The future use of spectrum used for terrestrial TV wasn’t the only talking point at the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-23) in Dubai.
- Revisions to the global treaty governing use of radio spectrum on earth and in space
- Changes to support new tech, including future 6G networks.
- Delegates also agreed on how we’ll define time in the future.
Member States of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have agreed on revisions to the global treaty governing the use of the radio frequency spectrum, both on Earth and in space, at the close of the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The agreement on updates to the Radio Regulations identifies new spectrum resources to support technological innovation, deepen global connectivity, increase access to and equitable use of space-based radio resources, and enhance safety at sea, in the air, and on land.
A total of 151 Member States signed the WRC-23 Final Acts. The Final Acts constitute a record of the decisions taken at the conference including both the new and revised provisions of the Radio Regulations, all Appendices, and the new and revised Resolutions and ITU-R Recommendations incorporated by reference into the treaty by the conference.
This includes the decision to retain current frequencies for the primary use of broadcasters in Europe, safeguarding terrestrial TV. This covers the 470-694 MHz band. Mobile services will have secondary access, but won’t be allowed to interfere with TV signals. The frequency band will be reviewed at the 2031 conference.
What else was agreed upon?
Among the decisions, WRC-23 identified spectrum for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), which will be crucial for expanding broadband connectivity and developing IMT mobile services, also known as 4G, 5G and, in the future, 6G.
- That new spectrum includes the 3,300-3,400 megahertz (MHz), 3,600-3,800 MHz, 4,800-4,990 MHz and 6,425-7,125 MHz frequency bands in various countries and regions.
- A compromise means that in ITU Region 1 (which includes the UK & Europe) and Region 3, the 6,425-7,125 MHz band can also be used by Wi-Fi. It’ll be down to individual administrations to decide what happens in this frequency range.
- WRC-23 also identified the 2 GHz and 2.6 GHz bands for using high-altitude platform stations as IMT base stations (HIBS) and established regulations for their operations. This technology offers a new platform to provide mobile broadband with minimal infrastructure using the same frequencies and devices as IMT mobile networks. HIBS can contribute to bridging the digital divide in remote and rural areas and maintain connectivity during disasters.
- For non-geostationary fixed-satellite service Earth Stations in Motion (ESIMs), the conference identified new frequencies to deliver high-speed broadband onboard aircraft, vessels, trains, and vehicles. These satellite services are also critical following disasters where local communication infrastructure is damaged or destroyed.
- Provisions were included to protect ship and aircraft mobile service stations located in international airspace and waters from other stations within national territories.
- To support the modernization of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), WRC-23 took regulatory actions including the implementation of e-navigation systems to enhance distress and safety communications at sea.
- The conference provisionally recognized the BeiDou Satellite Messaging Service System for GMDSS use, subject to successful completion of coordination with the existing networks and elimination of interference.
The Conference endorsed the decision by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) to adopt Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) as the de facto time standard by 2035, with the possibility to extend the deadline to 2040 in cases where existing equipment cannot be replaced earlier. The Time & Date website has a useful explainer of what this means, published prior to WRC-23.
Resolutions to support Ice cloud measurements, inter-satellite links and space weather
WRC-23 also agreed on resolutions that will drive innovation in years to come, including the following:
- Allocation of additional frequencies for passive Earth exploration satellite services to enable advanced ice cloud measurements for better weather forecasting and climate monitoring.
- Allocation of new frequencies to the aviation industry for aeronautical mobile satellite services (117.975-137 MHz). The new service will enhance bi-directional communication via non-GSO satellite systems for pilots and air traffic controllers everywhere, especially over oceanic and remote areas.
- Allocation of the bands 15.41-15.7 GHz and 22-22.2 GHz in Radio Regulations Region 1 and some Region 3 countries to the aeronautical mobile service for non-safety aeronautical applications. This will enable aircraft, helicopters, and drones to carry sophisticated aeronautical digital equipment for purposes such as surveillance, monitoring, mapping, and filming, and have the capacity to transfer large data from these applications using wideband radio links.
- Adoption of regulatory actions for the provision of inter-satellite links. This will allow data to be made available in near-real time, enhancing the availability and value of instrument data for low-latency applications such as weather forecasting and disaster risk reduction.
- Recognition of the importance of space weather observation in a new Resolution and a new Article in the Radio Regulations to recognize the operation of space weather sensors as part of the meteorological aid service to observe space weather phenomena including solar flares, solar radiation and geomagnetic storms which can interfere with radiocommunication services.
- Approval of a recommendation by the Radio Regulations Board to allow 41 countries to acquire new and usable orbital resources for satellite broadcasting.
Overall, WRC-23 approved 43 new resolutions, revised 56 existing ones, and suppressed 33 resolutions.
Comments from the ITU
Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU Secretary-General said:
“WRC-23 puts the world on a solid path towards a more connected, sustainable, equitable and inclusive digital future for all. Key regulatory achievements on spectrum for space, science and terrestrial radio services build on the momentum of ITU’s ongoing work to achieve universal connectivity and sustainable digital transformation.”
Mario Maniewicz, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau added:
“The agreements reached at WRC-23 are a testament to the unwavering spirit of cooperation and compromise among all of our members. Navigating the complexities of spectrum sharing to update the Radio Regulations has helped us forge a path that provides a stable, predictable regulatory environment essential for the development of innovative radiocommunication services for all.”
And as one WRC ends, preparations for the next event and the one after that have already started. A Conference Preparation Meeting for WRC-27 takes place on Monday.
Over 3,900 delegates from 163 Member States attended WRC-23, including 88 ministerial-level participants.