T Minus Three Years and Counting to WRC-23

The FCC convened its first meeting of the World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee or “WAC,” which is an advisory committee that provides the Commission with support ahead of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) conference in the fall of 2023. Three years may seem long, but the time goes fast and there is much to do.

The ITU, the United Nations agency on information and communication technologies, convenes a World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) every three to four years to review and revise the ITU Radio Regulations. Conference outcomes are significant, as changes to the Radio Regulations impact the allocation and use of spectrum as well as rules governing satellite orbits. The WRC will also identify questions for study by the ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) and its study groups in preparation for future conferences.

In remarks at the WAC’s opening meeting, Chairman Pai aptly described the Committee as “one of the most underrated entities of its kind.” The WAC is responsible for providing recommendations to the FCC, which then reconciles its positions with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) before submitting positions to the Department of State. The State Department oversees the U.S. delegation to WRC-23. Consequently, recommendations from the WAC provide the basis for U.S. proposals to the WRC. 

The ITU has set a full agenda for WRC-23.  Notable topics include:

  • Identification of the 3300-3400 MHz, 3600-3800 MHz, 6425-7025 MHz, 7025-7125 MHz, and 10.0-10.5 GHz bands for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) (i.e., 5G services);

  • Regulatory provisions to facilitate radiocommunications for sub-orbital vehicles;

  • Use of high-altitude platform stations as IMT base stations in certain frequency bands below 2.7 GHz already identified for IMT;

  • Use of the 17.7-18.6 GHz, 18.8-19.3 GHz, and 19.7-20.2 GHz (space-to-Earth) and 27.5-29.1 GHz and 29.5-30 GHz (Earth-to-space) bands by earth stations in motion (ESIMs) communicating with non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) space stations in the fixed satellite service (FSS); and

  • Operating provisions for satellite-to-satellite links in the 11.7-12.7 GHz, 18.1-18.6 GHz, 18.8-20.2 GHz, and 27.5-30 GHz bands.

To advance the interests of the American people, the U.S. must develop its positions early so that it can socialize its views with and secure support from other countries (known in the ITU as “Member States”), particularly those in the Americas region. The WAC will convene again on October 20th. In the interim, WAC informal working groups will begin to review and consider WRC-23 agenda items. 

We advise those interested in WRC-23 outcomes to engage early and often with relevant stakeholders and government officials. Three years out is hardly too soon, considering the work ahead to develop the consensus domestically and regionally necessary to achieve consensus internationally.  

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