Elena Puigrefagut, Walid Sami and Darko Ratkaj

The most significant result of WRC-23 (see below for an introduction to the event) for EBU Members, related to agenda item 1.5, is that Broadcasting remains the only Primary service, with regional scope, in the table of allocation for ITU Region 1* in the UHF band 470–694 MHz. The proposal of CEPT (46 European regulatory bodies) to add a Secondary Mobile allocation in the table and that of ASMG (22 Arab States regulators) to add a Primary Mobile allocation in the band 614–694 MHz in the table were not agreed.

The CEPT request was, however, partially satisfied through a new country footnote that allocates the band 470–694 MHz to Mobile on a Secondary basis, with conditions, in all CEPT countries except Italy and Spain.

The ASMG request was partially satisfied through a new country footnote that allocates the band 614–694 MHz to Mobile on a Primary basis, with identification to International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) and with conditions, in 11 Arab countries.

Individual requests from a relatively small number of Sub-Sahara African countries, some of them being also part of ASMG, for Primary Mobile allocations were not satisfied. Instead, a new country footnote was added, which allocates the band 614–694 MHz to Mobile on a Secondary basis with conditions in eight African countries.

Conditions attached

The important thing in these country-based allocations are the conditions associated with them. The secondary allocation doesn’t give the right for protection from primary services in neighbouring countries. In practice, this allows countries with existing or planned DTT services to continue operating their networks without any additional constraints even if one or more of their neighbours opted for the Secondary Mobile allocation.

The Primary Mobile allocation for 11 Arab countries is also subject to several conditions, the most impactful being that the Mobile service that would use this allocation cannot claim protection from the existing and future broadcasting stations in neighbouring countries operating in accordance with the ITU’s GE06 plan. This makes the allocation in practice secondary.
In addition to the certainty ensured by this WRC-23 decision for the continuation of DTT services in the concerned countries, those countries interested in introducing new terrestrial broadcasting technologies, like 5G Broadcast, can rely on a solid allocation of spectrum to Broadcasting, until at least 2031.

Eight years

This date of 2031 is related to the decision of the Conference to include an agenda item on the UHF band at WRC-31. This item calls for review of spectrum use and of the needs of applications of broadcasting and mobile services and for the consideration of possible regulatory actions in the frequency band 470–694 MHz, or parts thereof.

The period until 2031 therefore provides an opportunity for broadcasters and regulators in countries using terrestrial broadcasting networks in the UHF band to prove that terrestrial broadcasting remains important beyond 2031.

Preparing for WRC-27

WRC-27 will be a ‘Satellite’ conference as most of the agenda items decided at WRC- 23 for the next conference WRC-27 concern services that use satellite, with a widely confirmed interest in non-geostationary satellite systems. Several frequency bands concerned by WRC- 27 agenda items are either used for distribution of EBU Members’ content or for wireless equipment used to produce this content.

The EBU workshop “WRC- 23 – outcomes, evaluation, and preparing for WRC-27”, held on 29 January 2024, helped to identify the relevant agenda items for EBU Members, to assign priorities and to define actions for the various EBU groups.

Positive outcome for PMSE, though subject to national decisions

The outcome of WRC-23 for the services ancillary to broadcasting and to content production, namely PMSE (Programme Making and Special Events) was good in many aspects and subject to questions in some others.

On one side, the conference recognized the special status of PMSE by retaining a country-based Secondary Mobile allocation dedicated to these applications. This allocation concerns 88 countries that have been using the UHF band 470–694 MHz for PMSE, through effective sharing with DTT, for several decades.

On the other side, the new country-based allocations to the Mobile service are intended for Mobile allocations other than PMSE. This automatically reduces the amount of spectrum available for PMSE applications. The biggest reduction of spectrum for PMSE will be in countries that plan to introduce cellular mobile networks in parts of the band. In the other countries, the impact on spectrum availability for PMSE will depend on the policy of the regulators in terms of priority between different applications of the Mobile service, all of them having the same regulatory status.

Other results from WRC-23

WRC-23 also considered various proposals to add new allocations to the Mobile service, or to elevate existing ones, for use by IMT applications. The most relevant were in the C-band, around 3.6–3.8 GHz, historically used for satellite downlink, and at around 7 GHz, historically used for satellite uplink. In all cases where a change to the Mobile allocation was made, it was associated with measures to protect the Fixed Satellite Service in the countries that still use it, which is in line with the EBU position.

Other agenda items concerned the use of high altitude IMT base stations in the 700 and 800 MHz bands. Here also, suitable measures were adopted to protect broadcasting services where used. A similar outcome was noted for a new allocation to an Earth exploration satellite service in VHF band I, at around 45 MHz.

Another good result for broadcasters was the withdrawal of an agenda item that targeted using IMT technologies to provide high-speed internet access for fixed premises by operating in any frequency band allocated to the fixed and fixed satellite services. This represented a potential threat to the bands used for direct-to- home reception from satellite. However, the Radiocommunication Assembly RA-23, which met the week before WRC-23, decided to task the ITU-R study groups with examining this subject before considering any change to the Radio Regulations, which is in line with the EBU position.

How the EBU prepared for Dubai

The EBU and its Members had been preparing for WRC-23 since as far back as WRC-15, and more intensively since WRC-19. This preparation included continuous participation and contribution to Regional Regulators’ Associations meetings and to relevant ITU working groups.

The EBU’s competence in the fields of technical sharing studies and studies related to broadcasting spectrum use and needs was recognized. Preparations also included coordination with our sister unions, ASBU for the Arab states and AUB for the African states.

The EBU coordinated the actions of the global broadcasting community and worked closely with the broadcast network operators and the PMSE community. The EBU and BNE (Broadcast Network Europe) operated a joint booth at WRC-23 with demonstrations of 5G Broadcast and DVB-I. The EBU was present throughout the entire conference and worked with administrations from Europe, Africa and Arab countries to influence the decisions.

WRC-23 explained

The World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 was held in Dubai from 20 November to 15 December under the invitation of the United Arab Emirates. The conference was attended by more than 3,900 people from 163 member states and 217 input contributions were received.

The agenda of WRC-23 was defined at WRC-19 (see issue 34 of tech-i, March 2020) and included a crucial item for the future of EBU Members’ distribution and contribution services, agenda item 1.5 concerning the UHF frequency band. With this and other agenda items, the general aim of WRC-23 was to revise the Radio Regulations that govern the worldwide use of spectrum.


*ITU Region 1 comprises Europe, Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Mongolia, and the Middle East west of the Persian Gulf, including Iraq.

This article first appeared in issue 59 of EBU tech-i magazine.


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