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FCC Invites Comments on Proposed Rules for New LF and MF Amateur Allocations

07/02/2015

The FCC is inviting comments on its recent proposals to authorize Amateur Radio operation on two new bands -- an LF allocation at 135.7 to 137.8 kHz (2200 meters), and an MF allocation at 472-479 kHz (630 meters). Amateur Radio would be secondary on both bands. Comments are due August 31. Reply comments -- ie, comments on comments filed -- are due by September 30. The FCC allocated 135.7 to 137.8 kHz to the Amateur Service in accordance with the Final Acts of the 2007 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07). The proposed new allocation at 472 to 479 kHz would implement decisions made at WRC-12.

“The Commission is proposing service rules for the Amateur Service in the 135.7-137.8 kHz and 472-479 kHz bands with the principal goal of enabling sharing of this spectrum among licensed amateur stations and unlicensed PLC systems,” the FCC said on April 27 in a 257-page Report and Order, Order, and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The combined proceeding addresses three dockets -- ET-12-338, ET-15-99, and IB-06-123 -- affecting various radio services in addition to the Amateur Service. The detailed proposals appeared in The Federal Register on July 2.

Amateur Radio stations are not permitted in either band until the FCC adopts, on the basis of comments, specific technical and operational Part 97 rules. Power line carrier (PLC) systems operated by utilities to control the power grid already operate under Part 15 of the FCC rules in both frequency ranges, particularly the lower of the two.

With respect to the new 630 meter band, the FCC has concluded that Amateur Radio and PLC systems “can successfully coexist in the band,” and noted that there has been no reported interference to PLC operation resulting from experimental operations there. The FCC said PLC systems and anticipated Amateur Radio use of both 630 meters and 2200 meters “have characteristics that make coexistence possible.” In general, the FCC wants to hear from the public regarding power limits, antenna placement and height, and geographical limitations for operation in the proposed LF and MF allocations. The FCC has said that the “cornerstone” of the technical rules it’s proposing for both bands is “physical separation between amateur stations and the transmission lines” carrying PLC signals.

The FCC has said that if it concludes, after considering the record, that Amateur Radio and PLC systems cannot coexist on 135.7-137.8 kHz, it would “defer the adoption of service rules, and amateur users will have to continue to use the experimental licensing process to operate in the band.”

In 2012, the ARRL submitted a Petition for Rule Making asking the FCC to allocate 472-479 kHz to the Amateur Service on a secondary basis and to amend the Part 97 rules to provide for its use. Several countries, including Canada, already have access to the band.

The FCC said the addition of the new LF and MF allocations “would provide new opportunities for amateur operators to experiment with equipment, techniques, antennas, and propagation phenomena but with signals having larger bandwidth and higher power.”

In addition, the FCC has raised the secondary Amateur Service allocation at 1900 to 2000 kHz to primary, while providing for continued use by currently unlicensed commercial fishing vessels of radio buoys on the “open sea.” The Commission is seeking comment on technical requirements to govern operation of the Part 80 radio buoys.

Interested parties may submit comments, identified by ET Docket No 15-99, via the FCC Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS). The ARRL will file comments in this proceeding.



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