FCC Proposes Changes to 60-Meter Ham Band
Amendments would permit greater flexibility at 5-MHz.
On May 7, 2010, the FCC released a ten page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ET Docket No. 10-98) that looks toward modifying the rules regulating the use of five channels in the 60 meter (5-MHz) amateur band. The NPRM is in response to a Petition for Rulemaking filed with the FCC by the American Radio Relay League on October 10, 2006. The FCC subsequently issued a Public Notice to seek comments on the ARRLs Petition, but none were received.
The proposed changes would substitute a new channel for one that is less encumbered, increase the allowed power from 50 to 100 W effective radiated power (ERP) and allow three additional modes: CW, PSK31 and PACTOR-III. The proposed changes can be found beginning on page 8 of the NPRM.
The ARRL is pleased that the Commission has opened this proceeding to increase the usefulness of the limited 5 MHz Amateur Service allocation, said ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ. We are gratified that the Commission and the NTIA agree that the responsible manner in which amateurs have been using the five USB channels warrants some expansion of privileges so that the Amateur Service can be even better prepared for service to the public.
The 60 meter amateur allocation
The 60 meter ham channels are contained in the larger 5060-5450 kHz band that is allocated to the fixed and mobile service (except the aeronautical mobile service.) This band is primarily used by Federal agencies for ship-to-shore and fixed point-to-point communications. Non-Federal licensees in the 5060-5450 kHz band include state governments and licensees in the Industrial/Business Pool that operate standby and/or backup communication circuits for use during emergency and/or disaster situations, entities prospecting for petroleum and natural gas or distributing electric power, coast stations, and aeronautical fixed stations. A footnote in the Allocation Table makes five frequencies in this band -- 5332 kHz, 5348 kHz, 5368 kHz, 5373 kHz and 5405 kHz -- available to the Amateur Service on a secondary basis.
In 2003, the FCC added the Amateur Service secondary allocation to this band after determining that such frequencies could be useful to the Amateur Radio Service for completing disaster communications links at times when existing frequencies in the 80, 75 and 40 meter bands are not available due to ionospheric conditions. The FCC concluded that such an allocation represented the best compromise available to give the Amateur Radio Service access to new spectrum for a wide range of radio communications, while assuring that incumbent operations are protected.
At the request of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the FCC restricted the use of these five channels to single sideband suppressed carrier voice using only the upper sideband, and a maximum effective radiated power (ERP) of 50 W peak envelope power (PEP). The Commission adopted these operating restrictions to decrease the interference potential between amateur stations and federal stations.
In its Petition, the ARRL requested that the FCC make three modifications to the existing rules governing Amateur Radio use of the 60 meter band to increase the flexibility in the use of the band and to facilitate emergency communications provided by the Amateur Radio Service. It asked that (1.) The 5368 kHz channel be replaced with 5358.5 kHz, (2.) Three additional emission designators -- 150HA1A, 60H0J2B and 2K80J2D -- be authorized in the 60 meter band and (3.) The maximum ERP on channels in the 60 meter band be increased from 50 to 100 W PEP, provided that amateurs utilize Voice-Operated Transmit (VOX) while in the single sideband emission mode.
Relocating the 5368 kHz channel.
The ARRL Petition argued that a successful history of sharing with Federal users -- together with its amateurs strong desire to improve Amateur Service use of the band -- merited a grant of greater flexibility in the use of these frequencies.
The existing Amateur Service use of the 60 meter band represents what the FCC calls a balancing of important interests -- the desire to provide amateur operators with frequencies that could be used to complete disaster communications links when other bands are not available, and the need to protect important primary Federal operations in the 60 meter band. The FCC tentatively concluded that the changes proposed by the ARRL should be adopted.
The ARRL, in its Petition, pointed out that its request to replace the 5368 kHz channel with 5358.5 kHz is based on reports from amateur operators of frequent interference from a digital signal on the existing authorized channel. The FCC agreed that the proposed modification would eliminate interference and enhance Amateur Radio operations and should be implemented in the 5330.6-5406.4 kHz band.
Additional emission designators
In its Petition, the ARRL explained that it had conducted a survey and found that there is significant demand for modulation techniques that would allow telegraphy and data transmissions in addition to the one that is currently permitted for voice (SSB upper sideband) transmissions. In addition, the League said PSK31 and Pactor-III are popular narrowband data modes. PSK31 is a data system using phase shift keying (PSK) at 31.1 baud and PACTOR-III is a data system with a potential throughput of up to 5.2 kbit/s.
In its NPRM, the FCC proposed to add these three emissions that would allow four permissible emission types to be used in the 60 meter band. The ARRL pointed out that FCC could require amateur operators to limit the length of transmissions in the two data emission modes in order to better position amateur operators to avoid causing harmful interference to primary operations and suggests adopting a rule that incorporates a general requirement to limit the duration of data transmissions.
As such, the FCC is seeking comments as to whether a rule addressing transmission limits would help ensure that in the currently infrequent instances in which Federal agencies exercise their primary use of the 60 meter band frequencies, those amateur licensees who have been operating on a secondary basis will be better positioned to avoid causing harmful interference, which is prohibited.
In addition, the FCC is also seeking comment on whether amateur stations should be permitted to transmit emission types in addition to the four discussed above in the 60 meter band without increasing the likelihood of interference to primary users.
Maximum ERP on 60 meter channels.
The ARRL said that the typical transmitter output power in modern ham radio equipment is 100 W PEP, and that the present 50 W PEP transmitter power limit reduces communication capability. The League believes that a slightly higher transmitter power level would increase emergency communications reliability.
The ARRL also believes that the use of Voice-Operated Transmit (VOX) in the phone mode would permit a Federal user to interrupt an amateur stations transmission quickly. The FCC is seeking comment on these proposals.
At the request of NTIA, the FCC is also soliciting comments on whether amateur operators who provide emergency communications using the 60 meter band should be encouraged to add a sound card-generated Automatic Link Establishment (ALE) capability to their stations.
ALE is the worldwide de facto standard for digitally initiating and sustaining HF radio communications. Its purpose is to provide a reliable rapid method of calling and connecting during constantly changing HF ionospheric propagation, reception interference, and shared spectrum use of busy or congested HF channels.
The 30 day comment period on this NPRM begins once the NPRM is published in the Federal Register; the reply comment ends 15 days later. Comments may be filed electronically over the Internet using the Commissions Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS). (Enter: 10-98 as the Proceeding Number and click the Continue button.)