Difficulties in accommodating the demands of all 150 nations using the world's airwaves have forced the World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC) in Geneva into a grueling seven-days-a-week meeting schedule.
In telephone interviews from Geneva, sources among the U.S. delegates to the critical, 10-week conference say fewer than one fourth of the more than 1,000 pages in the final conference document mm have been completed by technical committees by this, the end of the eighth week.
The major political, north-south confrontation issues to be addressed by this conference, which essentially regulates global communications, will not come to a head until the very end of the conference, at the end of the month, the sources said.
Although the U.S. has resolved itself to losing certain key frequencies it had hoped to hold onto -- most notably some on those used for radar detection -- the American delegation is maintaining an optimistic tone.
In one crucial area involving future allocation of several high frequency bands, there are several potentially explosive confrontations between developed countries and lesser developed countries (LDCs) over how such frequencies should be used.
At this point, however, it appears that many of those confrontations have been put off until a special conference at a later date.
Still, there are several sticky issues which have not been resolved and which are extremely important to military and business interests in the United States.
Several developing countries in the Western Hemisphere are attempting to delay a decision on how to allocate satellite "slots" for the region.
The United States in seeking a new type of allocation that would allow several large U.S. corporations to go ahead with plans to launch fixed transmission satellites that would provide scores of business services to corporate clients.
But many other countries are fearful that such an allocation would lead to U.S. domination of the satellite band in question and are trying to defer a decision in the hopes that the U.S. corporations will hold off launching their satellites.
Several of those developing countries are seeking to hold off any use of the radio band in question until they have developed their communications systems well enough to share that band.
"We are moving along with the technical discussions," said U.S. delegation Vice Chairman Wilson Dizard in a telephone interview yesterday. "The conference has just gone slower than anyone figured."
During the closing days of the conference, the spotlight is likely to shift to the political issues that have hung over this conference since it opened in September.
For one thing, many LDCs are seeking to reserve much of the radio spectrum for their use when they are ready, while the developed countries are attempting to maximize use of the band on a first-come, first-served basis, while promising to accommodate any newcomers as they come along.