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WRC-23: Sharing radio spectrum for the good of all

ITU News

The latest World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23), which opened on 20 November, has again brought governments together to work out radio-frequency spectrum allocations for the next four years.

Countries and regions around the globe rely on the radio spectrum to support all aspects of everyday life. Examples range from broadcasting and emergency alerts to global navigation, timekeeping, mobile phone calls and broadband Internet connectivity, to name just a few.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has described WRC-23 as “a testament to the power of international cooperation in tackling global challenges,” with advanced technologies offering ways to reduce inequalities and advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The conference will review and update aspects of the Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the use of spectrum and geostationary and non-geostationary satellite orbits, in accordance with its agenda that was created by the prior conference.

“We are at an inflection point in tech history, and radiocommunications are at the top of the global agenda,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which convenes these conferences every three to four years. “Equitably managed spectrum and the associated satellite orbits are among the best tools in our toolbox to make good on our commitment to build a digital future that works for everyone and for our planet.”

Safeguarding future frequencies

In recent years, interference-free networks have become essential for global climate monitoring, disaster alerts, land and water resource management, and other aspects of sustainable development.

“While today’s world is full of challenges, this conference comes to set the course and direct the compass toward sustainable human development by updating the Radio Regulations and establishing international consensus on the frequencies necessary for the coming era,” said Majed Sultan Al Mesmar, Director General of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) of the United Arab Emirates, which is hosting WRC-23. “With the broad horizons it brings in the fields of smart cities, digital economy, knowledge society, space and others, we are confident that this conference will achieve the results that meet the expectations and aspirations of our peoples.”

The ITU Radio Regulations, dating back to 1906, continue to foster the rational, equitable, efficient, and economical spectrum use while avoiding harmful interference between different radiocommunication services.

Ensuring that the treaty responds to the world’s ever-growing demands on the radio spectrum is critical for the efficient operation of existing and future services and equipment.

“This conference will revise and update the Radio Regulations to support the introduction of new radio-based systems, technologies and services and their growing spectrum requirements while continuing to protect the vital radio services we rely on today,” said Mario Maniewicz, Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau. “Newer innovative technologies will allow us to better monitor our changing planet, and better connect communities and people everywhere: on land, at sea, in the air, and in space.”

The WRC-23 agenda

Key topics for discussion include:

  • Improvements to the international regulatory framework for geostationary orbit (GSO) and non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellites while promoting equitable access for all countries.
  • Use of satellite technologies for broadband services to improve connectivity, particularly in remote areas.
  • New spectrum to enhance radiocommunications in the aeronautical mobile service, including by satellite, and to facilitate the use of the space research and Earth exploration-satellite services for climate monitoring, weather prediction and other scientific missions.
  • Identifying additional frequency bands for the continued development of International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), including the use of high-altitude platform stations as IMT base stations for the universal deployment of wireless networks.
  • The modernization of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
  • The regulatory framework for the use of earth stations in motion on board aircraft and ships for communication with GSO and NGSO satellites.
  • The future of the ultra-high frequency (UHF) broadcasting band which has implications for television broadcast, programme-making and special events, as well as public protection and disaster relief.

WRC-23 will continue in Dubai, UAE, over the next four weeks. In the first plenary session, ITU’s member states elected Mohammed Al Ramsi, TDRA Deputy Director General for the Telecommunication Sector, as conference chair.

WRC-23 opening press release

Over 4,500 participants are expected, including delegates from more than 165 ITU Member States and from ITU Radiocommunication Sector members representing international organizations, equipment manufacturers, network operators and industry forums attending as observers.

WRC-23 was preceded by the ITU Radiocommunication Assembly (RA-23), which met in Dubai between 13 and 17 November to establish the structure, working methods and programme of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector for the next four years.

Header image credit: ITU/ D. Woldu

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