The 38th ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19) has adopted a new innovative milestone-based regulatory approach for the deployment of non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) satellites in specific bands and services.
The agreement reached at WRC-19 establishes regulatory procedures for the deployment of non-geostationary 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, the proper functioning of coordination mechanisms, and the operational requirements related to the deployment of NGSO systems.
While satellites in geostationary orbit are aligned with the earth’s rotation at an elevation of 36,000 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, mega-constellations 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 (owing to their proximity to the earth’s surface), 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.
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.
Commenting on the new regulatory procedures, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said: “Non-geostationary satellite systems are capable of providing high-capacity and low-cost means of communication even to the most isolated regions of the world. In facilitating the deployment of NGSO satellite systems, WRC-19 has made it possible to connect the unconnected and bridge the digital divide.”
Mario Maniewicz, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, added: “Advances in satellite design, manufacturing and launch service capabilities have created new possibilities for high-bandwidth connectivity around the world. 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.”