Better protection proposed for radio astronomy services in the Mid West 'Radio Quiet Zone'
Proposed measures to further protect the Mid West Radio Quiet Zone
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) is seeking public comment on proposed measures to provide further protection to radio astronomy services at the Mid West Radio Quiet Zone and support Australia's bid for hosting the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
The Mid West Radio Quiet Zone (RQZ) is located near Boolardy Station, around 200 km West of Meekatharra with the centre point at latitude 26º42'15" South, Longitude 116º39'32" East.
The ACMA first established the Mid West RQZ in 2005 to assist with the development and use of new radio astronomy technologies due to it being an area of very low radiofrequency noise and low population.
The RQZ is an area where emissions from radiocommunications devices are restricted to allow the operation of radio astronomy equipment with minimal interference. The RQZ is enabled via Spectrum Embargo 41 and Radiocommunications Assignment and Licensing Instruction MS32. The ACMA's planning for the radio astronomy service provides further background information.
The discussion paper outlines additional measures to provide, for the first time, legislative protection to the RQZ. The proposed measures include:
- a radio astronomy band plan that will, among other things, replace Embargo 41 and largely duplicate its provisions;
- extending the lower boundary of the protected frequency range from 100 MHz to 70 MHz to enable the requirements of the SKA bid to be met;
- making consequential amendments to the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan to enable the introduction of the band plan; and
- further highlight the proposed protection mechanisms by cross-referencing them in relevant spectrum, class and apparatus licence conditions.
The discussion paper is available in PDF or Word (1.1 mb) formats.
The closing date for submissions was been extended to 5pm, Friday 17 December 2010.
Submissions to the discussion paper can be made to the ACMA as follows:
By email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By mail to:
Spectrum Outlook and Review Section
Australian Communications and Media Authority
PO Box 78
Belconnen ACT 2616
Enhanced protection measures for the RQZ
Following consideration of the diverse range of stakeholder views on the ACMA's discussion paper, and targeted consultation with stakeholders on proposed revision, on July 7 2011, the ACMA released a response to submissions paper with the proposed path forward to provide greater regulatory certainty for radio quiet protection for the Murchison radioastronomy observatory (MRO) - the proposed Australian site for the SKA. The ACMA Authority approved a package of regulatory measures designed to provide adequate protection for radioastronomy activities in the RQZ to support the development of the premier radioastronomy facility in the world, while imposing the lowest feasible regulatory burdens and compliance costs on other spectrum users in the region.
The revised measures do not significantly change the nature of spectrum access and radio quiet arrangements in the Mid West RQZ, which have been in place for several years, but provide a regulatory basis for the measures which will provide greater certainty for all radiocommunications users in the region.
The revised measures include:
- introduction of a frequency band plan that replaces Embargo 41, with inner and outer zones that enhance radio quiet of the SKA site:
- inner zone: Within 70km of the MRO, radioastronomy services are the primary services in the zone, with any other services deemed to be secondary. Applicants for new apparatus licences must consult with the MRO before applying for the licence; and
- outer zone: The new outer zone would operate within a radius of 70-150km from the MRO. No service is granted primary status. In practical terms, licence applications in this zone will be considered in light of the spectrum plan and the relevant licence condition but the applicant for the licence must consult with the MRO.
- consequential amendments to the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan to enable the introduction of the band plan;
- review of Radiocommunications Assignment and Licensing Instruction (RALI) MS 32 to update the document and reflect the band plan; and
- variation of licence conditions to include the following:
- amendment of three class licences to ensure that appropriate provision exists in all relevant class licences to protect the MRO from harmful interference;
- technical solutions agreed between potential apparatus licensees and the MRO to be included in the apparatus licence conditions; and
- spectrum licences granted in areas around the RQZ to be subject to a licence condition designed to prevent harmful interference to radioastronomy services at the site.
These arrangements are informed by the consultation with stakeholders undertaken by the ACMA. In particular, agreed spectrum sharing arrangements outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) negotiated by the Australian and the West Australian Governments have been reflected in the regulatory arrangements put in place by the ACMA.
Regulatory instruments for enhanced protection for the RQZ
The regulatory instruments that have been amended or introduced to provide enhanced protection measures for the RQZ, as discussed above, are as follows:
The ACMA received 20 submissions (one is 'in confidence') in response to the discussion paper Mid West Radio Quiet Zone-Discussion paper on proposed regulatory measures, one of which was submitted in confidence. The ACMA's response to submissions paper can be viewed on the ACMA website. The public submissions are available below:
Publication of submissions
In general, the ACMA publishes all submissions it receives. The ACMA prefers to receive submissions which are not claimed to be confidential. However, the ACMA accepts that a submitter may sometimes wish to provide information in confidence. In these circumstances, submitters are asked to identify the material over which confidentiality is claimed and provide a written explanation for confidentiality claims. The ACMA will consider each claim for confidentiality on a case by case basis. If the ACMA accepts a confidentiality claim, it will not publish the confidential information unless required to do so by law.
Release of information in submissions
Submissions provided to the ACMA may be required to be released under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. The ACMA may also be required to release submissions for other reasons including for the purpose of parliamentary processes or where otherwise required by law (for example, a court subpoena). While the ACMA seeks to consult, and where required by law will consult, with submitters of confidential information before that information is provided to another body or agency, the ACMA cannot guarantee that confidential information will not be released through these or other legal means.