France have proposed that the bottom 2 MHz of the 2m band (144-146 MHz) be included in a list of bands to be studied for possible use by the aeronautical mobile service (i.e. aircraft) for non-safety related data communications, worldwide.
There has been much angst and metaphorical hand wringing in the amateur community over the French proposal, including the quite ridiculous idea to populate 2m with a new introductory grade of amateur licence – a “Foundation Z call”, if you will….
So, is 2m threatened?
The proposal is a classic case of “ITU kite flying” – i.e. put up a radical proposal to ITU and see if it flies.
Administrations often propose new bands for “sharing studies”, but many of these proposals are defeated in their initial stage.
For the French proposal to move forward politically, it must first be supported by European Government Radio Regulators, through their umbrella organisation, CEPT (The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations).
Naturally, European amateur organisations will lobby their regulators hard to reject the French idea.
If CEPT clears it, the proposal must then be supported by member countries (“administrations” in ITU-speak) at the forthcoming World Radio Conference.
Amateur organisations from outside Europe will, of course, have lobbied their regulators to reject the proposal at the Conference.
If the proposal is endorsed by the 2019 World Radio Conference, it is passed to the ITU Study Groups for discussion and study over the next meeting cycle, leading up to the next World Radio Conference in 2023. To succeed, it must be ratified by that Conference.
Assuming all political hurdles are overcome, and the proposal is passed at the 2023 Conference, the earliest it could take effect is realistically 2024, probably later, as it must be given effect in each country’s local legislation.
So, that’s the politics, what about the technical viability?
Amateurs are the Primary service in the 144—146 MHz band worldwide, and have been so for many years. The French are proposing what is known as co-Primary, worldwide. This means that aircraft would have the same rights as amateurs in the band.
However, for the proposal to be successful, France would have to demonstrate that aeronautical services could share the band with amateurs, whilst (to quote the French paper) “ensuring the protection of existing (amateur) services and not constraining future development of these services”.
Given the huge base of installed 2m amateur equipment worldwide and the VHF coverage from commercial aircraft operating at 30-40000 feet, it is very difficult to see how any realistic sharing and protection of amateur communications could be achieved.
So, in summary, the proposal is technically and politically difficult. It is thus unlikely to pass through the ITU processes over the next 4 years.
Notwithstanding this, it is very important that all amateur radio societies write to their national regulator, expressing their opposition to the French proposal.
To this end, we have written to the WIA, proposing a joint letter to ACMA expressing our opposition.
The letter is reproduced below.
Mr. Greg Kelly VK2GPK
The Wireless Institute of Australia
FRENCH PROPOSAL FOR 144-146 MHz
As you have no doubt heard, France have proposed that the bottom 2 MHz of the 2m band be included in a list of bands to be studied for possible use by the aeronautical mobile service (i.e. aircraft) for non-safety related data communications, worldwide.
We have discussed the proposal on our website at: http://vkradioamateurs.org/will-we-lose-2m-to-aeroplanes/
The proposal is technically and politically difficult. It is thus unlikely to pass through the ITU processes over the next 4 years.
However, it is very important that all amateur radio societies write to their national regulator, expressing their opposition to the French proposal.
This is an issue that transcends AR politics and necessitates a united approach to the regulator.
Accordingly, I propose that we write a joint letter to ACMA, expressing our opposition to the proposal and requesting that Australia oppose it at the forthcoming WRC.
G.C. Dunstan VK4DU
27 June 2019