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May 13, 2019

Why wireless standards are so important in today’s world: Mario Maniewicz

By ITU News

ITU’s 50th World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) is this Friday and this year’s theme is “Bridging the Standardization Gap.” Ahead of WTISD, ITU News recently caught up with Mario Maniewicz, the Director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau, to get his take on the importance of wireless standards, especially for developing countries.

Why are wireless standards so important in today’s world?

Wireless communications have enabled the connection of billions of people to the Internet so that they can reap the benefits of today’s digital economy. Similarly, agreed standards for mobile phones allow people to use their devices everywhere in the world.

Nearly every sector of the economy now relies upon wireless technologies in fundamental ways – from banking and agriculture to transportation and healthcare. And powerful new technologies that rely on robust wireless communications networks – such as 5G, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things – hold great promise to improve lives at an unprecedented pace and scale. Indeed, they have potential to accelerate progress towards achieving each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

None of this, however, could be possible without international regulations and worldwide agreed standards that help to ensure interference-free wireless communications across borders.

ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) globally regulates the use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits to ensure these critical resources are used rationally, efficiently, economically, and equitably, and to prevent harmful interference between services of different government Administrations.

By updating the Radio Regulations (RR), the international treaty governing the use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, during ITU World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) and by developing radiocommunication standards in the ITU-R study groups, ITU harmonizes the entire radio-frequency spectrum.

This encourages and protects critical investment in information and communication technology (ICT) networks. It also enables economies of scale by reducing the cost of network equipment and user devices enabling affordable services. This key work helps ensure more people across the world are connected and able to benefit from the widening range of digital services offered via wireless communication.

As we approach the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19), what are some of the key wireless standards ITU is working on?

The ITU is working on the completion of the IMT-2020 (5G) standard. 5G will enable the flow of a huge amount of data much faster, reliably connecting an extremely large number of devices and processing very high volumes of data with minimal delay. 5G is expected to support applications such as smart homes and buildings, smart cities, 3D video, work and play in the cloud, remote medical surgery, virtual and augmented reality, and massive machine-to-machine communications for industry automation and self-driving cars.

“When developing countries do not bring their requirements to the table, international standards may be developed consistent with industry interests or technological innovations, but could neglect to consider the most important aspect: the needs of the consumers of the technology.”

IMT-2020 is expected to be rolled out as of 2020, with 5G trials and pre-commercial activities underway. ITU has published recommendations on the long-term vision for IMT-2020, and on detailed technical operational characteristics and parameters of the terrestrial radio interface of IMT-2020. In addition, standards on Intelligent Transport Systems and Public protection and disaster relief have also been recently published.[1]

ITU is also preparing to update satellite aspects of the Radio Regulations due to rapidly evolving satellite technologies, innovative applications and new business models recently blossoming in the industry. As such, WRC-19 agenda items related to satellite communications include:

  • providing additional spectrum for satellite broadband Internet access on moving platforms like ships, planes or trains;
  • looking for a harmonized bands for telemetry and telecommand of small satellites;
  • providing additional spectrum in the same range for geostationary satellite systems;
  • regulating the deployment of mega-constellations of non-geostationary satellite systems to prevent radio-frequency warehousing.
Why is it crucial that developing countries play an integral role in developing these standards?

During the process of product and business development, equipment manufacturers, network operators – and the widening range of players providing digital services dependent on wireless communications – wish to understand the needs of their future customers. These needs may be expressed and taken into account during the standardization process.

“People from developing countries will benefit from the international regulations and standards to the extent these regulations and standards are adopted and incorporated into their national regulatory framework.”

When developing countries do not bring their requirements to the table, international standards may be developed consistent with industry interests or technological innovations, but could neglect to consider the most important aspect: the needs of the consumers of the technology. This can result in equipment, products and services that do not accurately meet the demands of developing markets.

Thus, it is crucial that developing countries express their requirements and needs and ensure that these are taken into account during the development of international standards. ITU-R working methods provide a neutral platform where all members have equal opportunity to contribute their views.

What are some of the obstacles for developing countries to play a greater role in this work?

Challenges faced by developing countries include the investment of time and resources to send delegates to the meetings where the standards are developed. Moreover, participation requires a high level of technical knowledge and familiarity with the dynamics of the working groups and conferences.

The ITU-R provides seminars to Administrations to introduce delegates of developing countries to some of the rules, terms, acronyms and procedures adopted in the development of standards.

How will people benefit most from these standards?

People from developed and developing countries will benefit from the international regulations and standards to the extent these regulations and standards are adopted and incorporated into their national regulatory framework.

This will ensure the ecosystem is available, spectrum and standards are harmonized and citizens have access to affordable services and devices that meet their needs.

[1] M.1457-14 (01/2019)- Detailed specifications of the terrestrial radio interfaces of International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000)

M.1890-1 (01/2019) – Operational radiocommunication objectives and requirements for advanced Intelligent Transport Systems

M.2121-0 (01/2019) – Harmonization of frequency bands for Intelligent Transport Systems in the mobile service

M.2009-2 (01/2019) – Radio interface standards for use by public protection and disaster relief operations in accordance with Resolution 646 (Rev.WRC-15)

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Why wireless standards are so important in today's world: Mario Maniewicz

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