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Malawi safeguards Sadc interests at global meeting

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Malawi is mobilising the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) to protect regional interests against rapid technological advances being discussed at a month-long radio-communication conference at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

On Monday, Malawi convened a meeting of Sadc delegates to whip up a regional response to proposals from interest groups on: use of radio frequencies to protect the public during disasters; flying of unmanned aircrafts in Sadc airspace and ensure that Sadc citizens do not lose out on fixed telephone operations to commercial satellite provisions.

Speaking when he chaired the regional meeting, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority Deputy Director of Spectrum Management, Jonathan Pinifolo, said Sadc had to come up with a consensus to be presented to the ITU plenary to ensure that its citizens get the best from advances in technology.

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“Agenda item 1.3 is calling on administrations to set aside spectrum for broadband Public Protection Disaster Relief [PPDR]. It is of great importance to note that common RF [radio frequency] spectrum will enable efficient deployment and will ease coordination and harmonisation between different PPDR agencies and will advance international aid during disasters and major events.

“The regional harmonisation will improve inter-operability among first responders and will drive suitable devices and standards dedicated to broadband PPDR. This will, therefore, increase the safety and security of the public,” Pinifolo told the meeting.

Malawi’s stand follows the use of telecommunications equipment during devastating floods that hit the country in January this year, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

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On flying of unmanned aircrafts in the Sadc airspace, he said that while countries such as the United States of America and Canada are pushing for such a move in non-segregated airspace, Sadc is against the idea.

“This could endanger lives of travellers. Africa is also against the idea and it is recommending a ‘no change’ to radio regulations on this agenda item. The benefit of no change to Malawi is that the safety of passenger flights will be guaranteed,” he said.

Pinifolo also said Sadc is against a proposal to give up some fixed frequencies, which are used by mobile operators, for the benefit of satellite providers.

“Much as there are new telecommunication services coming into play, several administrations are making sure that the existing services in the bands that these new services will operate are protected. We have to ensure that the new services shall not cause harmful interference to existing or planned stations operating in the band.

“The critical frequency band is the 7/8GHz band where there are extensive deployments of point to point links in Malawi by many mobile network operators and internet service providers. This interest cut across many African countries and this is an issue of concern to the African Telecommunication Union,” he said.

He also said governments in the Sadc region get substantial revenue from mobile network operators, arguing that protecting microwave links will ensure revenue which greatly contribute to national economies.

Speaking when he opened the main conference, ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao,said the conference was geared to define new and better ways to regulate radio services and applications.

“In a world where radio-communications are playing a more and more important role in connecting people, I am convinced that the outcome of the conference will represent a major contribution in making the world a better place for all,” he said.

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