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ITU-R - Harmonising the World's Vibrations

I recently attended an ITU-R feedback meeting on the World Radiotelecommunications Conference of 2007 (WRC-07). The WRC is where all the wireless regulators get together and bash out a consensual position for world wireless and satellite usage of spectra and satellite orbitals (so they don't crash) for 4 weeks.

It seems a little strange: An organisation that sets its agenda 6 years in advance, that requires its final agenda to be ratified 2 years in advance of the ratifying meting, must surely be a dinosaur in the these times. Everyone in the Internet industry and other hi-tech branches seems to be intoxicated by the dizzying speed with which developments are occuring.

Add to that a conservative seemingly bureaucratic heart of the ITU, the motto being something like "waste not, want not" as regards radio frequencies, is a questionable thing. People want free radiowaves. Technology allows an ever finer slicing of the airwaves - is this just not enforcing the monopolies and what about deregulating worldwide that is going on in the local-loops.

So, what possible use can such a body have, one might ask?

Quite simply there are some critical aspects of radiotelecommunication, like emergency bands that need to be kept clear of "harmful interference". Also regulations that affect international disaster relief are becoming a priority in the ITU-R. It also regulates things like satellite orbits and is a forum for countries and industries to make known their intentions as far as radiotelecommunication is concerned.

The ITU organisational model is sound, it brings nations together and works on voluntary consensus. While that means, that it has very few means to enforce regulations or to act as adjudicator in feuds between mismatched rivals such as Cuba and the USA. It is a lot like it's cousin - the UN - in that respect.

Also as a virtual organisation it sees itself critically and is in the process of reviewing what regulations are going to be needed in future as most technologies converge to IP.

About the ITU-R: http://www.itu.int/ITU-R

The sibling organisation the ITU-D is on the other hand much more interesting to eKhaya ICT and our venture... but it's good to get to know the whole family!

Posted: October 3rd 2008 09:37

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Ron Wertlen Ron Wertlen
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