Uganda is set to participate in the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19), which will take place in Sharma el-Sheikh, Egypt from October 28 to November 22, 2019. The event is organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for information and communication technology.

Held every four years, the WRC’s main task is to review, and, if necessary, revise the Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the use of the radio frequency spectrum, and satellite technology. Being a treaty conference, outcomes of the conference are binding on ITU member countries.

Approximately 3,500 delegates are expected to attend the conference during which Radiocommunication matters of an international nature will be discussed, including regulatory measures to mitigate interference among services that are co-allocated or within adjacent bands.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is coordinating Uganda’s participation in the conference in line with Sections 5(1)(h)(i)(q) and 25 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013. 

The World Radiocommunication Conference seeks to harmonise existing spectrum allocations and also make new ones to facilitate radio communication or wireless innovations.

Key objectives of WRC

  • Revise the International Radio Regulations and any associated international frequency assignment and allotment plans in line with the projected trends in the wireless industry. Radio Regulations are international treaties that bind ITU member states. They define frequency allocations, technical and regulatory conditions for the use of spectrum by a given service.
  • Address any Radiocommunication matters of international nature such as the regulatory and spectrum implications of new wireless technologies and innovations;
  • Guide the Radio Regulations Board (RRB) and the Radiocommunication Bureau (BR), and review the mandate and activities on a case by case basis for the next cycle of four years, including potential study areas for the Radiocommunications Bureau (BR) of the ITU;
  • Determine questions for study by the Study groups of the ITU – Radiocommunications Bureau for the four year lead up to the next WRC 23.  
  • Develop regulatory measures to mitigate interference among services that are co-allocated or within adjacent bands.

Delegations from ITU member countries attend the World Radiocommunication Conference, and these   include regulators, ICT industry players including equipment and device manufacturers, operators [of broadcasting, satellite and telecom services], academia and institutions whose services rely on Radio Spectrum such as those involved in aviation, maritime navigation and meteorology.

World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15), Geneva, Switzerland, 2-27 November 2015

In the case of Uganda, institutions and groups that have participated in the preparations leading up to WRC include UCC, Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA), Uganda Police Force (UPF), Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), National Association of Broadcasters, academia and telecommunications operators.

Why participation is important

Uganda participates in the Conference mainly to ensure that national spectrum allocations are globally harmonised. With that, Uganda would not be limited as a country on where to get the latest technology and devices.

Being a treaty meeting, Uganda’s participation at WRC is most critical as whatever is adopted is binding and therefore ought to conform to our local circumstances. Essentially, participation comes with the following advantages:

The unique country needs– As a participant, Uganda can ensure that domestic challenges and interests are considered in decision making regarding issues such as re-deploying spectrum from some users to others, consideration of technologies that suit local circumstances, and the timing of any proposed changes in the allocation or other technical specifications.

Spectrum harmonisation –Spectrum can be harmonised globally because it comes with economies of scale in equipment and devices, bringing down the cost of ICT products and services.

Updating of country footnotes –As spectrum is identified for existing and new services, WRC facilitates the protection of critical services within the international framework to ensure harmony between new and existing services in some jurisdictions through footnotes in the radio regulations.

Capacity building/benchmarking-  The buildup process to WRC (country, sub-regional, regional, inter-regional preparations) and discussions during the WRC itself provide greater insight into and appreciation of the different technologies, technical aspects, forecasts, plans and different use case scenarios for different countries. 

Global networking – the WRC also facilitates the establishment of strong political and technical networks of potential partners, project funders, investors, training institutions, subject experts and peers.

How decisions are made/WRC Organs

The World Radiocommunication Conference decides what is considered by the various study groups in the four-year cycle that follows the conference. The output of this informs the technical standards and deliberations of the next conference. The conference is also fed by the Radiocommunications Assembly (RA), which takes place a week before the WRC. The role of this Assembly is to:

  • Approve and adopt the recommendations that come out of the study groups in the ending study cycle.
  • Agree on the new areas of study and the new questions to the study groups and working parties for the upcoming cycle.
  • Elect the leadership (Chairpersons, Vice-Chairpersons and Rapporteurs) of the study groups.
  • Review the report of the Radiocommunication Bureau (BR) director that highlights the outcomes and challenges of the previous four-year cycle.

The WRC preparatory process starts and ends with a Conference Preparatory Meeting (CPM). The first CPM takes place immediately following the completion of each WRC, and the second one takes place about six months before the next conference.

In accordance with international best practice, Uganda’s preparation has been informed by discussions at national (national preparatory committee), sub-regional (East African Communications Organization -EACO), regional (African Telecommunications Union-ATU), and international level (Conference Preparatory Meetings). 

The Ugandan delegation to the meeting is to be led by the UCC Executive Director Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, with the Commission’s Director of Engineering and Communications Infrastructure Ms Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo leading the technical team.

Uganda’s key interests

Seven priority areas have been identified as being of particular interest to Uganda. All the seven relate to spectrum harmonisation at the international level, which is understood to lower the cost of ICT products and services.

  1. Additional and globally harmonised spectrum allocations to IMT 2020- 5G
  2. Additional Spectrum and international Regulatory framework for Space and satellite industry issues
  3. Additional spectrum for Radio Local Area Networks.
  4. Harmonised spectrum and regulatory framework for the Global Aeronautical Distress Safety Systems (GADSS)
  5. Additional Spectrum to Railway Radio Communication Systems (RST) & Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS)
  6. Additional Spectrum and Regulatory framework for Satellite Earth Stations in Motion (ESIMS)  
  7. Additional Spectrum and international regulatory framework for High Altitude Platforms (HAPs)   

International radio conferences have been held since 1903. The last World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2015.

The public is invited to follow up on the highlights of the WRC 19 proceedings on the page.  Twitter #wrc19

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