ITU Action Enables Better Tracking and Location of Aircraft

November 11, 2015

Press Statement

U.S. Praises ITU Leadership, Action on Global Flight Tracking Improvements

 Geneva – The Head of the U.S. Delegation to the International Telecommunication Union’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) today celebrated the Conference’s action to improve long-range global flight tracking (GFT) capabilities. Ambassador Decker Anstrom praised the leadership of ITU officials, including Secretary-General Houlin Zhao and Radiocommunication Bureau Director Francois Rancy, and credited the determined and proactive efforts of Canada, as well as other nations, in creating a new aeronautical spectrum allocation allowing the satellite reception of airliner data transmissions over oceans and other remote areas. “The WRC’s action today will enable better tracking and location of aircraft that otherwise could disappear from terrestrial tracking systems,” Ambassador Anstrom said. “This is an excellent example of the ability of nations, working through the ITU process, to take action in improving peoples’ lives.”

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Background

The loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared over the Indian Ocean in March 2014, led to a decision by the International Telecommunication Union, acting at its October 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference, to direct the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) to address spectrum requirements for global flight tracking for civil aviation. Several member nations – most notably Canada – responded by developing an approach that could be implemented immediately.

The approach involved using an existing system on airliners and other aircraft, known as Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B), which until now has been received only by terrestrial stations and other aircraft. The new approach will allow satellites to receive the ADS-B transmissions, as well, relaying them from airliners over oceans and other remote areas.

Over the months leading up to WRC-15, Canada, the United States and other countries in the Americas, taking into account input from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), worked to develop a proposal to implement this approach. Negotiations with other countries at WRC-15 led to adoption of the measure at a plenary session today.

As adopted, the measure includes a resolution and a footnote to Article 5 of the ITU’s Radio Regulations that establishes a new aeronautical mobile satellite (route) service allocation for satellite reception of ADS-B signals transmitted in the 1 087.7 – 1 092.3 megahertz (MHz) spectrum band. ITU efforts will allow the enhanced use of ADS-B in these spectrum bands. The ICAO also has a role in development of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for this enhanced use within the aviation industry.

The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) is a global, inter-governmental treaty conference held every four years by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized organization for telecommunications. The current WRC began November 2 and will run through November 27, with delegates representing upwards of 165 countries, including the United States. Together, these delegates will revise and update the world’s Radio Regulations, a treaty that governs the allocation and use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbital locations.