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International Telecommunication Union
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World Radiocommunication Conference Concludes
Agreements Define Future of Radiocommunications

Geneva, 4 July 2003 — The World Radiocommunication Conference 2003 (WRC-03) concluded, after four-weeks of negotiations, with a blueprint for the global radiocommunication sector that reflects its current and future needs.

The WRC is the international forum where Members States gather to revise an international treaty known as the Radio Regulations. It contains frequency allocations for more than 40 radiocommunication services ranging from amateur and professional radio services to mobile wireless technologies and satellite communications.

A number of landmark decisions were taken by the conference to deal with the increasing pressure placed the radio frequency spectrum, which is a limited natural resource. The demand for spectrum is the result of the exponential growth of information and communication technologies. This was reflected in an unprecedented number of agenda items (48) and individual proposals from Member States (2 500) that were dealt with during WRC-03.

The conference, heralded a success, also highlighted the need to increase efficiencies in the radiocommunication preparatory and conference process. Mr Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, reminded the 2 300 delegates that their work "has an enormous impact on the information society and the decisions taken are critical to allowing ITU to help build a global communication system that benefits all of humanity."

WRC establishes the global technical, operational and regulatory guidelines for the use of frequency spectrum and satellite orbits. Here are some key highlights from the conference:

Wireless LANS Get Global Allocation

WRC-03 successfully established new frequency allocations to the mobile service in the bands 5 150-5 350 MHz and 5 470-5 725 MHz for the implementation of wireless access systems including RLANs. Wireless devices that do not require individual licenses are being used to create broadband networks in homes, offices and schools. These networks are also being used in public facilities in so-called hot spots such as airports, cafes, hotels, hospitals, train stations and conference sites to offer broadband access to the Internet. An example of the efficiencies produced by these networks was seen at the heart of the conference centre itself. The work of the conference was easier, in terms of providing delegates fast and easy access to documents and to their corporate intranets.

The lower part of the 5 GHz spectrum will be predominantly used for indoor applications with the first 100MHz (5 150-5 250 MHz) restricted to indoor use. The use of these frequency bands is conditional to provisions that provide for interference mitigation mechanisms and power emission limits to avoid interference into other radiocommunication services operating in the same spectrum range.

IMT–2000 and Beyond: Planning for future growth

As the industry moves beyond IMT-2000 systems, the demand for seamless inter-working between telecommunication systems is expected to increase. Systems beyond IMT-2000 will comprise a multitude of telecommunication systems including 3G systems and their enhancements, WLAN-type systems, short-range connectivity systems, and broadcast systems.

The ITU reaffirmed its support for the continuing deployment of mobile wireless communications by recognizing the need to provide a global vision for the future development and advancement of IMT-2000. As part of this commitment, ITU will conduct further work to develop Recommendations in these matters.

ITU will study technical and operational issues relating to the future development of IMT–2000 and systems beyond IMT-2000, and develop Recommendations as required. These studies will take into account:

  • the evolving user needs, including the growth in demand for IMT–2000 services;
  • the evolution of IMT–2000 and pre-IMT–2000 systems through advances in technology;
  • the bands currently identified for IMT–2000;
  • the time-frame in which spectrum would be needed;
  • the period for migration from existing to future systems;
  • the extensive use of frequencies below those identified in the Radio Regulations for IMT–2000.

These studies will also take into consideration the particular needs of developing countries, including use of the satellite component of IMT-2000 for suitable coverage of these countries.

Public Protection and Disaster Relief Communication Takes Global Step

ITU delegates at WRC-03 approved a resolution that will pave the way for the deployment of new technologies for wideband and broadband public protection and disaster relief applications. At present, public protection and disaster relief applications are mostly narrow-band supporting voice and low data-rate applications. It is anticipated that many future applications will be wideband-based (with data rates in the range of 384-500 kbit/s) and/or broadband-based (with data rates in the range of 1-100 Mbit/s).

Countries are urged to use regionally harmonized bands for public protection and disaster relief to the maximum extent possible, taking into account the national and regional requirements and also having regard to any needed consultation and cooperation with other concerned countries. They are also to encourage public protection and disaster relief agencies and organizations to utilize relevant ITU-R Recommendations in planning spectrum use and implementing technology and systems supporting public protections and disaster relief.

The benefits of spectrum harmonization include increased potential for interoperability in public protection and disaster relief situations. It may also create a broader manufacturing base and increased volume of equipment resulting in economies of scale and expanded equipment availability and improved spectrum management.

Manufacturers are encouraged to take this resolution into account in future equipment designs, including the need for countries to operate within different parts of the identified bands.

High Altitude Platform Stations Rise Again

The issue of high altitude platform stations (HAPS) was the topic of much negotiation during the conference. While the concept of HAPS isn’t new, there are new projects proposed that aim to provide wide-area fixed wireless services from balloon-like devices located in the Earth’s stratosphere.

HAPS are in an advanced stage of development and some countries have notified ITU of such systems in the bands 47.2-47.5 GHz and 47.9-48.2 GHz. While the decision to deploy HAPS can be taken on a national basis, such deployment may affect neighbouring administrations, particularly in small countries.

This decision includes a new resolution on the potential use of the bands 27.5-28.35 GHz and 31-31.3 GHz by HAPS in the fixed service. Results of some ITU studies indicate that in these bands, sharing between the fixed service systems using HAPS and other conventional fixed service systems in the same area will require that appropriate interference mitigation techniques are developed and implemented. ITU will continue studies on technical and regulatory fronts. It will also study sharing between systems using HAPS and the radio astronomy service.

The development of any new service, such as HAPS, requires major investments and manufacturers and operators have to be given the confidence to make them. The decision reached by WRC-03 sends a positive signal to industry.

A Happy Landing for Aeronautical Services

The need for compatibility between aeronautical and broadcasting services posed some challenges for WRC-03. Aeronautical systems are converging towards a digital environment that supports aeronautical navigation and surveillance functions, which need to be accommodated in existing radio spectrum space.

A new resolution on the use of the band 108-117.975 MHz by aeronautical services was approved. It recognizes the need for the aeronautical community to provide additional services in order to enhance navigation and surveillance systems as well as passenger access to e-mail and Internet services through telecommunication data links. It also takes account of the need for the broadcasting community to provide digital terrestrial sound broadcasting.

The resolution allows for the additional use of the band 108-117.975 MHz by the aeronautical mobile radionavigation service on a primary basis. However, such use is limited to systems that transmit navigational information in support of air navigation and surveillance functions in accordance with recognized international aviation standards. Surveillance functions include the observation of aircraft location, velocity and weather conditions for the purpose of air traffic control and situational awareness/collision avoidance between aircraft.

ITU will study any compatibility issues between the broadcasting and aeronautical services that may arise from the introduction of these additional aeronautical systems.

High Density Applications Provide Boost for Broadband

There has been steady and global increase in demand for broadband services, such as those provided by high-density applications through the fixed-satellite service (HDFSS). HDFSS is an advanced broadband communication application that allows access to a wide range of broadband telecommunication applications supported by fixed telecommunication networks (including the Internet).

HDFSS systems are characterized by flexible and rapid deployment of a large number of earth stations employing small antennas. WRC-03 has approved guidelines for the implementation of HDFSS in a number of frequency bands. These guidelines will help facilitate the implementation of HDFSS, thereby helping to maximize global access and economies of scale.

Earth stations on board vessels Approved

The question of whether earth stations on board vessels (ESV) should be considered as a fixed-satellite service or a mobile-satellite service generated a great deal of discussion at WRC-03.

The demand for global wideband satellite communication service on vessels has increased and the technology exists that enables these vessels to use fixed-satellite service (FSS) networks to provide a wide variety of communications services such as Internet access. Despite a number of technical and regulatory concerns, it was resolved that ESVs transmitting in the 5925 6 425 MHz and 14 – 14.5 GHz bands will be permitted providing they meet a number of specific technical limitations.

Morse CODE:  Not Gone Yet

It has been predicted that the need to master Morse code as a requirement to obtain an amateur radio operators license, could be coming to an end. However, it was resolved to leave this to the discretion of the individual countries whether it would be necessary to demonstrate knowledge of Morse code in order to be granted an amateur radio operators license.

The conference took a major decision to add 100 KHz of bandwidth on a global basis, as a first step toward balancing amateur service needs and broadcasting interests.

For more detailed press report on the outcome and key decisions made during WRC-03 click here.

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