I keep reading about disputes on allocation of satellites or spectrum - is there a way to read about them on the ITU sites - similar to reading the WTO dispute reports.


ITU Telecommunications disputes aren't resolved in just one way.

For more background on the processes, here's a paper that's pretty specific to space disputes, an introductory presentation (but more general than just space), and a longer description (part of the last round of rationalization, so just a bit out of date, but not seriously)

The ITU processes mostly work behind the scenes (from 1):

The Constitution, Convention and Administrative Regulations (including Radio Regulations governing space communications)5 of the International Telecommunication Union6 (hereinafter referred to as ITU) internationally regulate the use of radio frequencies and geostationary orbital positions. All States are free to choose and assign particular radio frequencies and orbital positions to their respective satellites, though they are obliged to avoid causing harmful interference to the radio frequencies that have been registered earlier with the ITU. This rule, also called the practice of “first-come, first-served”, implies that a State that registers its satellite system using particular orbital position and certain radio frequencies is protected against harmful interference from the late-comers.

For prevention of radio harmful interference problems by registering the assigned radio frequencies and orbital positions with the ITU, the ITU agreements make provision for notification to the ITU, and coordination between the concerned States, of the assigned radio frequencies and orbital positions. All ITU Member States are bound by the provisions of its Constitution, the Convention and Radio Regulations in all telecommunication matters and are required not to cause harmful interference to the radio services of other countries. However the process of coordination of assignments of radio frequencies and orbital positions is merely a bilateral negotiation between the concerned States. The State that had registered its satellite system with the ITU first is under no legal obligation to accommodate the satellite system of the late-comer States. If, after all the consultations between the States and after the Bureau’s non-binding recommendations, if and when sought, the dispute remains unresolved, ‘‘the Administration [State] which requested coordination shall . . . defer the submission of its notice of frequency assignments . . . for six months.’’ Therefore, the ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau’s intervention is neither automatic nor does it have much authority.

Dispute resolution under ITU agreements is dealt with in Article 56 of the Constitution of the ITU. According to this Article, Member States may settle their disputes on questions relating to the interpretation or application of the Constitution, of the Convention or of the Administrative Regulations (including Radio Regulations governing space communications) by negotiation, through diplomatic channels, or according to procedures established by bilateral or multilateral treaties concluded between them for the settlement of international disputes, or by any other method mutually agreed upon. If none of these methods of settlement is adopted, any Member State party to a dispute may have recourse to arbitration in accordance with the arbitration procedure as specified in Article 41 of the Convention of the ITU. Member States of the ITU have also concluded an Optional Protocol on the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes Relating to ITU regulatory regime, which is applicable among Member States parties to that Protocol. This Protocol essentially makes the arbitration procedure as defined in Article 41 of the Convention compulsory for settlement of disputes among the States Parties to the Protocol, the number of which is 64 States at present. In practice, neither Article 41 of the Convention nor the Optional Protocol has been used. Therefore, all the harmful interference problems have been and are resolved according to the provisions of Article 15 of the Radio Regulations.

Within the ITU the harmful interference problems are resolved primarily through bilateral negotiations between the concerned States though they are supposed to “exercise the utmost goodwill and mutual assistance in the application of the provisions of Article 45 of the Constitution and of [Article 15 of the Radio Regulations] to the settlement of problems of harmful interference.” The Radiocommunication Bureau of the ITU Secretariat can only intervene if a State requires its service. Moreover, the only actions that the Bureau is supposed to take are the analysis of the situation, and the adoption of conclusions with a non-binding recommended action, which it will send to the parties involved. Therefore, the Bureau does not have much authority. The ITU Radiocommunication Regulation Board, composed of 12 part-time members, is also a weaker body than its predecessor, the International Frequency Registration Board (IFRB). Though the new Board is still the body to provide the last non-binding recommendations in cases of harmful interference disputes after a report from the Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau; however, the unresolved dispute (problem) would be referred to the next ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (hereinafter referred to as WRC). Plenary Meetings of WRC address such cases and makes decisions mainly based on wider political considerations unrelated to the Radio Regulations. Thus, proper application of the Radio Regulations (specifically the Rules of Procedures included in these Regulations) and fair and efficient dispute resolution in the ITU are undermined.

Neither does the ITU possess any mechanism nor power of enforcement nor imposition of sanctions against the violators of its rules and regulations. It is true that volunteer compliance approach and the procedure of Article 15 of Radio Regulations worked well in the past and States have largely been following the ITU rules and procedures. The problem of harmful interference is currently serious and is expected to get worse in the future.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.