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Preparing for November 2023 session at WRC 23, Dubai

World Radio Conference (WRC), previously known as World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC), is the apex body in the radio sector of ITU, which are held once in four years. The WRC-23 is scheduled to be held in Dubai in November, 2023. In WRC-19, the different spectrum bands were identified for the IMT-2020, popularly known as 5G spectrum bands. It is the peculiarity of WRC that such identifications are arrived at through consultations and consensus and multilateral agreements. The saga for this years’ WRC is going to be thrilling and challenging at the same time because of the plethora of the different agenda the WRC-23 is going to consider.

The Conference Preparatory Meetings (CPMs) are important meetings of the ITU-Radiocommunication (ITU-R) sector that help in the consensus-building process internationally for the World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs). Each WRC finalizes and approves a list of agenda items for the next WRC. The agenda items are generally proposals regarding introduction of a new application in the candidate frequency band(s) under a specific kind of service or it can be about allocating a frequency band to a new service. The general rule for the introduction of such new applications and services is that the existing services and applications must be protected from harmful and unacceptable interference. This calls for sharing and compatibility studies between the existing use and the incoming application, which are often complex in nature and are carried out over a 4-year study period between two consecutive WRCs.

Conference Preparatory Meetings are held twice in a WRC study cycle. The first CPM is held immediately and the second CPM is held before the WRC meeting to harmonize the views of different ITU regions and individual administrations.

WRC-19 had established 19 specific agenda items for WRC-23. In addition, there are a few standing agenda items that will also be considered by WRC-23. The 19 agenda items are grouped into five broad categories, namely, fixed, mobile and broadcasting issues; aeronautical and maritime issues; science issues; satellite issues; and general issues. The WRC-23 cycle has carried out the studies and held several meetings, many of which were held remotely (online) due to Covid-19. The Draft Conference Preparatory Meeting Report was published by ITU-R on November 25, 2022, which contains the result of the studies for each agenda item and various methods to incorporate changes to the radio regulation to satisfy the agenda items. The draft CPM report was examined by various member states (administrations) and discussions were held at the second meeting of the draft CPM text, held at Geneva from March 27 to April 6, 2023.

CPM23-2 was able to achieve consensus on many agenda items. However, in a few agenda items, there are open and unresolved issues due to which agreement could not be provided. In one of the agenda items on the 6 GHz spectrum for IMT, a common ground could not be reached between the proponents of IMT and broadband. The agenda items on in-flight and maritime connectivity (IFMC) − which makes broadband internet availability in airplanes and ships possible − agreement could not be reached on the regulatory mechanism to deal with interference case, sufficiency of the power flux density limits to protect terrestrial services, reporting mechanism for the notifying/authorizing administrations, interference resolution mechanism of the systems, etc. These issues, among others, would be discussed and resolved at the meetings at regional level (APG 23-6) and WRC-23. Based on the discussions held during the CPM23-2 meeting, draft CPM report has been updated/modified and the outcome is the final CPM report, which will help the governments of the member countries to finalize their views for WRC 23 to be held in November and December 2023 in Dubai.

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