International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) President Tim Ellam, VE6SH/G4HUA, said his organization empathizes with the concerns of radio amateurs worldwide regarding a French proposal to allocate 144 – 146 MHz to the Aeronautical Service on a primary basis, essentially sharing it with Amateur Radio. The band is currently allocated to Amateur Radio on a primary basis around the world. Ellam this week offered assurances that the IARU is on top of the matter, which is still a regional issue, and is already working to keep the band in the hands of radio amateurs. While the issue could end up on the agenda of World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23), a lot would have to happen first.
“There is a lot of misinformation circulating as to what the proposal is seeking and how IARU is responding to it,” Ellam told ARRL. “While the proposal is a concern, petitions and the like, while well intended, are going to have very limited value and, in fact, may harm the steps being taken in the regulatory environment.”
The French proposal, submitted last month to a pre-WRC-19 European Conference of Telecommunications and Postal Administrations (CEPT) meeting, included 144 – 146 MHz within a range of frequencies to be studied for future airborne, non-safety applications in the Aeronautical Service. Germany opposed the move, and IARU “objected strongly,” Ellam said. “Nonetheless, the proposal was carried forward to the next meeting of the CEPT Conference Preparatory Group in late August.” IARU anticipates that other countries attending the August meeting will oppose the inclusion of 144 – 146 MHz as a frequency range to be considered for the WRC-23 agenda, Ellam said.
Since the June meeting, IARU Region 1 (Europe, Africa, and the Middle East) has asked its member-societies to contact their national administrations (i.e., governments) to explain the importance of the 144 – 146 MHz primary allocation, Ellam recounted. “IARU is also taking other actions to make its views known to those involved in the proposal,” he said.
According to Ellam, the French proposal provides no rationale for including the amateur band in the proposed spectrum study, and that IARU believes sharing with airborne systems would be extremely challenging and lead to constraints on the development of the Amateur and Amateur Satellite services. IARU has pointed out that suitable alternative spectrum exists in the VHF range.
“If accepted as a WRC-23 Agenda Item, this proposal would require 4 years of studies by administrations,” Ellam stressed. “Considering the challenges of sharing spectrum with aeronautical systems, it seems inevitable that the conclusion of such studies would be that sharing with a widely used part of the amateur spectrum presents too many problems to be viable.”
Ellam encouraged individual radio amateurs who want to help to become members of their IARU member-society — ARRL in the US. “The work they do is not as well-known as it should be and receives very little recognition,” Ellam said. “Support from all radio amateurs to the work of IARU is vital to meet threats to the amateur spectrum.”
Ellam attributed Amateur Radio’s success at previous WRCs in defending against spectrum threats and gaining new bands to “the support for IARU from its member-societies and the dedicated work of IARU representatives — all of whom are volunteers.”
“If anything,” Ellam concluded, “this recent news about a potential risk to 144 – 146 MHz should serve as a timely reminder that defense of the amateur spectrum does not just happen. Your member-societies and the IARU constantly work at defending the amateur allocations.”
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