Threats to Amateur Radio
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Some members have suggested that it might be useful to list all the threats to Amateur Radio in Canada on a page on this Web Site, and provide a short description of the nature of each threat as well as the current status of RAC attempts to deal with it.
It is a daunting task.
Here is a partial list of threats. Of course, some threats are also opportunities. Descriptions and status to follow:
VHF UHF Spectrum Threats
Microwave Spectrum Threats
The Townsend Committee conducting the National Antenna Tower Policy Review under contract to Industry Canada has requested input from interested individuals and organizations.
RAC Vice President Jim Dean VE3IQ, with support from legal expert Tim Ellam VE6SH, has spent a good part of the past year preparing a comprehensive response that has been submitted directly to the Committee as well as participating in the preparation of a separate submission from the Radio Advisory Board of Canada.
In a 24 page letter to Professor Townsend, RAC gives a detailed overview of the amateur radio service and its contributions to social and economic development. In addition, the letter makes recommendations as to how tower policies and procedures at Industry Canada may be improved.
The RAC letter is accompanied by five annexes giving examples and legal precedents to support the recommendations.
Both the letter, and the annexes are now available for download from this web site.
The letter contains an excellent overview of Amateur Radio, and is well worth reading by all amateurs, regardless of their interest in antennas and towers. It is highly recommended that clubs download the letter and make it available to membership. For those experiencing difficulties dealing with local city or municipal authorities on tower matters, the annexes may also be of use.
During the past seven years, ITU studies have been conducted concerning the possibility of sharing the 420-470 MHz band between a proposed new allocation, to be used by satellite borne synthetic aperture radars (SARs) to measure ground moisture, and other existing users in the range. These users include ground-based, ship and airborne radars, fixed and mobile operators, and a variety of other smaller users, such as amateur radio, wind profiler radars and rocket launch vehicle destruct systems. The studies, in which the IARU, represented by VE3PU, was one of the major players, concluded in early 2003, with a technical description of the constraints on the SAR design necessary to ensure minimum interference. These constraints were contained in a revised ITU Recommendation that was approved just before the WRC.
Many countries, to meet perceived environmental needs, came to the WRC with proposals for a secondary SAR allocation, subject to the approved constraints. ESA, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency were also strongly supportive. Furthermore, fixed and mobile interests in most administrations succeeded in focusing the proposals on the range 432-438 MHz, in spite of evidence that all existing services would be protected by the constraints.
On the world scale, there was very little opposition to the allocation, with only the USA and a couple of South American countries openly opposing, and a few countries such as India and some of the Arab bloc prepared to put up an argument. The IARU also vigorously opposed, but had no formal right to speak at the conference.
Because VE3PU had chaired the ITU-R drafting group working on the sharing studies for many years, he was in fact given several opportunities to voice IARU objections, but of course they carried little weight in the final decision. The US opposition faded away early in the discussions, as did the Arab objections, and the allocation was one of the first to reach plenary.
Although the allocation will go ahead, it is unlikely that a SAR will be launched before 2010, if ever, and if it does eventually fly, we feel confident that the design constraints will ensure that most amateurs will never see any significant interference in our weak signal or satellite bands at 432 and 435-438 MHz.
The so-called "little LEO" (Low Earth Orbit) satellite systems are commercial versions of amateur digital, store-and-forward, messaging satellites. They are still looking for world wide spectrum allocations in which to operate.
This is a serious concern for amateurs since, as we know that in preparation for the WRC 97, the little LEO proponents wanted to use the 2 metre amateur band and only after vigorous opposition, dropped the proposal.
At WRC 2003 conference, the USA, backed by a few third world countries proposed spectrum allocations for \93feeder links\94 (i.e. control signals) around 1400-1600 MHz, and \93service links\94 (i.e. up-bound data links) around 450 MHz. They already have frequency allocations for downward data links.
The feeder link proposal was strongly opposed by most countries, since the frequencies around 1400 to 1600 MHz are extremely heavily used by many services. In spite of this opposition, the US succeeded in getting allocations provisionally approved, subject to the conduct of more studies to demonstrate that there will be no interference. If these studies are successful, the allocation may be put into effect at the next conference. We must continue to monitor this item, because if they succeed with the feeder links, then the need for service links will not go away.
Allocations Below 1 GHz for Little LEO Service Uplinks
>At WRC 2003, there was also a "little LEO" agenda item looking for up to 7 MHz of spectrum below 1 GHz for service links. The specific US proposal was focused on a band just above 450 MHz, - uncomfortably close to our 70 cm band.
Opposition to the proposal was also extremely strong, and during the pre-conference ITU-R studies, we were able to get virtually all countries to recommend \93no allocation\94.
To our surprise, the Little LEO proponents in the USA decided to give up early on this one, and the \93no change\94 proposal was rapidly approved in committees. The fact that the proponents fought long and hard, and eventually succeeded on the feeder link question under Agenda Item 1.16 however, is a clear warning that we can expect another onslaught on the VHF bands at a future conference.
Agenda item 1.5 dealt with allocations to a number of services in the 5 GHz band, of which the most difficult and controversial were related to a proposed primary allocation to the mobile service to be used by devices permitting wireless connections within computer networks (which I will refer to as WLANs).
To date, most such devices operate in the 2.4 GHz band, but already at the WRC, many delegates were using dual-band cards in their laptops, because the 5 GHz network was faster and, in general, easier to access.
There is the potential that emissions from very large numbers of such devices, numbering in the millions, will interfere with commercial satellite receivers, and so this issue was hotly debated. To further complicate the issue, some Region 2 countries including Canada wish to allow such cards to be connected to outside high gain antennas, so that they can extend local networks to provide communications between computers in different buildings.
RAC wanted to ensure that both indoor and outdoor WLAN transmitters would not cause significant problems for the Canadian amateur and amateur satellite services in this band. (Since our allocation is secondary, we must accept such interference).
WRC 03 decisions imposed new restrictions on 5 GHz WLAN power and antenna gain to protect other services and should also afford us a good deal of protection. So, although the primary mobile allocations were approved, they may not be implemented in Canada and, in any case, are not expected to cause us much harm.
This agenda item surfaced in the lead up to WRC-2000 when commercial interests promoting harmonized frequencies for public services realized that adding disaster relief would strengthen their arguments. They managed to convince some administrations to support them. At WRC-2000, Resolution 645 was introduced calling for Global Harmonization of Spectrum for Public Protection and Disaster Relief, and asking that studies be carried out by the ITU-R. Working Party 8A conducted the studies in preparation for the WRC.
The IARU was concerned with two aspects of PPDR developments at WRC-2003 - the identification of bands or frequencies that might affect amateurs, and the CEPT concept of a \93tuning range\94 in the band 390 to 470 MHz. CEPT wants to standardize equipment that can operate at any frequency used by any of its member countries within this range, and also wanted to impose this idea on the rest of the world. CITEL countries on the other hand are focusing on the 880 MHz band as well as some 700 MHz spectrum from the UHF TV allocation, expected to become available when digital transmission is introduced in this frequency range.
At WRC 03, the concept of a tuning range was not accepted. In the end, bands identified for PPDR do not affect amateurs. A new Resolution was approved by WRC-2003, for introducing the necessary changes to the Radio Regulations and calling for ongoing technical studies for implementing harmonized PPDR. No changes to frequency allocations were proposed. On the positive side, the Resolution contains references to the role that the amateur services play in disaster communications, and encourages removal of administrative barriers to cross border movement of disaster communications equipment.
There were two aspects of this agenda item of interest to amateurs.
The first relates to spurious emissions, that is, signals produced by a transmitter at some frequency outside the allocated band (often harmonics), which may interfere with other receivers. There are international regulations setting limits on such spurious emissions, and the levels for amateur transmitters are clearly defined. We are interested in ensuring that these limits are not tightened to the point where home constructed amateur equipment could not meet them. The very sensitive receivers used by radio astronomers and remote sensing satellites are susceptible to spurious emissions, and users of those services are continually trying to update the limits to provide additional protection. This topic was not a major issue for us at this conference.
A second problem is concerned with what amateurs call \93splatter\94. In other words, a poorly designed or operated amateur transmitter can cause interference to other amateurs using a nearby frequency.
To date, there have been no international regulations governing the level of such splatter, although the radio astronomers and passive sensor people have been trying hard to see such regulations put into effect.
The threat to amateurs occurs when one of our bands is immediately adjacent to a passive sensor band, and amateurs operating near the band edge might cause problems.
With support from the Canadian delegation, we were able to ensure that none of the amateur bands were mentioned in any new regulatory constraints approved at the conference. There are however, two 2007 agenda items related to ongoing studies of such band pairs, and these should be monitored in the ITU-R
Allocations and Regulatory Issues for the Space Science Services
This agenda item proposed an allocation of up to 3 MHz, in the range below 1 GHz, for uplink control signals used in deep space operations. RAC's concern was the possibility of new allocations in the 144, 220, and 440 MHz bands.
A new allocation was discussed at the WRC, but at 260 MHz, to meet the needs of Russia and a few neighboring countries. Finland and Lithuania as well as the Arab countries opposed the allocation, but eventually their concerns were met and the allocation was approved. There are no adverse effects for amateur radio in Canada.
The Radio Navigation Satellite Service, or RNSS, (better known to most people as GPS, or Global Positioning Systems), operates in several bands between 1100 and 1300 MHz. There are two other RNSS systems that occupy this band, the Russian GLONASS system, and a proposed new European system named GALILEO. The GALILEO allocation between 1260 and 1300 MHz (approved at WRC 2000) overlaps our amateur and amateur satellite allocations, but to date does not pose much of a threat.
However, other spectrum users such as airborne and ground based radars are more concerned.
The issue to be settled at this conference was, what limits or constraints, if any, should be placed on GPS and GALILEO satellites to protect the other services?
After much heated debate, it was agreed that existing GPS systems put into operation before 2000 would not be subject to constraints, but that limits would be imposed on all new systems.
From an amateur point of view, these new constraints will just provide a little extra protection for us as well, and so this decision was a positive one from RAC's point of view.
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