WRC-15 allocates spectrum for future innovation

The World Radiocommunications Conference 2015 (WRC-15) concluded its deliberations on 27 November 2015 as delegates signed the Final Acts that revise the Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the use of radio-frequency and satellite orbits. Around 3300 participants, representing 162 out of ITU’s 193 member states attended the 4-week conference from 2 to 27 November.

New challenges, new opportunities

This conference dealt with a large number of important and sensitive issues, ranging from mobile broadband communications and satellite systems to emergency communications and disaster relief, maritime and aeronautical communications, environmental monitoring and climate change, universal time and space research as well as radiocommunication services that the public relies on for health, information, education, security and safety.

The outcomes of WRC-15 are aimed at maintaining a stable, predictable and universally applied regulatory environment that secures long-term investments for the ICT industry.

The WRC-15 outcomes ensure high quality radiocommunication services for mobile and satellite communications, maritime and aeronautical transport, air and road safety as well as for scientific purposes related to the environment, meteorology and climatology, disaster prediction, mitigation and relief. The ITU Radiocommunications Sector has been set an ambitious studies programme for the next 4 years covering a wide range of services from amateur radio broadcasting, mobile broadband, mobile satellite, fixed satellite, earth stations on mobile platforms, and space exploration services.

Key outcomes of WRC-15

  • Mobile broadband communications
    Following the growing demand for spectrum for mobile broadband services, WRC-15 identified frequency bands in the L-band (1427-1518 MHz) and in the lower part of the C-band (3.4 - 3.6 GHz). WRC-15 achieved agreement on some additional portions in other bands that were also allocated to mobile broadband services in order to be used in regions where there was no interference with other services.
    WRC-15 decided to include studies in the agenda for the next WRC in 2019 (WRC-19) for the identification of bands above 6 GHz that will allow technology to meet demand for greater capacity. This will provide enhanced capacity for mobile broadband in the 694 -790 MHz band in ITU region 1 (Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia) and a globally harmonized solution for the implementation of the digital dividend. Full protection has been given to television broadcasting as well as to the aeronautical radio navigation systems operating in this frequency.
  • Amateur radio services gets new allocation
    New allocation for amateur radio service in the frequency band 5351.5 - 5366.5 kHz will maintain stable communications over various distances, especially for use when providing communications in disaster situations and for relief operations.
  • Emergency communications and disaster relief
    WRC-15 identified spectrum in the 694 - 894 MHz ban to facilitate mobile broadband communications for robust and reliable mission critical emergency services in public protection and disaster relief, such as police, fire ambulances and disaster response teams.
  • Search and rescue
    WRC-15 reinforced protection to Search and Rescue beacons that transmit in the 406 - 406.1 MHz frequency band signals to uplink to search and rescue satellites, such as the Cospas-Sarsat system. Administrations are requested to avoid making new frequency assignments for the mobile and fixed services within the adjacent frequency bands to prevent interference in the frequency band 406 - 406.1 MHz.
  • Earth observation satellites for environmental monitoring
    WRC-15 agreed to new allocations in the 7 - 8 GHz frequency range needed to uplink large amounts of data for operation plans and dynamic spacecraft software modifications that will eventually lead to simplified on board architecture and operational concepts for future missions of earth-exploration satellite services (EESS).
    Allocations of spectrum in the 9 - 10 GHz frequency range will lead to the development of modern broadband sensing technologies and space-borne radars on active sensing EESS.
  • Unmanned aircraft and wireless avionics systems
    WRC-15 opened the way for the development by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) of worldwide standards for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and identified the regulatory conditions that may be applied such systems internationally and agreed on spectrum for wireless avionics intra-communications (WAIC).
  • Global flight tracking
    Agreement was reached on the allocation of radio-frequency spectrum for global flight tracking in civl aviation for improved safety. The frequency band 1087.7 - 1092.3 MHz has been allocated to the aeronautical mobile-satellite service (Earth-to-space) for reception by space stations of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) emissions from aircraft transmitters. This facilitates reporting the position of aircraft equipped with ADS-B anywhere in the world. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will address the performance criteria for satellite reception of ADS-B signals to established standards and recommended practices (SARP).
  • Enhanced maritime communications systems
    New applications for data exchange, using AIS technology, are intended to improve the safety of navigation. New allocations were made in the bands 161.9375 - 161.9625 MHz and 161.9875 - 162.0125 MHz to the maritime mobile-satellite service (MMSS). Studies will continue on the compatibility between MMSS in the downlink in the band 161.7875 - 161.9375 MHz and the incumbent services in the same adjacent frequency bands.
  • Road safety
    Radio frequency spectrum needed for the operations of short-range high-resolution automotive radar has been allocated in the 79 Ghz band.
  • Operation of broadband satellite systems: Earth Stations in Motion
    WRC-15 agreed to facilitate the global deployment of Earth Stations in Motion (ESIM) in the 19.7 - 20.2 and 29.5 - 30.0 GHz bands in the fixed-satellite service (FSS) paving the way for satellite systems to provide global broadband connectivity for the transportations community. Earth stations on board of moving platforms (ships, trains, aircrafts) will be able to communicate with high power multiple spot beam satellites, allowing transmission rates in the order of 10-50 Mbits/s.
  • Universal time
    WRC-15 decided that further studies regarding current and potential future reference time-scales are required, including the modification of coordinated universal time (UTC) and suppressing the so-called “leap second”.
    A report will be considered by the WRC-23. Until then UTC shall continue to be applied as maintained by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM).

The next WRC will be held in 2019. So far, the items on the agenda have been established as follows:

  • WAS/RLAN systems in the frequency bands between 5.150 MHz and 5.925 MHz
  • International Mobile Telecommunications spectrum in 24.25 – 86 GHz
  • Meteorological-satellite service (space-to-Earth) and the Earth exploration satellite service (space-to-Earth) in the frequency band 460-470 MHz
  • Facilitating access to broadband applications delivered by High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS)
  • Frequency allocation for Intelligent Transport Systems applications in the 5.8 - 5.9 GHz bands


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