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  Home : ITU-R : Conferences and Meetings : WRC : WRC-00 : Main results of WRC-2000
Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R)  
Main results of WRC-2000

Main results of WRC-2000  (Istanbul, Turkey, 8 May-2 June 2000)

1. Introduction

The WRC 2000 was hailed as a success because of its ability to come to grips with key and ever more complex issues particularly as the rapid growth of radio-based systems and their increasing globalization makes it ever more difficult to share in a limited resource: the radio frequency spectrum. The results will provide the conditions for the industry to develop and deploy a host of sophisticated new radio-based communications systems over the next few years.

The WRC is the international forum where Member States come together to revise an international treaty – the Radio Regulations, which contain not only allocations to over 40 radiocommunication services but also provide the technical, operational and regulatory conditions for the use of the radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbits. It is held every two to three years with the purpose of reaching consensus on changes in the Regulations. Some landmark decisions were made at WRC-2000.

2. Additional spectrum for IMT-2000 third generation mobile systems

With third generation (3G) mobile systems based on ITU’s IMT-2000 standard due to come into service very soon in several countries, it was very important to increase available spectrum for 3G services. The existing spectrum identified in 1992 on which licensing is currently taking place around the world, was based on a model where voice services were considered to be the major source of traffic, and only low data rate services were additionally considered.

The extra spectrum needed was based on three main considerations: the number of users which is expected to reach an estimated 2 billion mobile users worldwide by 2010 and the rapid growth of mobile data services, mobile e-commerce, wireless internet access and mobile video-based services and the need to secure common spectrum worldwide for global roaming and cheaper handsets.

New bands were to be considered to satisfy the forecast needs over and above the existing spectrum available and in addition to the spectrum used for first and second-generation mobile systems.

While a global common spectrum was generally supported, countries supported different bands in order to protect existing services such as analogue and digital TV, digital audio broadcasting, aeronautical radionavigation service, meteorological radars, fixed wireless access and more. A lack of consensus may not have prevented countries from making mobile spectrum available for IMT-2000 on a national basis, but this would have resulted in higher handset prices for third generation systems because of the need to incorporate more complex circuitry to support international roaming across a large number of frequency bands.

The decision provides for three common bands, available on a global basis for countries wishing to implement the terrestrial component of IMT-2000. The agreement provides for a high degree of flexibility to allow operators to evolve towards IMT-2000 according to market and other national considerations. Making use of existing mobile and mobile-satellite frequency allocations, it does not preclude the use of these bands for other types of applications or by other services to which these bands are allocated – a key factor that enabled the consensus to be reached. While the decision of the Conference globally provides for the immediate licensing and manufacturing of IMT-2000 in the common bands, each country will decide on the timing of availability at the national level according to need. This high degree of flexibility will also enable countries to select those parts of the bands where sharing with existing services is the most suitable, taking account of existing licences.

The agreement effectively gives a green light to mobile industry worldwide in deploying confidently IMT-2000 networks and services and provides a stable basis for investors in the industry.

The three bands identified for use by IMT-2000 include one below 1 GHz, another at 1.7 GHz where most of the second-generation systems currently operate to facilitate the evolution, over time, of these systems to third generation, and a third band in the 2.5 GHz range. These complement the band in the 2 GHz range already identified for IMT-2000.

Moreover, the Conference identified the use of additional frequency bands for the satellite component of IMT-2000. This will afford an opportunity for satellite systems in these bands to provide IMT-2000 services.

Spectrum for the terrestrial component of IMT-2000

Spectrum below 1 GHz 
  • 806-960 MHz

  • Spectrum above 1 GHz 
  • 1.7 GHz (1 710-1 885 MHz)

  • 2.5 GHz (2 500-2 690 MHz)

  • Resolutions relating to the use of Mobile Spectrum by IMT-2000

    Frequency bands for terrestrial component of IMT-2000
    Frequency bands for satellite component of IMT-2000 (COM5/26)
    Use of High-Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) for IMT-2000 (COM5/13)

    Sharing Between Non Geostationary-Satellite Orbit satellites (NGSO) and Geostationary-Satellite Orbit Satellites (GSO)

    Intense private sector interest in the potential of satellite systems to deliver mobile voice and broadband data services has resulted in a large number of proposed new systems and services from non-geostationary satellites. A number of these new non-GSO systems, soon to be deployed, and the new wave of GSO networks aim at providing high speed local access to global broadband communications services such as high speed Internet, corporate intranets/extranets, e-commerce, videoconferencing and interactive services.

    In 1997, frequency spectrum was made available for the first time to enable the operation of the new non-GSO systems. At the time, it was decided to establish provisional power limits for the operation of these non-geostationary systems so that they could share the frequencies with geostationary networks. In the period between WRC-1997 and WRC-2000, studies were conducted to determine whether those limits were suitable for sharing.

    Despite the results of those studies which seem favourable to the concept of shared use of the bands in question by non-GSO fixed-satellite service systems and GSO networks of the fixed satellite service and the broadcasting-satellite service, this was one of the most important and difficult issues of the Conference.

    The difficulty was to balance the need to protect GSO networks while allowing new non-GSO systems to operate without undue constraints. The decisions of the Conference include some limits on earth stations of GSO networks and power limits on non-GSO systems to enable their co-existence without unacceptable interference. These power limits provide a quantitative measure of what is unacceptable. The limits on non-GSO FSS also protect terrestrial and broadcasting-satellite systems operating in the same bands. It also agreed on the regulatory provisions for frequency sharing in the Ku band (10-18 GHz).

    Re-Planning of the Broadcasting-Satellite Service For Regions 1 & 3

    The Broadcasting-Satellite Service provides satellite television broadcasting including direct-to-home. Under the plan adopted by WRC-97 for Regions 1 and 3 (i.e. everywhere other than the Americas) which has roots back to 1977, each country was generally given the possibility to make use of five analogue channels on the basis of one beam for national coverage. A number of factors contributed to making the situation unworkable today. They ranged from the rapid development of satellite systems, the use of digital technologies which facilitated the deployment of new regional systems that can target many countries from a single satellite to the advent of new services like Pay TV wanting to extend broadcasting capabilities across as wide an area as possible. In addition, for small countries or for countries with a small population, the use of that capacity restricted to national use often proved to be uneconomical. Also, the emergence of new countries wishing to take up their five channels put more pressure to seek more spectrum.

    Although the Plan had become outdated, the idea of re-planning was however not unanimously supported until the start of the Conference. For some, the approach of apportioning spectrum on a country-by-country, rather than on a first come, first served basis was considered wasteful since many countries may never launch their own national broadcast satellite system. The result is that spectrum is effectively kept in abeyance and cannot be used for any other purpose. For others, they wanted to secure the opportunity to be able to use that spectrum when they so wish and not be faced with a blockage when time comes.

    Re-planning is a very complex matter with many inter-related aspects, and in particular, the level of constraints imposed for the protection of existing and future assignments in both space and terrestrial services, the allocations to which are different in the different regions of the world. In addition to the technical challenges, the question of BSS re-planning has implications which touched on issues of national sovereignty.

    Against this background and against all odds, major differences of approach were ironed out on the eve of the conference and BSS re-planning was agreed by the Conference.

    One of the key decisions of WRC-2000 has been to increase the capacity for each country to an equivalent of 10 analogue channels in Europe and Africa and to 12 analogue channels in Asia and Australasia. With the uptake of direct satellite broadcasting in both regions as well as the potential for the future delivery of multimedia services, the decisions of WRC-2000 provide the capacity to meet the current and prospective demand.

    In order to ensure full protection of existing and future terrestrial and space services and systems, the Conference requested that an analysis of the new Plan be carried out with respect to compatibility with other services co-sharing on a primary basis so that WRC-2003 can review the power limits that have been agreed upon at this Conference.

    Global Satellite Positioning Systems

    WRC-2000 provided additional allocations for the radionavigation-satellite service. The additional spectrum makes it possible for the two current systems Russia’s GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) and the US Global Positioning System (GPS) to develop into second-generation systems while providing room for Europe’s new system – Galileo.

    Highly accurate satellite positioning data is becoming increasingly important for a wide range of activities, from navigation on land, in the air, at sea and in outer space to national security to new consumer-oriented position determination applications. There are over eight million Radionavigation-Satellite Service (RNSS) receivers in use today in a wide range of consumer applications such as navigation aids in cars, handheld position location devices like street finders, positioning in sports activity (sailing, mountain trekking, expeditions), location of lost persons in rescue operations or business applications including safety-of-life such as air traffic control, fleet tracking, ships and aircraft positioning.

    As businesses and consumers alike become more dependent on global positioning in their daily lives, the new allocations were needed to ensure that the services these satellite systems provide would be feasible in the future. The annual market is worth billions of dollars, and is set to give rise to over hundreds of thousands of direct jobs in coming years.

    The difficulty was to agree on allocations in new bands that would not pose sharing problems for the two current systems, GPS and GLONASS, nor to radionavigation systems that provide a safety-critical mission to civil aviation and ships at sea.

    By enabling the deployment of a new comer and the system upgrades of current global position systems, the allocations made at WRC-2000 adds competitiveness into a highly lucrative market which is good news to users. The entry into force of these new allocations is effective 3 June 2000.

    Quiet zones for Radioastronomy

    With the growing demand for radiocommunication-based services and the resulting deluge of radio signals from cellular phones, pagers, satellite systems and more, there were concerns about interference with radio astronomy and other deep-space research services which are seeking "quiet zones" in the spectrum.

    The biggest problems were in the areas of passive monitoring, such as that used by the world’s largest radiotelescopes to detect extremely weak celestial sources of radio activity, which are susceptible to interference from active users such as mobile telephony.

    From the point of view of passive space research, the signal strength from a cellular phone is huge – so high, in fact, that making a standard cellular phone call from the surface of the moon would register on a radiotelescope as the third most powerful source of radio activity in the universe. With unwanted emissions from other services threatening to blot out incoming cosmic signals through which astronomers and others learn about our world and the universe around us, radio astronomers had been actively seeking better protection for vital research.

    At WRC-2000, a number of measures have been adopted to better protect the radio astronomy and other scientific services in a range of frequency bands in which other services are also operating. The Conference also provided new allocations in several bands of the spectrum that should help meet the concerns of the radio astronomers. Finally, the Conference authorized the use of spectrum above 275 GHz, which is not yet allocated, for experimental purposes by various active and passive services, and in particular for radio astronomy, earth-satellite exploration and space research.

    High-density fixed systems

    High density fixed services (HDFS) cover new wireless point-to-point and point-to-multipoint technologies ranging from Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) to high-speed broadband wireless systems such as Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS). Through their ability to provide cost-effective, reliable metropolitan links, HDFS seem certain to play a growing role in a wide range of applications, from broadband access for business customers to low-cost facilities monitoring of remote sites. The development of high-density fixed services is also seen as key to overcoming the risk of a local-loop bottleneck for broadband services.

    In developing countries, it is a particularly promising technology for bridging the access gap because of the ease of installation and potentially lower costs. FWA enables the connection of users to the telecoms network without having to construct a landline network – a lengthy and costly process. Because it can be rapidly deployed in areas where infrastructure is poor or non-existent particularly in densely populated areas, it is viewed as a way to meet rapidly the pent-up demand.

    They can also potentially accommodate new telecoms operators in aiming to gain market access in competitive environments by providing alternate technologies for upgrade of existing telephone infrastructure or for greater access and service choice for data and multimedia services. They are also expected to be widely used for a range of remote monitoring, cutting costs on the current way of sending staff to subscribers’ premises to read gas or electricity meters for invoicing.

    There has been wide support from WRC-2000 participants to provide spectrum for HDFS in bands between 30-60 GHz. The difficulty has been on agreeing on rules governing the shared used of frequency bands with other existing and future services operating in the same bands and in particular with the geostationary and non-geostationary fixed satellite service and with the radio astronomy service.

    The allocations made to the High-Density Fixed Service cover a range of 6.5 GHz of spectrum and nine different services. In addition to allocations, the conference also agreed on the regulatory provisions applicable to the deployment of HDFS as well as power limits to protect HDFS from other space services allocated to the same bands or to adjacent bands. These worldwide allocations should help decrease the cost of equipment through greater economies of scale.

    Administrative due diligence

    The question of evaluating the administrative due diligence procedure ended with the adoption of temporary measures to improve satellite filing procedures in a bid to reduce the backlog in processing which represents three years and which affects mostly coordination requests.

    One of the negative impact of such backlog is that countries can be faced with a reduced time window in which to accomplish coordination given the five-year limit to place a network into operation.

    Introduced in November 1997 by WRC-97, administrative due diligence is a procedure that aims at minimizing the number of paper satellites by requiring information which becomes available when systems have reached an advanced stage of development and are soon to be deployed. This procedure requires disclosure of implementation data for satellite systems such as the identity of the the satellite network, the name of the operator, name of the satellite, the name of the space manufacturer for each satellite, the date of execution of the contract, contractual "delivery window", number of satellites procured, name of the launch vehicle provider, date of execution of the contract, a launch or in-orbit delivery window and the name of the launch vehicle.

    Because countries have generally requested extension of the regulatory period for bringing their satellites into use up to the maximum limit authorized by the Radio Regulations, it is not until the end of 2003 that the effect of administrative due diligence is likely to be fully apparent. This means that several years may be needed to see whether the procedure yields satisfactory results. Proposals by some countries to introduce financial due diligence to deter what they called "frivolous filings" failed to garner support as it was considered premature, the administrative due diligence not having been put to test.

    After a long-drawn out debate, the Conference concluded that further experience was needed in the application of this procedure before any sound judgement could be made on its impact and effectiveness in reducing, if not eliminating, paper satellites.

    The administrative due diligence procedure will therefore continue and a report on the analysis of its impact will be submitted to the 2002 Plenipotentiary Conference to take appropriate action.

    In the meantime, WRC-2000 concluded that measures were nonetheless needed to prevent the increase of the backlog in processing satellite network filings if not reducing it. This was considered justified on account that the continued viability and credibility of the ITU satellite coordination process was at stake as the current situation seriously compromised the ability of several networks to provide services.

    One of the measures is to allow the analysis of the uplink and downlink filings to be performed separately. Another include the mandatory electronic submission of data for the advance publication, coordination and notification of all satellite networks, radio astronomy notices and due diligence information. Countries will also be encouraged to submit all graphical data associated with the submissions electronically – although paper submissions will continue to be accepted. As from 3 September 2000, forms that are not submitted electronically will be considered as incomplete and returned without being processed. The same will apply to data submitted on paper from now until 3 September and that will not have been resubmitted electronically by 3 October 2000. Developing countries making no more than three filings a year will however be able to continue to submit filings on paper until 3 June 2001.

    Cost-recovery for satellite filings

    WRC-2000 discussed one aspect of the implementation of cost recovery for processing satellite network filings with a view to considering possible amendments to the Radio Regulations.

    Following the policy decision taken at the 1998 Plenipotentiary Conference to introduce such charges, ITU’s annual governing body – the ITU Council, had, at its 1999 session, agreed on the methodology and fee schedules. These charges are applicable for filings (new network and modification to existing networks) for which the advance publication information was received after 7 November 1998.

    At WRC-2000, discussions focused on possible regulatory consequences of non-payment of such charges. Despite strong views expressed on the possible cancellation of a filing in case of non-payment, the Conference adopted a regulatory provision which will enter into force at a date to be determined by the forthcoming Plenipotentiary Conference in 2002. The decision to request the Plenipotentiary Conference to decide on the date of entry into force was based on the views expressed by several countries that the rights and obligations of Member States are defined in the Constitution and that any modification of these rights, based on financial considerations, should be decided by ITU’s top policy-making body.


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    Updated : 2011-06-15