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Current WIA Hot Issues

Interference Management Review

ACMA Interference Management Review - WIA submission

The WIA is concerned that the risk of interference to amateur communications may be considered low by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), when compared to other radiocommunications or telecommunications services. The ACMA is reviewing its Interference Management Principles. The WIA advocates assurance within the Principles that the move to a market-based approach to interference resolution will not disadvantage the amateur service, or other not-for-profit services. The WIA was disappointed to see the ACMA use the public benefit metric to justify a relaxation in interference Standards recently for BPL/PLT modems. It hopes this will not be extended to other recognised potential interference sources such as LED lighting, switch-mode power supplies, inverters, and solar power installations ... or for that matter, Wireless Power Transfer installations for transport applications.
For more information, visit this Link



Responses to draft new spectrum legislation released

Industry associations, federal and state government agencies, telcos, broadcasters, consultants, not-for-profits and some individuals have lodged submissions that have been made public.
The WIA is among the submitters.
For more information visit this Link



WIA lodges strong response to the draft radiocommunications legislation

The Radiocommunications Bill 2017, released publically in late May, followed with a raft of supporting papers and fact sheets, has set the scene for a new era in spectrum management in Australia, intended to simplify the regulatory framework and support new and innovative technologies and services.
The WIA overall found that the Bill appears to meet all the existing challenges to spectrum management, but did not want to see any reduction of amateurs existing conditions.
For more information and the complete WIA submission, visit this Link



WIA responds to future plans for use of 3.6 GHz band

The current amateur allocation is listed in the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan as 3300-3600 MHz, known to us as the 9 cm band.
The WIA's submission expressed concern that proposed spectrum licensing will effectively embargo secondary users, in particular the Amateur Service, from access to 3575-3600 MHz across the most populous metropolitan and regional areas, where radio amateurs predominantly live and conduct their activities.
For more information click this Link



60 metres dreaming - how long do we have to wait?

Author : The WIA Spectrum Strategy Committee

So, there was a new band allocated to the Amateur Service at the last International Telecommunications Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC); when will we get access to 5351.5-5366.5 kHz? A simple question with a complicated answer. This short article will look at some of the factors that affect band access.

Given that radio waves can travel long distances and that radio frequency interference can severely limit the utility of radio communications, our fore-fathers recognised the need to cooperate globally on managing the Radio Frequency spectrum. The ITU(1), a specialist agency of the United Nations, has the task of managing the use of the RF spectrum between 8.3 kHz and 275 GHz. Every three or four years the ITU convenes a WRC to revise the Radio Regulations to account for changes in the use of the RF spectrum.

The ITU Radio Regulations are an International Treaty and the WRC-12 revisions to the Radio Regulations were ratified by Australia on 1 March 2013(2). TheWRC-15 revisions to the Radio Regulations are currently being considered by the Australian Parliament (3).

It's about the law
In Australia the Radiocommunications Act 1992(4) is the overarching law that governs the way the RF spectrum is used and this law is a result of parliamentary debate by our elected members of parliament. Two sections of the Act cover other legislative instruments which may require updating, one such instrument is the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan (ARSP)(5). Extracts from Sections 30 and 33 of the (current) Radiocommunications Act 1992 show:

30 Spectrum plans
(1) The ACMA may, by legislative instrument, prepare a spectrum plan.
Note: For variation and revocation, see subsection 33(3) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.
(2) A spectrum plan must:
(a) divide into such number of frequency bands as the ACMA thinks appropriate so much of the spectrum as the ACMA thinks necessary for the purpose of regulating radiocommunications under this Act; and
(b) designate one or more bands to be used primarily for the general purposes of defence; and
(c) specify the general purpose or purposes for which each other band may be used.

33 Publication etc. of plans
(1) Before preparing a spectrum plan or a frequency band plan, the ACMA must, by notice published on the ACMA's website:
(a) state that a draft of the plan is available for public comment; and
(b) set out the draft plan; and
(c) invite interested parties to make representations about the draft plan on or before the day specified in the notice.
(2) The day specified under paragraph (1)(c) must be at least one month later than the day on which the notice is published.
(3) A person may, not later than the day specified under paragraph (1)(c), make representations to the ACMA about the draft plan.
(4) The ACMA:
(a) must give due consideration to any representations so made; and
(b) may, having considered the representations, alter the draft plan.

Following the WRC outcome, any proposed changes to Australian use of the RF spectrum will affect the ARSP and the Act sets out a process by which the ARSP is changed. It is apparent from the above process that there can be a substantial period of time for the process to be completed. One of the benefits of living in a liberal western democracy(6) is that everyone can have a say and that applies to the WRC preparatory process(7) through to the implementation of laws that enable our amateur activities. The 'flip-side of the coin' is that such a process may take significant time.

The process described in section 33 of the Act means that the incumbent services i.e. those services already in the band to be shared with the amateur service, must be consulted and their technical and operational needs must be considered. This means that consultation between the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the incumbent services, the Amateur Service and potentially other interested parties, must occur before usage of the band by amateurs can be authorised.

The final document of significance is the Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Amateur Licence) Determination 2015(8) (LCD). The LCD is different to the Act in that it was drafted by the ACMA, which was delegated by Federal Parliament to develop the specific technical and legal text which governs the operation of our amateur service. A key factor here is that legislative instruments, such as licence conditions determinations, should be(9):

(a) subject to consultation before making; and
(b) drafted to a certain standard; and
(c) made public and accessible; and
(d) tabled in the Parliament; and
(e) subject to disallowance and sunsetting.

Following changes to the ARSP, any changes to band allocations must be reflected in the LCD, which has to be updated and pass through the process outlined above. Again, there is a requirement for more consultation and elapsed time though, generally, some of the processes run in parallel.

As amateurs, we all know that high frequency radio waves don't stop at Australia's borders, so it is also customary for Australia to consult with neighbouring countries regarding HF band usage to minimise cross-border or regional interference issues. This all adds up to a possibly lengthy period of time before amateurs can access a new frequency band.

But no one's using it!

You might think that, after monitoring a band for a period of time that it isn't being used and, therefore, amateurs could or should be given access. However, we all know that that there are many reasons why signals aren't heard: time of day, propagation conditions, use of directional antennas, local noise levels, transmitter power etc. All these factors affect what a remote listener does, or does not, hear so simple monitoring is rarely sufficient to establish band usage.

Also, some services are allocated access to multiple bands to ensure communications under all circumstances and this is especially true for services such as police, the military, healthcare services etc, who already have access to parts of the 60 m band. So amateurs need to be very careful when they say that a band isn't being used. The same argument could be used against amateurs in many of our bands

About primary and secondary services

Lastly, we all need to understand the differences between primary and secondary radio services. Primary services have priority and secondary services must not cause harmful interference to primary services and secondary services must accept ' without complaint ' any harmful interference caused by primary services to the activities of secondary services.
In many of our bands, the amateur service has secondary status and consequentially has no protection against primary services operations in those bands. This will certainly be true for the new amateur allocation in the 60 m band and we will need to coexist amiably with the primary services.

The last word

In conclusion, the process by which bands are allocated is complex and lengthy as there are many factors to be considered. Amateurs, as responsible users of the RF spectrum, need to respect the laws that govern our hobby, to be patient when waiting for new allocations and to be an active part of the process that governs our activity.
In the meantime, a new Radiocommunications Act is being drawn up for consideration by the Federal Parliament some time soon, we have been assured. We are hopeful the new Act will prepare the way for a more streamlined process in future.

References
(1) The ITU website is: https://www.itu.int/en/Pages/default.aspx
(2) Details of ratification of WRC-12 treaty can be found at: http://www.info.dfat.gov.au/Info/Treaties/treaties.nsf/AllDocIDs/E1F41CA8E6054F91CA257A78007FCFF1
(3) See Report 166, Parliamentary Paper 419/2016 at:
http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Treaties/Completed_inquiries
(4) The Radiocommunications Act 1992 can be found at: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2016C01058
(5) The updated Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum plan can be found at: www.acma.gov.au/sitecore/content/Home/theACMA/proposed-update-to-the-australian-radiofrequency-spectrum-plan
(6) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_democracy
(7) Information on the Australian WRC preparatory process can be found at: http://www.acma.gov.au/Industry/Spectrum/Spectrum-planning/International-planning-ITU-and-other-international-planning-bodies
(8) Operating within terms of the licence conditions determination ensures our compliance with the Radiocommunications Act. The Amateur licence conditions determination (LCD) can be found at: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2016C00286
(9) From Legislative Instruments Handbook 2.1: http://www.opc.gov.au/about/docs/LI_Handbook.pdf?



Amateur Qualification Levels

ACMA re-sets US General Licence equivalency
Following a public review the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has re-set the US General Class Licence as equivalent to Australia's middle grade Standard Licence. This change has been made to the ACMA 'Tables of Equivalent Qualifications and Licences' which lists Australian equivalents to overseas amateur qualifications. Visiting radio amateurs and those from overseas who are residents in Australia, are granted an Australian licence based on their overseas qualification identified on the ACMA website.
Want to know more ? Link



Remake of the Amateur Service LCD

The Amateur Licence Conditions Determination (the LCD) specifies Australian amateur licence conditions such as the licence grades, frequency bands, modes and maximum permitted powers.

UPDATE: 30 August 2017
At the request of the ACMA, the WIA submitted an updated proposal on LCD reform in April 2016. In summary, the underlying purpose of the WIA's proposals is to enable greater self-determination for the amateur service, along with updates to the licence conditions for all licence grades in order to ensure amateur radio remains relevant in the digitally-connected age. Key proposals include:
  enabling use of digital modes for Foundation licensees
  access to more bands for Foundation and Standard licensees
  relaxing permitted bandwidths for all license grades
  removing mode restrictions
  enabling DIY construction for Foundation licensees
  review of Foundation callsigns to provide 3-letter suffixes
  increased maximum power for all licensees

That submission can be downloaded from this Link

In the meantime, the government has proceeded apace to draft a new radiocommunications act as the centre piece of its Spectrum Reform program, launched in 2014 by the then Minister for Communications, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP. The Department of Communications and the Arts and the ACMA have been heavily involved in progressing the reform agenda.

With a new parameters-based licensing system to be introduced with the new legislation, the WIA opened radio amateur community consultation on its proposed licence conditions reforms in May 2017, conducted in three phases. Preliminary results show strong support for the WIA's proposed Amateur licence conditions reforms, and that, whatever new licensing system emerges, current and future licensees agree that future Amateur licensing must not be reduced or downgraded from the principles embodied in current Apparatus licensing.

Results from the three-phase consultation are being compiled and incorporated with updated documentation to underpin the case for LCD reform with evidence. This will be submitted when the ACMA indicates it is ready to prepare a new LCD.




Page Last Updated: Friday 22 September 2017 at 19:36 hours