WRC Gives Satellite Stability

By Aarti Holla, Secretary General, ESOA

The last few weeks have been extremely intense for ESOA and its members in their quest to preserve access to satellite spectrum at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in Geneva. Whilst we fully recognize the importance of mobile communications, we also believe that it cannot be “mobile at any cost” and going into WRC15 that cost risked being potentially very high.

During the four long weeks in Geneva, we made sure that national administrations understand that WRC is more than just a technical exercise and that their decisions will have irreversible effects on real users around the globe. We invited users, from broadcasters to the UN, to talk to delegates directly about the services they provide, the number of people served, the consequences of interference and about real cases of interference already happening as a result of mobile terrestrial communications (IMT).

I am also pleased that ESOA could deploy its Board of CEOs to meet so many Heads of national Delegations, Ministers and senior ITU officials including its Secretary General and have his presence at a satellite launch. After all this engagement we see the result – ITU Member States have fully recognized the unique and vital services that satellites provide, the fact that so many nations rely on them and that they are a future technology seeing serious investment. At WRC15 they decided to allocate part of the C Band (where WRC07 had anyway added footnotes) to IMT for Regions 1 (EMEA) and 2 (Americas) but not to touch bands above 3.6 GHz apart from 4 countries only taking footnotes in Region 2 in 3.6 – 3.7GHz.

Looking to the future, WRC15 also had the grim task of identifying candidate bands for study for future IMT/5G use. Considering the existing saturation of Ku and C bands, it was vital for ESOA members to maintain certainty around the Ka band, where global existing and planned investment (GSO/ NGSO/ government and military) already amounts to over $100bn. Therefore I am particularly pleased that administrations decided that no globally harmonised bands for FSS, MSS and BSS in C, Ku or Ka band would be included in the scope of a new WRC19 agenda item. Now we need to help administrations understand our role in the future digital and 5G ecosystem: from inclusion and data connectivity backup to cyber-resilience and media content delivery.

WRC15 did not stop there though! Future conferences will consider steps to improve satellite access, so spurring growth in the industry. For example, studies were approved for WRC19 for additional FSS spectrum at 51.4-52.4 GHz and the conference adopted a future agenda item for WRC23 for additional satellite spectrum in the 37.5-39.5 GHz band.  The ITU and its WRC remain crucial for our global sector and I am thankful to all administrations and particularly to the WRC Chairman Mr Festus Daudu for hearing what we say, recognising the satellite role in enabling global connectivity, and for driving consensus at WRC15.

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