FCC Seeks to Assign Entire Amateur Portion of 160 Meter Band to Primary Status to Amateur Radio Service, Proposes New LF Amateur Band at 135.7-137.8 kHz
On Tuesday, November 20, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ET Docket No. 12-338) that proposes to amend Parts 1, 2, 74, 78, 87, 90 and 97 of the Commission’s rules. Part 97 governs the Amateur Radio Service. These changes will implement allocation decisions from the 2007 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07) that concern those portions of the radio frequency spectrum between 108 MHz and 20.2 GHz and make certain updates to the rules in this frequency range.
Most of the NPRM does not concern the Amateur Radio Service, but the FCC is requesting comments on the three parts that do: changing the allocation to the amateur portion of the 160 meter band, allocating a new Amateur Service band at 135.7-137.8 kHz and cleaning up the rules for the 10.0-10.5 GHz band. Comments on these proposed rules changes will be accepted until 60 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register (this can take up to six weeks after release of the NPRM). Reply comments will be accepted until 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Allocation Changes to 160 Meter Band
The FCC is proposing to change the Amateur Radio Service allocation to the 160 meter band (1800-2000 kHz), reallocating the 1900-2000 kHz segment to the Amateur Radio Service on a primary basis. In the NPRM, the FCC noted that “the ARRL has identified the 160 meter band and the amateur HF bands as ‘[b]y far, the heaviest-used [Amateur Service] allocations.’”
Historically, the 1715-2000 kHz band was allocated exclusively to the Amateur Service. In 1953, the FCC removed the 1715-1800 kHz segment from the Amateur Radio Service and allocated the 1800-2000 kHz band to the Amateur Service on a shared basis with the Radionavigation Service. Then in 1983, the FCC allocated the 1800-1900 kHz band to the Amateur Service on an exclusive basis and the 1900-2000 kHz band to the Radiolocation Service on a primary basis for federal and non-federal use and to the Amateur Service on a secondary basis. The FCC stated that “[t]he purpose of allocating this band [1900-2000 kHz] to the Radiolocation Service was to provide reaccommodation spectrum for radiolocation users that will have to move out of the 1605-1705 kHz band when AM broadcasting is implemented in that band.” The AM broadcasting proceeding was resolved in 2000, and a review of the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS) database finds that no one is licensed to use this non-federal Radiolocation Service allocation.
Currently, federal use of the 1900-2000 kHz segment is light, with only 10 assignments authorized to operate in this segment. “A single federal assignment authorizes land and mobile stations in the Radiolocation Service to transmit on 1922 kHz using a necessary bandwidth of 600 Hz within a protected radius of 193 kilometers centered on San Diego, California,” the FCC noted in the NPRM. “All other federal assignments in the 1900-2000 kHz band are for unallocated uses, and thus, these assignments operate on an unprotected and non-interference basis.”
The FCC is proposing to amend the US Table of Allocations and remove the federal and non-federal Radiolocation Service allocations from the 1900-2000 kHz band and the raise the secondary Amateur Radio Service allocation to primary status because “there appear to be few (if any) Radiolocation Service stations operating in this band,” it said. “In addition, we note [from WARC-79] that ‘this [Radiolocation Service] allocation was made for reaccommodation purposes and not to provide additional spectrum for radiolocations needs,’ that the Commission has concluded its AM Expanded Band proceeding that would have prompted non-federal RLS licensees to relocate to the 1900-2000 kHz band and that this band was historically allocated to the Amateur Service on an exclusive basis.”
New Amateur Service Band at 135.7-137.8 kHz
In the US, the 130-160 kHz portion of spectrum is allocated to the Fixed Service and the Maritime Mobile Service on a primary basis for both federal and non-federal use. Delegates at WRC-07 allocated 135.7-137.8 kHz to the Amateur Radio Service in all ITU Regions on a secondary basis. Delegates also chose to restrict the use of this low frequency allocation to those Amateur Radio stations transmitting with a maximum equivalent isotropically radiated power (EIRP) of 1 W, as set forth in RR 5.67A.
Even though there are no non-federal stations in the Fixed Service or the Maritime Mobile Service that are licensed to operate at 135.7-137.8 kHz and federal use of this portion of spectrum is light, the FCC noted that electric utilities operate Power Line Carrier (PLC) systems in the 9-490 kHz band for “communications important to the reliability and security of electric service to the public.” In ET Docket No. 02-98, the FCC considered allocating the 135.7-137.8 kHz band to the Amateur Radio Service on a secondary basis and examined the potential for amateur transmissions to cause harmful interference to the PLC systems. At that time, however, the FCC declined to do so “after finding the potential for interference between amateur operations proposed at that time and the incumbent PLCs, and noting the importance of the PLC operations in helping maintain critical electric infrastructure.” The FCC noted the potential for some limited amateur operations in this band under individual experimental licenses and observed that such operations would “allow empirical data to be developed on the sharing possibilities in this band for future consideration.”
Now that 135.7-137.8 kHz is now allocated internationally to the Amateur Radio Service on a secondary basis in all ITU Regions, the FCC has concluded that “it is an appropriate time to re-examine the potential for shared Amateur Service-PLC use of this band.” It stated in the NPRM that it is seeking comments on whether 135.7-137.8 kHz band should be allocated to the Amateur Service on a secondary basis in accordance with RR 5.67A.
“Because PLC systems operating under Section 15.113 of the rules serve important functions, such as tripping protection circuits if a downed power line or other fault is detected in the power grid, we would only consider adding an amateur allocation if we were comfortable that Amateur Radio and utility PLC systems could successfully co-exist in this band,” it stated in the NPRM. “We seek comment on the advantages and disadvantages, and other costs and benefits associated with changing our rules. For example, what benefits might accrue to the Amateur Radio community? To what extent do utilities deploy PLC systems on distribution lines in the 9-490 kHz band under our Part 15 rules, and how would those operations be affected were we to add a new secondary amateur radio service allocation in this band? What specific actions would PLC systems operators need to take if there were a secondary amateur radio service allocation in the band, and what are the associated costs?”
In addition, the FCC stated that is looking for comments on the whether the concept of requiring individual amateur stations to be “quasi-coordinated” for fixed use at a specific location still holds merit. The FCC did not pursue this option in 2003. “Are there other steps, such as limiting operating privileges in this frequency band (e.g., to Amateur Extra Class licensees) that would better facilitate amateur use of the band?” the FCC asked. “We also seek comment on the relevance of studies that discuss the potential for in-band Amateur Service radio transmitters to operate compatibly with PLC systems in light of any developments since our 2003 decision. In particular, we seek comment on the appropriate maximum field strength level and minimum separation distance from PLC systems for secondary Amateur Service operations in this band.”
Cleaning Up the 10.0-10.5 GHz Band Rules
With the concurrence of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the FCC proposes to amend the Federal Table by revising the “10-10.45” GHz band and the reference to “G2” to read “10-10.5” and “G32,” respectively. In the WRC-07 Table Clean-up Order, the FCC combined the 10-10.45 GHz and 10.45-10.5 GHz bands in the Federal Table. In doing so, the frequency band was inadvertently not changed to 10-10.5 GHz. In addition, the reference to G32 was mistakenly changed to G2.
The FCC will also revise the text of three footnotes (US58, NG42, NG134) that pertain to the 10-10.5 GHz band. First, it will revise US58 by adding the existing Amateur-Satellite Service allocation to the list of permitted non-federal services in the 10-10.5 GHz band so that this footnote correctly lists all permitted non-federal services, and it will renumber this footnote in frequency order as US128. Second, it will combine the text of NG42 and NG134 (which require that non-federal stations in the Radiolocation Service not cause harmful interference to the Amateur Service in the 10-10.5 GHz band and that these stations not cause harmful interference to the Amateur-Satellite Service in the 10.45-10.5 GHz sub-band, respectively) and renumber the new footnote in frequency order as NG50.