Nº 5 2015 > Conference overview
From Conference Preparatory Meeting to WRC‑15
Aboubakar Zourmba, Chairman, Conference Preparatory Meeting for WRC‑15
This article outlines the main activities of the Conference Preparatory Meeting (CPM) for the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC‑15). It begins with some background, and then discusses the CPM and the CPM Report.
Managing the radio-frequency spectrum
There are two ways to provide telecommunications: by wire (aluminium, copper, waveguide, fibre optic…), and wireless, i.e. using radiocommunications. The basic information (voice, image, data…) is transformed into a telecommunication signal which, in its simplest terms, comprises three basic technical parameters: amplitude, frequency and phase. Of these three parameters, frequency requires particular care when it comes to radiocommunications. Indeed, propagating through free space with no physical means of guidance, the frequency (or wave) is subject to harmful interference, and this is a form of pollution. Moreover, frequencies are ignorant of the geographical borders separating our different countries, making radio-frequency propagation a matter of great international importance.
Taking care of the radio-frequency spectrum (i.e. the entire set of frequencies) means introducing frequency management, which comprises all the technical and administrative procedures that go towards ensuring the use of radio frequencies is free from harmful interference. Such management involves a number of operations, including allocation, assignment, notification, coordination, monitoring and registration.
Allocation of frequency bands
The Radio Regulations (RR), the international treaty governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and geostationary-satellite and non-geostationary-satellite orbits, define “allocation” as the entry in the Table of Frequency Allocations of a given frequency band for the purpose of its use by radiocommunication services worldwide. In fact, it constitutes the “wholesale” distribution of frequencies, whereas assignment represents their “retail” distribution. It is the dividing up of portions (bands) of available and usable frequencies among different, pre-defined uses (radiocommunication services).
Allocation of radio-frequency spectrum is essentially the remit of the WRC, which allocates frequency bands to the different radiocommunication services, establishes the conditions of access to the bands, sets the technical parameters governing operations, and puts in place the necessary management procedures. The outcomes of the WRC are set down in the Radio Regulations and submitted to the ITU Member States for signature and ratification.
The WRC is an important conference that addresses all aspects of radiocommunications globally, and it demands detailed preparation to help ensure that it runs smoothly, and that its length and associated costs can be reduced.
The CPM for WRC‑15
The CPM was introduced in order to make WRC preparation both systemic and systematic. The CPM is established and organized by the Radiocommunication Assembly (RA), the dates and venue of which are often linked to those of the WRC. Thus, RA‑12, held the week before the 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference, set up the CPM for WRC‑15, and WRC‑12 activated it.
The outcome of the work carried out by the CPM takes the form of the CPM Report, which provides the synthesis of the results of the studies requested under the items on the agenda of the WRC. The agenda of WRC‑15 contains over thirty items on extremely varied and complex issues. It was put forward by WRC‑12, agreed upon by the ITU Council at its 2012 session, and completed by the 2014 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP‑14) held in Busan, Republic of Korea. The work of the CPM is based on this agenda and on the structure of the study groups (SGs) of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R).
The CPM cycle comprises three major periods: the holding of the first meeting, at which the work is organized, the holding of the second meeting, at which the Report is finalized, and the period between the two, devoted to the studies required and preparation of the Report.
The activities carried out at the first session of the CPM for WRC‑15 (CPM15‑1), held in February 2012, immediately after WRC‑12, included consideration of the agenda for WRC‑15, identification of groups to address the required studies (including the creation of the Joint Task Group (JTG) on IMT — the ITU global standard for International Mobile Telecommunications), distribution of the required studies among the different study groups, and the establishment of working methods.
In the period between CPM15‑1 and the second session of the CPM for WRC‑15 (CPM15‑2), technical studies were carried out, the draft CPM texts were developed by the groups responsible for the studies. All those texts were consolidated in September 2014 by the CPM management team in the draft CPM Report itself. It was made available in the six official languages of the ITU in December 2014. In the period between CPM15‑1 and CPM15‑2, two inter-regional workshops were held and preparations continued at the national and regional levels and at the level of certain international organizations.
Taking into account the draft CPM Report, in particular, the report by the Special Committee on regulatory/procedural matters, the preliminary draft Report of the Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau (BR) to WRC‑15, and contributions from the membership, CPM15‑2 finalized the CPM Report in March/April 2015, following which it was published in the six official languages of the ITU (English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French and Russian).
The CPM Report to WRC‑15
The Report, comprising almost a thousand pages, provides elements relating to the technical, operational and regulatory/procedural items to be considered by WRC‑15. It is divided into six chapters, in addition to the preface by the Director of BR, introduction, annexes and list of abbreviations.
For each WRC‑15 agenda item, the Report summarizes and analyses the results of the studies, provides suggestions for the positions that the Member States could take in the form of methods, and proposes the regulatory way in which to amend the Radio Regulations.
In his preface, the Director of BR notes that the Report should provide a good basis for discussions at WRC‑15. I fully agree with him as the Report provides the membership with a tool that is virtually indispensable in its preparation for WRC‑15.
The activities carried out by the CPM for WRC‑15 have made it possible to master the challenges presented in the conference agenda, better understand the evolution of radiocommunication technologies and the related needs of industry, and more effectively demystify the complexities faced by WRC. This will certainly make the conference more enjoyable.
It is thus essential that the CPM process be maintained within the WRC framework. It can, nevertheless be perfected by streamlining the way it functions and the way its meetings are held, and by improving its structure.