International Telecommunication Union WRC-12 Weekly
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Next Issue No. 1 23-27 January 2012

World Radiocommunication Conference 2012
gets off to a good start

With more than 30 agenda items to consider, the World Radiocommunication Conference, taking place in Geneva from 23 January to 17 February 2012 (WRC-12), will update the international treaty governing the use of radiocommunications throughout the world, the Radio Regulations. The goal, as stated in the ITU Constitution, is to ensure efficient and equitable access to spectrum and orbit resources.

In its first week (23-27 January), WRC-12 has already taken decisions benefiting modern aviation safety communication systems, extending the existing primary allocation to the meteorological satellite service (MetSat) in the 7 GHz range, and identifying relevant bands for satellite remote passive sensing between 275 and 3 000 GHz. These are just some of the agreements reached, while lively debate has started in many other areas.

Grandees set the scene

A record number of more than 3000 participants, representing over 150 countries converged on Geneva. At the opening of the marathon conference were former ITU elected officials Richard Butler, Jean Jipguep, Arnold Jiwatampu and Valery Timofeev, alongside the current team of elected officials Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General; Houlin Zhao, Deputy Secretary-General; Malcolm Johnson, Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau; François Rancy, Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau; and Brahima Sanou, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau. The Dean of the Conference, Jean-Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam (Cameroon) declared the event open.

United Arab Emirates at the helm

The conference elected Tariq Al Awadhi, Executive Director of Spectrum and International Affairs at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates as its Chairman, along with six Vice-Chairmen: Decker Anstrom (United States), Eric Fournier (France), Albert Nalbandian (Armenia), Mahiddine Ouhadj (Algeria), Habeeb Al-Shankiti (Saudi Arabia) and Alan Jamieson (New Zealand). The full structure of the conference is shown in this table.

Addressing the conference, Mr Al Awadhi expressed profound gratitude for the confidence placed in him to chair WRC-12. “My country, the United Arab Emirates, and I are honoured to accept this mandate, which I consider a genuine responsibility and not an honorary privilege. I pledge to do all in my power to meet your expectations and discharge the task you have entrusted to me with total impartiality,” Mr Al Awadhi said.
Emphasizing the importance of world radiocommunication conferences, Mr Al Awadhi noted that “the interval between radiocommunication conferences is no longer in line with the sector's considerable and rapid development. Furthermore, the subjects discussed at each conference feature on an agenda established four years earlier, which means that any new service or technology emerging in the interval will be examined and regulated only at the subsequent conference. The Union – an organization that brings together experts - must review this process and replace it with one that enables it to adapt to the substantial progress in radiocommunication services and meet the needs of the Member States, enabling them to manage those new services.”

Mr Al Awadhi underscored the need for participants to work together in a transparent, professional and impartial way in order to serve the interests of the Member States. “I am relying on your cooperation to ensure that the conference takes place in a climate of mutual respect, professionalism and exchange,” he concluded.

The future of broadband

Underlining the many crucial issues of global interest, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré said “The importance of broadband – and particularly wireless broadband – has been emphasized by the outcomes of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which was set up by ITU and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Broadband Leadership Summit, which was held in conjunction with ITU Telecom World 2011, last October, established new targets covering broadband policy, affordability and uptake – and I think we all understand that the achievement of these targets will depend in large part on the decisions made here at WRC-12.”
Climate change, including safety in the event of large-scale natural disasters, and the safety of air and maritime transport are also major concerns of this conference. The role of radiocommunications is key in the monitoring and mitigation of climate change, and WRC-12 has many agenda items addressing this important matter. The conference will also take important decisions to help improve safety in the ever-growing transport sector.

WRC-12 will address the effects of convergence, and the difficulties encountered with the use of regulations applicable to space communications. Decisions related to the introduction of new and advanced wireless technology are also expected – including those related to cognitive radio systems, short-range devices, electronic news-gathering, and free-space optical links.

“WRC-12 will define new and better ways to regulate radio services and applications, and I am firmly convinced that it will represent a major contribution in making the world a better place for all”, said Dr Touré.

The Radiocommunication Sector prepares and consults

The Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau François Rancy, who as delegate of France successfully chaired WRC-07, commended ITU members for their preparations for WRC-12. “During the four years that have elapsed since WRC-07, you have spared no effort to prepare this conference as well as possible all around the world, as is witnessed by the very high standard of the 2500 proposals received to date, over half of which are joint proposals from various regional groups or groups of countries. This illustrates, once again, the outstanding spirit of compromise that always prevails during WRCs and which, I am sure, will again prevail at this conference.”

Mr Rancy paid tribute to his predecessor Valery Timofeev for his excellent leadership of the Radiocommunication Bureau over the past eight years and, in particular, for his work in preparing for WRC-12.


The telecommunications industry has lost several eminent personalities over the past four years, and Dr Touré and Mr Rancy paid tribute to the memory of some who had left their mark on ITU conferences and activities of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R):

  • Nabil Kisrawi, who for  many years played a prominent role in the work of ITU, the Council, the plenipotentiary conferences, and the world radiocommunication conferences;

  • Dr Pekka Tarjanne, an illustrious former Secretary-General;

  • Ashot Badalov, head of the Soviet delegation to many World Administrative Radio Conferences (WARCs, now WRCs);

  • Tormond Boe, member of the first Radio Regulations Board and Director of the European Radiocommunications Office (ERO);

  • Henry Kieffer, Chairman of the first Radio Regulations Board;

  • Michael Davies, an eminent member of the Voluntary Group of Experts that restructured the Radio Regulations.

Peaceful uses of outer space

Mazlan Othman, the Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna and Director of the Office for Outer Space Affairs, told the conference that ITU contributes actively to the work of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. ITU  is also a strong partner in the Inter-Agency Meeting on Outer Space Activities, the central United Nations system-wide coordination mechanism on space-related activities of United Nations entities.
Ms Othman said that a major objective of the Basic Space Technology Initiative, launched by the Office for Outer Space Affairs in 2009, was to provide information about the legal and regulatory obligations relevant to the development of small satellites, including the procedures for frequency coordination. She thanked ITU-R for conducting workshops on frequency registration for the participants at the recent three symposiums on small-satellite programmes, noting that the symposiums had recommended that “members of the small-satellite community should coordinate among themselves and work with their governments to submit proposals at future World Radiocommunication Conferences to make additional frequency bands available for small-satellite activities, including with regard to the possibility of widening the scope of purposes, which was currently limited by the definition of the Amateur Service.”

Progress so far

Agreement reached to support aviation growth and safety

For the aviation industry to continue to thrive and expand, the safety and integrity of the airspace must be maintained. This is becoming increasingly complex because of capacity demand, diversity of aircraft types and environmental constraints.

On 24 January 2012 the conference took its first decision, covering part of agenda item 1.4. This agenda item is the vehicle by which the aviation industry is seeking to finalize the work, started in preparation for WRC-07, to ensure that the necessary spectrum is available to allow for the introduction of applications and concepts in air traffic management that can support data links that carry safety-critical aviation information.

As John Mettrop, Chairman of Committee 4 where the initial agreement was brokered explains: “The aviation industry is currently reviewing various worldwide programmes to enhance air traffic control communication systems through the introduction of a number of datalink services. These systems will enhance aeronautical communications capability and – in conjunction with more precise navigational capabilities – allow flight routing to be more efficient. If this can be achieved, then it will result in fewer delays, shorter flight times on average, lower fuel costs and reduced CO2 emissions.”

At WRC–07, the bands 108–117.975 MHz, 960–1 164 MHz and 5 091–5 150 MHz were allocated to the aeronautical mobile (route) service on a primary basis to meet the growing demand for access to airspace. The first two allocations were provisional, pending further studies within ITU-R. To avoid interference with the broadcasting service operating at 85–108 MHz, the frequency range 108–112 MHz was limited to ground-based systems that transmit navigational information in support of air navigation functions. The band 112 – 117.975 MHz was opened to all aeronautical mobile (route) service systems subject to Resolution 413 (Rev.WRC-07). This band is intended to provide additional radiocommunication services for the safety and regularity of flights.

The findings of the ITU-R studies under Resolution 413 (Rev.WRC07) on the “Use of the band 108 – 117.975 MHz by the aeronautical mobile (route) service” indicate that introducing aeronautical mobile (route) service systems into that band will not result in harmful interference to analogue FM broadcasting receivers below 108 MHz, and that both services can operate on a compatible basis.  Broadcasters from around the world agree with these findings.

The conference endorsed the findings by amending Resolution 413 to recognize that in accordance with Annex 10 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, all aeronautical systems must meet standards and recommended practices requirements. The conference also confirmed that all compatibility issues between FM broadcasting systems and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standard ground-based systems for the transmission of radionavigation-satellite differential correction signals have been addressed.

Looking ahead, ITU-R will continue to study any compatibility issues between the broadcasting service and aeronautical mobile (route) service in the band 108–117.975 MHz that may arise from the introduction of digital sound broadcasting systems, described in Recommendation ITU-R BS.1114, and develop new or revised ITU-R Recommendations as appropriate. The Secretary-General will bring modified Resolution 413 to the attention of ICAO.


Satellite remote passive sensing

The future of Earth observation applications is geared towards the development of passive sensors flying on meteorological and environmental satellites that will operate in frequency bands between 275 and 3 000 GHz. These bands, discussed under agenda item 1.6, correspond to water vapour and oxygen spectral lines that are important for ice cloud and precipitation measurements, which are needed for storm monitoring and climate studies.

In preparation for this agenda item, ITU-R adopted Report ITU-R RS.2194, which provides the relevant frequency bands and corresponding technical background. Based on the conclusions reached by the study groups concerned, the conference reviewed No. 5.565 of the Radio Regulations and updated the spectrum use by the passive services between 275 GHz and 3 000 GHz.

The conference decided that the use of the range 275–1 000 GHz by the passive services does not preclude use of this range by active services. And administrations wishing to make frequencies in the 275–1 000 GHz range available for active service applications are urged to take all practicable steps to protect the passive services from harmful interference until the Table of Frequency Allocations is established for that frequency range. All frequencies in the range 1 000–3 000 GHz may be used by both active and passive services. 

Free-space optical-links   
Also, as part of agenda item 1.6, the conference considered possible procedures for free-space optical-links, taking into account the results of ITU-R studies, in accordance with Resolution 955 (WRC-07). The conference decided that it was not necessary to make modifications to the Radio Regulations.  Therefore, it has abrogated this resolution.

Meteorological-satellite service gets more bandwidth

Non-geostationary orbit (non-GSO) satellites are an important part of the space-based Global Observing System. The mission requirements for next-generation non-GSO meteorological satellites in terms of observations, instruments and user-services clearly show a need to transmit higher data rates compared to current systems.  The necessary bandwidth for future non-geostationary MetSat systems to fulfil those requirements would be up to 150 MHz.

Extension of the existing allocation to the meteorological-satellite service in the band 7 750–7 850 MHz to the band 7 850–7 900 MHz was discussed under agenda item 1.24. Technical studies have demonstrated compatibility in these frequency bands with systems of other services. They have also indicated that the proposed extension is viable without undue limitations on other services.

In considering this agenda item, Committee 5 agreed by consensus that the band 7 850–7 900 MHz should be allocated to the meteorological-satellite service, limited to non-geostationary satellites, in the space-to-Earth direction on a primary basis, reported the Committee’s Chairman Muneo Abe. The conference has endorsed this extension of bandwidth and has amended Article 5, Article 21 and Appendix 7 of the Radio Regulations accordingly. It has abrogated Resolution 672 (WRC-07) on the “Extension of the allocation to the meteorological-satellite service in the band 7 750–7 850 MHz.”

No additional allocations to the mobile-satellite service

Under agenda item 1.25, the conference decided to make no additional allocation to the mobile-satellite service in both the Earth-to-space and space-to-Earth directions, in particular in the frequency range 4 – 16 GHz.  The conference has therefore abrogated Resolution 231 (WRC-07) on “Additional allocations to the mobile-satellite service with particular focus on the bands between 4 GHz and 16 GHz”.

New technologies: software-defined radio

Progress has also been made on the part of agenda item 1.19 that deals with software-defined radio, according to the Chairman of Committee 6, Aboubakar Zourmba. Software-defined radio (where software causes a radio transmitter to change its signal characteristics) has to comply with the rules that apply to the service and the band in which it operates. Although revolutionary in many ways, software-defined radio in practice transmits and receives in the same way as conventional radio. It is generally considered that software-defined radio can easily be used within the existing regulatory framework, so no particular change may be needed to the Radio Regulations beyond a definition.

Not an official document – For information only.


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WRC-12 newsroom

ITU News: WRC-12 Special Edition


Message from the Secretary-General


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WRC-12 Opening

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