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Beyond WRC-23: Transformative outcomes in the Arab region

By Tariq Al Awadhi, Chairman, Arab Spectrum Management Group (ASMG)

The recent World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) heralded a new era in technological advancement and connectivity. As the global radiocommunication sector’s flagship event, it has significant implications for digital and telecommunications development in all parts of the world, and the Arab region is no exception.

The decisions taken by Member States of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) at WRC-23 will shape the future of wireless technology and service deployment in Arab countries, along with the rest of the world.

Crucial mobile broadband

Key decisions included additional spectrum allocations for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), crucial for expanding broadband connectivity and developing future 4G, 5G, and 6G services.

Notable spectrum allocations in Region 1 under the ITU Radio Regulations (comprising Europe, Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Mongolia, and the Middle East west of the Gulf, including Iraq) include the 3600-3800 megahertz (MHz) and 6425-7125 MHz bands, which will support the vital expansion of mobile broadband services.

Another key resolution concerned UHF (ultra-high frequency) bands, with the Arab region achieving primary and secondary allocations in the 614-694 MHz band to harmonize broadcasting and mobile service needs.

A new era in satellite communications

The conference substantially revised the regulatory framework for non-geostationary satellite orbit (non-GSO) systems, addressing the need for global coverage and low-latency applications. It also allocated frequencies for passive Earth exploration satellites that could transform weather forecasting and climate monitoring. These are key breakthroughs for the Arab region, with its geographic diversity and varied climates.

New frequencies for aeronautical mobile satellite services promise to enhance safety and efficiency in global aviation. WRC-23 allocated spectrum in the 15.41-15.7 gigahertz (GHz) and 22-22.2 GHz bands for the aeronautical mobile service, facilitating advanced digital equipment in aircraft for high-capacity data transfer.

The adoption of regulatory actions for inter-satellite links will improve data availability for weather prediction and disaster risk management.

Additionally, decisions endorsing Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) as the standard by 2035 and recognizing the importance of space weather sensors that will improve the global telecommunications landscape and help to address diverse needs across the Arab region. ASMG had submitted a contribution on this issue at WRC23.

Envisioning a digitally inclusive future

The decisions of WRC-23 are expected to have far-reaching effects on the Arab region’s social and economic fabric.

Expanded spectrum for IMT and allocations for high-altitude platform stations (HAPS) are vital for bridging the pervasive digital divide. High-speed Internet and cutting-edge telecommunication services, for example, could soon reach the most remote and underserved communities in the Arab world.

Digital inclusion represents not just a technological leap but a social revolution, aligning perfectly with several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Connectivity is a powerful catalyst for societal transformation, directly impacting key areas such as education, healthcare, and economic development.

Enhanced Internet access will open doors to e-learning platforms and digital resources, making education more accessible, especially in remote areas, and creating a more equitable learning environment. Telemedicine and digital health services, similarly, can reach even the most remote areas, allowing patients to consult with specialists regionally and globally, improving healthcare outcomes and often saving lives.

Towards a robust, knowledge-based economy

WRC-23’s outcomes are equally transformative in economic terms. Enhanced connectivity is a boon for e-commerce, giving entrepreneurs and small businesses access wider markets. Digital platforms can foster economic diversification in line with the region’s aspirations for a robust, knowledge-based economy.

The new era unleashed by the updated non-GSO framework will drive innovation in satellite communications. Research and entrepreneurship in space technologies – a field where several Arab nations are making significant strides – supports applications ranging from precision agriculture to smart city infrastructure.

In addition,WRC-23 has laid the groundwork for future studies on lunar communications and space research service allocations; regulatory measures for non-GSO earth stations; protection criteria for radio astronomy; and other pivotal topics for the future of radiocommunication services.

Moving forward

WRC-23 took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, between 20 November and 15 December 2023, chaired by H.E. Mohammed Al Ramsi, Deputy Director General for the Telecommunications Sector at the UAE Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority.

The conference’s success also reflects the close collaboration of the Arab Spectrum Management Group (ASMG) with other regional organizations, notably the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT), European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT), Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL), and Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications (RCC).

Ultimately, collective efforts led to consensus-based solutions. These outcomes, including substantial gains for the Arab region, testify to the power of collaborative action in shaping global spectrum policies and driving telecommunications forward.

As we look ahead to the next World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-27), the Arab region is poised to keep building on these successes, which align with the vision of a connected and technologically advanced society.

The Arab Spectrum Management Group will continue representing the region’s interests at ITU, aiming to secure and optimize spectrum resources to meet growing technological demands. The region also aspires to enhance cooperation among global partners, fostering innovation and driving further advances in telecommunications for all.

Technological innovation, inclusivity, and sustainable development are increasingly prioritized in global spectrum policies in the wake of the recent conference. Now positioned at the cusp of a digital renaissance, we are ready to leverage connectivity to reshape the future, both globally and regionally.

Discover more about WRC-23 outcomes in ITU News Magazine

Header image credit : Adobe Stock/AI generated

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