The 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) has commenced in Dubai with the U.S. delegation expressing their primary objectives as ensuring spectrum access for next-generation wireless services and boosting growth in the space economy.
WRC-23, organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), is a four-week long conference that reviews and revises the international treaty governing the use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits.
The U.S. delegation, consisting of nearly 200 officials from various government bodies including the State Department, Federal Communications Commission, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, NASA, and the White House, aims to advance U.S. interests related to telecommunications, innovation, economic growth, and national security.
Over 4,500 government officials from 193 countries, along with 900 international organizations and universities, are expected to participate in WRC-23.
The United States has several goals at the conference, which include expanding connectivity through 5G and Wi-Fi, unlocking innovation in the space economy and space science, protecting national defense capabilities, and ensuring radio frequency for maritime and aviation safety.
Amid ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, U.S. officials emphasize the importance of not letting geopolitical tensions hinder progress on technical regulations necessary for the global digital economy.
One of the critical objectives for the U.S. is to harmonize spectrum allocation for mobile broadband services, particularly in the 3.3 to 3.8 gigahertz bands, to create a 500 megahertz home for 5G. Harmonizing spectrum allows for global roaming and interoperability.
The U.S. National Spectrum Strategy, released by the Biden administration, provides the context for the U.S. agenda at WRC-23. It identifies over 2,700 megahertz of airwaves for potential new uses by both the private sector and federal agencies.
The U.S. delegation also advocates for spectrum allocation for unlicensed services, such as the upcoming Wi-Fi 7 standard, and supports the growth and development of space-based communications.
A contentious issue at WRC-23 is the proposal to review satellite power limits, known as Equivalent Power Flux Density (EPFD), which affects non-geostationary satellite operators’ ability to provide broadband connectivity. Low Earth orbit operators like Amazon and SpaceX are calling for updates to these limits, while other operators disagree.
With diverse industry and government priorities from around the world, WRC-23 will face the challenge of reconciling these differences.
In response to concerns about China’s lead in allocating spectrum for 5G, U.S. officials assert that the national spectrum strategy puts a substantial amount of spectrum on the table for future mobile use. Congress’s reinstatement of the FCC’s auction authority is seen as vital in addressing spectrum allocation issues.
While there are areas where the U.S. can collaborate effectively with China on spectrum priorities, differences remain relevant to approaches in technology and innovation.