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WRC-12: The First Week


By Rod Stafford, W6ROD
IARU Secretary

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12) began January 23 in Geneva, Switzerland. This is the “big show” for spectrum allocation matters and a very important meeting if you are an Amateur Radio operator anywhere in the world. Every 4 or 5 years a WRC takes place. The last one was in 2007. Approximately 3000 people will attend WRC-12. These are government officials, telecommunication industry people and others -- like the IARU -- who have an interest in the use of the radio spectrum. The agenda items discussed during WRC-12 were established at the previous WRC in 2007. In the past 4.5 years, there have been many committee meetings within the ITU to try to arrive at solutions that will satisfy each of the agenda items. In the case of some of the agenda items, several possible methods to satisfy the agenda item have been identified. It is up to the WRC to select the most appropriate method to satisfy the agenda item, that is, to arrive at a worldwide solution to the issue presented in the agenda item.

There are a number of agenda items for WRC-12 that have some impact on Amateur Radio, immediately or sometime in the future. Each of the agenda items is assigned to a committee and also sub-working groups. Within each of these sub-working groups, the agenda items are discussed in detail, the proposals from regional telecommunication organizations are analyzed and the discussion proceeds toward developing a consensus on the agenda item. It seems to the casual observer to be a slow, tedious process, but it works quite well in developing consensus, assuming the parties are at least a little bit flexible in their views.

Agenda Item 1.23: The agenda item that has been discussed widely within the amateur community over the last five years is Agenda Item 1.23. In 2007, the agenda item was stated as follows: “To consider an allocation of about 15 kHz in parts of the band 415-526.5 kHz to the Amateur Service on a secondary basis, taking into account the need to protect existing services.” There are a number of suggested ways to satisfy this agenda item that are being discussed at the WRC: 1) A secondary allocation of up to 15 kHz to the Amateur Radio Service on a worldwide basis between 472-487 kHz. 2) Two non-contiguous worldwide secondary allocations to the Amateur Radio Service at 461-469 kHz and 471-478 kHz, totaling 15 kHz. 3) A CEPT proposal for a worldwide secondary allocation of 8 KHz from 472-480 kHz. 4) No change.

It appears from the first several days of committee meetings that many of the member states attending the WRC are in favor of granting the Amateur Radio Service an allocation, but the details remain to be established. The member states that are in favor of No Change (NOC) have stated that they are primarily concerned with possible interference to Non-Direction Beacons that currently operate in the spectrum under consideration. It is still early in the process to determine if the Amateur Service will succeed in gaining an allocation in this portion of the spectrum.

Agenda Item 1.10: This agenda item is as follows: To examine the frequency allocation requirements with regard to operation of safety systems for ships and ports and associated regulatory provisions, in accordance with Resolution 357 (WRC-07).” This agenda item might have impacted the IARU goal of achieving a secondary allocation under Agenda Item 1.23; however, with the dropping of the Agenda Item 1.23 Method for an amateur allocation between 493-510 kHz, there should no longer be a conflict between maritime service objectives for Agenda Item 1.10 and Amateur Service objectives for Agenda Item 1.23.

Agenda Item 1.15: This agenda item is as follows: “To consider possible allocations in the range 3-50 MHz to the radiolocation service for oceanographic radar applications, taking into account the results of ITU-R studies, in accordance with Resolution 612 .” ITU committee meetings leading up to WRC-12 have identified the following bands to be studied under this Agenda Item:

3.5-5.5 MHz, 8-10 MHz, 12-14 MHz, 24-30 MHz and 39-45 MHz. These have been refined to particular candidate sub-bands including 5.060-5.450 MHz, 13.870-14.000 MHz, 24.000-24.890 MHz and 29.700-30.000 MHz. The IARU position is that oceanographic radar applications are incompatible with the Amateur and Amateur Satellite Services in the range 3-50 MHz and should not be allocated in bands already allocated to the Amateur and Amateur Satellite Service, including 5.250-5.450 MHz, in which a growing number of administrations are providing for some access by amateurs on a domestic basis.

Footnotes: At each WRC, there is an agenda item that deals with footnotes contained within the Radio Regulations. Generally, this is a situation where an administration (a country) has “opted out” of the decision of a WRC and therefore creates an exception to the table of frequencies in the Radio Regulations. For example, a country may say that it will not use a certain service in a portion of the spectrum that has been designated for that service by the WRC. Therefore, a footnote is created in the Radio Regulations for that portion of the spectrum, indicating a designated use is not available in that country, even though it may be available in many other parts of the world. There are a number of examples of footnotes that relate to Amateur Radio. One of the IARU’s tasks during each WRC is to try to get administrations to remove their country’s name from footnotes that prevent amateurs in that country from using spectrum that is available for Amateur Radio usage in other countries.

There are other agenda items which the IARU has determined to be a low threat to the Amateur Radio and the Amateur-Satellite Services, but those items will be closely watched by the IARU Team at the WRC-12 to make sure they do not negatively impact Amateur Radio.

WRC-12 began on Monday, January, 23 and will conclude on Friday, February, 17.



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