Threat to the 144 – 146 MHz band

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The threat

Members will be aware that a proposal has been floated by the French administration to extend existing aeronautical mobile service (AMS) allocations in Region 1 to a number of additional frequency bands, including the 144 – 146 MHz band currently allocated exclusively to the amateur service.  If accepted, this proposal would have very serious consequences for radio amateurs, given the importance of the 2 metre band for a variety of applications.  The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) and its member societies, including IRTS, will be vigorously resisting this proposal.

Allocations of the radio spectrum

Allocations of the radio spectrum are determined at World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) which are held every 4 years by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), with the next conference taking place later this year (WRC-19) and another due in 2023 (WRC-23).  Planning and the co-ordination of European administrations at these conferences are carried out by the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT).  IARU representatives are actively involved in the relevant CEPT groups, including those preparing for the ITU conferences.

IARU was extremely surprised when the French administration at short notice submitted a proposal to CEPT preparatory groups for WRC-19 that, subject to the results of feasibility studies, WRC-23 should consider whether additional aeronautical mobile service (AMS) allocations could be implemented in the range 144 MHz to 22.2 GHz.

If this proposal in its current form is endorsed at the next meeting of the CEPT Conference Preparatory Group (CPG) in August, it is likely that it will be submitted by CEPT to WRC-19 for consideration when WRC-19 addresses the agenda for WRC-23.  For this agenda item to be submitted to WRC-19 at least 10 of the 48 CEPT countries have to be in favour of the proposal whilst not more than 6 should oppose its submission.

Timeline

The timeline for future WRC items is much tighter than some may realise with final CEPT decisions being made during its 26-30 August 2019 CEPT CPG meeting, for those proposals that will then be submitted to ITU WRC-19 in October.  If agreed at WRC, the ITU would start work on them in November 2019 and that would continue during 2020-2023 for WRC-23.  Clearly if an item can be kept off the agenda, it can save years of significant effort and uncertainty.

Challenging situation

While the French proposal would likely not be an eviction or re-allocation of spectrum, nonetheless IARU considers it to be a serious threat to the hobby, particularly as it would present significant challenges; aeronautical applications are perhaps the most difficult of all radiocommunication services to share with, due to the altitudes and long free-space distances involved.  IARU representatives at CEPT meetings have been lobbying strongly against the French proposal insofar as it affects the key 2 metre band.  This work will continue for as long as is needed.  IARU has also asked its members societies to raise this issue with their respective administrations.

For its part, IRTS will be putting the IARU’s defence of the 144 – 146 MHz band to the officials of the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment and the Commission for Communications Regulation who will be representing Ireland at the forthcoming CPG and WRC.

Single voice

Amateur radio should speak with a single voice only.  Therefore it is suggested that individual amateur radio licensees should refrain from lobbying personal contacts they may have in Government departments, regulatory bodies or the EU.  Such activities could weaken the overall position of the amateur service and reduce the power and vigour of the systematic approach taken by IARU and national amateur radio societies.  This particularly applies to online petitions on the Internet which do not always provide factually correct information.

Reminder

This issue reminds us that the cost of the numerous activities to defend frequency bands used by the amateur and amateur-satellite services is covered by the funds resulting from the contributions of the IARU member societies e.g. IRTS for Ireland.  So those who have not joined or have left their country’s IARU amateur radio society should perhaps reconsider their decision.

For the amateur radio hobby to thrive, it is essential that we are represented by a strong and properly-resourced International Amateur Radio Union.  Without the support and funding from national societies to the IARU, the amateur radio community would have little influence in spectrum allocation and other relevant issues, leading to the rights and privileges gained over many years being steadily eroded through pressure from commercial interests.

Contact:  Dave Court EI3IO IARU Liaison Officer

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