is now available for download. I strongly encourage all Administrations to use it as the basis for their national regulatory frameworks. Leveraging the power of virtual participation We have a new cycle ahead of us and the preparations for WRC-23 have already commenced. The ITU-R Study Groups and their Working Parties have begun to organize their work programs and initiate their studies using an online platform for remote participation in their meetings. Virtual meetings have given the opportunity for many people who otherwise would not have been able to participate in ITU-R meetings to take part in the discussions. Statistics show that on average, participation in ITU-R meetings has more than doubled using virtual sessions as compared to physical ones. The use of online platforms has allowed ITU-R Study Groups to keep on track with their work. For example, WP 5D is focused on the delivery of IMT-2020, or 5G, specifications by this November, as originally planned. APT countries and industries have been cooperating closely with the ITU in the development of the IMT-2020 standards. A nod to APT I applaud APT’s initiative to convene this meeting virtually and begin Asia-Pacific’s preparation for the WRC-23. Looking into the agenda of this meeting, I see you will be electing the leadership of the APT Conference Preparatory Group for WRC-23, discussing and adopting the structure of the Group, nominating the leaders of the Working Parties, and discussing the workplan for the preparation of RA-23 and WRC-23. When organizing your work, I encourage APT to follow the guidance of the Gender Declaration approved during WRC-19 towards supporting the participation and the leadership of women in all the WRC-23 preparatory activities at national, regional and global levels. A closer look at the WRC-23 agenda Several agenda items that were proposed by Region 3 were incorporated in the Agenda and will be studied during this next cycle. To cite a few, I note:

  • Agenda Item 1.2 will consider global identification of several “mid-bands” from 3.3 to 10.5 GHz for IMT,
  • Agenda Item 1.4 will consider the use of high-altitude platform stations (HAPS) as IMT base stations (HIBS),
  • Agenda Item 1.6 will consider regulatory provisions for suborbital vehicles,
  • Agenda Item 1.7 will look into satellite usage to support aeronautical VHF communications, and
  • Agenda Item 1.11 will seek to introduce additional satellite systems into the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
Furthermore, I recognize that the interests of the Asia-Pacific region go beyond these topics and include the deliberations of other Regions with regards to the C-Band and the 6 GHz band. Although the C-Band is being considered in some countries for the deployment of 5G systems, it is being used extensively in other countries by satellite systems due to its favorable coverage and propagation characteristics. Moreover, the 6 GHz band that will be considered in Region 1 for IMT is also being evaluated by some countries of the Region as a license-exempt band. What’s next for WRC-23 preparations? In the beginning of this year, we had planned several events in Indonesia, including a Spectrum Management Workshop, a Spectrum Management Conference and a Satellite Workshop. These conferences were held virtually in partnership with Forum Global and the APT. Furthering our effective partnership with the State Radio Monitoring Center (SRMC) of the People’s Republic of China, ITU (through its Asia-Pacific Regional Office) arranged a Center of Excellence training course on Spectrum Management and RF monitoring. The course had excellent participation of around 360 participants from 54 countries from all over the globe. From 19 to 30 October, we will be organizing the Regional Radiocommunication Seminar 2020 for Asia-Pacific. The virtual seminar will cover concepts related to spectrum management, procedures for recording of frequency assignments in the Master International Frequency Register and tutorials on the use of tools for terrestrial and space stations. It will conclude with a Forum on “Radiocommunication Trends: Opportunities and challenges for the Region.” I invite you all to participate. I am confident we will be able to organize more of these events next year and, I hope, face-to-face. Finally, I reiterate the important contribution of the APT both to WRC-19 outcomes and to the work of the ITU-R Study Groups. The close cooperation between ITU, APT countries and industries has contributed to the standardization of the radio interface of IMT-2020 and we count on the same cooperation when considering new activities beyond 5G. The ITU Radiocommunication Bureau is committed to support Asia-Pacific countries, from the most to the least developed ones, including both landlocked and the small island states, regardless of their varied needs and realities.


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