As the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology (ICT) issues and the global focal point for developing networks and services, the International Telecommunication Union plays a key role in managing radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits. ITU is the international forum where the rights and obligations of Member Administrations in obtaining access to the spectrum and orbit resources are agreed. ITU also carries out vital work recording frequency assignments and orbital positions in the Master International Frequency Register and processing satellite filings to ensure that orbital positions and frequencies are compatible and interference-free.
Dr Tour outlined the outcomes of the ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07) which met in Geneva for four weeks last autumn to address the worldwide use of radio frequencies and to meet the global demand for spectrum, fuelled by rapid technological developments and growth in the ICT sector. Attended by over 2800 delegates, representing 161 Member States and 94 observers, WRC-07 focused on the impact of the latest technological developments in satellite services, mobile communications, digital broadcasting and spectrum/orbit resources for satellite applications, including voice, data, digital and high definition TV, and the Internet.
Satellite communications aid remote communities
Dr Tour highlighted the role of satellite communications in providing access to communications in remote and isolated communities to bridge the so-called digital divide. He said ITU had embarked on a major initiative to connect the world, beginning with Africa, aimed at attracting investment for infrastructure development by developing an enabling environment through appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks and capacity building. The Connect Africa Summit, held in Kigali, Rwanda last October brought together African leaders and business from around the world “seeking not aid or charity but to mobilize investment and business resources to support sustainable growth, employment and development,” said Dr Tour.
With seven years to go to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals and the targets set by the World Summit on the Information Society, the connectivity process needs to be accelerated. “The role of the space industry is very important in meeting our connectivity access targets and to contribute to the well-being of the world’s population,” said Dr Tour. “We need to form a global coalition to put together our resources and efforts within a framework of international cooperation and collaboration to bridge the digital divide.”
The Secretary-General also emphasized the role of satellite communications in emergency telecommunications and relief efforts in response to natural disasters. WRC-07 called for the development of spectrum management guidelines for emergency and disaster relief and identified the frequencies available for use in humanitarian assistance. ITU is currently studying which frequency bands would be suitable for public protection and disaster relief. A database of frequencies available for use in emergency situations will be developed to foster emergency preparedness.
Dr Tour called for partnerships “where UN organizations, governments and the private sector can work together to help achieve the goals set by the international community.” He said, “Satellite communication systems have a huge potential to offer, promising high-capacity transmission capabilities over wide areas. I would invite you to join ITU in connecting the unconnected by 2012 and to work together with us to ensure that the role and promise of satellite communications are not neglected in telecommunication investment plans for Africa and elsewhere around the globe.”
The Secretary-General reiterated that ITU will continue to work together in close collaboration with the space industry and is engaged in carrying out various space-related studies in preparation for WRC-11, including new frequency allocations for space research and exploration, meteorological applications, oceanographic monitoring and the future development of passive services between 275 and 3000 GHz.
Current studies explore the long-term availability of spectrum for aeronautical applications, mobile by satellite (including advanced broadband mobile technology), and high-definition TV broadcasting. “As the space industry celebrates its coming of age with its first fifty successful years, allow me to look forward to the next fifty years of success — success that can only be built on continuing collaboration between industry and government, with the ITU as the forum where true partnership can be achieved,” Dr Tour said.
The Secretary-General met with high ranking officials of the US State Department, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the US Telecommunications Training Institute and satellite industry leaders.