Cambodia Investment Review

Opinion: World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 and Opportunities for Cambodia

Opinion: World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 and Opportunities for Cambodia

Riccardo Corrado

Last 15th December in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023, also called WRC-23 reached its end, bringing interesting results that will impact the future of mobile communications. The conference focused on three main aspects: low-band spectrum, mid-band spectrum (3.5Ghz range), and the 6GhZ band, currently the only remaining mid-band spectrum (upper part) available to be used for tackling the increase in demand of bandwidth related to the 5G era.

Decisions taken in this conference related to spectrum management are important for Cambodia, since spectrum represents an essential resource for communication and thus, to support all the services relying on data transmission. Ruy Pinto, current Chief Executive Officer and former Chief Technology Officer of SES, a satellite company with over 70 satellites in two different orbits for delivering high-performance video and data solutions with full coverage on the earth, stated: “Spectrum is our lifeblood – we can only provide services to customers if we have spectrum.”

To ensure that the usage of the spectrum is coherent and consistent even across borders, having international standards and best practices, is necessary, to allow governments to foster long-term commercial investments and ensure healthy competition. This task is increasingly difficult due to increasing competing interests, and non-alignment between international guidelines and national spectrum management practices. The harmonization of the spectrum has been historically managed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)’s Radiocommunication Bureau, and the WRO conferences, usually held every three or four years are used as a platform to revise when necessary, the Radio Regulations, the international treaties on radio-frequency spectrum and also the geostationary and non-geostationary satellite orbits.

Mobile Use, Opening New Horizons in Cambodia

Specifically, in this year’s conference the ITU, the agency under the United Nations responsible for matters concerning information and communications technology (ICT), has approved the utilization of the 6GHz (6.425-7.125GHz) frequency band for mobile usage, for all the other countries until then not yet able to use it, Cambodia included. This represents an essential aspect not only in the process of harmonization of the 6GhZ band, but also for those companies manufacturing 6 GHz equipment, and those interested in investments related to 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). At the conference, further harmonization of the mid-band (3.3-3.8 GHz) has been also discussed.

World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 at Dubai on December 15, 2023.

This harmonization will allow a larger pool of countries to operate in a consistent manner. Finally, discussions were also conducted on the lower band (below 1 GHz) essential mostly for non-urban areas, where high investments in infrastructure are not sustainable due to the reduced number of users, with consequent longer distances to be covered by radio signals.

But besides the 6Ghz band, additional decisions were taken regarding the high-altitude platform station (HAPS). The decision taken at the conference is opening the doors to the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) base station (HIBS) to be now able to use 2 GHz and 2.6 GHz bands. These HAPS are aerial platforms, located in the stratosphere, that function as base stations, and that can address digital gaps, through their usage to complement the IMT terrestrial coverage, and de facto enable a much wider coverage in respect to the classic solutions on the ground.

Decisions Represent Important Opportunities for Cambodia

Important decisions were made also on satellite transmissions, including the allocation of additional frequencies to be used for passive Earth exploration satellite services for weather monitoring purposes, the allocation of the bands 15.41-15.7 GHz and 22-22.2 GHz in Radio Regulations Region 1 and some Region 3 countries to the aeronautical mobile service for non-safety aeronautical applications (relevant for aircraft, helicopters, and drones now able to carry aeronautical digital equipment for surveillance, mapping, and filming), and the adoption of regulatory actions for the provision of inter-satellite links to be mainly used for weather monitoring and disaster risk reduction.

These decisions represent important opportunities for Cambodia. This allows further investments for extending the telecommunications infrastructure to enhance connectivity within the Kingdom, supporting the implementation of already present digital policies, and fostering the Cambodian digital economy. But also poses greater opportunities in the realm of satellites, for communication, defense, and a large array of implementations from IoT, imagery, and weather monitoring, and possibly placing further pressure on the creation of a regulatory framework within Cambodia to foster investments in such an ecosystem.

Riccardo Corrado is an Associate Professor at the American University of Phnom Penh, advisor to the Cambodian Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, BoD member of the Italian Cambodian Business Association, and senior research fellow of CIDE, Asian Vision Institute.

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