Remarks of
FCC Commissioner Susan Ness

November 28, 1995

Report on the 1995 World Radiocommunication Conference

The United States approached the 1995 World Radiocommunication Conference -- WRC-95 -- with the goal of achieving major spectrum allocation and use decisions that would enable new technologies to be deployed globally. We came with a very ambitious set of proposals.

It was a long and, at times, difficult Conference. However, the results of the WRC are a testament to the great spirit of cooperation among the more than 180 nations that are members of the International Telecommunications Union.

These countries recognized the need for the ITU to embrace new technologies and to facilitate their development. They were willing to tackle the difficult issues raised by these innovative satellite systems.

Not all of these issues could be resolved fully at this Conference. The Conferees agreed to place those matters requiring additional study on the draft agenda for WRC-97.

Any discussion of the negotiations and decisions that took place at the WRC inevitably leads to a mind-numbing recitation of MHz and GHz. I will spare you that. But I would like to highlight some of the results.

Last June, the United States identified four issues to be addressed at the WRC that were essential for near-term deployment of new global communication satellite systems.

Four Issues Addressed

1. Big LEO Feeder Links

The first issue was the designation of sufficient spectrum for Mobile Satellite System (MSS) feeder links. These allocations were critical to the operational future of our Big LEO systems. Our Delegation was pleased with the worldwide allocations for feeder links for the Big LEOs, which are consistent with the U.S. proposals. In addition, the WRC-97 agenda will consider a further allocation for feeder links.

2. Additional Spectrum for Little LEOs

Second, the U.S. was seeking additional spectrum for MSS below 1 GHz. It was difficult to find worldwide spectrum in these very crowded bands. In the end, some global spectrum was found. The Conference showed considerable interest in the Little LEO technology, but requested sharing studies and further analysis before it would support more than a modest allocation. The assembly agreed to place additional spectrum for Little LEOs on the agenda for WRC-97.

3. Modification of Spectrum Allocations at 2 GHz

Third, the U.S. sought an adjustment to the current global mobile satellite allocation in the 2 GHz band. The Commission's 1994 PCS band plan decision precipitated our WRC- 95 proposal to ensure adequate spectrum for future mobile satellite service network competition. A related issue was the date on which the spectrum in this band could be used for MSS service.

As anticipated, the U.S. proposal met with considerable resistance. Nevertheless, the U.S. obtained the 2 GHz spectrum adjustment on a primary basis for our region, with an implementation date of the year 2000 for the United States and Canada. In addition, the allocation for this band in the other two regions of the world has been placed on the WRC-97 agenda.

4. Non-Geostationary Fixed Satellite Systems

Fourth, action on our proposal for non-geostationary fixed satellites -- NGSO FSS -- reaffirmed again the Conference's support for new technologies. Proponents of NGSO-FSS networks envision a global broadband Internet, delivering advanced digital broadband services to remote regions of the world.

Although the consideration at this Conference of the NGSO-FSS proposal was the subject of intense debate at the opening plenary session, the body agreed to add it to the Agenda. Ultimately, the Conference approved a 400 MHz allocation for this service, effective immediately, with another 100 MHz possible in 1997, depending on the results of sharing studies. This decision provided a necessary global green light for this technology.

Removal of Constraints on Existing Allocations

We also sought to remove certain technical constraints for MSS systems. These efforts were generally successful and will result in less delay and effort for satellite systems requiring worldwide coordination.

Voluntary Group of Experts

A less visible but nonetheless critical focus of the conference was the simplification of the radio regulations which govern, inter alia, the coordination of existing and future global satellite systems. The Conference simplified most of the regulations, with some proposals subject to further review at WRC-97.

U.S. Delegation

About our team: Mike Synar laid the groundwork for a very effective delegation. When Ambassador Synar became ill, FCC alum, Brian Fontes, bravely assumed the Head of Delegation seat. Ambassador Fontes did an extraordinary job. With a great sense of humor, sense of timing, and common sense, he led our delegation through long, tough but ultimately successful, negotiations. Brian deserves our great admiration and our thanks.

I could not be more proud of the FCC participation in the U.S. delegation. They represented our country and this agency with professionalism, stamina and wit under very trying circumstances. They each deserve recognition: Cecily Holiday, who served as Vice- Chair of the U.S. Delegation and a U.S. spokesperson; Tom Tycz, who landed in a firestorm for the last two weeks; Donna Bethea, Damon Ladson, Audrey Allison, Frank Williams, Ron Repasi, Alex Latker, Giselle Gomez, Kristi Kendall, Jennifer Warren, and of course, Scott Harris.

Let me also thank Bill Luther and the members of his dedicated home team, who were on the job through the government shutdown. Let's give them all a round of applause.

Let me also recognize the outstanding work of Warren Richards and Bill Jahn from the State Department, Dick Parlow and Bill Hatch and their team from NTIA, Cynthia Raiford and our other government representatives. All displayed a spirit of cooperation, collegiality, and respect, even at the most challenging moments. They were the dream team -- the can-do crew.

Our U.S. Delegation included a host of industry members, who were invaluable for their expertise and outreach to other administrations. Despite large and often opposing financial interests in the outcome of the proceedings, our private sector members pulled together in support of the U.S. positions.

Lessons Learned

Of the lessons learned from WRC-95, the most important is this: WRC preparation cannot be done on an interim basis. There must be continuity and ongoing involvement with the ITU and its member delegations. Now that the WRC will occur every two years, we must begin immediately -- gasp -- for WRC-97. The relationships that were forged over blood, sweat and tears will be invaluable for our future participation. I am particularly grateful for the friendship and support of Canada, Mexico, and the other CITEL nations.

Under Brian's skillful leadership, a hand of friendship was extended to the European countries -- and they reciprocated. Although our positions differed, together we reached consensus, bringing the Conference to a successful conclusion for all.