Fragile Agreement for 5 MHz Amateur Allocation Clears First Hurdles at WRC-15


At World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15), in Geneva, consensus continues to shape up around a new 15 kHz-wide global secondary 60 meter Amateur Radio allocation at 5351.5-5366.5 kHz. On November 12, Conference Working Group 4B agreed to the global secondary allocation, with power limits designed to protect primary services from harmful interference. Sub Working Group (SWG) 4B1, chaired by Dale Hughes, VK1DSH, had presented its output document with two options, the other being no change — a position many administrations favored going into the conference. The current compromise making the allocation possible still must clear two more levels at the conference. This won’t happen until next week, and the issue is not final until it does. ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, who attended the conference briefly on behalf of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), congratulated the IARU team and the national delegates who advocated for the Amateur Service.

“Assuming that the fragile agreement continues to hold, this will be the first entirely new HF allocation since 1979,” he said. “While we would have preferred more, anyone who understands what our proponents were up against will appreciate what they have accomplished.”

SWG 4B1 held 15 meetings over the first 10 days of WRC-15. During week 1, the discussion focused on whether there would be an allocation at all. A number of administrations and the regional telecommunications organization (RTO) representing Russia and 10 of its neighboring countries (RCC) were bitterly opposed. As week 1 closed, it became clear that the widest achievable allocation was 15 kHz and that a power limit in the neighborhood of 15 W effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP) would have to be part of the package.

Early in week 2, band edges of 5351.5 and 5366.5 kHz were agreed upon as part of a compromise proposed by one of the “no change” countries. Resolving the power limit proved to be more difficult. CITEL, the RTO encompassing the Americas, argued strenuously for slightly more power in South America and the Caribbean. The US, which went into the conference with a “no change” stance, joined the compromise once the band edges were set and argued in favor of a higher power limit, although several other countries opposed this. The last “no change” holdout was Japan, which reluctantly agreed to accept the allocation on November 12, after reiterating its opposition and its intention to insist that any harmful interference to its primary services be avoided.

“Decisions at WRCs are now made by consensus, which means that any administration with strong opposing views can block an agreement,” Sumner explained. He contrasted the current process with that followed at the 1979 World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC-79), where Amateur Radio gained the so-called “WARC Bands” — 10, 18, and 24 MHz — among others. “At WARC-79 a proposal needed more than simple majority support to go forward, but decisions could be made over the objections of a minority,” he said. “That is not possible today, so the result is almost a ‘lowest common denominator’ outcome for any proposal that does not have near-universal support.”

“An allocation is always a win, and we have a very good chance of a win,” said ARRL Chief Technology Officer Brennan Price, N4QX, who is a member of the US delegation. ARRL Technical Relations Specialist Jon Siverling, WB3ERA, is also part of the US delegation to WRC-15.

In other WRC-15 developments, a possible agenda item at the next WRC for an amateur allocation at 50 MHz in Region 1 cleared its first hurdle. A proposed agenda item to align the 160 meter allocation in Region 1 with the rest of the world was not likely to be accepted, however.