ITU Taking Steps To Verify Satellite Slot Compliance

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NAPLES, Italy — The international body charged with regulating access to satellite orbital slots and broadcast frequencies has opened a dialogue with satellite tracking station owners to verify satellite operators’ respect for the rules, a regulatory official said Oct. 2.

The effort is not expected to put real teeth into the regulatory power of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), at least not in the short term. But ultimately it could at least permit the Geneva-based organization to see whether satellites registered on its books are actually where their government sponsors say they are.

“We are discussing an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with satellite monitoring stations to involve them in helping us track [signal] interference among geostationary satellites, and to help with verification that satellites are in fact in operation,” said Yvon Henri, chief of the ITU’s space services department.

In an address here at the 63rd International Astronautical Congress, Henri said the ITU currently has no means to verify that satellites are stationed at the slots to which they are assigned in the ITU’s Master International Frequency Registry.

“We do not have the means now, but we are working on ways we can have the means,” Henri said. “So if they say to a nation, ‘There is no satellite,’ this can be the start of tightening the rules. It is a long-term approach, but I hope that in a few years we will see results.”

The ITU in recent years has begun to take steps to assure that so-called paper satellites — those existing in the registry but nowhere else — are scrubbed from the books to make room on the geostationary arc for real satellite networks.