Africa’s Participation at the 2023 World Radiocommunications Conference

Delegates from multiple African nations and regional organisations are participating in the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC-23) in the United Arab Emirates from 20 November to 15 December 2023. This event, organised and hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), takes place every three to four years. Its purpose is to review and potentially update the Radio Regulations – an international treaty governing the use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits. The agenda for revisions is set by the ITU Council, incorporating recommendations from prior world radiocommunication conferences.

The ITU Constitution states that the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) can examine the Radio Regulations, related frequency allocation, and assignment plans. Its purpose is to tackle global radio communication issues. Additionally, the WRC directs the activities of the Radiocommunications Regulations Council and Office, reviewing their operations. It also identifies topics for examination by the Radiocommunications Assembly and its study groups, preparing for upcoming radiocommunication conferences.

According to official sources, over 4,000 delegates attend WRC-23 from ITU 193 Member States. Also in attendance as observers are representatives from the 278 ITU-RA Members, representing varied stakeholders, including equipment manufacturers, telecommunications companies, network operators, international organisations, and industry forums, as well as representatives from ITU United Nations sister agencies, regional telecommunication organisations and intergovernmental organisations operating satellite systems, and academia.

Summary of Africa’s Participation at the WRC-23

The ongoing conference holds immense importance in shaping the future of 5G and the emerging 6G networks, necessitating a thorough reassessment of spectrum needs, particularly focusing on mid-band frequencies. These delegations represent the country’s interests and participate in discussions, negotiations, and decision-making regarding international regulations and standards for radio communication. The decisions made here will wield substantial influence over the trajectory and capabilities of these advancing technologies.

Representing Egypt at the conference is Eng. Hossam El-Gamal is the executive president of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA). The Ghanaian delegation was headed by the Honourable Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, the Minister for Communications and Digitalisation in the Republic of Ghana. Meanwhile, Yétondji Houeyetongnon, the Director of Radiocommunications at the Autorité de Régulation des Communications Électroniques et de la Poste/ the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Postal Services (ARCEP), leads the delegation from Benin.

The African Telecommunications Union (ATU) delegation is under the guidance of Mr John Omo, the Secretary-General, while Timothy Ashong, Acting Director General of the Regional African Satellite Communications Organisation (RASCOM), is leading the RASCOM delegation at WRC-23.

During the Radiocommunications Assembly (RA), Mr. Timothy Ashong and other prominent African leaders engaged in discussions that reached significant conclusions. Among these was the adoption of a resolution aimed at steering the development of standards and radio interface technologies crucial for the evolution of the 6th generation of International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) systems. An equally important outcome was adopting a resolution focusing on gender equality. This resolution aims to fortify, expedite, and broaden the active engagement of women within the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R). Its objective is to ensure a more inclusive and diverse participation, acknowledging the pivotal role of gender diversity in driving innovation and progress within the telecommunications domain.

The National Space Programme Management Office (GGPEN), within the Angolan delegation at WRC-23, is responsible for advocating for Angola’s positions regarding the utilisation of radio frequency spectrum and the management of both geostationary and non-geostationary satellite orbits. Given the finite nature of these resources, there’s a critical need to assess technical studies and regulatory provisions thoroughly. This assessment is essential for safeguarding satellite network frequency bands and overseeing spectrum sharing with terrestrial networks, especially concerning the evolving IMT (International Mobile Telecommunications) System. Balancing these interests is crucial to ensure equitable access and efficient utilisation of these valuable resources while advancing technological innovation and connectivity.

Prof. Edward Waswa Kisiang’ani, Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Broadcasting and Telecommunications, spearheads the Kenyan delegation at WRC-23. His leadership at the conference aims to solidify Kenya’s stance on spectrum utilisation, satellite technology, and broadband advancement. Additionally, the delegation is actively seeking strategic partnerships with organisations to bolster the country’s technological landscape and outlook. This proactive approach underscores Kenya’s commitment to harnessing spectrum resources effectively, leveraging satellite technologies, and expanding broadband connectivity while fostering collaborations that propel its technological growth on the global stage.

South Africa’s delegation, under the leadership of the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Mondli Gungubele, is dedicated to safeguarding the country’s interests concerning radio frequency spectrum and associated activities. Their mission includes ensuring inclusive connectivity for all citizens of South Africa. 

During an interview on the sidelines of the conference, Mondli Gungubele noted that among the outcomes of this conference for developing countries is the implementation of Resolution 559 (WRC-19), a pivotal initiative aimed at securing their orbital slots effectively. This resolution holds significance in ensuring equitable access to orbital resources, particularly benefiting developing nations. It underscores the conference’s commitment to fostering fair and efficient allocation of orbital slots, crucial for enhancing global connectivity and ensuring that developing countries have equitable access to these vital resources.

Dr Bosun Tijani, the Honourable Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, led the Nigerian delegation at WRC-23. This delegation included representatives from essential entities like the Ministry, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), and several other organisations. Their collective focus is reinforcing the country’s commitment to achieving widespread connectivity in alignment with the UN’s 2030 goals and Nigeria’s National Broadband Plan.

Furthermore, their concerted efforts aim to advance Nigeria’s telecommunications landscape, ensuring connectivity reaches all the nation’s corners. By aligning with global initiatives like the UN’s measures and leveraging national strategic plans, the delegation aims to catalyse progress toward enhancing connectivity and digital inclusion throughout Nigeria.

South Sudan, headed by Engr Napoleon Adok Gai, the director of the National Communication Authority (NCA), actively participated in discussions to impact radiocommunications positively. As a result, the country secured a satellite orbital slot from the ITU space service team. Salwa Suleiman Kamil, a Spectrum Engineer at NCA and Vice Chair of WRC-23 Committee 3, emphasised this orbital slot’s pivotal role for South Sudan. She highlighted its potential to significantly enhance rural connectivity within the communication sector, thereby uplifting remote areas by providing better access to communication services. This achievement marks a substantial step forward in the nation’s technological advancement and signifies a promising future for its communication infrastructure development.

Their collective participation underscores the criticality of this conference in shaping policies and regulations vital for the advancement of telecommunications across the African continent and globally.

Bilateral and multilateral Meetings and Agreements

The African delegations attending the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference prioritise bilateral and multilateral discussions. They aim to align agreements with their national telecommunications plans, ensuring a leap forward in technology and infrastructure development. This focus underscores their commitment to strategic partnerships and synchronising global agreements with local telecommunications agendas.

For instance, Eng. Hossam El-Gamal, the Executive President of NTRA and the head of Egypt’s delegation to WRC-23, engaged in bilateral discussions with the Director General of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) in the UAE, the Governor of the Communications, Space, and Technology Commission (CST) in Saudi Arabia, the Director General of the National Frequency Agency (ANFR) in France, and the Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US. Discussions primarily concerned enhancing collaboration in telecommunications infrastructure development and fostering capacity building. Furthermore, the participants delved into strategies to elevate user satisfaction with telecom services and optimise the efficient utilisation of frequencies, particularly in contemporary technologies. These engagements allowed for sharing valuable insights and experiences on addressing common issues in the telecommunications domain.

Election into ITU’s Leadership Positions and Working Groups 

Nigeria’s active participation has resulted in several significant milestones. Abraham Oshadami, Director of Spectrum Administration at NCC, was elected Vice Chairman of the ITU’s Radiocommunication Advisory Group (RAG). Similarly, Dr. Lasisi Salami Lawal, Acting General Manager and Project Manager at the Navigation Project Office of the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited, assumed the role of Vice Chairman of the ITU-R Study Group Four (Satellite Services). Additionally, several members of the NCC delegation secured positions in the WRC 2023 Working Groups.

These elected Nigerian delegates are poised to elevate the country’s global standing within the telecommunications sphere. Their roles are pivotal in aligning Nigeria’s interests and objectives with global best practices. This alignment is crucial as the nation strives to implement the ambitious goals outlined in the National Broadband Plan. The plan aims to ensure widespread connectivity in Nigeria by 2025, targeting minimum data download speeds of 25Mbps in urban areas and 10Mbps in rural areas, with adequate coverage reaching at least 90% of the population. Moreover, it aims to maintain affordable pricing, not exceeding N390 per 1GB of data (equivalent to 2% of median income or 1% of minimum wage), thereby fostering greater accessibility to digital services for all Nigerians.

What to Expect by the End of the Conference

The conference continues till 15 December 2023 and will see participation from African delegates on critical issues stemming from the WRC-23 agenda, including: 

  • Protecting Aeronautical/Maritime Services: Discussions to examine measures in the 4.8-4.99 GHz band to shield international airspace and water stations and reviewing power flux-density criteria per Resolution 223 (Rev.WRC 19)
  • Mobile Telecommunications Allocations: Identifying bands (3.3-3.4 GHz, 3.6-3.8 GHz, 6.425-7.125 GHz, 10-10.5 GHz) for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) and assigning mobile service primary status in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band following Resolution 245 (WRC 19
  • Utilising Spectrum for Various Services: Reviewing spectrum use in 470-960 MHz in Region 1, accommodating sub-orbital vehicle communications, and examining aeronautical mobile-satellite service allocation in the 117.975-137 MHz band.
  • Modernisation and New Allocations: Updating regulations for unmanned aircraft system communications, accommodating digital technologies for aviation safety, enhancing maritime distress systems, and exploring new space allocations for radar sounders, space research, and Earth observation satellites.
  • Harmonisation and Facilitation: Harmonizing frequency bands for communication with geostationary satellites, studying non-geostationary satellite communication, inter-satellite links, and developing narrowband mobile-satellite systems.
  • New Allocations: Considering primary fixed-satellite service allocations in specific frequency bands.

Click here to explore the WRC-23 complete agenda.