US Proposes WRC-12 Allocations for HF Radars


The ARRL and its partners in the IARU have been involved in the preparations for several items on the 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12) agenda. Agenda item 1.15 is “to consider possible allocations in the range 3-50 MHz to the radiolocation service for oceanographic radar applications.” Such radars have been in operation in coastal areas for many years, typically under experimental licenses.

Based on protection requirements for the Amateur Service that the IARU had arranged to be included in ITU documentation, the Conference Preparatory Meeting (CPM) Report for WRC-12 that was adopted in February concluded that sharing between oceanographic radars and the Amateur Service “seems to be difficult.” Sharing studies, therefore, focused on in-band compatibility in the bands used only by the fixed and/or land mobile services. The CPM Report offers three methods of satisfying the agenda item through various combinations of primary and secondary allocations, with the objective of satisfying the operational need for safety systems (e.g. for the detection of tsunamis) and providing for the operation of other systems while protecting other allocated services from harmful interference.

The CPM Report does not propose specific allocations for oceanographic radars, this being the prerogative of individual administrations who may submit proposals directly to the ITU or through their respective regional telecommunications organizations such as CITEL; however, the report does identify broad ranges of fixed/mobile spectrum where such allocations might be considered. None of these ranges overlap internationally allocated amateur bands.

In the United States, preparations for a World Radiocommunication Conference proceed along two parallel tracks. The FCC convenes a WRC Advisory Committee (WAC) to gather input from non-federal spectrum users and other interested parties. Several Informal Working Groups (IWGs) are established to address the wide range of agenda items. The ARRL participates fully in the WAC and relevant IWGs. At the same time, federal spectrum interests are addressed through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in the Department of Commerce. The FCC, NTIA and Department of State collaborate to develop US proposals based on the two preparatory streams.

In October 2010, the WAC completed its work on agenda item 1.15 and adopted draft proposals of allocations for radiolocation in the bands 4.440-4.500 MHz, 13.410-13.530 MHz, 13.870-13.990 MHz, 25.330-25.550 MHz, 26.200-26.420 MHz and 41.6-42.4 MHz. The allocations would be on a primary basis, but without the right to claim protection from interference from other primary services operating in the bands. This outcome was satisfactory to the ARRL. The WAC subsequently held its final meeting on April 19, 2011.

But in May 2011 -- following a consultative process that is as yet unclear -- the US submitted NTIA-developed proposals to CITEL, the regional telecommunications organization for the Americas, that are significantly different from the WAC proposals and affect more frequency bands, specifically 3.155-3.200 MHz, 4.438-4.650 MHz, 5.250-5.450 MHz, 13.410-13.570 MHz, 14.350-14.990 MHz, 25.330-25.550 MHz, 26.200-26.420 MHz, 41.015-41.665 MHz and 43.35-44.0 MHz. These allocations would be on a primary basis, but with a footnote that radiolocation stations may not cause harmful interference to, nor claim protection from, stations operating in the fixed and mobile services -- an odd provision, since this is the definition of a secondary, not a primary, service.

One aspect of these proposals is of concern to the ARRL: the inclusion of 5.250-5.450 MHz. While there is no international allocation to the Amateur Service in this band, the United States -- and a growing number of other countries -- have authorized limited amateur operations on a non-interference basis. In view of the sharing difficulties noted in the CPM Report, the ARRL would have raised its concern within the FCC preparatory process, had the NTIA proposals been made available to the WAC, as was the case with more timely NTIA proposals.

In a letter dated May 26, ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, expressed the League’s concern to S. Decker Anstrom, Head of the US Delegation to WRC-12. Her letter concludes: “We would appreciate the opportunity to contribute to improving the proposal through appropriate domestic processes in advance of its submission to the ITU.” A link to the letter is provided below.

While the inclusion of 5.250-5.450 MHz in the US proposals for radiolocation allocations is unfortunate, ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, observed that the proposed allocation has a long way to go before possible adoption in Geneva next year. While the ARRL works domestically to address the issue, the IARU will be doing the same through its Member-Societies in other countries and its relationships with regional telecommunications organizations. “For now, the best thing for concerned amateurs to do is to let matters run their course through the normal WRC preparatory processes,” he said.