The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued infringement notices to two Sydney-based Low Power Open Narrowcasting (LPON) services operating transmitters at power levels up to 300 watts. Under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act), the operating power for LPON services is limited to a maximum of 1 watt transmitter power in residential areas and 10 watts in non-residential areas.
The overpowered transmissions were discovered following a series of reference measurements taken in May 2013. Warning notices, alleging contravention of licence conditions, were issued to both operators.
Subsequent investigations into continued non-compliance resulted in the infringement notices being issued to both operators for alleged breaches of section 113 of the Act which provides that it is an offence—unless the person has a reasonable excuse—to contravene a condition of an apparatus licence.
LPON services provide broadcasting capability where reception is much more limited compared to other broadcasting services. This may include targeting special interest groups or broadcasting to limited locations or for short time periods. Common examples of LPON services include racing and tourist information, foreign language services and niche musical and religious programming.
LPON licensees must comply with the received signal field strength levels set for them by the ACMA to avoid interference with other licensed services. To meet the field strength limitations of the licence conditions, licensees are expected to monitor the power of their transmitters and reduce transmitter power accordingly.
Failure on the part of a LPON licensee to comply with the conditions of its licence constitutes an offence. In instances of non-compliance, the ACMA may take regulatory action under the Act, including infringement notices, licence suspension or licence cancellation.
Key licence conditions include:
the maximum field strength limit (in a residential area) of 48dBuV/m is not exceeded (when measured at 10 metres above ground level at a location more than 2 kilometres from the relevant antenna)
the maximum transmitting power of a station used to provide a LPON service in a residential area must not exceed 1 watt.
Further information about LPON services is available here.