ITU Delegates Approve New Global Cellular Bands

BOSTON (06/02/2000) - Delegates to the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) World Radio Conference (WRC) in Istanbul, Turkey, designated three new global frequency bands needed to support the explosive growth in the use of cellular telephones and mobile wideband data services.

One of those bands is currently allocated in the U.S. to fixed wireless "last mile" services planned by WorldCom Inc. and Sprint Corp.

The new global frequency bands allocated for International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000) service at the conclusion of the month-long WRC today marks a new era in the establishment of "global wireless systems," according to IT Secretary General Yoshio Utsumi. Designation of the new, standard global mobile bands - 806- to 960-MHz, 1710- to 1885-MHz and 2500- to 2690-MHz (2.5 GHz) - is expected to cut costs for manufacturers and ultimately users, said conference participants.

According to Tim Hewitt, IMT-2000 coordinator for Europe at the WRC, "Manufacturers worldwide now know the limits of frequencies for which terminals must be designed. . . . A limited number of globally identified bands (means) the manufacturers have the best opportunities to reduce costs via economies of scale."

The global mobile bandwidth plan adopted by the WRC "provides for a great deal of flexibility...(and) does not preclude the use of these bands for . . . other services," an ITU spokesman said. That was "a key factor that enabled consensus to be reached."

Fixed wireless operators in the U.S., such as MCI WorldCom in Jackson, Mississippi, and Sprint in Kansas City, Missouri, have spent billions of dollars to acquire licenses in the 2.5-GHz bands to bypass local telephone companies and hook their long-distance networks into a customer's business or home. Those carriers have therefore viewed the possibility of mobile use in that band with alarm.

Ambassador Gail Schoettler, head of the U.S. WRC delegation, didn't rule out the use of the 2.5-GHz band for mobile use, even though the decisions reached in Istanbul would allow her such leeway. During a press teleconference from Istanbul today, Schoettler said, "The (U.S. Federal Communications Commission) will be doing a study of sharing in that band, and the (U.S. Department of Defense) will do a study of sharing in the 1700-MHz band."

Andrew Kreig, president of the Wireless Communications Association International, a fixed wireless industry association, said he believes such studies would show "there is already heavy use of the 2.5-GHz band, which is totally incompatible with mobile use."

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