WRC-12: a success for CEPT?

With the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) now over, we can outline some of the important results achieved at the Conference and the ways in which they affect the European radiocommunications environment. The ECC can now consider the WRC's influence on its own work programme. Although it's been a long and, at times, challenging process, the journey overall has been successful and has delivered a better regulatory framework for spectrum use for everybody.

The main outcomes are as follows:

1. CEPT has successfully coordinated the European positions in WRC-12

European Common Proposals (ECP) had been adopted in July and November on all WRC-12 agenda items. 44 administrations have provided signatures for these ECPs. For the most controversial agenda item (Agenda Item 1.7 on aeronautical mobile satellite service), the number of signatures reached 37 but in most cases the number of signatures exceeded 40.

During WRC-12 the coordination of CEPT administrations was ensured through almost daily Heads of Delegation meetings and additional coordination meetings for specific agenda items as necessary. In spite of lively discussions during these coordination meetings, CEPT was able to speak with one voice for all major issues of the Conference, including the extension of the mobile allocation at 700 MHz.

As a result, the CEPT proposals and positions were successful with satisfying results and compromises on all agenda items.

2. Results for Electronic Communications

WRC-12 has successfully concluded on the technical and regulatory conditions applicable to the frequency band 790-862 MHz (Agenda Item 1.17). This is mainly the result of the process initiated at the CPM meeting in February 2011 with a framework agreement signed by the Regional Commonwealth in the field of Communications (RCC) and CEPT. The objective of this agreement was to ensure that all necessary cross-border coordination agreements needed between RCC countries operating Aeronautical Radionavigation systems in this band and CEPT countries wishing to implement mobile service would be reached before WRC-12. This was ultimately achieved in the last week of the conference with an agreement signed by Romania and Ukraine.

CEPT faced a difficult situation at the beginning of the Conference with a request from Arab and African countries for a mobile allocation in the 700 MHz - an extended digital dividend. Since this proposal was not corresponding to an agenda item of WRC-12, CEPT unanimously opposed this proposal at the beginning of WRC-12.

However, given the importance given by these countries to their proposals and after many discussions, a compromise was reached and supported by all regional organisations at WRC-12:

  • Allocation of the band 694-790 MHz to the mobile service in, co-primary with broadcasting, and identified for IMT, however, the allocation will be effective only after WRC-15
  • Refinement at WRC-15 of the lower edge of the allocation (694 MHz) and definition at WRC-15 of the technical and regulatory conditions applicable to the mobile service in this band

This compromise accommodates the requirement expressed by African and Arab countries for a new allocation and identification, although not immediate, and takes into account the need for European countries to better study the issue before taking a final position on the best suitable allocation and associated regulation. This compromise pays due attention to the merits of harmonisation. However, it fully preserves the possibility for each country and for CEPT to decide about the best use of this band after 2015, i.e. mobile or broadcasting services, and the rights of administrations as from the Geneva-06 Agreement.

Also, flexibility has been maintained in regard to short range device, software-defined radio and cognitive radio, and electronic news gathering, with no or non-binding regulation in line with the ECP for the three corresponding agenda items.

3. Results for satellite communications

Concerning satellite issues, the technical and regulatory provisions which have been adopted for the use of the frequency band 21.4-22 GHz and the allocation of a new frequency band at 25 GHz for associated feeder links are in line with the ECP and will facilitate the development of broadcasting services in this band. WRC-12 has also made major changes in the procedures applicable to the coordination and notification of satellite networks in order to clarify the rules which provides the rights for administrations on orbital positions and frequency assignment. WRC-12 did not go as far as proposed by CEPT regarding the improvement of the transparency but some significant steps were taken in the direction of improving the management of orbital and spectrum resource and reducing its scarcity.

The frequency band 2483.5-2500 MHz was successfully allocated on a primary basis to radiodetermination satellite service, under the conditions proposed in the ECP, therefore offering a new opportunity for the development of Galileo services.

A compromise was also reached under agenda item 1.7 on the way to preserve the priority for accessing the L band to aeronautical mobile service satellites in order to facilitate the implementation of European project such as SESAR.

4. Results for aeronautical, maritime and radiodetermination services

WRC-12 allocated new spectrum (5030-5091 MHz) for the safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems in non-segregated airspace for line of sight operations, under agenda item 1.3

A package was successfully adopted to ensure the protection of the Galileo uplink band in the 5 GHz band, which was endangered by proposals for a new allocation in several countries including the United States and many African Countries. CEPT accepted to support the allocation of the entire frequency band 15.4-15.7 GHz to the radiolocation service, in spite of the ECP proposing 15.4-15.5 GHz under agenda item 1.3 and 15.5-15.7 GHz only for radiolocation under agenda item 1.21, in exchange of a withdrawal of the proposals for a new allocation in the Galileo band.

Concerning the two agenda items relating to maritime services, the Conference took decisions in line with the European proposals, with limited compromise such as delaying by 2 years the modification of Appendix 17.

5. Results for the scientific use of spectrum

WRC-12 took the required decisions for new allocations for scientific services, in particular at 9 kHz (lightning detection), 7 GHz (meteorological satellite service), 23 GHz (space research) and for its protection in the 80/90 GHz and in the 37 GHz ranges. It also strengthens the essential role and global importance of Earth Observation through a modification of Resolution 673.

For the protection of earth-exploration at 80/90 GHz, CEPT reached a compromise in favour of a light regulation (a WRC Recommendation) which maintains the objective of ensuring that equipment in the fixed service will be specified with the appropriate restrictions on unwanted emissions.

For all other scientific agenda items, discussions did not appear so controversial during WRC-12 owing to their high level of preparations. On almost of these items, the ITU-R studies had concluded in favour of one single method - except a minor alternative - and although some regional organisations opposed initially to the solutions proposed by Europe, it was possible to arrive rapidly to a consensus on the basis of the methods proposed by the ECP.

6. Agenda of the next Conference

After considerable debates, the agenda item for WRC-15 to consider spectrum requirements for broadband, new allocation for mobile service and identification for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) was adopted in terms very close to the ECP. In particular, the agenda for the WRC-15 does not include nor exclude specific frequency bands.

Almost all other agenda items proposed by CEPT for WRC-15 have been accepted and CEPT will now set the wheels in motion within its Conference Preparatory Group to initiate all necessary preparations for WRC-15.

Eric Fournier
Chairman of the ECC's Conference Preparatory Group


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