WIA and ACMA meet to plan future for amateur radio
Amateur radio in Australia will be both familiar and different in the future, under the new radiocommunications licensing scheme being initiated with the new Radiocommunications Act to be considered by the federal parliament later this year.
Roger Harrison - VK2ZRH
On Tuesday 12th April, the WIA met with four senior executives of the ACMA to scope the work to be done to design new licence conditions for amateur radio, and to discuss a variety of issues being progressed over the past year.
Three WIA Board members attended – President Phil Wait VK2ASD, Vice President Fred Swainston VK3DAC and Roger Harrison VK2ZRH, along with the WIA’s Regulatory Counsel, Peter Young VK3MV.
There was a very full agenda for the meeting, which included 10 specific topics for discussion. All agenda topics were completed comfortably within the three hours allotted.
The ACMA advised that the exposure draft of the new Radiocommunications Bill will be published by the government around June, and input from the public will be sought.
Ahead of the meeting, the WIA provided the ACMA with a comprehensive 22-page submission on Future Amateur Licence Conditions, which readers can download from here. Link
The ACMA was impressed with the scope and vision for future amateur licensing set out in the WIA’s submission, and indicated that there were few, if any, real impediments to achieving substantive reform to meet the emerging opportunities that will arise from the new Radiocommunications Act. However, there will be a lot of work to do, some of which will necessarily involve advice from the ACMA’s engineering branch.
In addition to seeking improved licence conditions, and requesting early access to the 5.3 MHz (60m) band allocated to amateurs at the recent World Radio Conference, the WIA outlined its proposals to the ACMA for extending frequency access in existing bands at 1.8 and 3.5 MHz, seeking additional bands at 70 MHz and 920 MHz, acquiring primary status for 50-52 MHz and securing better access to UHF and microwave bands in the face of threats from spectrum demands of the mobile broadband telecommunications industry and the NBN. Various means of sharing spectrum will be a feature of the new Radiocommunications Act, but seeing exactly how such arrangements will pan out for amateur radio will have to wait.
The ACMA indicated that public consultation on the review of the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan will occur around the third quarter of 2016, during which the WIA’s proposals concerning frequency access will be able to be considered in detail.
We have begun the journey towards a new, less restrictive regime of licence conditions that will enable all amateurs to explore, experiment and learn about any and every facet of radiocommunications – to adapt, adopt and innovate with new and emerging technologies as the fancy takes them.
The meeting agreed that the revised and updated Deed and Business Rules for services performed by the WIA for the ACMA can now be finalised, having been under development and discussion between the WIA and the ACMA over the past year.
Other agenda items discussed included the WIA’s approach to amateur radio’s possible roles in science, technology, engineering and maths education; licence renewal issues, some of which have been resolved and others are being addressed; interference/RF pollution issues were discussed – particularly from NBN installations and BPL/PLT products, to be addressed through the current review of equipment standards. The review of overseas operator qualifications will continue, the WIA working with the ACMA to determine reciprocal licensing arrangements in the future. Repeater and beacon licence application delays were discussed and issues affecting them will continue to be addressed, with the aim of reducing delays.
The ACMA and WIA agreed that it was a very productive meeting.
To progress the WIA’s proposals on licence conditions and frequency bands, the ACMA suggested that we meeting again around August-September, when more will be known about the shape of things to come with the new Radiocommunications Act and the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan update.
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