ACMA replies to WIA questions on the High Power Trial
Following the ACMA’s advice to the WIA in August 2013 that it would not make regulatory arrangements for Advanced Licensees to run up to 1 kW, the WIA Board discussed the issues raised and decided in September on providing a strong response and to ask six questions.
Roger Harrison - VK2ZRH
The ACMA’s Reasons
The reasons for the ACMA’s decision were included in the article Epilogue to the High Power Trial, in the October 2013 issue of Amateur Radio magazine and published on the ACMA’s website; they were as follow:
“As an evidenced-based regulator, the ACMA collected data from a number of areas in order to reach an informed decision on whether permanent regulatory arrangements should be put in place for the use of Higher Power. The specific areas covered were:
The demand for Higher Power reflected by the number of applications the ACMA received.
A submission provided by the Wireless Institute of Australia including benefits derived from the use of Higher Power.
A desk-based audit of trial participants’ knowledge of, and compliance with, electromagnetic energy (EME) requirements specified in the Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Apparatus Licence) Determination 2003 (Apparatus Licence LCD).
The results of site visits undertaken in conjunction with the desk-based audit.
Relevant complaints of interference of which the ACMA was made aware during the trial.
The impact the trial had on other services that operate in the high frequency bands.
An examination of other countries’ arrangements concerning the use of Higher Power.
1/ After taking into consideration all the data obtained as part of the assessment process, the ACMA is of the view that the arrangements put in place for the trial should not continue. The ACMA has reached this conclusion for a number of reasons:
2/ The number of Advanced Licensees that applied to use Higher Power was not substantial. As at 20 May 2013, 297 Advanced Licensees had applied for the Higher Power authorisation out of a total number of 10,690. This demonstrates that the vast majority of Advanced Licensees did not seek the Higher Power authorisation. Of the 297 that did obtain the authorisation, the ACMA was advised by some participants that took part in the desk-based audit that they had not used Higher Power. Therefore, the figure of 297 applicants is not an accurate reflection of the number of Advanced Licensees that actually used Higher Power.
3/ The Wireless Institute of Australia’s submission to the ACMA contains a limited number of contributions from trial participants. The contributions indicate that the benefits of Higher Power use were confined to those respondents and do not demonstrate broader benefits to the wider community. The limited number of contributions is also indicative of limited active engagement from trial participants.
4/ Some Advanced Licensees’ knowledge and awareness of the requirements of the Apparatus Licence LCD did not meet ACMA expectations. This is borne out by the results of the desk-based audit. There were 90 Advanced Licensees that took part in the desk-based audit. Of those 90, 17 were unable to demonstrate their compliance with the Apparatus Licence LCD. The reasons for this varied; some did not respond to the ACMA’s request for information made in accordance with Apparatus Licence LCD, whilst others incorrectly assessed the compliance level of their station. This was an important consideration given that the use of Higher Power was taking place within the wider community and the Apparatus Licence LCD sets out, among other things, the EME requirements for the operation of transmitters.
The ACMA is aware that some countries permit the use of transmitter power levels greater than in Australia. Whilst the ACMA did have regard to permissible power levels in other countries, these countries are likely to have different and unique regulatory arrangements and policy considerations. The ACMA, as an evidence-based regulator, must base its decision on the data collected during the assessment process and the requirements of the domestic legislative environment.”
WIA rebuttals to key issues raised by the ACMA were outlined in the October AR article and formed the central portion of the written Institute’s response to the ACMA, dated 23 September 2013, which also included a series of observations concerning the Trial. A PDF of this letter is linked at (1), below.
The WIA Board formed the view that the reasons advanced by the ACMA, taken separately or together, did not provide a compelling argument to support its decision, and that the ACMA could have justifiably acted to put in place permanent regulatory arrangements for the use of higher transmitter output power by Advanced Licensees, conditional upon implementing an awareness and education strategy conducted by the ACMA and the WIA acting in concert.
That said, the WIA’s response to the ACMA’s decision acknowledged that it had made a courageous decision in December 2011 to propose the High Power Trial.
In order for the WIA Board to fully understand the ACMA’s conclusions following the High Power Trial, and to plan and implement a program to educate the amateur radio community about its obligations regarding compliance with the regulations on electromagnetic emissions, answers were sought to six questions.
Q1. As “an evidence based regulator”, is the ACMA’s concern with the use of higher power by amateurs based on a formal risk assessment/management methodology?
(a) And if so, how did the outcome/s derived from that methodology influence the ACMA’s decision?
Q2. Noting that the ACMA wrote to 90 Advanced Licensees that participated in the Trial, what was the basis and methodology used by the ACMA in choosing these 90 participants, and:
(a) what criteria were used to conduct the assessments?
Q3. What level of compliance from the desk audit would have been considered acceptable?
Q4. Noting that, of the 90 licensees that were audited, 17 did not meet the ACMA’s expectations on compliance, would the ACMA please provide a breakdown of those 17 into defined categories?
Q5. Noting that the ACMA wrote to those 17 participants inviting them to provide new records to demonstrate compliance with the current EME requirements, what has been the outcome?
Q6. Concerning station inspections in relation to the Trial:
(a) how many were conducted?;
(b) in what states?; and
(c) would the ACMA please provide details of the outcomes?
The ACMA’s General Manager, Communications Infrastructure Division, Maureen Cahill, provided a comprehensive response in December, a PDF of which is linked at (3), below.
In the concluding paragraph of this letter, she says: "As we have discussed, I think it is important that both the ACMA and the WIA look forward now to providing better information and educating licensees about their licence obligations. We look forward to working with the WIA in this regard."
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