Emerging Trends | Satellite
March 11, 2013

Preventing harmful interference to satellite systems

By Yvon Henri

Satellite systems are key communication tools that are increasingly in demand from a large and growing number of requirements, such as fixed, mobile, broadcasting, amateur, space research, emergency telecommunications, meteorology, global positioning systems, environmental monitoring and a host of other communication services.

In recent years an increasing number of cases of harmful interference have emerged, including deliberate ones with the intention of disturbing or preventing the reception of signals, which particularly affect telecommunication satellites. In some cases, instances of harmful interference have targeted radio navigation-satellite service (RNSS) signals used by civil aviation, threatening international air traffic with dire consequences including potential loss of life.

A primary objective of ITU is to ensure interference-free operations of radiocommunication systems. This has been emphasized at ITU World Radiocommunication Conferences, as citizens of every country around the world depend on terrestrial and space Radiocommunication systems for the provision of reliable telecommunication and broadcast services.

As the leading United Nations agency for management of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits – and hence responsible for resolving instances of intentional or unintentional harmful inference – ITU is extremely concerned about the growing number of satellite networks which are the targets of deliberate harmful interference.

Although current mechanisms do exist to resolve harmful interference between the parties concerned, a resolution of this nature is often an expensive and lengthy process.

ITU’s response so far has been limited to appealing to all parties that may be involved to exercise the utmost goodwill and to provide mutual assistance in settling issues of harmful interference. In such cases, ITU applies the provisions enshrined in Article 45 of the ITU Constitution and Section VI of Article 15 of the Radio Regulations.

In most instances, the information provided to ITU by an affected administration includes evidence on the location of the source of harmful interference.

However, as the information often comes from a single source, and in the absence of proper means to investigate or corroborate the information, irrefutable evidence cannot be provided to the administration under investigation to assume responsibility for stopping the interference.

Within this context, ITU is in the process of drawing up a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) with administrations and organizations that have the capacity to monitor the use of spectrum allocated to satellite services in order to assist us in performing measurements related to cases of harmful interference. A memorandum of cooperation has already been signed by ITU and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding cases of interference involving the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) on board civil aircraft.

Such agreements, along with continued work in improving the technical and regulatory environment, are expected to help in the timely settlement of harmful interference cases, including GNSS, which would have a profound impact on improving aviation safety.

Additional contacts have also been initiated with other organizations, such as the Satellite Industry Association (SIA); the European Satellite Operator’s Association (ESOA); and the Global VSAT Forum(GVF) for assistance in providing satellite monitoring and helping to determine sources of harmful interference.

The overarching objective of the ITU initiative is to establish a framework that will avoid duplication of efforts, as well as to benefit from potential synergies between the parties acting in their respective fields of responsibility as well as to develop a long-term strategy in solving the issue.

ITU’s Chief of the Space Services Department (SSD), Yvon Henri, will be representing ITU at CABSAT 2013(#CABSAT) taking place in Dubai from 12 – 14 March, where he will participate in various panel discussions on issues relating to satellite interference.

CABSAT is the established and respected trade platform for broadcast, digital media and satellite sectors across the Middle East, Africa and Southern Asian regions.

Yvon Henri is Chief of the Space Services Department (SSD) at the Radiocommunication Bureau of ITU. Before joining ITU in 1995, he has held various management positions at France Telecom in Paris and INTELSAT based in Washington DC. Mr. Henri has been involved in the satellite business for more than 25 years.
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ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology. Any opinions expressed and statistics presented by third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of ITU.

Preventing harmful interference to satellite systems

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