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Equitable access to outer space: specifying new regulatory needs for radio spectrum management [ICP 2023]

Project summary

This project will provide evidence-based insights to inform the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) about new regulatory needs in radio spectrum management. It will address the lack of information related to the emerging global demands among countries of different development conditions. The project team will conduct a systematic analysis of national strategies in space-based infrastructures and global competition trends that impact the coordination and sharing of frequencies in satellite systems. This evidence will inform decision-making at the World Radiocommunication Conference to adapt the ‘ITU Radio Regulations’, in order to ensure fair and equitable access to radio frequency among developing and least developed countries.

Space projects using non-geostationary-satellite orbit (NGSO) are currently booming, driven by rapid technological innovations and commercialisation since 2015. However, the increasing competition in the NGSO, particularly at low-Earth-orbit (LEO), raises concerns among latecomers especially developing and least developed countries about their access to radio spectrum – a finite resource in Earth’s orbit which is critical for successful operations of all satellite systems. The allocation of radio spectrum is governed by the ITU, which distributes bands in the radio frequency spectrum through the ‘ITU Radio Regulations’, a set of international texts adopted and periodically revised by the 193 ITU Member States. Due to the rapid increase in satellite projects in NGSO, the ITU now faces challenges in the distribution of radio frequencies and member states would like to explore how the regulations could be updated to address the issue.

This project aims to support the update of the ITU Radio Regulations with evidence-based insights through an analysis of existing national strategies in terms of space infrastructure.

The results of the analysis will inform the ITU about the specification of new regulatory needs in radio spectrum management. Addressing this gap is urgent to ensure developing countries can benefit equitably from the space resources that are critical to their sustainable development.

  1. Selection of about 25-40 country cases representative of different country categories (i.e. developed, developing, least developed, small island states, landlocked developing countries) for in-depth analysis.
  2. Data collection based on in-depth semi-structured interviews and, using those data, a systematic analysis of national strategies on space infrastructure. The interview campaign will be carried out at the 2023 ITU World Radiocommunication Conference in Dubai. The data analysis will result in a preliminary typology of global development trends.
  3. Expert group meeting through a side event at a relevant 2024 ITU conference, with participation from member states delegates. Presentation by EPFL and ITU of preliminary typology to gain validation from the experts and jointly discuss potential policy actions such as alternative institutional arrangements.
  4. Production of a policy brief containing a validated typology of national development strategies and a list of potential institutional arrangements. The brief will be prepared based on input from interviewed delegates and experts from the workshop and EPFL networks.
  5. Final impact dissemination. Publication of the EPFL-ITU policy brief and dissemination to national delegates of the Member States of the ITU to ensure high-level visibility and extensive international outreach.
Project core partners
  • EPFL Space Center, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne
  • International Telecommunication Union, Radiocommunication Bureau, Space Services Department