Nº 2 2013 > Spectrum matters
A bright future ahead for our wireless world
Interview with Tariq Al Awadhi, Chairman of WRC‑12
The World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC‑12), held in Geneva from 23 January to 17 February, elected Tariq Al Awadhi, Executive Director of Spectrum and International Affairs at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates as its chairman.
The work accomplished under the deft leadership of Chairman Tariq Al Awadhi was colossal and WRC‑12 ended with 153 countries having signed the Final Acts updating the Radio Regulations — the international treaty governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits throughout the world. The bulk of the updated Radio Regulations entered into force on 1 January 2013. As we launch this new column on “Spectrum matters”, we look back on the achievements and challenges of WRC‑12 with Mr Al Awadhi.
Mr Al Awadhi, what did it mean to you personally, and as a national of the United Arab Emirates, to chair WRC‑12?
Tariq Al Awadhi: The importance of the World Radiocommunication Conference to ITU as a whole, and to the ITU Radiocommunication Sector in particular, made it a great honour for me to chair WRC‑12. Working with the high-level experts participating in the conference was a new and enriching experience, and a pleasure. Dealing with treaty issues relating to radio frequencies, the radio spectrum and radiocommunication services, culminating in the revised Radio Regulations, also gave me the opportunity to practise my communication skills. For the United Arab Emirates, which joined ITU as a Member State in 1972, it was the first time my country chaired such a conference.
How did you deal with the most difficult items in the conference’s lengthy agenda?
TAA: In the end, we reached compromises on all the difficult topics, but it took a long time. For example, there were two totally different views on Agenda item 1.2 regarding the enhancement of the Radio Regulations — one for no change, and the other to make some changes in the definitions of some services. The two views were supported by different regional groups, and a compromise was reached just two days before the end of the conference. My personal involvement was to lead a small group to bring the regional views together. The compromise was to make no change but to agree that the definitions of “fixed service”, “fixed station” and “mobile station” would be taken on by the study groups and the results brought to the next conference under a standing agenda item. In the same context, it was not easy to reach agreement on Resolution 951 or Recommendation 34.
Why was there so much difficulty in deciding what to do with Resolution 951 and Recommendation 34?
TAA: Resolution 951 was very broad in regard to enhancement of the Radio Regulations. The resolution had been on the agenda of the two previous conferences, and no conclusion had been reached. One view at WRC‑12 was that there should be no change and Resolution 951 should be suppressed. The opposing view was that changes should be made in the light of studies. The compromise was that there would be no conference resolution on further studies on the enhancement of the Radio Regulations, but that changes to three definitions would be considered.
Based on the CPM Report and proposals from countries, however, WRC‑12 agreed to recommend continuing studies on enhancing the Radio Regulations.
What other agenda items were particularly troublesome?
TAA: Agenda item 7 is a standing agenda item that relates to Resolution 86 on enhancing the procedures for coordination and notification of satellite filings. It took four weeks to finish discussing all the 35 aspects of this item. Meetings were conducted every day from morning until evening, sometimes till late at night, and during the weekends in order to solve all the difficulties and reach compromises. The most difficult issue was about the bringing into use of a satellite network. There is no indication in the Radio Regulations on how many days of operation constitute bringing into use. At WRC‑12, some people said zero days, some 10 days, some a week, some two weeks, and some three months. In the end we compromised on 90 days. That was the unanimous agreement among the regional groups, but it took a lot of difficult discussion and a long time to reach the compromise.
Agenda item 8.2, dealing with the agenda for the next World Radiocommunication Conference, also gave rise to much discussion. We eventually reached agreement on around 20 agenda items for WRC‑15, including the important areas of the fixed-satellite service and mobile services, which will be crucial for IMT or mobile broadband.
Where matters are complex, it is a challenging task to reach consensus. In chairing WRC‑12, I really appreciated the excellent spirit of cooperation among the regional groups to find solutions. Participants were ready to rise above national interests in order to serve the global objective of developing the ICT sector through enhanced spectrum harmonization. This was really the driver in achieving the successful results of the conference.
What in your view were the greatest achievements of the conference?
TAA: WRC‑12 modified the Table of Frequency Allocations to accommodate lightning detection systems and enhance the allocation for almost all major radio services. One of the hottest topics was broadcasting and mobile services, under Agenda item 1.17. In particular, a contribution submitted by Arab and African groups led to an allocation at 700 MHz for mobile services. That was a big achievement and an example of WRC‑12 looking towards the future, opening the way for new technologies that can be of benefit to all stakeholders.
What was it like to chair the four-week conference?
TAA: Chairing the conference was like a dream come true. It is a great responsibility to lead experts from around the world and to negotiate with the distinguished delegates from Member States. There were some tough times, especially when we were trying to reach a compromise and racing against the clock. What I really liked at this conference was the spirit of cooperation from all Member States and the support of all the regional groups. As Chairman of WRC‑12, I appreciated the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, and the support that I received. That is exactly what is needed to achieve a successful outcome of a conference.
What about the interference issue that was brought up at the beginning of the conference and discussed right until the end?
TAA: A regional group presented a paper on interference. Knowing that many satellite operators have reported that their transmissions are suffering from interference, the conference agreed to discuss this very important matter even though it was not on the agenda. We established an ad hoc group of the plenary, which considered ways to modify Article 15 of the Radio Regulations. After lengthy debate, the conference agreed to modify only No. 15.21, putting the onus on Member States to make the necessary arrangements to resolve interference problems arising from sources within their countries. A number of delegates pointed out that it might not be possible to identify the source of interference or that interference might be coming from another country. But they agreed to do their best.
So what is your message to the world of spectrum users?
TAA: Every country has to take all possible measures to use the spectrum efficiently, in order to enable stakeholders to benefit from radiocommunications without problems of interference. This can be achieved if all administrations — especially neighbouring administrations — work together. The result will be to bring better services to their countries.
Any final thoughts?
TAA: I would like to thank everybody who was involved in achieving the successful results of WRC‑12, starting with Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of ITU, who really supported me in making this conference successful. The Directors of the Bureaux, particularly the Director of BR, and all their staff provided invaluable advice and help throughout the conference. Finally, I would like to thank all ITU Member States, and all administrations and regional groups, who worked so well together in this conference. When we started the conference we said we needed to all work as one team, cooperate with each other, support each other, and try to create a good spirit. And I really saw that happen. Let me just add my thanks for the active participation of the United Arab Emirates and of the Arab Group in the work of ITU.