It’s been a long time coming, but the Amateur Service will get two new bands in the near future. The FCC on March 28 adopted rules that will allow secondary Amateur Radio access to 472-479 kHz (630 meters) and to 135.7-137.8 kHz (2,200 meters), with minor conditions. The FCC Report and Order (R&O) spells out the details. It allocates 472-479 kHz to the Amateur Service on a secondary basis and amends Part 97 to provide for Amateur Service use of that band as well as of the previously allocated 135.7-137.8 kHz band. The R&O also amends Part 80 rules to authorize radio buoy operations in the 1900-2000 kHz band under a ship station license. Just when the new Part 97 rules will go into effect is difficult to determine just yet; more on that below.
“It’s a big win for the Amateur community and the ARRL,” ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, said. “We are excited by the FCC’s action to authorize Amateur Radio access for the first time on the MF and LF spectrum. As amateurs begin using these new allocations in the next few weeks, we encourage the entire Amateur Radio community, as secondary users, to be especially attentive to the rules.”
It has not been an easy win, however. ARRL has been trying since the 1970s to convince the FCC to allow amateur access to parts of the spectrum below the Standard Broadcast Band. Through the Utilities Telecoms Council (UTC), electric power utilities have opposed Amateur Radio use of the MF and LF spectrum, raising unsubstantiated fears of interference to unlicensed Part 15 power line carrier (PLC) systems used to manage the power grid. The FCC said the Amateur Radio service rules it has adopted for 630 meters and 2,200 meters allow for co-existence with PLC systems that use the two bands.
Here are the highlights:
- Amateurs operating on 472-479 kHz will be permitted a maximum equivalent isotropically radiated power (EIRP) of 5 W, except in parts of Alaska within 800 kilometers (approximately 496 miles) of Russia, where the maximum would be 1 W EIRP. [EIRP is the product of the power supplied to the antenna and the antenna gain in a given direction, relative to an isotropic antenna (absolute or isotropic gain). EIRP is equal to ERP multiplied by 1.64.]
- Amateurs operating in the 135.7-137.8 kHz band will be permitted to run up to 1 W EIRP.
- The FCC is requiring a 1-kilometer separation distance between radio amateurs using the two new bands and electric power transmission lines with PLC systems on those bands. Amateur Radio operators will have to notify the UTC of station location prior to commencing operations.The FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau will provide details on the notification process later, but ARRL is urging radio amateurs interested in operating on either band to register at the earliest opportunity, to avoid having to protect any “post-notification” PLCs.
- The FCC placed a 60-meter (approximately 197 feet) above-ground-level (AGL) height limit on transmitting antennas used on 630 meters and 2,200 meters.
- The bands would be available to General class and higher licensees, and permissible modes would include CW, RTTY, data, phone, and image. Automatically controlled stations would be permitted to operate in the bands.
In an unrelated action, the FCC allocated 1,900-2,000 kHz to the maritime mobile service (MMS) on a primary basis for non-Federal use in ITU Regions 2 and 3, and limited the use of this allocation to radio buoys on the open sea and the Great Lakes.
“We are persuaded by ARRL’s comments to adopt final rules that are better tailored to the places where the commercial fishing fleet can make reasonable and productive use of radio buoys,” the FCC said.
Amateur Radio was upgraded from secondary to primary in the 1900-2000 kHz segment in 2015. The FCC said it believes Amateur Radio and radio buoys “can continue to share this frequency band as they have done for many years.” It declined to make additional spectrum available for radio buoy use.
The fact that the new rules contain a new information-collection requirement — notification of operation to the UTC — makes it difficult to guess at an effective date. The FCC R&O says the Office of Management and Budget (under the Paperwork Reduction Act) must first approve the information-collection requirements (in §97.303[g]). Once that happens, the revised Part 97 rules sections will become effective after the FCC publishes a notice in The Federal Register “announcing such approval and the relevant effective date.”