The World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) has addressed over 40 topics related to frequency allocation and frequency sharing for the efficient use of spectrum and orbital resources. The 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 Radiocommunication Sector has been set an ambitious studies programme for the next four years covering a wide range of services from amateur radio to broadcasting, mobile broadband, mobile satellite, fixed satellite, earth stations on mobile platforms, and space exploration services.
As new technological innovations and applications emerge, the WRC-15 has set new challenges as well as bring new opportunities for billions around the world. 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.
New Defined bands
Mobile broadband communications
Following the growing demand for spectrum for mobile broadband services, and with 5G technology expected soon, 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 MHz). 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.
To counteract the difficulties encountered in finding additional spectrum for IMT in bands below 6 GHz, WRC-15 decided to include studies in the agenda for the next WRC in 2019 for the identification of bands above 6 GHz that will allow technology to meet demand for greater capacity. Administrations and industry can now concentrate on the development of necessary technologies in line with the schedule for the implementation of IMT-2020.
WRC-15 took a key decision that will provide enhanced capacity for mobile broadband in the 694-790 MHz frequency 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. This will be used for 4G and 5G technologies. Full protection has been given to television broadcasting as well as to the aeronautical radio navigation systems operating in this frequency band.
Amateur radio service 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 frequency band to facilitate mobile broadband communications for robust and reliable mission critical emergency services in public protection and disaster relief (PPDR), 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. Resolution 205 was modified to ensure that frequency drift characteristics of radiosondes are taken into account when operating above 405 MHz to avoid drifting close to 406 MHz. 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. As of December 2013, the Cospas-Sarsat System has provided assistance in rescuing over 37,000 persons in over 10,300 incidents worldwide.
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 operations 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. Scientific and geo-information applications will provide high quality measurements in all weather conditions with enhanced applications for disaster relief and humanitarian aid, land use and large-area coastal surveillance.
Unmanned aircraft and wireless avionics systems
WRC-15 opened the way for the development by ICAO of worldwide standards for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and identified the regulatory conditions that may be applied to such systems internationally. WRC-15 also agreed on spectrum for wireless avionics intra-communications (WAIC) to allow for the heavy and expensive wiring used in aircraft to be replaced by wireless systems.
Global flight tracking for civil aviation
Agreement was reached on the allocation of radio-frequency spectrum for global flight tracking in civil 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 will facilitate reporting the position of aircraft equipped with ADS-B anywhere in the world, including oceanic, polar and other remote areas. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will address the performance criteria for satellite reception of ADS-B signals according to established standards and recommended practices (SARP).
Enhanced maritime communications systems
WRC-15 considered regulatory provisions and frequency allocations to enable new Automatic Identification System (AIS) applications and other possible new applications to improve maritime radiocommunication. 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. Studies will continue on the compatibility between maritime mobile-satellite service (MMSS) in the downlink in the band 161.7875-161.9375 MHz and incumbent services in the same and adjacent frequency bands.
Radio-frequency spectrum needed for the operation of short-range high-resolution automotive radar has been allocated in the 79 GHz frequency band. This will provide a globally harmonized regulatory framework for automotive radar to prevent collisions and improve vehicular safety by reducing traffic accidents. According to UN data, more than 1.25 million fatalities occur each year on the roads around the world.
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 frequency bands in the fixed-satellite service (FSS), paving the way for satellite systems to provide global broadband connectivity for the transportation community. Earth stations on-board moving platforms, such as ships, trains and aircraft, will be able to communicate with high power multiple spot beam satellites, allowing transmission rates in the order of 10-50 Mbits/s.
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 World Radiocommunication Conference in 2023. Until then, UTC shall continue to be applied as described in Recommendation ITU‑R TF.460‑6 and as maintained by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM).