In our previous post we described the opening sessions of the ITU's Radiocommunication Bureau seminar on "Advanced Spectrum Management," held in Almaty, Kazakhstan on September 12 through 16.

Day Two was dedicated to the efficient use of satellite orbit/spectrum resources, one of the more challenging issues the Bureau faces.  The day was intensive, with eleven presentations providing often extremely detailed information.

Bureau Director Francois Rancy again initiated the discussion.  His comprehensive presentation contained 45 slides (!) on the "Satellite International Regulatory Framework."  Included was a list of current issues under consideration, among which is the suggestion for a "possible new fee model, including yearly fees for maintenance and protection of existing satellites in the [Master International Frequency Register]."

In the same session, Per Hovstad, the Principal Spectrum Engineer for Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (AsiaSat), discussed in detail the current incentives for operators to "overfile," which is submitting multiple filings for numerous orbital positions, and to pursue "paper satellites," i.e., satellites that will never be operated  but which nevertheless clog up the administrative system (PDF 725 kb). Some of Mr. Hovstad's blunt assessments were that:

  • "Satellite operators have learned to live with overfiling," but this practice "may be a threat to ITU’s capability to reflect and regulate real satellite usage." 
  • “'Virtual satellites' [are] a serious threat to ITU’s capability to reflect and regulate real satellite usage"
  • "Satellite operators welcome BR’s initiatives" to cancel unused satellite filings and call on administrations to show that they have brought into use orbital positions. 

In respect of one controversial topic that was touched on by Mr. Rancy earlier, Mr. Hovstad argued for keeping the current ITU satellite fee structure and not adopting any kind of annual fees.  He noted that speakers at a recent meeting of the Radio Advisory Group strongly advised against touching the filing fee structure.  He maintained that the current structure "is a carefully balanced political solution on a very contentious issue which finally seems to have calmed down." 

To the contrary, this issue is unlikely to calm down soon.  We hear that this topic is likely to be a hot item during the upcoming ITU Council meeting in Geneva from 11 through 21 October (even though we do not see an agenda item for it).  Current fees are set under ITU "Decision 482" as most recently modified by the ITU Council in 2008.  Mr. Rancy referred to this decision in his presentation, noting that it may need adaptation.

Mr. Hovstad then examined the question of whether to create an ITU monitoring facility to confirm what is actually happening out in space.  He does not place much stock in this approach, saying that such a "monitoring network would be ineffective for combatting virtual satellites” given questions of its legal status and what its data could actually show.

These controversial points were made in only the first third of Mr. Hovstad's presentation!  The remaining portion examined in detail numerous issues coming up at WRC-12, together with AsiaSat's position on certain agenda items.

In the following sessions, presentations focused on the orbital frequency situation and regulatory systems from the perspective of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Azerbaijan.

However, afternoon discussions  returned to Mr. Hovstad assessment of the dubious value of monitoring.  Mr. Jan Verduijn had a thing to say about monitoring, from his perspective as chairman of the ITU Study Group 1, Working Party 1C dedicated to this topic.  He submitted two papers.  One, entitled "Role and Tasks of Monitoring," (PDF 907 kb) described how monitoring might be done and noted that monitoring could serve as the "EARS and EYES of the Spectrum Management Process."  The second is titled "Is Monitoring and Enforcing of the Orbital Spectrum needed?"  Mr. Verduijn believes it would help the ITU in its role of maintaining the international registry of satellite orbits and frequencies in use.

Mr. Nozdrin from the Bureau closed out the day's sessions with his presentation on "Efficient use of orbit/spectrum resource by satellite systems." (PDF 530 kb)  He portrayed the constant growth in revenues from satellite services and asked whether the international spectrum management system is equipped to deal with the corresponding growth in orbital and spectrum demand.  There are well known problems with that structure – administrations and operators have no incentives to give up unused resources, there is no effective enforcement system, and the basic principle is goodwill. 

In the last part of his presentation, Mr. Nozdrin returned to the controversial topics discussed earlier – fees and monitoring.  He pointed out that additional fee structures, perhaps based on variables such as bandwidth, power, service area, and antenna diameter, could result in more efficient use of these resources.  On monitoring, his last bullet point says that monitoring could support "enforcement measures against RR infringer[s]".  No, these issues are not going to calm down soon…