The United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU) convened the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in Geneva from November 2 to 27 2015. The conference is held every three to four years to revise the International Radio Regulation Treaty governing global use of the radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources. Approximately 3,300 delegates participated, representing 162 out of 193 ITU Member States, and an additional 500 personnel attended representing 130 other entities, including industry, called “Sector Members.”
More than half of the 20 WRC-15 agenda items (AI) were operationally significant to Department of the Navy (DON) equities in air, land, sea, and space. One of the most discussed WRC-15 agenda items was the globally harmonized frequency allocation of International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), known as the international standard for mobile broadband services, to support future generation cellular technology with increased data speeds.
The frequency bands below 6 GHz were the subject of this agenda item (AI 1.1 “IMT below 6 GHz”); interested parties participated in compatibility studies over the past three years to develop possible solutions. WRC-15 was able to narrow down the options to a solution that was agreeable to all participants, which included all 162 Member States and 130 Sector Members. The WRC is a consensus-based body, and it is extremely difficult to reach a consensus; needless to say, there were many sleepless nights during the conference.
The WRC-15 concluding agreement is called “Provisional Final Acts, World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15).” Although it was published right after the conference, it could take 5 to 10 years or more before resultant changes are realized in domestic radio regulation.
In the United States, the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC), chaired by the Department of Commerce National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), convenes an ad-hoc group to develop a WRC implementation proposal. The DON Chief Information Officer is a member of this ad-hoc group and is currently working with other federal agencies on a proposed best way forward. After the IRAC approves the proposal, it is sent to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for implementation.
While the outcomes of WRC-15 are being carefully examined, the international radio spectrum community has already started working toward the next WRC in 2019 (WRC-19). WRC-15 established approximately 27 agenda items for WRC-19 and also determined several for the following WRC in 2023. For example, a study similar to the above mentioned “IMT below 6 GHz” issue was added to the WRC-19 agenda. That compatibility study will address the frequency bands between 24 and 86 GHz, which represents a significant increase in the amount of frequency to be studied, from 6 GHz to 62 GHz.
The DON CIO is working closely with the DON Deputy CIO (Navy) and DON Deputy CIO (Marine Corps) to finalize the level of engagement required for WRC-19. The goal is to prevent or minimize the negative operational impacts on DON spectrum systems and promote interference-free environments.
Feedback from the DON spectrum operational community is welcome; comments can be forwarded to Fumie Wingo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fumie Nakahara Wingo is the DON International Spectrum Policy Lead in the office of the DON CIO.