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27 May 2003

U.S. to Seek More Airwaves for Wireless Services at Conference

(Will also promote air-borne wireless services, lead delegate says)
By Kathryn McConnell
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States will recommend at an international
conference that more of the world's airwaves -- or spectrum -- be
allocated for advanced wireless technologies such as wireless local
area data networks (WLANS), says the head of the U.S. delegation.

Ambassador Janice Obuchowski outlined U.S. objectives in an interview
ahead of the four-week World Radiocommunication Conference 2003 (WRC
2003), which is scheduled to begin June 9 in Geneva.

She said the United States will also promote a new technology
developed by Boeing Corporation that involves delivering wireless
communication services from the air. Such a technology would allow
access to the Internet from anywhere, including from in-flight
aircraft, she said.

WRC 2003 will consider 44 agenda items for setting international rules
for spectrum use, the most ever, Obuchowski said. The United States
will be represented by more than 160 delegates -- including 90 from
private industry -- and 30 advisers. Approximately 2,000 delegates
representing 180 countries will attend, she added.

The conference is being organized by the United Nations International
Telecommunication Union (ITU).

"Without international agreement ... the world's airwaves could
quickly become a chaotic jumble of competing and interfering signals,"
according to a U.S. delegation background document.

"At stake [at the conference] are wireless frequencies (airwaves) that
will be crucial to the U.S. high-technology sector, which is a vital,
high-growth area of the U.S. economy," the document said.

Pre-WRC regional meetings have already done much to prepare the
conference agenda items, Obuchowski said. The United States met with
other Western Hemisphere countries under the auspices of the
Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) of the
Organization of American States.

"We have a very strong set of hemispheric proposals," Obuchowski said.
The Western Hemisphere was the first region to complete its proposals
and make them available for other regions to review, she added.

In addition to commercial services, wireless frequencies are used in
many government systems, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS)
used to guide air traffic, which is an essential component of national
security worldwide, Obuchowski said. Spectrum also is used to forecast
weather, to communicate with space missions, to conduct intelligence
and to guide missiles.

The United States wants to upgrade its GPS, which will share the same
range of spectrum as Europe's soon-to-be-launched positioning system,
Galileo, the ambassador said. The world's other launched positioning
system is the former Soviet system, now managed by Russia, called

In Iraq, spectrum allowed the U.S. military's remote-controlled aerial
vehicles, or drones, to communicate intelligence to troops'
positioning systems on the ground, making fast progress in meeting
objectives possible, Obuchowski said.

Wireless technology also supports a growing number of hand-held
telephones, which are "vastly overtaking" standard phones in the
developing world, she said.

During the conference, the U.S. delegation will also work to
accommodate global demands for spectrum while protecting U.S.
government systems, including military radars, from harmful
interference, Obuchowski said.

She said the United States has received "a great deal of support" for
the telecommunications policy positions it will bring to the
conference, particularly from developing countries. She added she
expected the negotiations to be fruitful.

But the United States opposes a European proposal for setting a
standard size direct television disc, she said. The United States
prefers a 45-centimeter standard, she said, smaller than the
65-centimeter broadcast satellite service disc commonly used in

Among U.S. government agencies represented at the conference will be
the departments of State, Commerce, Defense and Homeland Security and
independent agencies including the Federal Communications Commission,
the National Aeronautic and Space Administration and the National
Science Foundation.

Companies represented in the U.S. delegation include Lockheed Martin,
Motorola, Cisco Systems, Intel, AT&T Wireless and Boeing.

Emerging regional voting blocs include the European Conference of
Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) and the African
Telecommunications Union, the background document said.

"WRC 2003 will be more global than past conferences," the background
document said. "This will undoubtedly create a new dynamic at WRC

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: