International Institute of Space Law

Article

Dispute Settlement and Decision Making in Relation to the Scarce Orbit-Spectrum Resource

‘Preventive’ and ‘Reactive’ ITU Procedures and Their Relevance for Private Sector Actors

Keywords ITU, Dispute Settlement, Spectrum Management, Private Actors
Authors Simona Spassova
Author's information

Simona Spassova
Simona Spassova is Faculty Advisor to the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Team and a legal consultant for the International Finance Corporation.
  • Abstract

      The exploration and sustainable use of outer space is dependent, not only upon technological developments and capital investments, but also on the availability of the spectrum-orbit resource for the associated relevant radio communications. Even though the electromagnetic spectrum is a non-exhaustible resource, it is a limited and finite one. The increased number of actors and activities in space – both current and planned- is putting a strain on the coordination and allocation processes for available spectrum as well as on the subsequent observance of the international requirements in this respect. Hence, this paper focuses on the way geostatic positions are assigned and frequencies - allocated on an international level. These are complicated and highly time-consuming processes, involving technical and engineering expertise, coordination, compromise and some diplomacy too. On a global level these negotiations are done within the framework of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and spectrum/orbital positions can only be assigned to sovereign member states. At the same time, more and more satellite communication operators nowadays are private commercial entities, even if, licensed and supervised by their respective national administrations. The aim of this article is two-fold. First, it will examine the ways disputes related to the allocation and use of the spectrum resources are handled within the framework of the ITU. It identifies ‘preventive’ and ‘reactive’ efforts to settle disputes within the framework of the organization. In other words: what is the ITU doing to prevent the potential for conflict and what measures does it offer for resolution once a conflict has occurred? Different means of dispute resolution - will be examined together with the associated advantages. Secondly, the article will also analyse the role of private operators and not only Member States administrations in these processes. The ITU brings together also Sector members from the industry and in doing so, it for provides for multistakeholder discussion. Arguably, as the oldest UN agency, the Union is remarkably fast and adept when responding to technological challenges and considering the needs of the private sector. Is this so also when disputes are at stake, whereby private operators are not an official party?

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