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ARRL Files Petition with FCC against Experimental License Using 40 Meter Band

10/29/2008

On Monday, October 20, the ARRL filed a Petition for Modification or Cancellation of Experimental Authorization (Petition) with the FCC with respect to WE2XRH. According to the FCC, this experimental license -- issued to Digital Aurora Radio Technologies (DART) -- proposes to "test digital transmissions in 4.50-5.10 MHz, 7.10-7.60 MHz and 9.25-9.95 MHz for a terrestrial digital radio service to the citizens of Alaska."

The League's Petition states that DART's hopes that this experimentation "will lead to a terrestrial, high-frequency (HF) digital aural (domestic broadcast) service in Alaska. Ostensibly to study the operation of this 'shortwave' system at high latitudes, and apparently in order to roll out this domestic broadcast service, DART specifies exceptionally high power operation in various segments of the HF spectrum. ARRL's interest in this matter is limited to the fact that the experimental license includes the band 7.1 -7.3 MHz…allocated domestically exclusively to the Amateur Radio Service."

"It is astonishing that the FCC would grant this experimental license for operation at such a high power level in a band that is allocated exclusively to a service with which such operation is clearly incompatible," said ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ. "The only possible explanation is that it was an error; the only reasonable step for the FCC to take is to correct its error immediately, either by cancelling the license or by amending the frequency ranges to delete 7.1 -7.3 MHz."

It is the ARRL's view that "Simply stated, there is a 100 percent certainty of severe, continuous, harmful interference from operation of the DART facilities as authorized by the Commission to ongoing Amateur Radio operation at 7.1 to 7.3 MHz. This authorization must be modified immediately (if not cancelled completely), so as to delete the band 7.1-7.3 MHz" from DART's experimental license application.

The ARRL ascertains that DART has been permitted operation in the 7.1-7.6 MHz band using a 20 kHz bandwidth digital emission at a transmitter output power of 100 kW and an ERP of 660 kW within a radius of 1500 kilometers of Delta Junction, Alaska. In the Petition, ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, points out that while DART says it will coordinate with the High Frequency Coordination Conference (HFCC), "[i]t does not propose any coordination with any individual or entity in the Amateur Service. There is no showing whatsoever how DART proposes to avoid interference to Amateur Radio operation at 7.1-7.3 MHz. In fact, there is no indication that DART is even aware of the allocation."

Calling the 40 meter band "perhaps the most heavily-utilized Amateur HF band in the United States," the ARRL states that it can see "no compatible use that DART can make of this band in any state or territory of the United States, at any time of the day or night" and will cause "preclusive interference" to amateurs using that portion of the band. "The entire 7.0 - 7.3 MHz band is used heavily within Alaska, especially by radio amateurs located in its remotest areas, at all times. It is particularly critical in times of emergency due to its daytime and nighttime propagation characteristics. The band is also used at all times of the day and night for worldwide communications by radio amateurs."

The League's Petition points out that the FCC's Rules at Section 5.83(b) state that experimental license grants are subject to change or cancellation by the Commission at any time without hearing if in the Commission's discretion the need for such action arises: "ARRL submits that this application should never have been granted as applied for in the first place, and there is an urgent need to prohibit operation of the DART high power transmitters in the entirety of the 7.1-7.3 MHz band. It is likely that DART has been under a misapprehension that the band is among the international broadcast allocations, because, in ITU Regions 1 and 3, the band is allocated to that Service. However, in Region 2, in Alaska, it is not." After March 29, 2009, 7.1-7.2 MHz will not be available for broadcasting anywhere.

The League goes on to say that Section 5.85 of the Commission's Rules governs the selection and use of frequencies by holders of experimental authorizations and adamantly states that "there is no justification submitted by DART for the use of the frequency bands requested, particularly with respect to 7.1-7.3 MHz. It is unclear why such large segments of spectrum were specified by DART, given its stated course of experimentation, and given its narrow occupied bandwidth" and notes that DART "should have been required to conduct its frequency coordination efforts in advance of the filing of its application."

The ARRL contends that DART's proposed facility cannot meet the FCC's requirements, as outlined in the Commission's Rules, Section 5.111(a)(2), "and there is no showing that the transmitter power is the lowest practical value consistent with the program of experimentation. Nor has it even taken Amateur Radio operation into account." This portion of the Rules state that when transmitting, the experimental licensee "must use every precaution to ensure that the radio frequency energy emitted will not cause harmful interference to the services carried on by stations operating in accordance with the Table of Frequency Allocations of part 2 of this chapter and, further, that the power radiated is reduced to the lowest practical value consistent with the program of experimentation for which the station authorization is granted. If harmful interference to an established radio service develops, the licensee shall cease transmissions and such transmissions shall not be resumed until it is certain that harmful interference will not be caused."

Calling for DART's WE2XRH experimental license to "be cancelled entirely, or at least modified so as to delete the reference to any Amateur HF allocation," the ARRL reminded the FCC that DART failed to make any showing as to how it would avoid interference to Amateur radio operation at 7.1-7.3 MHz: "ARRL submits that such a showing could not be made in any case."



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