The global treaty behind your mobile communications celebrates its 110th anniversary

Geneva, 12 December 2016

ITU paid tribute today to 110 years of international cooperation among its members states on the ITU Radio Regulations, an international treaty for governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits for ubiquitous wireless communications. The ITU Radio Regulations ensure interference-free operations of radiocommunication systems and provide all countries with equitable access to the radio spectrum – a scarce natural resource that does not distinguish between national borders and needs to be harmonized globally.
Houlin Zhao, ITU’s Secretary-General, said, « ITU is proud to proclaim the 110th anniversary of the ITU Radio Regulations as a success story of international cooperation through consensus building among its member states with the inestimable support of telecommunication industry partners. With the growing complexity of our interconnected world and ubiquity of wireless systems, it is now more important than ever to maintain the pace and efficiency of radiocommunication conferences to ensure the timely and responsive evolution of this precious instrument. The ITU Radio Regulations are now more important than ever. »
Starting with the signing in Berlin on 3 November 1906 of the first International Radio Telegraph Convention, which brought together 30 maritime states, the Radio Regulations have grown with 110 years of revisions and innovations into the 5-volume treaty of 2000 pages of the 2016 edition. They now cover more than 40 different radiocommunication services and frequencies ranging from 9 kHz to 3000 GHz, with internationally agreed governing principles and regulations on which the rights and obligations of ITU’s 193 Member States to use the spectrum and satellite orbit resources are based. The objective is that these scarce resources be used efficiently and equitably, free of harmful interference.
François Rancy, Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau, said, « Digital transformation has become the engine of world economic and social development, and radiocommunications are the vector by which most of this transformation is taking place. They contribute directly, and as enablers to each and every one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Mobile and broadcasting networks, satellites, radio relays, radars, drones, short range devices such as Wi fi and Bluetooth are constantly providing us with a wealth of information, as well as applications, that we use seamlessly without realizing that they all rely on one common and intangible resource: spectrum. The Radio Regulations are the legal instrument which has permitted radiocommunications to flourish over the last 110 years and make this transformation possible. The global treaty celebrations today are a tribute to those that worked tirelessly to ensure the 110 years of success of this vitally important treaty for wireless communications worldwide. The treaty falls within the mission of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector to ensure rational, equitable, efficient and economical use of the radio-frequency spectrum by all radiocommunication services, including those using satellite orbits, and to also carry out studies and adopt recommendations on radiocommunication matters. Our mission lies within the broader framework of the purposes of ITU, as defined in Article 1 of the ITU Constitution and is, in particular, to ‘maintain and extend international cooperation among all the Member States of the Union for the improvement and rational use of telecommunications of all kinds.' »
Since 1906, 38 World Radiocommunication Conferences have revised the ITU Radio Regulations to respond to technological and social development. The 2016 version was adopted by the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC‑15). As with previous versions, it was adopted by consensus, which is the guarantee that this treaty as it evolves, will continue to be reflected in national legislations and enforced by national governments.
Anniversary celebrations in Geneva included addresses by Malcolm Johnson, ITU’s Deputy Secretary General, and François Rancy. Two panel discussions about the ITU Radio Regulations impact on the ICT industry and the challenges, opportunities and future of the ITU Radio Regulations were held with attendance of over 540 registered participants from 106 countries and Radiocommunication Sector members as well as Radiocommunication associates and academic experts. Former officials of the Union, present and former members of the Radio Regulations Board (RRB) and ITU-R and former CCIR Study Group Chairmen were also present.
Industry partners attending the ceremony’s panel discussions included representatives of GSMA, ESOA, EBU, GSA, BAKOM, OneWeb, Facebook, BBC and the US State Department.
Célhia de Lavarène