ITU Adopts New Regulatory Approach for Nongeostationary Satellites
Thursday, November 21, 2019 | Comments

The 38th International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19) adopted a new milestone-based regulatory approach for the deployment of nongeostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) satellites in specific bands and services.

The agreement reached at WRC-19 establishes regulatory procedures for the deployment of nongeostationary satellites, including mega-constellations in low-Earth orbit (LEO). The milestone-based approach will provide a regulatory mechanism to help ensure that ITU's Master International Frequency Register reasonably reflects the actual deployment of such NGSO satellite systems in certain frequency bands and services. In defining more flexible timelines and objective criteria, this approach also seeks to strike a balance between the prevention of spectrum warehousing, proper functioning of coordination mechanisms, and operational requirements related to the deployment of NGSO systems.

Under the newly adopted regulatory approach, these systems will be required to deploy 10% of their constellations within two years from the end of the current period for bringing into use, 50% within five years, and complete the deployment within seven years.

While satellites in geostationary orbit are aligned with the earth's rotation at an elevation of 36,000 kilometers (km), NGSO satellites move across the sky during their orbit around the earth, in medium Earth-orbit 8,000 – 20,000 km above the earth and in low-Earth orbit at elevations between 400 and 2,000 km.

With the availability of launch vehicles capable of supporting multiple satellite launches, megaconstellations consisting of hundreds or thousands of spacecraft are becoming a popular solution for global telecommunications, including to remote rural areas and isolated communities, providing low-latency broadband coverage, remote sensing, space and upper atmosphere research, meteorology, astronomy, technology demonstration and education.

Filings for frequency assignments to NGSO satellite systems composed of hundreds and thousands of satellites have been received by ITU since 2011, in particular in frequency bands allocated to the fixed-satellite service or the mobile-satellite service.

"Advances in satellite design, manufacturing and launch service capabilities have created new possibilities for high-bandwidth connectivity around the world," said Mario Maniewicz, director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. "This landmark agreement at WRC-19 represents a technological milestone that will enable the deployment of next-generation communications while providing broadband Internet access to the remotest regions."

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