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Space monitoring at the core of ITU Radiocommunication activities

By ITU News

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has expanded its global network of space monitoring stations with the signing of a cooperation agreement with the Sultanate of Oman.

Under the agreement, Oman will provide state-of-the-art satellite monitoring facilities that will help to address cases of harmful radio frequency interference, in accordance with Article 15 of the Radio Regulations.

Oman’s seven Earth stations will monitor emissions from satellites in the geostationary orbit between the longitudes of 16o West and 133o East, operating in frequency bands from 80 megahertz (MHz) up to 40 gigahertz (GHz).

An engineer works at the state-of-the-art space monitoring facility. Image credit: Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Oman.

ITU has signed similar agreements with Belarus, Brazil, China, Germany, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, and Viet Nam.

“These enhanced space monitoring capabilities will continue to ensure the high reliability of satellite communications and other space services,” noted Mario Maniewicz, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau upon signing the latest cooperation agreement.

“This supports the interference-free operation of not only current systems but also of future systems, with new and innovative radio technologies that the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference in Dubai, UAE, may authorize.”

H.E. Omar Hamdan Al-Ismaili, Executive President of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the Sultanate of Oman, said:

“TRA Oman is delighted to cooperate with ITU to help in mitigating harmful interference. We believe that such cooperation at the international level is important and needed to protect satellite communication.”

He added: “This cooperation will give wider exposure to our staff and engineers responsible for satellite monitoring activities. TRA Oman looks forward to working with ITU in all aspects related to the telecommunications sector.”

ITU Radiocommunication Bureau Director Mario Maniewicz (left) and H.E. Omar Hamdan Al-Ismaili, Executive President of TRA Oman, sign the Memorandum of Understanding at ITU headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
ITU Radiocommunication Bureau Director Mario Maniewicz (left) and H.E. Omar Hamdan Al-Ismaili, Executive President of TRA Oman, sign the Memorandum of Understanding at ITU headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Image credit: ITU/ E. Skvortsova
Why space monitoring matters

ITU – working with its Member States and other space stakeholders globally – collects and processes reports of incidences of harmful interference in all sorts of radiocommunications.

Its responsibilities as a United Nations specialized agency include stewarding the Radio Regulations, the binding international treaty that governs radio frequency spectrum use.

The Radio Regulations define radio frequency interference (RFI) as “the effect of unwanted energy due to one or a combination of emissions, radiations, or inductions upon reception in a radiocommunication system, manifested by any performance degradation, misinterpretation, or loss of information which could be extracted in the absence of such unwanted energy.”

The rapid growth and expansion of satellite connectivity also mean increased risks of interference.  Continuous monitoring and international coordination are crucial to ensuring the highest reliability of space services and satellite communications

ITU’s Satellite Interference Reporting and Resolution System (SIRRS) enables governments and other space stakeholders (satellite operators, space agencies, and other participating entities) to report through their respective administrations any harmful interference affecting space services.

The resulting reports have enabled ITU to build up an extensive repository of interference incidences. This makes ongoing and new cases easier to track, analyse, and resolve.

“If we cannot measure it, we cannot manage it,” says ITU Senior Radiocommunications Engineer Jorge Ciccorossi, referring to the spectrum-orbit resources utilized by space systems.

“But we can’t do it alone. ITU needs information from its Member States and all other space stakeholders to measure the actual situation and help us gather the evidence needed for resolving reported incidences of harmful interference.”

Monitoring, reporting, and resolving

Vigilant space monitoring is essential to identify and mitigate harmful radio frequency interference. An array of Earth stations observe how satellite systems in different orbits utilize the radio spectrum.

Operated primarily by national governments, these facilities enable ITU to react promptly to reports of unauthorized radio emissions – or whenever harmful interference affects a satellite network.

Once the national administration reports the incident to the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, the source of the interference can be geolocated by one or more of the space monitoring stations for which ITU has signed a memorandum and then checked against ITU’s growing SIRRS database, normally resulting in a prompt resolution.

Unresolved investigations are referred to the Radio Regulations Board, the key ITU body that is empowered to act between World Radiocommunication Conferences to support the practical and effective application of the Radio Regulations.

The 29 July memorandum with Oman comes as the latest in a succession cooperation agreements on space monitoring between ITU and national governments under Resolution 186, a key outcome of the 2018 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference.

Maniewicz described this agreement as “another example of excellent cooperation between the Member States and ITU in the field of satellite monitoring, as encouraged by the past Plenipotentiary Conference.”

“We look forward to sharing and continuing this collaboration at the upcoming PP-22 in Bucharest, Romania,” he adds, referring to the next ITU Plenipotentiary in September and October.

For more information on ITU frequency monitoring activities, consult the List of International Monitoring Stations (List VIII).

Header image credit: TRA Oman

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