Every Radio Amateur Knows that Spectrum Defense Matters
The second edition for 2011 of Spectrum Defense Matters -- a newsletter aimed at keeping ARRL members updated on issues related to the protection of Amateur Radio frequencies -- was recently released on the ARRL website. This newsletter covers both domestic and international topics related to the Amateur Radio spectrum. Your financial support is vital to continue the ARRL’s work to protect your operating privileges. You can help protect these privileges by contributing generously to the 2011 ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund.
Defending spectrum means protecting the way each of us chooses to enjoy Amateur Radio. It is important to have VHF/UHF allocations when radio amateurs are called upon to provide support during communications emergencies. But Amateur Radio is primarily a personal radio service where licensees have great latitude to develop their skills, experiment to broaden their knowledge base, serve their communities and to simply have fun.
Below are some of the Spectrum Defense items that the ARRL is working on and are featured in this issue of Spectrum Defense Matters:
Planning for WRC-12
The next ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12) is just four months away. The United States has sent its proposals off to Geneva, including a secondary allocation for the Amateur Radio Service at 461-469 and 471-478 kHz. A number of other administrations in the Americas have signed on. Other possibilities that have the support of some administrations include 472-487 kHz and narrower allocations within the 461-487 kHz frequency range.
“We are grateful for the support and hopeful that the conference will reach consensus on a new amateur allocation in this range,” said ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ. “Amateur Radio’s global participation in WRC-12 preparations has been coordinated through the International Amateur Radio Union and has succeeded not only in building support for this new allocation, but in staving off negative impacts on existing amateur bands. Of course, it is still too early to claim that our defense has been entirely successful; that time, if it comes, will be at the final gavel on February 17, 2012.”
Sumner explained that preparing draft agendas for future WRCs is major undertaking: “While an agenda item to consider additional allocations to the Amateur or Amateur Satellite Services may be too much to hope for at the next conference after WRC-12, the IARU will pursue whatever opportunities may arise and will be alert for threatening agenda items. One topic that is bound to arise is the perceived need for additional mobile wireless broadband allocations.”
HF Oceanographic Radar
In an unexpected and unfortunate proposal to WRC-12, the United States has proposed to allocate 5250-5450 kHz to the radiolocation service to accommodate HF oceanographic radars to partially satisfy Agenda Item 1.15. Among other things, this Agenda Item “consider[s] possible allocations in the range 3-50 MHz to the radiolocation service for oceanographic radar applications.”
ARRL Chief Technology Officer Brennan Price, N4QX, noted that the ultimate outcome of Agenda Item 1.15 is still far from certain: “In fact, it’s hard to say that there is consensus on HF oceanographic radar at this time, as no other country has signed on to the United States’ approach . In short, there’s ample room for persuasion, and that’s what we’re charged to do.”
The proposal was made despite earlier contributions to the preparatory process acknowledging that frequency sharing with Amateur Radio “seems to be difficult.” Domestically, the United States has allocated five discreet channels in this range to the Amateur Radio Service on a secondary basis. Similar domestic allocations to Amateur Radio have been made by other countries in the frequency range.
Historically, interference between HF oceanographic radar and the Amateur Radio Service has been rare; however, ARRL volunteers and staff have collaborated this year with oceanographic researchers to resolve two cases of interference from HF oceanographic radar to Amateur Radio (click here and here for more information).
Congress and the FCC have been grappling with the issue of how best to provide the public safety community, and particularly First Responders, with an interoperable broadband wireless network. One way is to allocate additional spectrum in the 700 MHz band for this purpose, but that would require taking it off the auction block and foregoing revenue that was to go toward reducing the federal deficit.
In February Representative Peter King (R-NY-3) introduced a bill -- HR 607, the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011 -- that calls for Public Safety to give up its entire spectrum allocations between 170 MHz and 512 MHz and for that spectrum to be auctioned instead. Inexplicably, the bill included 420-440 MHz in this category, even though it is not a public safety band and it is heavily used by amateurs on a secondary basis to military radar. The ARRL and its members responded vigorously to this threat. On May 25, ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, was invited to testify before the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and drove home the point that the concept is fundamentally flawed.
HR 607 is not the only bill that addresses the interoperable broadband issue. There are other bills under consideration in both the House and Senate, none of which contain the dubious 420-440 MHz provision. Representative King reportedly has backed away from this aspect of his own bill, but strange things can happen within legislation, right up to final passage. The ARRL will continue to monitor developments in the committees of jurisdiction in both the House and Senate and will do everything possible to prevent the very worthwhile idea of improving communications for First Responders from having unintended and unnecessary negative consequences for Amateur Radio.
IARU Establishes Spectrum Futures Committee
The Administrative Council (AC) of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) held its annual meeting in Sun City, South Africa, immediately after the IARU Region 1 Conference. While final preparations for WRC-12 were the main theme of the meeting, longer range issues also received attention.
A major international dilemma that has faced radio amateurs for decades is that -- with two regional exceptions -- all of the amateur allocations between 148 MHz and 24 GHz are on a secondary basis. The two exceptions are 220-225 MHz (a primary allocation in Region 2 that is not available to amateurs elsewhere) and 430-440 MHz (a primary allocation in Region 1 and eight countries in Region 2). Primary does not mean exclusive; in both cases, there are other services with primary allocations. In the case of 220- 225 MHz, the FCC decided to divide the band between two services, with the upper 60 percent allocated to the Amateur Radio Service and the lower 40 percent allocated to Land Mobile.
The wireless broadband explosion is generating tremendous pressure on the existing radio services with allocations in the frequency range that is most useful for highly portable devices. At the lower end of this frequency range, the limiting factor is antenna size while at the upper end, the limiting factor is how well signals penetrate buildings and foliage. The “sweet spot” for mobile wireless broadband is between about 600 MHz and about 4 GHz, although services above and below that range also face indirect pressure from displaced services that must be accommodated elsewhere.
While mobile wireless broadband generates the most attention, there are many other ways that the use of the radio spectrum above 148 MHz is expanding -- all the way up to where wavelengths are measured in millimeters. Amateur use of the bands above 24 GHz is limited at present, but the IARU wants to be sure that experimentation can continue.
With these challenges in mind, the AC has established a Spectrum Futures Committee to develop strategies for retaining access to bands above 148 MHz for the Amateur and Amateur Satellite Services globally. The committee will review current IARU policies, seek input from stakeholders and formulate recommendations to the AC. It is chaired by IARU Vice President Ole Garpestad, LA2RR, with regional representation by Murray Niman, G6JYB, ARRL Chief Technology Officer Brennan Price, N4QX, and John Martin, VK3KM.
You and the ARRL -- Helping to Protect Our Amateur Radio Spectrum
For 2011, the ARRL set a goal of raising $350,000 to support its efforts to defend Amateur Radio frequencies and operating privileges. “Members tell us that ARRL’s representation of their interests is one of the most important benefits of being an ARRL member,” said ARRL Chief Development Officer Mary Hobart, K1MMH. “And we are proud to be your voice in official Washington and around the world. But we need you to support ARRL financially. We are more than three-quarters through 2011, yet the Spectrum Defense Fund is far from fully funded for the year. The fund still needs $171,286 to reach its 2011 target by December 31. I am sure you are aware of the challenges to our spectrum that Amateur Radio has faced over the years, from Little LEOs to BPL. Without the Spectrum Defense Fund to support ARRL’s work both at home and abroad, we might find ourselves in a very different place today. Loss of spectrum would certainly impact our ability to respond to disasters such as the tornadoes this year in Alabama and Missouri, and our response to Hurricane Irene in late August. Whatever your passion in Amateur Radio -- contesting, chasing DX, emergency response or QRP -- it could be affected if any spectrum is lost.”
If you value the Amateur Radio spectrum, please help the ARRL protect this valuable resource. For a $50 contribution to the Spectrum Defense Fund, you will receive a beautiful 2011 Spectrum Defense pin that you can wear with pride, knowing you are doing your part to help to protect your on-air privileges. With a donation of $100, you will not only receive the pin, but also a 2011 Spectrum Defense mug.
“Please make a generous contribution to the Spectrum Defense Fund by mail, on the web or by phone,” Hobart said. “Perhaps you’ll consider a very easy way to contribute by pledging $10 or $20 or $100 a month. Your financial commitment, over and above your annual dues, will ensure that the ARRL has the resources to represent you and protect your operating frequencies.” To make a donation via mail, please send it to Spectrum Defense Fund, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111. To make a contribution over the phone, or to discuss other giving options, please call 860-594-0397.