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Mobile Satellite Services: overlapping Services and Frequencies

After exploring the exciting realm of cislunar connectivity in our inaugural post-WRC blog, let's return to more grounded discussions, and delve into satellite topics aimed at enhancing connectivity here on Earth.


It’s no secret that mobile communications continue to grow rapidly. Not only people but “things”, which can be as diverse as shipping containers and cattle, temperature controls and drill bits, are found or may move into areas where there is no cell coverage as well. This, coupled with recent technological advances and the development of external standards facilitating the integration of mobile-satellite solutions to address connectivity has raised interest in Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) everywhere, including of course at the ITU.


However, much to the disappointment of IoT operators, WRC-23 Agenda Item 1.18 for potential new MSS allocations for narrowband systems concluded on a No Change in the first sessions of the conference. The absence of consensus among stakeholders on Resolution 248 (WRC-19), allegedly influenced by differing technical interpretations and overly restrictive narrowband scope, may have played a role in this outcome.


Nevertheless, the discussion remains open, with the matter being moved to WRC-27. But more importantly, additional MSS topics have been introduced, meaning the WRC-27 agenda now includes no less than three AIs on the subject of potential new allocations for MSS. Resolution 252 covers low-data rate non-voice, non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) MSS services, Resolution 253 covers new MSS allocations for supplemental coverage in international mobile telecommunications (IMT) frequency bands, and Resolution 254 covers new generic MSS frequency bands.


As mentioned above, technological advances have contributed to significantly expanding the range of applications for MSS, and consequently demand for spectrum. Despite the consensus that additional MSS spectrum is necessary, there is no consensus regarding which applications should access this spectrum, most particularly in the 2GHz band.


There is also an overlap in services; Resolution 252 and 253 which cover specific applications are effectively subsets of Resolution 254, which covers the new generic MSS frequency bands.


Further confounding the issue is the fact that the results of the first session of the Conference Preparatory Meeting for WRC-27 revealed overlapping frequencies in the discussed Agenda Items. Most particularly the coveted 2010-2025 MHz band, which is sought after by the narrow-band community, direct-to-device (D2D) and generic MSS stakeholders alike. Similarly, the 2120-2160 MHz and 2160-2170 MHz bands are also being studied for D2D and generic MSS.


WRC-27 – Working Party 4C


Fortunately, all three agenda items will be discussed at ITU Working Party 4C, which is tasked with determining “efficient orbit/spectrum utilization for the MSS and the radiodetermination satellite service (RDSS)”. This provides an excellent forum for all MSS stakeholders to sit together and cooperate, in order to determine the optimal outcome.


In an increasingly congested spectrum environment, generic allocations have proven to be far more adaptable and accommodating to diverse needs; responding more effectively to dynamic situations and changing priorities. One might ponder whether consolidating and addressing these overlapping bands and applications under the generic MSS allocation (as per Resolution 254) would provide a more solid foundation for a 'future proof’ and flexible MSS regulatory environment.


Whatever the outcome, this is going to be complex area for operators to navigate. This is where working with a skilled organization such as River Advisers, which has extensive expertise in this arena, can save an operator significant amounts of both time and money.


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