At the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, delegates representing ITU member states have agreed to adopt what is described as an innovative new milestone-based approach for the deployment of non-geostationary satellite (NGSO) systems in specific radio-frequency bands and services.
The agreement establishes regulatory procedures for the deployment of NGSOs, including mega-constellations in low-Earth orbit.
Under the newly adopted regulatory regime, these systems will have to deploy 10 percent of their constellation within two years after the end of the current regulatory period for bringing into use, 50 percent within five years, and complete the deployment within seven years.
The milestone-based approach will provide a regulatory mechanism to help ensure that the Master International Frequency Register (which contains frequency assignments together with their particulars as notified to the ITU) reasonably reflects the actual deployment of such NGSO satellite systems in specific radio-frequency bands and services.
It also seeks to strike a balance between the prevention of radio-frequency spectrum warehousing, the proper functioning of coordination mechanisms, and the operational requirements related to the deployment of NGSO systems.
The agreement reflects the rapid pace of satellite innovation that is driving an increase in the deployment of non-GSO constellations. Now that launch vehicles are capable of supporting multiple satellite launches, mega-constellations consisting of hundreds to thousands of spacecraft are becoming a popular solution for global telecommunications.
This includes extensive low-latency broadband coverage, remote sensing, space and upper atmosphere research, meteorology, astronomy, technology demonstration and education.
While satellites in geostationary (GSO) orbit are aligned with the Earth’s rotation at an elevation of 36,000 km, non-GSO satellites move across the sky during their orbit around the Earth, in medium Earth-orbit (MEO) 8,000 – 20,000 km above the Earth, and in low-Earth orbit (LEO) at elevations between 400 and 2,000 km.
Filings for frequency assignments to NGSO satellite systems composed of hundreds to thousands of satellites have been received by the ITU since 2011, in particular in frequency bands allocated to the fixed-satellite service (FSS) or the mobile-satellite service (MSS).