ITU Considers Spectrum Harmonisation to Tackle Challenges of Wireless Services

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Emma Okonji

The International Telecoms Union (ITU), the United Nations specialised agency for global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) regulation, is considering spectrum harmonisation to address the increasing demand for wireless services across the globe. 

In its latest report centred around terrestrial wireless communications, its Director, Radiocommunication Bureau, Mario Maniewicz, stressed the need for spectrum harmonisation to address the challenges of growing demand for wireless services, since spectrum has become scarce. 

According to him, “Consumer demand for wireless services has increased exponentially in recent years, leading to an explosive growth of networks and devices and bringing great benefits for economies.” 

He said ITU report on active mobile broadband subscriptions reached 4.69 billion in 2017, and that the figure had since then increased, given the 2018 GSMA report which put the mobile industry’s total contribution at $3.9 trillion, a figure he said, remained of great economic value, equivalent to 4.6 per cent of global GDP. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) market is also growing very fast, with currently around seven billion devices, according to data from IoT Analytics. 

Addressing the importance of terrestrial wireless communications, Maniewicz said wireless technologies were already changing the shape of road transport, making cars smarter, driving more convenient, and roads safer. 

Radiocommunications serve various aspects of transportation networks, such as vehicle navigation, traffic control, road signs and automatic licence plate recognition, among others, forming what are now referred to as Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), he said.

According to him, a variety of technologies could contribute to ITS, including cellular networks, wireless access systems, sensors and radars. 

According to Maniewicz, “The 2019 ITU World Radio Conference (WRC-19) will therefore consider spectrum harmonisation for ITS in different frequency bands, and particularly in the 5.8 GHz band. Railway transportation is also an important user of radio technologies. 

“WRC-19 will consider Railway Radiocommunication Systems between Train and Trackside, which include wireless technolologie used on-board trains, positioning information, train remote control and surveillance. 

“WRC-19 will determine ways of harmonising frequency bands for these applications to improve their interoperability and reduce investments.”

He said the hamonisation became necessary in order to avoid harmful interference between radio stations of different countries and limiting the number of frequencies and the spectrum used to the minimum essential to provide the necessary services in a satisfactory manner, as contained in No. 195 of the ITU Constitution.