10 things you didn’t know rely on the ITU Radio Regulations

10 things you didn’t know rely on the ITU Radio Regulations

In early 2020 the latest edition of the ITU Radio Regulations was published.

When it comes to allocating radio frequencies, the Radio Regulations are the ultimate tool. They ensure that the use of the radiofrequency spectrum is rational, equitable, efficient, and economical — all while aiming to prevent harmful interference between different radio services.

But did you know just how many technologies rely on spectrum, and by extension, the Radio Regulations — some of which we use every day? Read on to discover some of the most important tools and activities that rely on a wellregulated radiofrequency spectrum.


Whether terrestrial (analogue or digital) or satellitebased, broad cast television is among the most popular means of informing and entertaining the public. Even if  the end user’s TV is connected via  terrestrial broadcast TV or cable, a substantial amount of TV content has been distributed by satellite, which relies on the use of the radiofrequency spectrum.

Despite the rise of digital radio, broadcast radio remains one of the most vital means of distributing information and entertainment. This is especially true across the African continent, where it has been argued that “FM radio reigns king of the media industry.”

Cellular communications have been transformative since the mid1980s to the present, and are expected to continue connecting people, things, data, applications, transport systems and cities in smart networked communication environments.  Advances in cellular technology are expected to transport huge amounts of data much faster, reliably connect an extremely large number of devices and process very high volumes of data with minimal delay.

Most wireless Internet access happens through WiFi, which nowadays can be found in every computer and in all smartphones for setting up private access points. Radio local area networks (RLANs) including WiFi have been widely used for Internet connectivity, data delivery and for offloading mobile traffic to reduce the amount of data carried on cellular networks. In addition, satellite services aim at increasing WiFi connectivity, whether by providing access to broadband communications to unserved rural communities, or to passengers on aircrafts, on ships and on land, or by expanding the back haul of terrestrial networks.

There is no space exploration without radiocommunications. Spacecraft couldn’t make it to the Moon, let alone the Sun, Saturn or beyond without the means of communicating with mission controls millions of miles away. And that communication happens through — you guessed it — radio waves!

Radiocommunications play a key role in the safety of maritime traffic. The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and ITU operates using both terrestrial and satellite radio technologies on board ships and on shore. The system alerts shorebased rescue and communication personnel via the coast radio station in cases of distress and emergency and notifies vessels in the vicinity of survivors to provide the necessary assistance.

It would be virtually impossible to travel safely by air without protecting the radio channels used by aircraft for both navigation and air traffic control. The Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) addresses all phases of flight under all circumstances, including at times of distress. It maintains an uptodate record of each aircraft’s position and, in case of a crash, forced landing or ditching, the locations of survivors, the aircraft and recoverable flight data recorders. The GADSS was modelled after the longstanding GMDSS which has been supporting safety at sea for decades.

Checked the weather before you went out today? That information came to you thanks to Earthobservation satellites, which enable the forecast that will affect your day. Earth observation is also essential in measuring the impact of climate change — the impacts of which we are experiencing more often in our daily lives. Measuring its impact is key to the future of humankind. Those measurements also depend on Earthobservation satellite systems, powered by the radiofrequency spectrum.

Did you use the navigation system in your car on your last road trip? Then you have used a GNSS system (see video), which makes it possible to determine your car’s position, and to track it as it moves from one location to another. GNSS also enables the creation of world maps, as well as the possibility to take precise time measurements.

Radio goes where newer technologies often cannot. This makes it extremely effective in delivering information to rural and remote areas, which can even save lives in emergency situations such as earthquakes, or the current COVID19 pandemic. Radio has also played a key role in the Australian bushfire response, helping responders to keep local populations uptodate and coordinate and execute evacuation plans.