Bryan Rawlings, VE3QN – WRC Special Advisor
The International Telecommunications Union describes World Radiocommunication Conferences as follows:
World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) are held every three to four years. It is the job of WRC to review, and, if necessary, revise the Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and the geostationary-satellite and non-geostationary-satellite orbits. Revisions are made on the basis of an agenda determined by the ITU Council, which takes into account recommendations made by previous World Radiocommunication Conferences. The general scope of the agenda of World Radiocommunication Conferences is established four to six years in advance, with the final agenda set by the ITU Council two years before the conference, with the concurrence of a majority of Member States.”
Recently, I participated in the eighteenth meeting of Working Party 5A (whose mandate includes the Amateur Radio Service) which took place at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Geneva, Switzerland between May 22 and June 2. As I have done occasionally in the past, I wore two hats: sometimes as an Expert Consultant for the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) and at other times as a member of the Canadian Delegation. The following is a brief overview of what we Amateurs worked on over this period.After a couple of World Radiocommunication Conferences (2012 and 2015) in which Amateurs, despite great odds, achieved two new frequency allocations (630 metres and 60 metres), the current WRC-19 may seem less interesting. Whenever I start to think like this I am reminded that the principal reason I and my Amateur colleagues from around the world keep such close tabs on the WRC processes is to look out for our existing allocations which are, surprisingly, under threat from a number of new technology projects including several in the current WRC-19 planning cycle.
One agenda item seeks a frequency allocation for Wireless Power Transmission. This would include, if it can all be put together, an ability to effect charging of electric vehicles. The frequency range being considered – 79 to 90 kHz – doesn’t directly affect any of our Amateur bands; however, the technology employed may be capable of generating strong harmonics and spurious signals which could cause us grief in our Amateur bands.
The explosive growth of wireless access nodes is fueling an initiative to expand the frequency bands available to Wireless Access Nodes (WAN) and Radio Local Area Networks (RLAN) in the 5 GHz range. Canadian Amateurs have a secondary allocation here in 5650 to 5925 MHz. In addition to the Primary Users here – the Fixed Service, earth-to-space satellite uplinks and radiolocation services – we share much of our allocation with an Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band (5725 to 5875 MHz) in which are operated Wi-Fi, cordless telephone and Bluetooth links. The specific initiative at WRC-19 seeks an expansion of RLAN usage into four frequency ranges – two of which would cover 5725 to 5925 MHz. In this range Radio Amateurs are engaged in weak-signal work including EME activities. There is also growing interest in broadband mesh networks in 5 GHz, often using re-purposed RLAN equipment. Finally, there are at least two active projects for geostationary Amateur satellites which plan to use 5 GHz for uplinks and/or downlinks. As a secondary user our leverage is limited; however, we have succeeded in documenting our concerns and the characteristics of the operations we would hope to protect and we will continue to follow this carefully.
A major part of the Amateur Radio Working Group’s time has been devoted to the WRC-19 agenda item which seeks an international allocation of 50 to 54 MHz to the Amateur Radio Service in ITU Region 1 (Europe and Africa). Currently, in Region 1 this frequency range is allocated to the Broadcasting Service on a Primary basis while in Regions 2 and 3 there are Primary allocations to the Amateur Service. (Limited domestic allocations to all or part of the band we know as six-metres have been made in many Region 1 countries).
With the transition to digital broadcasting, the number of television transmitters in this part of the spectrum has declined dramatically and this development has helped drive the current Amateur effort to harmonize the six-metre band worldwide. In Russia and some neighbouring states, however, analog television broadcasting in 50 to 54 MHz continues and likely will beyond the European Broadcast Union target of removing all television broadcasting from the lower VHF range by 2020. We Amateurs are, therefore, proposing ways of sharing the spectrum while also taking this fact into account.
There are also a limited number of wind-profiler radars operating in Europe in or near 50 to 54 MHz and separate studies for sharing with the Amateur Service are being prepared for these. Finally, other studies are being finalized considering sharing with stations in government tactical mobile service.
Leading these efforts is the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) in which Canadian participation is through Radio Amateurs of Canada. The IARU Vice-President, Ole Garpestad, LA2RR, led these efforts throughout the two weeks of meetings in Geneva. Amateurs from Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, China and the United States assisted.
The next meeting of Working Party 5A is scheduled for the two-week period beginning November 6 at the ITU in Geneva. The World Radiocommunication Conference itself is scheduled for October of 2019.
Note: It costs a lot to send a person to Geneva to work and live for almost a month, even with discounted airfare and hotel rates. If you have not contributed to the Defence of Amateur Radio Fund (DARF), please consider making a personal donation and also suggest a club donation to DARF at your next club meeting. For more information visit https://darf.rac.ca.