You Should Thank the ITU for Bringing You Super Bowl LI

You Should Thank the ITU for Bringing You Super Bowl LI

éClat Law is delighted to welcome guest blogger Dhananga Pathirana.  Dhananga is an Attorney at Law from Sri Lanka, where her practice focused on international air carrier liability, safety regulations, labour relations and telecommunications. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Air & Space Law at McGill University, in Montreal, Canada.  She is the recipient of the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA) Scholarship for 2016.

More than 70 years ago, Sir Arthur C. Clark published an article entitled “Extra-terrestrial Relays” in the British magazine “Wireless World.”  The article discussed the concept of geostationary orbit satellites for telecommunication.  A mere 20 years later, what many might have considered science fiction became reality.  On April 6, 1965, INTELSAT 1, the first commercial, communication satellite was launched to the geosynchronous orbit..  And so was borne and industry now worth well over $195 billion.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world rely on satellite services to communicate, entertain, navigate and educate.  Satellites enable global telecommunications by swiftly relaying signals with voice, video and data to and from one or many locations using radio frequencies – a part of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Of course, the frequencies used for telecommunications are a limited natural resource, and so a great deal of maneuvering and allocating must be done in order to assure that everyone has access to use the all-important radio frequencies without causing interference to others.  With a terrestrial world that is seemingly mired in endless chaos and pandemonium, how is it that all these communications satellites and radio frequencies aren’t bumping into each other, or worse, interfering with each other’s signals (imagine if your signal was interrupted during the course of the Super Bowl’s first overtime ever?).  We owe it all to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Originally founded in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union, the ITU is the oldest existing international organization.  A specialized agency of the United Nations, it is comprised of 193 State members and more than 700 so-called Sector members, including private entities as varied as the CBS Corporation, Google Inc., Intel Corporation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The ITU defines its regulatory framework relating to use the use of spectrum in its Radio Regulations, which are adopted at the World Radiocommunication Conferences. It allocates radio frequency bands, allots radio frequencies on a world-wide and regional basis according to the nature, purpose and the geographical spread of the frequencies, and registers frequency assignments and associated orbital positions to avoid harmful interference between radio stations. Member States, acting on behalf of its government or non-government entities are required to notify and coordinate with the ITU and obtain registration (record the assignment in the Master Register of the ITU) for the assigned frequencies and slots.

Registration with the ITU ensures international recognition and protection for the assignments and enables a State to guarantee the smooth functioning of its communication services. In fact, registration with the ITU is a long and involved process, which is to be attained only by satisfying myriad national regulatory requirements and obtaining a license from the Federal Communications Commissions as a first step.

But it is one we should all embrace and be grateful for.  After all, it’s not every day we can watch Tom Brady win more Super Bowl rings than any other quarterback in the world, from nearly anywhere in the world.