ECC preparations so far

On 2nd November 2015 the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) will bring together countries from all over the world for four weeks of international discussion about the state of the art in radiocommunication – how it is today and how it is changing. The result will be an update to the international treaty on the regulatory framework of radio spectrum, the Radio Regulations.

CEPT has set up its Conference Preparatory Group (CPG) specifically for the purpose of preparing for this conference. The activities started in 2012 shortly after the end of WRC-12 and are aiming to develop and agree European Common Proposals (ECPs) supported by − ideally − all 48 CEPT member states. An ECP contains the specific proposal for the changes to a particular part of the Radio Regulations, or a position that the existing relevant part of the Regulations should remain as they are ('No Change'). In addition to ECPs, the CPG develops and agrees papers which compile and set out CEPT’s position on the various WRC Agenda items, including the necessary background information. These papers are called 'CEPT Briefs'.

The CPG is already a long way through its preparation activity to agree CEPT Briefs for every one of the Agenda items and issues of WRC-15. And there are a lot of them: 18 specific agenda items, seven standing agenda items and eight issues considered within the Report of the Director of ITU´s Radiocommunication Bureau. Those eight issues are either very specific questions regarding the spectrum use by specific applications, or general regulatory matters (e.g. changing some of the definitions which are used in the Radio Regulations), which are more related to comprehensive work within the ITU-R’s ongoing study programme. However any change which may have a large impact on the international regulatory environment is monitored by the CPG, which will carefully consider its position.

Overall, one may say that the CPG has already reached 70-75% of its preparation tasks. Even when we have 100% prepared, there will be intensive debates when we get to the Conference itself. And some of the agenda items are already causing intensive international debates.

The intensity of debates to be expected at WRC will be indicated at the second and final meeting of ITU's Conference Preparatory Meeting (CPM) in March. This is a major milestone in the WRC preparations, where all the results of recent technical and regulatory studies are compiled and amended to produce one big Report. This sets out the agreed assumptions which will apply to all of the Agenda items. After the CPM all interested parties will concentrate their efforts on finalising their positions and gaining support for them.

CEPT looks for global solutions

For all of the WRC-15 Agenda Items, the CPG has already established its policy that regionally-specific solutions are not preferable and should therefore be a fall-back option only where necessary. The CPG is looking for globally harmonised spectrum allocation and regulations which ensure security in investment and spectrum planning and which also provide a good opportunity for future development of radio applications.

Therefore, the CPG management team is in constant dialogue with the leadership and coordinators of the other five regional organisations; these are ASMG for the Arabic region, ATU for Africa, CITEL for the Americas, APT for Asia-Pacific and RCC for the Russian region.

CEPT was the first one to focus the preparatory activities for WRCs in a self-standing working group. This idea gained more and more support by the other regional organisations and all of them have now installed working groups with similar tasks. The CPG really appreciates the continuous exchange of views and status of work with its colleagues in other regions, which ensures one of the necessary baselines for a successful outcome at the WRC in balancing all the different interests: common understanding!

CEPT: 48 diverse countries

But it is not sufficient to look only to the worldwide scene. The CPG also has to balance the different views within CEPT itself. The relation to the European Union and its member states is one factor, which should not be underestimated as well as the double membership of some CEPT Administrations also in RCC. That’s the reason why the CPG is also holding coordination meetings and workshops between both organisations.

CEPT and the EU

Regarding the role of the European Union, it needs to be noted that this is defined by the Treaty of Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) primarily and secondarily by Article 10 of the EU Decision on a first Radio Spectrum Policy Programme. According to this, the member states must coordinate their positions to avoid any conflict between the Radio Regulations and their obligations under the TFEU, resulting in a standing declaration of all EU countries at a WRC expressing their intention that in any case of conflict their EU obligations will prevail. On the one hand a coordinated positioning of 28 countries within the CPG may help to conclude on a decision, but on the other hand it is no guarantee that all the other 20 Administrations are following this interest as well. Overall it is therefore again a question of the right balance, which ensures the support of up to 48 CEPT Administrations for each proposal. Areas of specific interest of the European Union are electronic communication services and all items which may have an impact to the development of the internal market, e.g. transport telematics, or the Galileo satellite navigation system.

Beyond WRC-15

Looking further ahead than WRC-15, there is the question of what is coming next. The CPG is currently collecting all ideas. Taking a first glimpse of the possible items, it seems necessary to address at WRC-19 the frequency requirements of 5G and electronic navigation systems in the maritime sector. This indicates already that the preparation time to WRC-19 will be fully filled.

CPG website; special topics in the ECC Newsletter

The CPG pages on the ECC website act as a window to more detail on the CPG’s work, including a compilation and index to all the WRC Agenda Items, the CPG teams dealing with them, and the emerging ECPs and CEPT Briefs.

Elsewhere in this Newsletter, and the previous one, we have focused on four specific topics.

1) Mobile broadband at WRC -15

Inevitably, one of the most important issues on the WRC-15 agenda is the future of Mobile Broadband, which has received a lot of interest and attention right from the start of the cycle. Indeed, it is really a continuation of the subject as addressed in the previous round. This time the issue is the subject of two Agenda items (1.1 and 1.2). It is also one of the main focus areas within the CPG, explaining why those items are prepared within a separate Project team – PTD.

In this Newsletter we present a separate article, set out as two tables which illustrate the significant bandwidth already harmonised within CEPT for mobile broadband, and also the principal bands which will be subject to debate at WRC about further allocations in the Radio Regulations. The use of these bands in this way may in some cases be supported by CEPT, and in others opposed, notably where the requirements of existing services would, on present evidence, make suitable sharing arrangements impractical.

2) Satellite services at WRC - 15

Notwithstanding the importance of mobile broadband, many other items are also of specific interest to CEPT's Administrations. Satellite issues are usually very prominent in WRCs, especially because of the large size of the coverage and interference zones compared with the areas of the regional groupings like CEPT. In purely terrestrial applications, a group like CEPT can act alone if it acts together, independently of the general detail of the Radio Regulations, if it does not compromise implementation and protection of the primary services in neighbouring areas.

The satellite community will have an intensive look at the proposals for the update of satellite coordination and notification procedures, as well as for new satellite allocations. The scientific community is faced with several challenges. In our October Newsletter we looked at Agenda Items 1.11 and 1.12 of WRC-15: new frequencies for satellite uplink and increased demand for more accurate resolutions of the Earth Exploration Satellite Systems.

3) Very small satellites: do they need new regulations?

The issues to be addressed at WRC-15 include a big issue for small satellites: the regulatory necessities of nano and pico satellites. These are reaching the point of commercial potential having grown from the academic environment, and they challenge the traditional way of managing satellite regulation and space assets. The issues concern managing interference but also raise the matter of increasing risks from space debris. Thus CEPT, which was supportive of this agenda item, has to find a good way forward to set a stable framework for the use of this new kind of satellite, so that not only will they function well with each other, but also that they do not prejudice the many services and systems which depend on existing types of satellite. You can read our article here.

4) Every second counts. Or does it?

One WRC question which attracts public attention outside the radiocommunications community is whether the 'leap second' should be abolished. This item already gained a lot of attention at WRC-12 and it is expected that this will continue up to and during WRC-15, in particular as one leap second is scheduled to be inserted on 30th June this year.

What appears to be an interesting but perhaps academic subject actually has some significant impacts for systems on which aspects of our normal lives now depend. Tony Azzarelli, Chairman of CPG PT A, and others, explain why in this article.

Alexander Kühn, Chairman of the ECC's Conference Preparatory Group
Mark Thomas, Director of the ECO

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