Nº 5 2015 > Conference overview

Radio Regulations for smart use of radio spectrum

Yasuhiko Ito
Chairman, ITU Radio Regulations Board
Adviser to KDDI Corporation

Yasuhiko Ito, Chairman, ITU Radio Regulations Board, Adviser to KDDI CorporationRadio Regulations for smart use of radio spectrum
Yasuhiko Ito, Chairman, ITU Radio Regulations Board, Adviser to KDDI Corporation

The Radio Regulations are based on the principle of mutual respect among ITU Member States, as well as the concept of sharing the radio-frequency spectrum. Since ITU’s foundation, Member States have respected these principles, which have contributed to the remarkable progress in radiocommunications over the years. However, due to the extremely rapid increase of wireless communications, it is becoming somewhat more complicated nowadays to obtain access to a band of frequency spectrum that is required for new services, as well as for broadening existing services. The ITU Radio Regulations Board (RRB) received many requests after WRC‑12 to mitigate some difficult issues between administrations. The Resolution 80 report prepared by RRB to the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC‑15), describes the difficulties we faced in the interim period. We believe that by resolving them through negotiations, goodwill and consensus, we will re-create the ideal environment for the continued equitable use of the radio-frequency spectrum.

Sharing spectrum

Article 5 of the Radio Regulations (RR) specifies frequency bands (slices of the spectrum) that are allocated to the different radiocommunication services worldwide. The tables in Article 5 show that several different services are allocated on a co-primary basis for each segmented frequency band. This is in accordance with the principle of the Radio Regulations, as specified in RR provision No. 4.8, that the radio-frequency spectrum must be shared under the “equality of right to operate” principle when a band of frequency is allocated to different services of the same category.

The Board, however, frequently sees cases where an administration may reserve a number of orbital locations for the use of geostationary satellite networks, but some of the filings seem to be unused. This situation is sometimes created when an administration intends to obtain a new frequency assignment. The administration may request multiple orbital slots in the hope of successfully achieving frequency coordination for either one of the locations. However, even after achieving this objective, it may sometimes retain the remaining locations at the coordination stage for the purpose of contingency use. Thus the filings continue to remain unused.

The situation described above makes sharing between users a complicated matter, not only for satellites, but also for other co-primary allocated services in the same frequency band. Likewise, if a service requirement is unnecessarily enlarged, it will become a blockade to other co-primary services, resulting in a monopolization of the band, which is effectively in breach of Article 44 of the ITU Constitution.

Bringing satellites into use

A satellite network must be brought into use before it is registered in the Master International Frequency Register (MIFR). WRC‑12 introduced RR Provision No. 11.44B, defining the process of “bringing into use (BIU)”. Under the new provision, “a frequency assignment shall be considered as having been brought into use when a space station in the geostationary-satellite orbit with the capability of transmitting or receiving that frequency assignment has been deployed and maintained at the notified orbital position for a continuous period of 90 days. The notifying administration shall so inform the Bureau, within 30 days from the end of the 90‑day period”.

The RRB considers it a significant step to have clarified BIU, since the issue of whether or not the number of days reported by an administration was appropriate to justify BIU had been under discussion for quite some time. On the other hand, sometimes administrations fail to inform the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau (BR) of the completion of BIU within 120 days, but then request notification and registration after the 120‑day limit. Currently, there is no provision for treating such cases of non-compliance with Article 11.44B. If similar actions continue, this will not only jeopardize the accuracy of the MIFR but possibly also hinder the efficient use of the geostationary-satellite orbit (GSO).

As with RR No. 11.44B, there is currently no provision for treating non-compliance of provision No. 11.49, which deals with suspension of a satellite. We are expecting that these issues will be dealt with at WRC‑15.

Provision No. 13.6 of the Radio Regulations

Radio Regulations No. 13.6 is one of the most important provisions used for the maintenance of the MIFR and World Plans. Whenever it appears from “reliable information available” that a recorded assignment has not been brought into use, or continues to be in use but not in accordance with the notified required characteristics, BR will apply RR. No. 13.6, and request the notifying administration to clarify the situation.

The Board noticed that the number of appeals has been growing, where an administration questions the bringing into use and/or the continuing operation of another administration’s frequency assignments and requests the Bureau to verify the information in question in accordance with RR. No. 13.6. Increasing congestion of the GSO and the radio-frequency spectrum, and resulting coordination difficulties seem to underline many of these requests. In some cases, pursuing cancellation of another administration’s assignments rather than continuing negotiation was the remedy sought to overcome these difficulties.

The most important — and also most controversial — point regarding the application of No. 13.6 is to decide what constitutes “reliable information”. Indeed, the answer to this question is very difficult. But in many cases, when BR receives an appeal, the requests are sometimes supported by information obtained from websites of launch providers, satellite manufacturers, and other sources.

Based on BR’s past experience, ascertaining the reliability of the previously provided information can best be achieved through the receipt of supplementary information from the notifying administration directly. Through exchange of information with the notifying administration, the Bureau and the RRB may then be able to determine what information is indeed accurate and complete enough to be used as the basis for its further actions. The Board believes that “reliable information” is actually in our hands and becomes available through the exchange of information.

Leasing is everywhere

In the ITU environment, although the term “leasing of a satellite” is not precisely given, it is common practice for an administration to use a satellite of another administration under a certain licensing agreement.

When an administration intends to bring into use, or bring back into use, a frequency assignment, it is often found that a space station licensed by another administration is being used temporarily. The space station may already be operating on the GSO and could be moved from its original location. This type of arrangement for using a space station often occurs when a notifying administration has completed Advanced Publication and is undertaking coordination, but the planned satellite is not yet ready for operation before the expiry date of seven years. Leasing is one way to maintain the proposed frequency assignments.

When planning to use satellite leasing in order to realize BIU, or bringing back into use of a frequency assignment, a notifying administration needs to consider provision No. 18.1 of the Radio Regulations, and the process described therein. The process of acquiring the rights for use of a satellite licensed by another administration is a delicate subject, and a clear “hand shake” between the two administrations is necessary.

Wishes to WRC‑15

The world is evolving much faster than we realize, and the radiocommunication sector is expected to provide the basic infrastructure to support transforming technologies.

The issues described in this article are only a part of the items to be discussed during the month of November in Geneva, but they give an indication that the Radio Regulations need to be flexible enough to adapt to these changes.

WRC‑15 may take some decisions that could enable a change of course to take place in the field of worldwide radiocommunications. The RRB hopes to contribute to the work of WRC‑15, and to play a significant role in helping to find a balance between regulation and competition.


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