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Minimal change in latest Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan

Date : 08 / 01 / 2017
Author : Roger Harrison - VK2ZRH

The latest Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan – ARSP 2017 – was published on the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) website on 3 January 2017. It was registered by the ACMA on 20 December 2016 and came into effect the next day, with a commencement date of 1 January 2017.

Only minimal changes have been made to the previous Spectrum Plan, principally those arising from the outcomes of the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference – WRC-15. Most of the updates involve changes to Footnotes relating to specific allocations, while relatively few comprise changes to allocations.

Of chief interest to Australian amateurs is the addition of the allocation of a 15 kHz band for the Amateur Service at 5351.5-5366.5 kHz, now widely known as the 60 metre band. This was approved at WRC-15 as a word-wide Amateur band. The WRC set different maximum radiated power specifications applying in different regions and countries, ranging from 15 watts effective isotropic radiated power (eirp) to 25 W eirp. Specifying ‘eirp’ takes account of the efficiency of different antenna systems, which can be rather inefficient at these frequencies. In Australia, Footnote 133B in the Spectrum Plan specifies 15 W eirp. The only other update to the Spectrum Plan of interest to amateurs is the addition of Radiolocation as a primary service in the 77.5-78 GHz band. The Amateur and Amateur-satellite services are also primary in this band. The new primary service is limited to short-range radar for ground-based applications, including automotive radar, according to the updated Footnote, no. 559B. Sharing studies conducted for the ITU over recent years demonstrated that the two services could reasonably co-exist as primary allocations.

The purpose of the Spectrum Plan is to guide the ACMA in making decisions on the use of radiofrequency spectrum. The key feature of the ARSP is its Table of Frequency Allocations from 8.3 kHz to 420 terahertz (THz) that divides-up the spectrum to show the general purpose of each band, to which services the bands are allocated, and associated footnotes relevant to particular allocations. The ACMA updates the ARSP following each WRC, which are held about every three years.

In announcing the updated Spectrum Plan, the ACMA also published an accompanying Explanatory Statement, providing more detail behind the changes to the Spectrum Plan as well as how the Table of Frequency Allocations is arranged, and its relationship to other legislation. In its Explanatory Statement, the ACMA says that it gave “due consideration to the representations received during the consultation period”. In consulting the stakeholder community, the ACMA published a draft of the proposed new Spectrum Plan in September last year, inviting comment and submissions, the deadline for which closed five weeks later. Seventeen submissions were received by the ACMA from a mixture of government agencies, communications and broadcasting industry members, and private citizens. Of course, a submission from the WIA was among them. Some individual amateurs and WICEN NSW also made submissions concerning amateur allocations.

The ACMA's "Summary of and response to submissions" outlines its reasoning concerning how it treated proposals on allocations and regulations regarding the Spectrum Plan. The WIA has for some years advocated the extension of the 160 metre and 80 metre bands, upgrading of 50-52 MHz from secondary to primary status, a new allocation at 70 MHz matching those throughout European and African nations in Region 1, and another new allocation at 915-928 MHz aligned with allocations in New Zealand and the USA. Naturally, all this went into the WIA’s response to the proposed update of the Spectrum Plan, along with support for allocation of the 60 metre band and for a new provision to enable new allocations for a more dynamic use of spectrum, particularly in response to changing circumstances and new developments (now incorporated in ARSP 2017 as Subsection 10(10) within Section 10 - Use of frequency bands — other circumstances).

While the new 60 metre band has been incorporated in ARSP 2017, extended access to 160 and 80 meters has not been included until more analysis of the effect on services in adjacent bands is done. Likewise, with the WIA’s proposal of an amateur allocation at 70 MHz – more analysis of the effect on services in adjacent frequency bands has to be done in order to progress this proposal. Concerning the proposed amateur access on the 915-928 MHz band, the ACMA considers that the Low Interference Potential Devices (LIPD) Class Licence provides suitable technical conditions for amateur use of this band.

As for when access to the new 60 metre band will become available, to be consistent with outcomes of previous WRCs, the next step will involve amending the Amateur licence conditions, which provides all the definite technical parameters (See "60 metres dreaming" in the Hot Issue web page). This process would provide the opportunity to progress the other changes that the Institute had advocated. The WIA's Spectrum Strategy Committee is working with the ACMA to determine when access to 60 metres for Australian amateurs will become available and progressing claims in other parts of the spectrum.

The proposed new Radiocommunications Act is anticipated to go before parliament early this year, have been held over from the last year’s final sittings. The ACMA will be holding a series of stakeholder briefing sessions concerning the new Act, which the WIA will attend.

Related Files:

You can download the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan 2017 and Explanatory Statement from our ACMA and Government Legislation site, at this Link

Also see 60 metres dreaming - how long do we have to wait? At this Link



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