32nd Meeting of Working Group f of the Frequency Spectrum Management Panel (fsmp)

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International Civil Aviation Organization

32nd Meeting of Working Group F of the Frequency Spectrum Management Panel (FSMP)

(Cairo, Egypt, 18-24 February 2015)

Global Flight Tracking – 1090MHz frequency protection between Aircraft and Space

(Presented by IATA)


The current ITU frequency allocation (1090 MHz) only protects the 1090MHz frequency

between aircraft and ground and does not protect the 1090 MHz between the aircraft and space. Considering the development of Space-Based ADS-B, ICAO should flag this as a safety issue. Therefore, States and ICAO should request protection for this frequency in the next WRC-15.


    1. ADS-B is a globally recognized and proven surveillance methodology and recent technical advances have led to the development of a ADS-B satellite constellation

    1. Space based ADS-B will have no line of sight restrictions and could provide global, pole to pole ADS-B coverage for all 1090 MHz ADS-B equipped aircraft. Space based ADS-B has potential to provide a complete real-time flight tracking and surveillance picture as far as the technology achieves all technical and operational requirements demanded by ICAO.


2.1 Recent events have highlighted the fact that direct surveillance of aircraft is not uniform. 
Almost all long-haul commercial passenger aircraft already carry Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) equipment.  ADS-B equipment constantly broadcasts the location of each aircraft on a radio channel centered at 1090 MHz, for reception by neighboring aircraft (to assist flight visibility) and by ground receivers (to assist precision air traffic control) when in range. The equipment is fitted to all new commercial aircraft, and ground stations are being deployed widely across the Middle East region.  Carriage of ADS-B equipment will become mandatory within Australian, European and North American airspace within 5 years.
2.2 Developments in satellite technology have resulted in systems that can receive the ADS-B broadcasts and relay them to air traffic controllers, extending coverage when out of range of ground receivers. An experimental system launched in 2013 has demonstrated the feasibility of the technology, and a fully functioning system is expected to be operational from 2017.

    1. A change needs to be made to the international frequency allocation at 1090 MHz to recognise the reception of the signals by satellites and to ensure its future protection. ICAO will also need to standardise procedures for use of satellite ADS-B and ensure its widespread adoption.

    2. Space-Based ADS-B has great potential to be used for ATS to decrease longitudinal and lateral separations. For this, the risk collision model needs to be assessed and approved by ICAO. Furthermore, ICAO should state its position for the possible use in remote, polar and oceanic areas even if all the features promised by NAV Canada are not achieved and fulfilled after running the RCM.

    1. Considering the loss of the Flight MH 370, the Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunication Union (Busan,2014), decided to include in the agenda items for the WRC-15, the matter of global flight tracking.

    1. Space-Based ADS-B could be considered one more prospective technology for global flight tracking.Despite the significant safety and efficiency benefits that these new systems could offer, some countries do not support changes to the international frequency allocation.  Given that reception of existing aircraft signals by satellite imposes no added burden on other users of radio spectrum as the frequency band is restricted by ICAO treaty to the operation of aeronautical systems.

    2. On the other hand, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Working Party 5B (WP 5B) is developing a report on reception of Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) via satellite and compatibility studies with other systems operating within the 1090 MHz band and with systems that may penetrate into the 1090 MHz. ITU requested ICAO some information about the receiver requirements for Space-Based ADS-B, including the protection criteria for the signal.


    1. At a time of heightened public awareness of the limitations of existing air traffic surveillance, it is imperative that the aviation industry clearly demonstrates its commitment to improving flight safety.

    1. IATA strongly requests the meeting to support the rapid adoption of the amendment to the international frequency allocation at the next upcoming ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2015, and to request State representatives through ICAO to provide their full support for this aim. 

3.2 The current ITU frequency allocation (1090 MHz) only protects the 1090MHz frequency between aircraft and ground and does not protect the 1090 MHz between the aircraft and space. ICAO should flag this as a safety issue and needs to request protection for this frequency.

3.3 In principle, there are no known technical reasons why this allocation should not be granted in 2015 as the frequency is already protected for ADS-B use worldwide. ITU has directed the World Radio Conference 2015 (WRC-15) to consider “global flight tracking” and its frequency needs – this is a unique opportunity to address the frequency allocation or protection.
3.4 The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is responsible for managing these frequencies, and has directed the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) to consider all aspects of global flight tracking. WRC-15 has the mandate to make such an allocation, and will be the best opportunity to ensure the rapid adoption of the new systems, and IATA requests ICAO to clearly indicate its support for this action.
3.5 The protection would apply to all providers of ADS-B services from space and would drive no costs for either ANSPs or airlines but rather enable additional capabilities and expand the benefits of existing ADS-B avionics to a much larger geographical area.
3.6 Failure to act now will mean that the following WRC (scheduled for 2019), will be the next opportunity to do so, thereby delaying the safety and efficiency improvements by at least four years.


The meeting is invited to:

                1. Endorse this Working Paper; and

                2. Recommend ICAO to assess the risk collision model for Space-Based ADS-B, for surveillance purposes, as well as to answer the technical questions issued by ITU concerning the reception of the ADS-B signal in the satellite constellation.

                3. Recommend ICAO to amend its position for the next WRC-15, including the support for the protection of the 1090 MHz between the aircraft and space.

                4. Support IATA’s request for State representatives to amend the international frequency allocation at the next upcoming ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 and to request urgent protection of the international frequency allocation at 1090 MHz applicable to all providers of ADS-B services from space;


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