ITU In “Urgent” Meeting On Global Spectrum As New Devices Gobble It UpPublished on 23 January 2012 @ 10:49 pm
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
A high-level, highly technical UN meeting that occurs about once every four years at which key decisions are made about wireless communications opened today in Geneva. The meeting comes as devices such as smart phones and tablets are devouring many times more spectrum than mobile phones of the past.
The UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference runs from 23 January to 17 February and involves top-level officials in telecommunications policy from around the world. Some 3,000 participants are expected, representing more than 150 of the ITU’s 193 members, according to organisers.
The conference will review and revise the Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, according to the ITU.
A top priority for the United States delegation will be to set the forum for debate between now and the next WRC meeting in 2015, to have a negotiation on how to allocate more spectrum for mobile networks, US delegation head Amb. Decker Anstrom told a press briefing today.
“This is a pressing need for the United States,” he said. Allocation will affect broadband wireless internet services, officials said. Innovative solutions to maximise spectrum use are being sought.
US Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski noted that when the last WRC meeting was held four years ago, the first Apple iPhone had just been introduced, and there were no smart phones nor tablets (like the iPad). Smart phone growth is so fast that last year there were 500 million and this year one billion worldwide, with as many as 5 billion expected by 2015.
This represents an “extraordinary opportunity” for advancing commerce, education, safety and other social benefits, he said. But smart phones place far more demand on spectrum.
A smart phone uses 24 times more spectrum than the predecessor feature phones, and a tablet uses 120 times more spectrum, he said. Without taking action to find more spectrum for these devices, “we risk losing out on extraordinary commercial and social opportunities,” he said.
This month, the US will push for other countries not to exclude spectrum bands from studies to be conducted between now and 2015 on their possible use for mobile networks. Some countries such as Russia are suggesting that certain bands be kept out of the discussion, officials said.
“Fuelled by rapid technological developments in information and communication technologies (ICTs) along with the increasing convergence of radiocommunication services in today’s communication devices, there is an urgent need to ensure the best efficiencies in the use of spectrum, a finite resource,” the ITU said in a release. “WRC-12 will examine the technical, regulatory and operational aspects to address allocation and frequency sharing to ensure high quality of radiocommunication services for maritime and aeronautical transport as well as for scientific purposes related to the environment, meteorology and climatology, disaster prediction, mitigation and relief.”
The meeting is not expected to directly involve intellectual property rights, such as online content or anti-piracy efforts, according to officials, but related issues can arise, including bilaterally. The meeting also will not directly involve this year’s critical transition of the global internet to IPv6 from the earlier IPv4, which is running out of space.
“The World Radiocommunication Conference will review and modify global spectrum regulations to ensure that this most precious resource is used effectively to benefit all players,” ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré said in a release. “The aim is to ensure reliable radio services are available everywhere and at any time enabling people to live and travel safely while enjoying high performance radiocommunications.”
The appointed chair of the meeting is Tarek Al Awadhi of the United Arab Emirates. The six vice-chairs are from Algeria, Armenia, France, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.
Lawrence Strickling, assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which oversees US relations with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), declined to comment on a question from Intellectual Property Watch about the performance so far of the newly launched generic top-level domain programme (IPW, Information and Communications Technology/Broadcasting, 11 January 2012).
William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.