End to the trial of higher transmitter output power for amateur advanced licensees
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has decided not to continue the regulatory arrangements that were put in place for the trial of higher transmitter output power use by amateur advanced licensees (Advanced Licensees). This decision has been reached following a detailed assessment process which was announced in March 2013. Assessment of the trial was foreshadowed by the ACMA when the commencement of the trial was announced in February 2012.
Assessment of the trial
As an evidenced-based regulator, the ACMA collected data from a number of areas in order to reach an informed decision on whether permanent regulatory arrangements should be put in place for the use of Higher Power. The specific areas covered were:
- The demand for Higher Power reflected by the number of applications the ACMA received.
- A submission provided by the Wireless Institute of Australia including benefits derived from the use of Higher Power.
- A desk-based audit of trial participants knowledge of, and compliance with, electromagnetic energy (EME) requirements specified in the Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Apparatus Licence) Determination 2003 (Apparatus Licence LCD).
- The results of site visits undertaken in conjunction with the desk-based audit.
- Relevant complaints of interference of which the ACMA was made aware during the trial.
- The impact the trial had on other services that operate in the high frequency bands.
- An examination of other countries’ arrangements concerning the use of Higher Power.
After taking into consideration all the data obtained as part of the assessment process, the ACMA is of the view that the arrangements put in place for the trial should not continue. The ACMA has reached this conclusion for a number of reasons:
- The number of Advanced Licensees that applied to use Higher Power was not substantial. As at 20 May 2013, 297 Advanced Licensees had applied for the Higher Power authorisation out of a total number of 10,690. This demonstrates that the vast majority of Advanced Licensees did not seek the Higher Power authorisation. Of the 297 that did obtain the authorisation, the ACMA was advised by some participants that took part in the desk-based audit that they had not used Higher Power. Therefore, the figure of 297 applicants is not an accurate reflection of the number of Advanced Licensees that actually used Higher Power.
- The Wireless Institute of Australia’s submission to the ACMA contains a limited number of contributions from trial participants. The contributions indicate that the benefits of Higher Power use were confined to those respondents and do not demonstrate broader benefits to the wider community. The limited number of contributions is also indicative of limited active engagement from trial participants.
- Some Advanced Licensees’ knowledge and awareness of the requirements of the Apparatus Licence LCD did not meet ACMA expectations. This is borne out by the results of the desk-based audit. There were 90 Advanced Licensees that took part in the desk-based audit. Of those 90, 17 were unable to demonstrate their compliance with the Apparatus Licence LCD. The reasons for this varied; some did not respond to the ACMA’s request for information made in accordance with Apparatus Licence LCD, whilst others incorrectly assessed the compliance level of their station. This was an important consideration given that the use of Higher Power was taking place within the wider community and the Apparatus Licence LCD sets out, among other things, the EME requirements for the operation of transmitters.
- The ACMA is aware that some countries permit the use of transmitter power levels greater than in Australia. Whilst the ACMA did have regard to permissible power levels in other countries, these countries are likely to have different and unique regulatory arrangements and policy considerations. The ACMA, as an evidence-based regulator, must base its decision on the data collected during the assessment process and the requirements of the domestic legislative environment.
Background to the trial
From 1 March 2012, Advanced Licensees were able to apply to the ACMA to use transmitter output power of up to 1,000 watts peak envelope power (Permissible Output Power Level) from one or more nominated fixed locations. Authorisation to operate at a Permissible Output Power Level expired on 31 August 2013.
Operation at a Permissible Output Power level was only available for specified high frequency bands. The means of approval was by the imposition of further licence conditions on the Advanced Licensee’s apparatus licence under paragraph 111(1)(a) of the Radiocommunications Act 1992.
Applicants were required to ensure that the proposed signal level from the station complied with the radiofrequency limits stipulated in the ARPANSA standard 1. Applicants were not required to demonstrate compliance with the ARPANSA standard at the time of application. However, at any time during the trial the ACMA could require a licensee to demonstrate compliance with the standard.
Exclusion zones applied in relation to trials of Long Term Evolution (LTE). If a new LTE trial commenced during the trial, Advanced Licensees were notified of the commencement and had to return to using the transmitter output power levels specified in the Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Amateur Licence) Determination No. 1 of 1997.
More information on the ACMA EME regulatory arrangements is available here.
1. ARPANSA standard means the Radiation Protection Standard for Maximum Exposure Levels to Radiofrequency Fields – 3 kHz to 300 GHz published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.
The ARPANSA standard may be obtained from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency website.