For the first time, the State Department said it would recommend that underdeveloped nations receive special protection to reserve a place in orbit for communications satellites yet to be launched.
For years, developing countries have complained that industrialized nations were snatching the best satellite parking spaces in the sky, leaving countries still building their first satellites stuck with less desirable spaces. Frequency and space allocation can affect satellite transmission and require countries to spend more money developing satellites that will technically accommodate these drawbacks.
Currently, orbital slots and frequencies are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis with a maximum of five years' advance notice. Underdeveloped countries wanted allocations for fixed orbital and frequency requirements set well in advance, which the United States and other industrialized countries fought against. Rigid planning too far in advance could force countries on the plan to stick to an outdated course and shut out launch opportunities for other countries, the United States has argued.
State Department officials yesterday said they were in the midst of drafting a set of recommendations to present before the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) later this summer at a conference in Geneva.
The new U.S. tack will be to set aside orbital space and allow countries to identify the slots they want for systems that may not be launched for 15 years. The United States proposes to place a 10-year moratorium and ask other administrations to do the same, on certain spaces within orbits that would normally be available to the developed countries. Parking spaces necessary in the near term could be negotiated on a multilateral basis yet to be determined, the officials said.
Lastly, the administration is proposing improved standards in satellite system coordination to foster optimum use of existing resources.
Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission is offering a free course to engineers and managers from developing countries on spectrum planning in conjunction with the United States Telecommunications Training Institute, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (an arm of the Commerce Department), and Motorola Inc.