Gopal Madhavan, VU2GMN
President ARSI and Chairman IARU Reg.3
Have you ever thought of who is responsible for allocating
the frequencies we all use as radio amateurs to communicate with each other?
Most of us in India think it is the WPC, a department of the telecoms ministry.
Actually, it is the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which is the custodian of this very vital resource and on which there is an ever-increasing demand, as more and more services using wireless technology are introduced. The allocations are included in the ITU rules, which can be viewed on their web page:
Agreements on frequencies are usually worked out at World Radio Telecommunication Conferences (WRC) held once in four years; the first one, WRC-07, was held in 2007 in Geneva, and the last one was in 2012 when the amateur community was successful in getting an additional segment for its use.
The process of obtaining permission to use a particular frequency is a long one and many agencies are involved in the deliberations which influence the final vote at the conferences.
Radio frequencies are parceled out in segments for every service, whether it is the armed forces, aviation, commercial shipping, taxi services, or amateur radio. As different frequencies are effective at varying times of the day due to ionospheric influences, most services have a slot in the different bands so that they can have almost 24×7 communications. Amateur radio also has band plans which vary from country to country.
The process starts in the country that requires a frequency or frequency for a particular application. In the Asia region, it starts with the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT). Resolutions are prepared and submitted and then serious canvassing for support is done with the representatives of the various countries. Representatives from all services are also present, doing their bit to get their requirements, usually at the cost of other services
as there is only so much to distribute. As many of them are commercial in nature they have massive funds to use to influence decisions.
Amateur radio frequencies are protected by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). IARU is a federation of national associations of radio amateurs representing over 150 countries around the world. IARU is divided into three regions, which are roughly geographical. India comes under Region 3.
The map can be viewed here: http://www4.plala.or.jp/ nomrax/ITU_Reg.htm
Over the years IARU has worked hard to get new bands as well as access to new regional allocations on 136 kHz, 475 kHz, 5 MHz, 10 MHz, 18 MHZ, 24 MHZ, 50
MHz and 70 MHz, and for the expansion of the 40-meter band.
Currently, IARU is working on harmonized allocations on 50 MHz, 1.8 MHz, and 3.4 GHz for all three regions, and these will be negotiated at the next WRC in 2019. The final say is, of course, left to national administrations as there may be local conflicts with existing allocations (it took almost 18 months of work by ARSI to get access to the extended portion of the 7 MHz band in India).
The IARU is funded solely by contributions from member societies that pay a per-member annual subscription. India is represented by the Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI). The subscription is on a sliding scale, and from India, we pay Japanese Yen 65 per member yearly. Naturally, the bigger societies pay a larger quantum. It is the nominated members of IARU, with the requisite experience and knowledge, who attend the various meetings, prepare resolutions, canvass for support and try and influence the final outcome. It is their efforts that give us our frequencies and which resulted in amateurs getting the use of the so-called WARC bands, 17, 12, and 10 M, which we use now, and also the expansion of the 40 M band from 7.1 to 7.2 MHz, and ARSI worked to get the 50 MHz and 10 MHz allocation for Indian radio amateurs recently. The process is costly, as for almost the entire period between WRC meetings, some
consultative meetings are being held and IARU has to be represented. Sometimes there are some members of other organizations who are also radio amateurs and so they get to attend and also assist IARU.
This is the reason that it is important for the majority of licensed amateurs in any country to be members of their national society (in this case ARSI) so that their subscriptions can fund the ongoing process of protecting our bands and allowing all of us to continue using frequencies allocated to us and also getting additional frequencies allocated for experimentation and use. In many countries, every licensee is a member of the national society, and naturally, they contribute in greater measure to IARU and eventually towards the privileges that we all enjoy.
ARSI works constantly with WPC to remove obstacles to the growth of amateur radio. Renewals are now very prompt, provided the paperwork is submitted properly, and we were able to get the vexatious security clearance process eliminated. This took almost 10 years of work, but it finally happened. There are other issues that we constantly address during our regular meetings with WPC and the Ministry of Telecommunications. ARSI also represents the Indian amateurs at the National Frequency Coordination meetings of the Department of Telecommunications, and our submission is an official document on the WPC web page.
It is therefore vitally important for all licensed amateurs to be members of ARSI and contribute to the background process of protecting our frequencies. Visit the ARSI web page (http://www.arsi.info/) for information on how to join. If you are already a member you can help by getting one new member each. It is vital if you wish to continue enjoying the frequencies we now have.
ARSI does not compete for membership in any other organization. Your membership in a local or any other club or association is essential as that is where the basic promotion of amateur radio and also local activities take place. You should, therefore, be a member of your local club and also of ARSI. The annual membership fee of Rs. 250.00 is small enough for everyone to join. The role of ARSI is totally different from other clubs and is primarily to protect your interests.