The International Frequency Registration Board

Let us have a look for this new space law article at the International Frequency Registration Board. Before the Second World War, any country could use, within certain limits, any frequency it required for any particular service, and all that was necessary, with respect to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), was for the country concerned to notify its use of the frequency to the Bureau at Bern to be published in the Frequency List for the information of other countries. After the Second World War, the situation in regard to the use of the radio spectrum became more chaotic, due to the enormous increase in the use of the radio spectrum by the increased number of countries of the world as a consequence of the birth of many independent countries, as well as to technical progress during the war.

The situation was so confused that sometimes, for example, civil aircraft could not fly safely because the necessary ground-air communication could not be ensured, and broadcasting services became deteriorated by harmful interferences among them. To cope with this situation, the ITU Atlantic City Radio Conference held in 1947 created the International Frequency Registration Board (IFRB) and charged it: to maintain a register of all radio frequencies used for all purposes throughout the world and, to ensure that no new frequency is taken into use by any country if the use of this frequency causes interference to radio stations already in operation, in accordance with the provisions of the Radio Regulations.

The various activities and functions of the International Frequency Registration Board are listed in Article 13 of the International Telecommunication Convention and in Article 8 of the Radio Regulations. In accordance with the above mentioned texts, the essential duties of the International Frequency Registration Board are:

a) the processing of frequency assignment notices received from administrations for recording in the Master International Frequency Register;

b) the processing and coordination of seasonal schedules of high frequency broadcasting with a view to accommodating requirements of all administrations for that service;

c) the compilation, for publication in suitable form, of frequency lists reflecting the data recorded in the Master International Frequency Register, as well as other material relating to the assignment and use of frequencies;

d) the review of entries in the Master Frequency Register with a view to amending or eliminating, as appropriate, those which do not reflect actual frequency usage, in agreement with the administrations which notified the assignments concerned;

e) the study, on a long-term basis, of the usage of the radio spectrum, with a view to making recommendations for its more effective use;

f) the investigation, at the request of one or more of the interested administrations, of harmful interference and the formulation of recommendations with respect thereto;

g) the provision of assistance to administrations in the field of radio spectrum utilization;

h) the collection of such results of monitoring observations and their publication in suitable form;

i) the formulation and reference to the CCIR of all general technical questions arising from the Board’s examination of frequency assignments;

j) the technical planning for radio conferences;

k) the participation in an advisory capacity, upon invitation by the organizations or countries concerned, in conferences and meetings where questions relating to the assignment and utilization of frequencies are discussed;

l) to perform any additional duties, concerned with the assignment and utilization of frequencies.

Harmful interference is one of the major problems in radio communication. As more and more administrations attempt to introduce new communication services in an already congested radio spectrum, greater are the risks of harmful interference. This state of affairs is becoming more serious because, in addition to the rapid expansion of communications, countries which are becoming independent naturally wish to establish their own communication links with the outside world. New or developing countries find it increasingly important to have effective communication centers connected by direct circuits with the major world capitals.

The establishment of those direct communications requires, in many cases, frequencies suitable for high power wide-band transmissions, usually in the most congested part of the radio frequency spectrum. By virtue of its responsibilities, the International Frequency Registration Board spends a considerable amount of time not only in trying to find frequencies for these new circuits, but also in finding solutions to the problems of actual harmful interference between existing services. The International Frequency Registration Board also assists administrations in seeking coordination and organizes seminars and training courses. The International Telecommunication Union considers the problem of harmful interference from the legal, technical, operating and administrative angles.

Legally, the position in this respect is defined in Article 48 of the International Telecommunication Convention (Montreux, 1965). This article requires Members and Associate Members to ensure that “all stations, whatever their purpose, must be established and operated in such a manner as not to cause harmful interference to the radio services or communications of other Members and Associate Members or of recognized private operating agencies, or of other duly authorized operating agencies which carry on radio service, and which operate in accordance with the provisions of the Radio Regulations”. The same article also states that Members and Associate Members must recognise the desirability of taking all practicable steps to prevent the operation of electrical apparatus and installations of all kinds from causing harmful interference to the radio services or communications mentioned above.

In accordance with the Radio Regulations administrations can seek the assistance of the International Frequency Registration Board when the direct inter-administration approach does not result in a satisfactory solution of cases of harmful interference. In such cases, the International Frequency Registration Board conducts studies and makes recommendations, in accordance with Section VII of Article 9 of the Radio Regulations. In case of need, the International Frequency Registration Board asks administrations of countries in suitable geographical positions to carry out monitoring operations to identify the interfering stations. The Board’s task was facilitated by the prompt information and assistance given by individual administrations and international organizations. The role of the International Frequency Registration Board in resolving matters of harmful interference is outlined in No. 478 of the Radio Regulations, which stipulates that “the investigation, at the request of one or more of the interested administrations, of harmful interference, and the formulation of recommendations with respect thereto”.

The Administrative Radio Conference, Geneva, 1959, adopted a recommendation (Recommendation No. 35) inviting the International Frequency Registration Board to provide administrations of countries in need of special assistance with the necessary information and technical data, including the detailed explanations of the Radio Regulations, which will permit these countries to choose and obtain proper frequency assignments for their operations. The purpose of this recommendation is illustrated by a number of provisions introduced into the Radio Regulations. Under these provisions, the Board shall conduct a study of the following problems of frequency utilization if requested and the circumstances appear to warrant:

a) looking for alternative frequencies to avoid probable harmful interference;

b) searching additional frequencies within a specified portion of the radio spectrum;

c) cases where two or more frequencies in the same megacycle order are used due to harmful interference;

d) alleged contravention or non-observance of the Radio Regulations or harmful interference;

e) computation of the increases in noise temperature in space systems, preparation of diagrams showing coordination areas or any other assistance of a technical nature to complete the procedures of Article 9A.

The International Frequency Registration Board regularly receives requests for assistance from administrations attempting to find suitable frequencies for their radio services. Some administrations seek the advice of the International Frequency Registration Board on general questions of national and international frequency coordination and management in all parts of the radio frequency spectrum. Apart from individual administrations, some international organizations such as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), ICAO or the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) also ask the International Frequency Registration Board for advice on problems of radio spectrum utilization.