At the conclusion of the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) last Friday, members of the U.S. delegation achieved success on key policy goals that include the allocation of globally harmonized spectrum for mobile services in the C- and L-bands and an agreement to study eleven frequency bands above 24 GHz for potential use by fifth-generation (5G) wireless services. However, while conferees agreed to harmonize on a global scale 700 MHz band channels that had been designated for regional mobile broadband use in the Americas, the U.S. fell short in its effort to win globally harmonized allocations for wireless broadband services in the lower UHF band, which has long been the domain of television broadcasters.
During a conference call with reporters, Decker Anstrom, the head of the U.S. delegation, hailed WRC-15 as “a watershed conference that will point the way to set the agenda for technology innovations that will define the next several decades,” proclaiming that conferees had approved allocations of “at least several hundred megahertz of additional effectively globally harmonized spectrum” for mobile broadband. These allocations include (1) L-band channels between 1427-1518 MHz in ITU Region 2, which includes the Americas, and (2) 3.4-3.6 GHz C-band spectrum throughout much of the world and in Region 2 countries except for the U.S., Canada, Columbia and Costa Rica, where the allocation extends to 3.7 GHz. In advance of WRC-19, conferees also approved plans to study the following bands for potential 5G usage, all of which had previously been allocated to mobile services on a primary basis: 24.25-27.5 GHz, 37-40.5 GHz, 42.5-43.5 GHz, 45.5-47 GHz, 47.2-50.2 GHz, 50.4-52.6 GHz, 66-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz. (Also designated for study are the 31.8-33.4 GHz, 40.5-42.5 GHz and 47-47.2 GHz bands, which may require an allocation for mobile services.) Other key decisions include (1) allocation of the 1087.7-1092.3 MHz band for aeronautical mobile satellite service global flight tracking, (2) allocations of specified 161-162 MHz band channels for enhanced maritime automatic identification system operations in the maritime mobile satellite service, and (3) identification of spectrum in the 694-894 MHz range for public safety and disaster-related mobile broadband communications.
Despite U.S. advocacy for global mobile broadband allocations in the 470-694/698 MHz UHF bands used by broadcasters worldwide, conferees decided to retain the status quo in Region 1 (i.e., Europe, Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East) and to revisit that issue at WRC-23. Acknowledging that U.S. and wireless industry efforts in this area constitute “a marathon” that “will very much parallel what’s happened on the use of C-band for mobile,” Anstrom emphasized: “this is the beginning of a process in which the world embraces the use of UHF for mobile.” A spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, however, welcomed “the global unity demonstrated at WRC-15 for the importance of a vibrant system of over-the-air broadcasting,” declaring: “of the 162 nations attending the conference, more than 140 countries . . . recognized [the UHF] frequency band is harmonized to provide television services on a worldwide scale.”