PARIS — The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the indispensable rampart against orbital-slot and radio-spectrum chaos. But its actions often combine the worst of the United Nations with the habits of a secret society.

Radio frequencies are more coveted than ever, with heated battles between terrestrial-wireless and satellite network operators. Multiple satellite constellations are seeking global licenses for spectrum used by existing services. This makes the ITU’s job of preventing interference and assuring equitable spectrum allocation ever-more complex even as its rulings become crucial to national economies.

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