World radiocommunication conferences (WRC) are held every three to four years. It is the job of WRC to review, and, if necessary, revise the Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and the geostationary-satellite and non-geostationary-satellite orbits. Revisions are made on the basis of an agenda determined by the ITU Council, which takes into account recommendations made by previous world radiocommunication conferences.
The general scope of the agenda of world radiocommunication conferences is established four to six years in advance, with the final agenda set by the ITU Council two years before the conference, with the concurrence of a majority of Member States.
Under the terms of the ITU Constitution, a WRC can:
- revise the Radio Regulations and any associated Frequency assignment and allotment Plans;
- address any radiocommunication matter of worldwide character;
- instruct the Radio Regulations Board and the Radiocommunication Bureau, and review their activities;
- determine Questions for study by the Radiocommunication Assembly and its Study Groups in preparation for future Radiocommunication Conferences.
On the basis of contributions from administrations, the Radiocommunication Study Groups, and other sources (see Article 19 of the Convention (Geneva, 1992)) concerning the regulatory, technical, operational and procedural matters to be considered by World and Regional Radiocommunication Conferences, the Conference Preparatory Meeting (CPM) shall prepare a consolidated report to be used in support of the work of such conferences.
World Radiocommunication Conference 2019: An Opportunity to Revisit Our Digital Development Priorities and Readiness
Bocar A. BA
Chief Executive Officer & Board Member
SAMENA Telecommunications Council
Decisions taken during the upcoming global WRC-19 Conference will set the direction for the use of spectrum throughout the world for the next several years; a time period during which the Industry is working tirelessly to develop 5G. It is, therefore, important that the voice of Operators be heard through SAMENA Council, which is an ITU-D Sector Member.
SAMENA Council hopes that close communication of priorities among the Regional Administrations as well as the Private Sector may lead us to a win-win situation for all.
The most important and presently relevant issue for Telecom Operators on the WRC-19 agenda is the 5G cellular topic in Agenda Item 1.13, which states:
“To consider identification of frequency bands for the future development of International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), including possible additional allocations to the mobile service on a primary basis, in accordance with Resolution 238 (WRC-15)”
For SAMENA Council, which represents Telecom Operators and exercises its role in serving regional Regulatory Authorities as a sector-development partner, the core issue of the identification of spectrum to provide commercially viable options for the next-generation of mobile technologies, commonly referred to as 5G, is of immense relevance to the SA-ME-NA region’s digital development efforts and national economic transformation goals, defined in various national ICT visions that the Council fully supports.
The bands under prospective consideration at the WRC-19 for 5G have a variety of complex sharing issues with both allocations to the same-band as well as to adjacent-band users. Several inter-service interference frequency pairs have also been investigated by the ITU-R, and it is observed that, at the millimeter-wave frequencies, national differences in spectrum use are much easier to resolve without interference than in the VHF and UHF bands. However, such differences have a potential impact on the economies of scale in equipment development and production and interoperability issues when users travel to a country with different band plans. Thus, while a long list of bands is under discussion, it is yet to be confirmed if all are, in fact, commercially viable or attractive at all.
Under such a complex situation, Regulators in the region have expressed the need for SAMENA Council to assist in addressing the cross-border spectrum interference issues, which could compromise 5G development and its proliferation in markets, such as Saudi Arabia. Considering also that, as in other 5G-prime regions, Telecom Operators in the SA-ME-NA need and want access to commercially attractive bands for mobile broadband and 5G both in the short and medium terms, SAMENA Council hopes that close communication of priorities among the Regional Administrations as well as the Private Sector may lead us to a win-win situation for all.
We may realize that WRC-19 presents itself as a much-needed opportunity to bridge the rising digital divides across the three ITU spectrum Regions.
The fulfillment of grand sustainable development goals and our collective readiness to tackle the world’s prevailing issues, which can be addressed effectively through the ICTs, merit that the post WRC-19 spectrum situation around the globe should be much better than how it is prior to the Conference. We may realize that WRC-19 presents itself as a much-needed opportunity to bridge the rising digital divides across the three ITU spectrum Regions.
SAMENA Council WRC-19 Monitor: Pioneer Spectrum Bands Identified and Key Terrestrial and Satellite Parameters Agreed to Support 5G Mobile Broadband Connectivity
The World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19) has concluded and it has brought forth a set of impactful agreements from Member States concerning the use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbital positions. The agreements arrived at the Conference will enable new communication technologies while ensuring protection of existing services.
For SAMENA Council, which represents Telecom Operators and exercises its role in serving regional Regulatory Authorities as a sector-development partner, the core issue of the identification of spectrum to provide commercially viable options for the next-generation of mobile technologies, commonly referred to as 5G, going into WRC-19, was of immense relevance to the SA-ME-NA region’s digital development efforts and national economic transformation goals, defined in various national ICT visions that the Council fully supports.
As was expected, new spectrum allocations have been agreed for 5G (IMT-2020). The global Conference not only identified additional globally harmonized (millimeter wave) frequency bands for International Mobile Telecommunications, but has opened doors to facilitate diverse usage scenarios for enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-type communications and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications, such as those that will become the hallmark of smart-city implementation; sustainable communities; improved attention and approach toward climate change; healthcare management; renewable energy; and more efficient agricultural practices and food production.
Special considerations for protection from harmful radio-frequency interference were awarded to satellite services supporting meteorology and climatology that aim to safeguard human life and natural resources, and systems used by radio astronomers for deep space exploration. Steps were also taken to ensure that radio astronomy stations would be protected from any harmful radio interference from other space stations or satellite systems in orbit.
Some of the most notable outcomes of WRC-19 include:
- Additional bands for IMT identified in the 24.25-27.5 GHz, 37-43.5 GHz, 45.5-47 GHz, 47.2-48.2 and 66-71 GHz bands, facilitating development of 5G mobile networks.
- Additional frequency bands for High-altitude platform stations (HAPS) identified to facilitate telecommunications within a wide coverage area below for affordable broadband access in rural and remote areas.
- Regulatory provisions for WiFi networks revised to accommodate both indoor and outdoor usage and the growth in demand for wireless access systems, including RLANs for end-user radio connections to public or private core networks, such as WiFi, while limiting their interference into existing satellite services.
- Regulatory changes introduced to facilitate rational, efficient and economical use of radio frequencies and associated orbits, including the geostationary-satellite orbit.
- Standard approved to integrate ICTs in evolving Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) to connect vehicles, improve traffic management and assist in safer driving.
- Non-Geostationary Satellites Regulatory procedures established for non-geostationary satellite constellations in the fixed-satellite service, opening the skies to next-generation communication capabilities, considering mega-constellations of satellites consisting of hundreds to thousands of spacecraft in low-Earth orbit are becoming a popular solution for global telecommunications, as well as remote sensing, space and upper atmosphere research, meteorology, astronomy, technology demonstration and education.
- Protection of frequency assignments for Broadcasting-satellite service (BSS) ensured, providing a priority mechanism for developing countries to regain access to spectrum orbit resources.
Key Outcomes of WRC-19 Conference in Brief
The World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC‑19) concluded on 22 November with agreements reached by some 3400 delegates from 163 Member States. These agreements were enshrined in the provisional Final Acts of the Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the global use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits.
- Additional globally harmonized frequency bands were identified for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), including IMT‑2020 (otherwise known as 5G mobile), facilitating diverse usage scenarios for enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-type communications and ultrareliable and low-latency communications.
- Protections were accorded to the Earthexploration satellite service (EESS) as well as meteorological and other passive services in adjacent bands, such as the space research service (SRS) to ensure that space-based monitoring of the Earth and its atmosphere remain unhindered.
- Satellite services supporting meteorology and climatology that aim to safeguard human life and natural resources will be protected from harmful radio-frequency interference, as will systems used by radio astronomers for deep space exploration.
- Radio astronomy stations will be protected from any harmful radio interference from other space stations or satellite systems in orbit.
- New orbital slots were opened up for broadcasting satellites, providing developing countries with the opportunity to regain access to spectrum orbit resources thanks to a priority mechanism especially set for them.
- A stable regulatory framework was defined for non-geostationary satellite orbit (non GSO) systems based on a milestone process enabling mega constellations to rapidly come to fruition. This will ensure that more affordable means of connectivity can be offered to citizens of all countries.
- Earth stations in motion will enable connectivity in planes, ships, and trains.
- The provision of a truly global maritime distress and safety system was ensured and expanded.
- A new Recommendation was approved on Intelligent Transport Systems towards connecting vehicles, improving traffic
management and assisting safe driving.
- Measures were taken to ensure themcontinuous assistance and support for the timely implementation of new technologies, including 4G and 5G networks and services, in Palestine.
- The conference declared the commitment of the Sector to gender equality, andmgender balance.
- WRC‑19 agreed to recommend to the ITU Council that a World Radiocommunication Conference be held in 2023 (WRC‑23) for a maximum period of four weeks. WRC‑19 agreed on over twenty agenda items for WRC‑23, and decided to invite the ITU Council to finalize the agenda.
- WRC‑19 also agreed to invite the Council to arrange for the convening of a World Radiocommunication Conference in 2027 (WRC‑27), and for the Council to finalize the agenda for that conference.
Enabling 5G deployment
While identifying the frequency bands 24.25–27.5 GHz, 37–43.5 GHz, 45.5–47 GHz, 47.2–48.2 and 66–71 GHz for the deployment of 5G networks, WRC 19 also took measures to ensure appropriate protection of the Earth exploration satellite services, including meteorological and other passive services in adjacent bands.In total, delegates at WRC 19 identified more than 8 times more spectrum for IMT than was identified for IMT before the Conference. 17.25 GHz of spectrum was identified for IMT after the Conference, in comparison with the 1.9 GHz of spectrum identified before WRC 19. Out of this number, 14.75 GHz of spectrum has been harmonized worldwide, reaching 85% of global harmonization.
The fulfillment of grand sustainable development goals and our collective readiness to tackle the world’s prevailing issues, which can be addressed effectively through the ICTs, will now be a function of the post WRC-19 spectrum situation around the globe. SAMENA Council anticipates that agreements achieved during WRC-19 will help bridge the rising digital divides across the three ITU spectrum Regions and will help steer accelerated IMT-2020 development across the SA-ME-NA region and beyond.