ITU’s ‘Handbook for Monitoring Stations’ turns 50: A brief history

ccirThe 150th anniversary of ITU coincided with another important milestone in ITU’s history: 50 years ago, the XIth Plenary Assembly of the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR, the predecessor of part of today’s ITU-R Radiocommunication Sector) (Oslo, 1966) adopted a Resolution on developing the first ITU handbook which was to bear the title “Handbook for Monitoring Stations”.

That marked the beginning of work in ITU to provide administrations with practical guidelines which, unlike CCIR Recommendations and reports on important but disparate aspects of a given radiocommunications topic, would include systematic and detailed information on specific areas of radiocommunications.

Responsibility for development of the handbook lay with the CCIR Study Group VIII (Monitoring), which, together with Study Group I (Transmitters) and Study Group II (Receivers) set about preparing the necessary material. In order to expedite publication of finished chapters without waiting for all 19 mandated chapters (see Table below) to be completed, the CCIR Secretariat was instructed to issue the handbook in loose-leaf form!

The full version of more than 500 pages was finally completed in 1979.

The table below shows the layout of the first edition of the Handbook for Monitoring Stations, with the year of publication of each chapter.

Turns 50 table.PNG

The Handbook was used in this format until 1982.

Given the need to update the Handbook to keep pace with the development of new terrestrial and space radiocommunication systems and improvements in monitoring technology, it was decided that a new Chapter 20 should be added: “Monitoring of radio emissions from spacecraft at fixed monitoring stations”.

Despite the apparent simplicity of the task, the process of updating was very time-consuming for various reasons, the new edition was published only in 1988 as a standard format book of 436 pages.

Early 1990s: Fundamental changes spur major revisions

The publication of this edition coincided with fundamental changes in the field of spectrum management and radiocommunication systems development.

At the beginning of the 1990s, significant changes in regulation in a number of ITU Member States, privatization of radiocommunication enterprises, and advances in the development of digital radiocommunication systems based on novel modulation methods and solid-state technology, led to sustained and rapid growth in demand for radio frequencies and thus created a need for improved spectrum monitoring. Monitoring technology underwent far‑reaching computerization and automation, so that a fundamental revision of the Handbook became urgently needed.

The next edition, which was now entitled “Handbook on Spectrum Monitoring”, appeared in 1995, following work by a special Group of Experts of Working Party 1C set up by Study Group 1.

The layout of this edition was significantly improved compared to its predecessor. General and organizational issues were set out in the first two chapters, “Purpose of spectrum monitoring” and “Monitoring stations”. Measurement of all emission parameters, as well as direction finding and location, were dealt with in the third chapter, “Measurements”. The fourth chapter, “Special monitoring systems and procedures”, was devoted to monitoring of specific radio systems, which for the first time included cellular and personal communication systems as well as microwave communication links. The fifth chapter, “Technical procedures”, dealt with various auxiliary procedures and elements including maps, calculation of intermodulation components and harmonics, global positioning systems, and so on. Annex 1 contained planning guidance for radio monitoring system conception, and Annex 2 dealt with industry capabilities for spectrum management and monitoring.

An ITU ‘best seller’

The 1995 edition took the form of a standard format book of 442 pages, with a separate 16-page booklet  containing advertising for the firms listed in Annex 2. This was ITU’s first experiment with advertising in a handbook. Revenue from the advertisements made it possible to reduce the cost of the Handbook to CHF 50 per copy, and the 1995 edition was an ITU “best seller” for a number of years.

Subsequent editions in 2002 (585 pages), with a Supplement in 2008 (194 pages) and 2011 (659 pages), retained the basic structure of the 1995 edition, although the material content was considerably enhanced and supplemented to reflect the ongoing development of radio systems and of monitoring systems and equipment. Around 3000 copies of the 1995, 2002 and 2011 editions have been sold as of 16 February 2016. The 2011 edition with other relevant information is available free of charge in electronic form from the following ITU site:

Since 1995, the Handbook has been published in all six ITU languages (English, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and French).

The authors of this article were actively involved in drafting the text of the Handbook between 1988 and 2011.

pavlyukDr. Alexander Pavlyuk (Russian Federation), Dean of ITU-R’s Study Group 1 on Spectrum Management. He has worked in the ITU spectrum management field throughout the last third of ITU’s 150-year-old history!



nalbandianAlbert Nalbandian (Armenia), Chairman of the Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications (RCC) Working Group on preparation for the World Radiocommunication Conference-19/Radiocommunication Assembly-19. Since 1976, he has participated in ITU studies on radiocommunications.

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