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IARU Region 1 Editorial Sounds Clarion Call on Danger VHF/UHF/Microwave Spectrum Grabs


The chair of the International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 (IARU R1) VHF-UHF-µW Committee, Jacques Verleijen, ON4AVJ, has highlighted extant threats to the Amateur Radio spectrum above 30 MHz. In an editorial that heads the latest edition of the IARU R1 VHF-UHF-µW Newsletter, issued on May 29, Verleijen invited all IARU member-societies to consider ways to “promote, defend, and use our frequencies.”

“They are wanted by others, both government and commercial users,” Verleijen wrote. “So, this is a wake-up call to be aware that if we are not using those bands, we will lose them.” If that happens, he continued, it won’t be the fault of IARU R1, but of the amateur community that “often [has] more commitment to HF” than to VHF and higher bands. Conceding that the HF bands “are the easiest to use,” Verleijen said member-societies should think outside the box to come up with ideas to improve VHF, UHF, and microwave activity.

Verleijen said the vast amount of Amateur Radio spectrum from 50 MHz through 5 GHz makes it an attractive target for commercial and governmental interests. He noted that 50 MHz is the focus of a key World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19) agenda item —specifically, to harmonize the 6-meter allocation across all three ITU Regions.

“It would be unfortunate to see a repeat of the WRC-15 result for 5 MHz, where high hopes and years of hard work actually resulted in a few kilohertz at 15 W [EIRP] max,” Verleijen continued. A repeat of that situation on 6 meters could mean a “far more devastating” loss of existing spectrum and future opportunities for digital innovation.

The 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands are highly sought after for commercial wireless, Verleijen said, pointing out that the UK recently auctioned large segments of 2.3 and 3.4 GHz spectrum once available to Amateur Radio, “threatening significant activities from narrowband/Earth-Moon-Earth to DATV (digital amateur TV).”

Two WRC-19 agenda items affect 5 GHz, focusing on Wi-Fi and so-called “intelligent transport.” Amateur Radio, as a secondary service, faces another difficult challenge in this part of the spectrum and has “little influence over its direction,” Verleijen contended. In IARU Region 1, the primary concern is the expansion of Wi-Fi into 5,725 – 5,850 MHz.

“[O]ur preoccupation with traditional or [narrowband] modes does not justify the amount of spectrum,” he said, noting that “some activity levels are quite low” outside of contests.

“Ideally, we need genuine open innovation and to show amateurs leading in the 21st century,” Verleijen said. “Pressures on amateur bands are nothing new, but we know that the spectrum pressures above are not helped by poor engagement, relationships, or lack of a united approach” in some member-societies, with respect to their administrations.

“[P]lease also remember, ‘united we stand, divided we fall,’ and be aware and proactive,” he concluded.