2015 World Radiocommunication Conference: A Troubling Direction

Now that the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) has concluded and the final report issued, I wanted to share our thoughts on this conference. Although I was unable to attend the entire time, it had been a privilege to join Ambassador Decker Anstrom and Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda from the State Department, FCC Chairman Wheeler, International Bureau Chief Mindel De La Torre and the girl staff in Geneva. As part of the Oughout. S. delegation, I enjoyed the particular meetings that I had with associates from other delegations. They were both helpful and enlightening.

By way of background, the WRC is held every three to four years by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The last was held in 2012, and the next will be held in 2019. In this conference, the participants review, plus, if necessary, revise the Radio Regulations, which is the international treaty governing just about all member nations’ use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits. They also determine issues for study in preparation for future WRCs.

Having an international entire body, like the ITU, can allow for the global harmonization of spectrum use. The benefits of global harmonization are many. For instance, it reduces the cost of new equipment and devices because of the economies of level achieved when technology can be promoted globally. Additionally , it allows customers to have the same experience with their devices whether they are at home or overseas. Although global allocation is the absolute goal, spectrum may also be allocated by regions – such as Europe and Africa (Region 1), the Americas (Region 2) and Asia (Region 3) – or by country by means of footnotes added to the spectrum portion chart.

The U. S. delegation, directed by Ambassador Anstrom, worked vigorously to promote the U. S. position. Based on their hard work, advocacy and lots of around-the-clock negotiating sessions, there was success on several objectives, such as harmonized spectrum for global flight tracking, public safety, and automotive radars, along with the study of potential bands for future Fixed Satellite Assistance allocation. In these instances, the WRC seems to have operated as it should – countries coming together to determine global spectrum needs, finding solutions depending on bona fide data and science, and acting collectively to resolve issues and various positions, as necessary. Unfortunately, regardless of the delegation’s best efforts, these sound principles did not apply to the identification of International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum, which was the area of finest interest to the FCC.

The Commission got two main goals heading in to WRC-15. The first was to obtain additional spectrum for mobile broadband, including a worldwide allocation for the 600 MHz music group and the C-band ( i. e. , the 3. four to 3. 7 GHz band). While the U. S. was profitable in getting this spectrum for use in this country, it faced enormous opposition in obtaining a global part. The second was to set the phase to globally harmonize spectrum to facilitate deployment of next generation, or even 5G, networks. To start this process, the particular U. S. was seeking spreading studies to determine whether future mobile services could co-exist in certain bands, including 28 GHz, which could pave the way for possible global allowance at the 2019 conference depending on the studies’ outcome. In both of these instances, as in the U. S., there are transmitted, satellite and government incumbents delivering services in these spectrum bands internationally.

Unfortunately, this is where the WRC went wrong. For a number of reasons, other countries avoided a global 600 MHz allocation, also going so far as trying to block any discussion of the band at WRC-15. They also barred the 28 Gigahertz band from inclusion in the 5G feasibility studies. It is incomprehensible that will even doing studies should be a non-starter or off the table. Science should dictate the efficient allocation associated with spectrum, not politics or international protectionism.

Although it is short-sighted for some nations to decide against technological innovation, what made matters even worse was a decision that individual nations could support a mobile share in the 600 MHz band via a footnote only upon the acceptance of neighboring countries. Ultimately, this de facto veto power led to a domino effect of countries obstructing other countries at the end of the meeting. Therefore , many governments that backed the U. S. position were forced to sit on the sidelines. It really is dumbfounding that one country could quash another’s ability to use spectrum within its own borders as it sees fit, even though they protect incumbents located in nearby states.

Regardless, the U. S. and certain other countries that already have mobile allocations for these frequencies can move forward notwithstanding, so it will not affect our future plans. Therefore , the Commission will conduct a transmitted incentive auction in the near future (perhaps in a matter of months), and wireless providers can commence planning and deploying systems before the ITU may even consider a global allocation for this band further, which is not scheduled until the WRC within 2023. This means that the rest of the world will trail far behind the trajectory of wireless communications progress.

Similarly, the ITU rejected studies of the 28 GHz band, despite millimeter influx research and testing that is already underway using these very frequencies in the U. S. and other like-minded nations. Specifically, the Commission already has a proceeding regarding mobile use in twenty-eight GHz, and has committed to considering an order this coming summer. Consequently , those that are actually going to innovate plus develop next-generation systems will move through the private sector standards setting bodies to determine what these systems and networks will look like, all outside of the purview of the ITU. In sum, the ITU and countries that prevented even studying 28 Gigahertz will have little to no tone of voice in the development of these future technologies. While this may not facilitate harmonization, the particular WRC-15 experience suggests that we merely can’t rely on a reasoned global process to result in a logical outcome.

This particular leads me to contemplate the particular practical effect of what happened at WRC-15 and its impact on the ITU part going forward. There is a real possibility that these practices undermined the value of future WRCs and increased the risk that the ITU will become a tool for governments plus incumbent spectrum users to halt spectral efficiency and technological progress. Global spectrum harmonization for future providers will be difficult, if not impossible, or, at a minimum, be years behind development if such practices are allowed to occur. At the same time, global technological leaders, such as the U. S., will keep innovate outside and without input from the ITU and its many nation claims. This will, in turn, make the ITU as well as the WRC process less relevant.

After this experience, I am left asking whether it is really worth the country’s time and money to engage on this process and whether the ITU plus WRC have a lasting future. I will be an optimist and say that it may, but technologically advanced countries – and the U. S. in particular – need to have greater confidence in WRC and other international conferences, and also in the ITU in general. If this means we ought to increase our leadership position, then let’s do so aggressively. The TERSEBUT needs to be a place that fosters r and d based on sound science as opposed to a quick way to blocking future innovation. And the just way this will happen is for countries on the cutting edge of technology in order to be heard above those that would like to maintain the status quo, which are unfortunately the very ones who are currently in control of the particular ITU agenda.

In the end, WRC-15 had a few successes but ultimately raised essential issues that need to be addressed. I stand ready to assist in any way possible in making improvements a reality. In the meantime, I will not hesitate to advance the United States’ technological positions to ensure future achievements – with or without the ITU.

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January 15, 2016 : 2: 15 pm

Michael O' Rielly | Commissioner

Now that the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) has came to the conclusion and the final…


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