Emerging Trends
October 24, 2019

The Radio Regulations Board and WRC‑19

By Lilian Jeanty, Chairman of the Radio Regulations Board

In preparation for the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC‑19), the Radio Regulations Board (RRB, or the Board) has a number of tasks to perform. The Board presents to WRC‑19 an overview of its activities carried out between WRC‑15 and WRC‑19, which is part of the Report of the Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau under agenda item 9.1.

A separate report on the implementation of Resolution 80 (Rev. WRC‑07) of the Radio Regulations (RR) regarding due diligence in applying the principles of the Constitution, is dealt with under WRC‑19 agenda item 9.3.

The RRB hopes to contribute to this work, and to play a role in finding a balance between all the different interests.

Finally, the RRB shall, as mentioned in RR No. 13.0.1 and No. 13.0.2, submit to the WRC proposals for possible modifications to the RR. Such modifications are a result of Rules of Procedure that have been approved by the Board between WRC‑15 and WRC‑19, in order to alleviate difficulties or inconsistencies in the RR. This time, only a few possible modifications were identified, and are included in the Report of the Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau.

The Board’s advisory role at WRCs

During WRC‑19, the members of the Board participate in an advisory capacity to the conference. They give advice on difficulties in the application of regulatory provisions in force, as well as those under discussion at the conference. A WRC can also give instructions to the Board, based on No. 97 of the ITU Constitution (CS), to carry out certain activities after the conference.

For example, WRC‑15 requested the Board to take a decision on the receivability of coordination requests for the new fixed-satellite service (FSS) allocation in the band 13.4–13.65 GHz before the date on which the allocation entered into force. In response to this request, the Board approved a revision of the Rule of Procedure on RR No. 9.11A.

Revising the Rules of Procedure

After WRC‑19, the Board and the Bureau will perform a comprehensive review of the existing Rules of Procedure, considering the impact of the decisions of the conference, as it did following WRC‑15. Existing Rules of Procedure may be modified or supressed and new rules developed. This is usually an extensive task and the resulting Rules of Procedure will complement the RR, and shall be used by administrations and the Radiocommunication Bureau in the application of the RR. It is the intention of the Bureau and the Board to finalize this review and adopt the new or modified Rules of Procedure before the new RR come into force.

Issues the Board has faced since WRC‑15

The RRB has submitted reports on Resolution 80 (Rev. WRC‑07) to most WRCs since WRC‑2000. The report to WRC‑19 focuses on particular issues the Board has encountered in its work, and therefore would like to bring to the attention of WRC‑19. Some of the most important are the application of No. 13.6 of the RR, CS Article 48, and the treatment of requests for extensions of regulatory time limits to bring into use or bring back into use frequency assignments.

No. 13.6 of the Radio Regulations and validating recorded frequency assignments

The use of No. 13.6 (Article 13, Section II) of the RR is an important tool to enable the Bureau to validate that the frequency assignments recorded in the Master International Frequency Register (MIFR) reflect reality and have been recorded legitimately.

Whenever it appears from reliable information available that a recorded assignment has not been brought into use, or is no longer in use, or continues to be in use but not in accordance with the notified characteristics, the Bureau will request the notifying administration to clarify the situation. After the conclusion of an investigation under RR No. 13.6, the Bureau may submit to the Board a request for a decision on the cancellation of frequency assignments to a satellite network.

The application of RR No. 13.6 is not subject to any time limitation. As a result, the scope of an investigation can sometimes go back several years.

For example, an administration might have notified several years ago frequency assignments that were never brought into use, or may not have been in use for more than the suspension period. However, these assignments were subsequently brought into use and continued to be in use at the time of the inquiry under RR No. 13.6.

Following an investigation under RR No. 13.6 where there was non-compliance with the Radio Regulations, there would be no regulatory basis for the Board to maintain the assignments in the MIFR, even if there was an actual satellite in operation and no outstanding coordination issues.
In such cases, the only recourse available to the administration would be to bring their case to a WRC, or to submit a new filing.

The Resolution 80 (Rev. WRC‑07) report covers a small part of all the issues to be discussed and solved during WRC‑19.

In dealing with requests for cancellation of frequency assignments, the Board is concerned with both maintaining the credibility of the MIFR, which contains the rights and obligations of administrations, and ensuring that operational satellites are duly coordinated. The Board also notes the possible difficulties around providing and verifying information for situations that go back several years.

It is clear how RR No. 13.6 is to be implemented, especially after the modifications made at WRC‑15, and therefore would not require further modification. Nevertheless, WRC‑19 could provide guidance to the Board in relation to the above-mentioned issues.

Article 48 of the ITU Constitution

Previous conferences have made decisions with regard to the application of the ITU Constitution (CS) Article 48 (Installations for National Defence Services). WRC‑15 decided that administrations must invoke CS Article 48 explicitly, and noted that Article 48 refers to military radio installations, and not to stations used for governmental purposes in general.

However, in the course of its work, the Board considered concerns raised by some administrations regarding the appropriateness of other administrations’ application of CS Article 48. For example, administrations invoking CS Article 48 after the Bureau has launched an investigation
under RR No. 13.6, or administrations invoking CS Article 48 for frequency assignments that seem not to be used for military purposes.

In addressing these cases, the Board considered that it was not within its mandate to make decisions on the application of CS Article 48, but that there is nevertheless cause for concern that the article has a potential for misuse which would compromise the integrity of the regulatory framework.

It would therefore be worthwhile for WRC‑19 to discuss once more the application of CS Article 48, taking note of the issues encountered by the Board and the Bureau in its work.

Requests for extensions of regulatory time limits

WRC‑15 reaffirmed the Board’s authority to address requests for time limited and qualified extensions to the time for bringing into use, or bringing back into use, frequency assignments in cases of either force majeure, or co-passenger delay.

On quite a regular basis such requests have been received from administrations. These were considered on a case-by-case basis, based on the information provided. Judging whether a case qualified for force majeure has not always been easy, but since there is a clear list of criteria that have to be met, no particular difficulties have been encountered with the current process. The same goes for cases of co-passenger delay. The Board considered co-passenger cases based on the information provided.

After WRC‑19, the Board and the Bureau will perform a comprehensive review of the existing Rules of Procedure, considering the impact of the decisions of the conference, as it did following WRC‑15.

There were also requests received from developing counties for an extension of the time limit, that were based on particular difficulties encountered, but not on force majeure or co-passenger delay. Because the authority of the Board is limited to these two elements, the requests could not be acceded to. In these cases, the Board instructed the Bureau to continue to take into account the frequency assignments of the satellite network until the last day of the upcoming WRC, noting that resolution of such situations is within the competence of a WRC.

This approach works when there is an upcoming WRC, but creates a long period of uncertainty when such a request is received just after a WRC. Therefore, WRC‑19 might be willing to discuss the possibility of giving the Board a mandate to address requests, on a case-by-case basis, for time limited and qualified extensions from developing countries, in particular those that have a reliance on satellite services to ensure connectivity over its entire territory. These extensions should be based on conditions that would need to be specified by the WRC or the Board.

Challenges for WRC‑19

The issues described in this article cover only a small part of the items included in the Resolution 80 (Rev. WRC‑07) report, and the report covers a small part of all the issues to be discussed and solved during WRC‑19. The challenge lies in bringing all these different issues to a satisfying conclusion, noting the diversity in views of the members.

The RRB hopes to contribute to this work, and to play a role in finding a balance between all the different interests.

  • Was this article Helpful ?
  • yes   no
© International Telecommunication Union 1865-2018 All Rights Reserved.
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.

The Radio Regulations Board and WRC‑19

Send this to a friend