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Australian Radio Amateurs Denied Access to 60 Meters


After considering several options for a 5 MHz amateur allocation, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has come down in favor of national government interests. Following a formal consultation (a “proceeding” in FCC parlance), ACMA has decided not to permit ham operation on the 5351.5 – 5366.5 kHz band. The 15 kHz-wide band was allocated to the amateur service on a secondary basis in 2017, but as ACMA explained, “unresolved sharing issues” prevented ham radio use of the band, operated on by more than 500 other licensed services (mostly land mobile and aeronautical services), as well as by the Australian military.

Options ranged from Australia-wide access to the whole band or part of the band, to a segmented or channelized amateur allocation, to no amateur access. ACMA decided that national defense and security use of the allocation were “of high importance” in determining maximum public benefit and decided on the last option.

“In balancing Defence’s existing use of the 5351.5 – 5366.5 kHz band against the impacts of introducing use by the amateur service, the ACMA has decided not to support amateur use in the band,” the agency said. “Public and non-public submissions from the Department of Defence showed that expanding the use of the 5351.5 – 5366.5 kHz band to potentially several thousand amateur operators could impact important radiocommunications operations. The ACMA recognizes the high level of interest shown by the amateur community in adding this band and understands there will be disappointment. However, we are confident the decision is appropriate and consistent with the objects of the Radiocommunications Act. In particular, this includes supporting defence and national interest objectives.”

Australia’s International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member-society, the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA), argued for amateur access to 5351.5 – 5365 kHz as a compromise. A WIA survey showed most Australian radio amateurs preferred that choice. WIA noted that because the band was agreed upon at World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 on a shared secondary basis, as well as allowing low-power, such as 15 W EIRP (effective isotropic radiated power) operation, “amateur radio operators in over 80 countries around the world have been granted access to the band, including many of our near Pacific neighbors, New Zealand and Indonesia.”

“Australian amateur operators therefore have a strong desire to be able to commence communications on this band with these countries,” WIA concluded. Two spot 5 MHz frequencies are allocated to the Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network (WICEN) “to provide emergency and safety communications.”

Radio amateurs in New Zealand lost access to 60 meters in late October. Use of this band by radio amateurs was provisional, allowing hams to use two frequencies in the band — 5353.0 kHz and 5362.0 kHz — as part of a trial.

In the US, ARRL proposed amateur access to the band in a 2017 Petition for Rule Making, seeking a new, contiguous secondary band at 5 MHz to the Amateur Radio Service. ARRL also asked the Commission to retain shared access to four of the current five 60-meter channels (one would be within the new band) as well as the current operating rules, including the 100 W PEP (peak envelope power) effective radiated power (ERP) limit. The federal government is the primary user of the 5 MHz spectrum. So-called “interoperability” frequencies in the band have been shared by amateur and federal government entities such as Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) during exercises and actual emergencies.

Information on US amateur access to 60 meters is available on the ARRL website. — Thanks to The 5 MHz Newsletter Editor Paul Gaskell, G4MWO