RASA meet with ACMA
RASA representatives Glenn VK4DU, Andrew VK6AS and Chris VK3QB met with senior managers from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in Melbourne on March 1st.
RASA and ACMA had a wide ranging and successful discussion, covering RASA’s objectives and various current issues. RASA and ACMA agreed to meet regularly.
The issues discussed are summarised below.
Extension of the 160m band
RASA proposed an extension of 160m from 1875-2000 kHz, as the Primary users (the LORAN radio nav system) have ceased operation.
ACMA advised that Defence have an interest in this segment, and that this would impact on any extension of the 160m amateur band.
Defence are being consulted.
Expansion of the 80m band
RASA undertook an analysis of the commercial allocations between 3700 and 4000 kHz, with a view to possible expansion of the existing 80m band and DX window.
There are 3590 commercial assignments in the segment 3700-4000 kHz. These users are spread out across Australia and include State Emergency Services, Police, Fire Service, Aviation services, Mining companies, Federal Government Departments, Department of Defence, Ambulance services and 4WD clubs.
Considering the very large number of commercial allocations, expansion of the 80m band would be impractical for the foreseeable future.
ACMA noted this analysis.
60m (5 MHz) band
The band 5351.5-5366.5 kHz became available for amateurs last year. However, amateurs are Secondary to fixed and mobile services.
RASA and ACMA discussed a sharing arrangement with some of the existing commercial services. ACMA noted that Defence may have an interest in the band, and that they will be consulted.
There are a number of technical/assignment issues to explore in detail.
Discussions are ongoing.
ACMA noted that 70 MHz has traditionally been used for commercial land mobile services in Australia and that amateurs do not have primary or secondary status in the band in Region 3.
A 70MHz allocation for amateurs would thus be very difficult to implement.
Data modes for Foundation Licences
RASA reiterated our position that data modes should be approved for Foundation Licences, subject to appropriate modification of the syllabus.
We further noted that, in accordance with the ethos of the FL, only commercially produced radio-computer data interfaces for HF equipment and commercially produced digital VHF/UHF transceivers (i.e. DMR, P25, etc) should be used.
Discussions are ongoing.
Three letter callsign suffixes for Foundation Licences
Computer programs used for digital amateur communications often do not allow the use of callsigns with four letter suffixes.
The only vacant three letter block suitable for FLs is the QAA-QZZ series. This has been set aside in the past to avoid confusion with “Q codes”.
With the demise of commercial Morse Code services, the amateur service is now the only active user of multiple Q codes. Further, only a very small number of codes are actually sent on air by amateurs these days.
RASA proposed that, to avoid confusion, the block within the Q series used for amateur Q Codes – QRA-QUZ – be set aside. This still leaves ample allocations available.
RASA further proposed that the Q series not be mandatory – i.e. it only be available to those FLs who wish to use data modes. Those FLs who wish to retain their existing four letter suffix callsign should be permitted to do so.
ACMA agreed to consider this request.
RASAs position is that higher power should be available for Advanced Class amateurs only and that it should be the responsibility of Advanced Class amateurs to ensure that their station meets the EMR/EMC requirements of the Australian standard/s.
Accordingly, RASA proposed that those Advanced Class amateurs wishing to operate with powers above 400 W would be required to complete a standardised EMR/EMC self-assessment proforma, and that said proforma be available for download from the ACMA website.
ACMA are considering RASA’s request.
Licence grade/privileges model
A clear majority of respondents to WIA RG and RASA consultation support the current incentive-based licencing system – i.e. band access is a function of technical knowledge, as demonstrated by examination.
Accordingly, RASA’s position is that, based on our consultations with the amateur community, we unequivocally support the current incentive-based licencing system, and that any significant change to the current privilege/licence grade matrix would seriously undermine the very nature of the hobby.
ACMA noted this position, and further noted that consensus of all stakeholders across the sector is required before any major changes could take place.
Permitted transmitter frequency coverage
There is some confusion over the possession of transmitters capable of transmitting on frequencies outside of amateur bands.
RASA’s position is that it has always been accepted practice that amateurs, as technically qualified practitioners, are permitted to use any transmitter, provided that the transmitter is operated in accordance with the conditions of the relevant amateur licence.
The issue, (as per the Act), has traditionally been interpreted as a question of possess, rather than possession for the purpose of operation.
However, most modern HF amateur transceivers will transmit, as standard, in the land mobile segment from 3.7-4 MHz. Some will also transmit on the 5 MHz band.
Moreover, many amateurs use commercial VHF/UHF land mobile transceivers that also cover spectrum outside of amateur bands.
Whilst many of these transceivers are restricted in frequency by software programming, the requisite software is readily available, and it allows programming of any frequency within the transceiver’s coverage (normally 136-174 and 403-480 MHz).
RASA’s view is that the onus lies with amateurs to ensure that they operate within their licence conditions, and it follows that possession of transmitters that may be capable of operating outside of the amateur bands is not a breach of the LCD/Act, per se.
ACMA advised that these issues will be considered as part of the new Radcom Act.
RASA have conducted some targeted monitoring of the bottom end of the 7 MHz band over the past three months. There are many stations that appear to be unlicenced, speaking Indonesian. The stations operate every day, for hours.
These stations have been causing harmful interference for a decade at least.
RASA asked if it would it be possible for ACMA to issue a formal complaint to either the ITU Radio Regulations Board/Radiocommunication Bureau or the Indonesian authorities directly, as the interference is continuous and harmful.
ACMA advised that they will look into the problem with a view to reporting the interference.