23 Nov 2023
by Michael Charles Borrelli, Sean Donald John Musch

WRC and the UK: Navigating AI’s wireless frontier

Guest blog from AI & Partners as part of our WRC 23 Series #ITUWRCtechUK

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The World Radiocommunication Conference (“WRC”) stands as a crucial event on the international technology landscape, with implications that stretch beyond its immediate radiocommunication focus. The United Kingdom (“UK”), in particular, has a vested interest in the outcomes of WRC, given its significant impact on various sectors and, notably, the pressing issue of artificial intelligence (“AI”) and the implications of the European Union (“EU”) AI Act (the “EU AI Act”). 

WRC and the UK: An Overview 

The relevance of the WRC to the UK cannot be overstated. As a forum where global radio spectrum allocations are discussed and decided, the outcomes directly affect the ability of UK industries and organizations to access and use specific frequency bands and satellite orbits. 

While the WRC may seem far removed from the realm of cutting-edge technology and artificial intelligence, the reality is quite the opposite. The decisions made at these conferences have a profound impact on technological advancement, and more recently, on AI development and deployment. The primary reason behind this connection is the growing dependence of AI systems on wireless communication, making spectrum allocation a matter of utmost importance. 

AI in the Age of Connectivity 

In the digital age, AI systems are increasingly reliant on wireless connectivity to function effectively. Whether it's autonomous vehicles communicating with roadside infrastructure, the Internet of Things (“IoT”) devices sharing data, or the deployment of 5G networks, wireless communication is the lifeblood of the AI ecosystem. As the UK pushes to be at the forefront of AI innovation, ensuring adequate access to wireless spectrum is vital for this pursuit. 

The EU AI Act: A Matter of Global Significance 

The recent proposal of the EU AI Act raises complex questions about AI development, deployment, and regulation. It introduces new requirements and obligations for AI developers and users alike. In this context, the decisions of the WRC are not just a matter of radio spectrum management but become intrinsically linked to the implementation of the EU AI Act. 

The EU AI Act specifically references the importance of wireless communication for AI systems. It underlines that AI technologies need to operate in conformity with EU rules governing the use of radio frequencies and spectrum. This adds a layer of complexity to the regulatory landscape, which could potentially impact companies' ability to develop and deploy AI solutions. 

The UK Perspective: Navigating Challenges and Opportunities 

For the UK, the relevance of WRC in the context of the EU AI Act is twofold. On one hand, it represents a challenge, particularly for industries where AI plays a pivotal role. Ensuring compliance with both EU and international regulations related to wireless communication and AI systems can be a complex task. This challenge includes adapting existing systems to meet new requirements, securing the necessary radio spectrum for AI operations, and achieving seamless cross-border compliance. 

However, the WRC is not just about challenges. It also presents a significant opportunity for the UK to shape the global agenda for wireless communication and AI systems. Active engagement in the discussions at WRC allows the UK to influence international decisions that can benefit its thriving technology sector. By advocating for policies that facilitate AI innovation and ensure fair access to wireless spectrum, the UK can foster an environment conducive to technological advancement. 

As the world collectively grapples with the implications of the EU AI Act and its impact on AI deployment, the role of the UK in the WRC is paramount. It offers the opportunity to ensure that the voice of UK industries is heard and considered in global radio spectrum allocation decisions. This involvement can significantly affect the ability of companies to harness the full potential of AI technology and to meet the requirements of a rapidly evolving regulatory landscape. 

In conclusion, the relevance of the WRC to the UK extends beyond radio spectrum management. It directly affects the ability of the UK to navigate the complexities of the EU AI Act, shaping the future of AI development and deployment in the country. The UK's active engagement in the WRC discussions is essential to secure the interests of its technology sectors, ensuring that they can continue to innovate and thrive in the evolving AI landscape.  

The outcomes from WRC-23 and prospectus for WRC-27 will be a key topic for the flagship UK SPF Future Spectrum Summit. Be part of the conversation and register here.

To find out more about our WRC 2023 Series, click here. If you would like to contribute, please reach out to [email protected].


Michael Charles Borrelli

Co-CEO/COO, AI & Partners

Sean Donald John Musch

Co-CEO/CFO, AI & Partners