African Leaders Hold Meeting to Prepare for World Radiocommunications Conference

Nigerian Communications Commission Develops Draft Guidelines For Use Of TV White Spaces In Nigeria
Tony Stoddard via Unsplash

The African Telecommunications Union (ATU) held preparatory meetings between August 3, 2020, and August 7, 2020, to discuss plans for the forthcoming 2023 World Radiocommunications Conference (APM-1 for WRC-23). 

Cameroon was the host for the meeting, which served as an opportunity to examine the process and plans of the continent towards a unified WRC-23 preparatory work plan which includes; institutional arrangements, key events and milestones, expectations and role of regions and membership and align the same with the ATU preparatory work plan for the forum.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting couldn’t hold physically and had to be done over the internet. Speaking during the opening forum, Cameroon’s telecommunication and posts Minister, Libom Li Likeng lamented the conditions that have forced the Union to hold the forum virtually and urged members to respond to the needs of radiocommunication in Africa. 

Mrs Likeng mentioned that “we need to develop common statutes as members of the Union and invest in ICT infrastructure towards developing our capacity to handle our common needs.”

One of the reasons for the meeting was to appoint new leadership for the ATU WRC-23 working groups while also celebrating the efforts of the preceding WRC-19 whose success saw over 3400 participants representing 163 member states and 129 organizations in the global event.

WRC-19 created an opportunity for new technologies such as IMT 2020 (5G), high altitude platforms and a large constellation of non-geostationary sachets.

On the goals for the WRC-23, the ATU Secretary-General, John Omo said that “outcomes of WRC-23 will accelerate the digital transition of economies and industries and digital inclusion of millions of people throughout the continent.” He added that resolutions made at the forum will provide ground for the implementation of the ATU strategic plan relating to radiocommunication, as well as the African Union COVID-19 action plan.

The ATU responsively encompasses a strategy for the introduction of digital sound broadcasting in Africa as part of a joint initiative of ATU and ITU to optimize the plan that regulates the use of FM sound broadcasting section in Africa and Europe, named as the Geneva 84 plan.

The APM-1 for WRC-23 also saw other thematic areas addressed including the role of satellites in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa together with the need for forging 5G ecosystem for future satellites. Speaking on the COVID-19 situation, EMEA Satellite Operator’s (ESOA) representative, Natalia Vincente, applauded the fact that satellite broadcasting is being used to ensure connectivity of schools for children, with many operators partnering with their governments to broadcast educational content on dedicated channels.

As a result, connectivity requirements have also increased across multiple countries in Africa and for humanitarian missions including NGOs and United Nation agencies.

At the end of the event, delegates started planning for the next meeting, tagged APM23-2, and agreed to have it in Benin, West Africa, either physically or virtually depending on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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