Saturday, February 19, 2022

Update on UK amateur radio stations getting permission to experiment on the 40 MHz band

As of February 2022, a number of amateur stations in the UK are trying to get permission from OFCOM, the UK licensing authority to carry out experiments on the 40 MHz band.

NOV... Roger, G3XBM reports that he applied for a Amateur Radio Special Research Permit and getting a Notice Of Variation (NOV) as shown in A above. His application for this was recently turned down.

At present, some UK radio amateurs are using these NOV's to experiment with compressed digital video techniques at 146 MHz and 71 MHz.

I know there is at least one more person waiting for a reply on their application for a 40 MHz NOV although it doesn't look good at this stage.

Innovation & Trial License... The second route is to apply for a Innovation and Trial License as shown as B above. This costs at least £50 and G3XBM is currently applying for one of these.

This would seem to be similar to how the FCC in the United States recently allocated special experimental permits to seven individuals.

OFCOM... A few years ago, the RSGB (Radio Society of Great Britain) held discussions with OFCOM about new frequencies and allocations. OFCOM were of the view that they would not allocate anything for 'more of the same'. 

In other words, they're not going to allocate new frequencies for DX-ing, contesting or just talking to someone else down the road. Their view was that radio amateurs in the UK have more than enough frequencies for this and they're probably right.

Any new permit or allocation will have to show there is a genuine need for it. Radio amateurs experimenting with modern compressed digital video techniques and getting the signal to fit inside a limited band is a good example of this.

Looking forward... It's not looking great at the moment but it would be very useful if some UK stations were allowed to use the weak signal mode WSPR on low power on the 40 MHz band on an experimental basis. They would be unlikely to cause any interference to other users if they were just given say the ISM band of 40.670 to 40.700 MHz to experiment with. 

This could be used to carry out propagation experiments as we approach the peak of the next sunspot cycle. As the solar flux increases, it's not always obvious where the maximum usable frequency is for the F2 layer of the ionosphere.

We know it's in the low VHF region but where? It's well above 28 MHz but below 50 MHz. Being able to do propagation research is where the real value of having an allocation at 40 MHz lies.

It seems likely that if an application is going to be successful then it will have to go into some detail as to how the experiments will be carried out and how any potential interference to other users can be mitigated.


G8JGO said...

I understand the need for frequency planning to avoid co-interference, but who put the government in charge of this natural phenomena? To me it's like regulating the air we breathe.

The Irish government seem to have the liberal view on this - and good for them.

Ofcom refuses to allow extra spectrum and dictate what should or should not be allowed - I'm sorry, but I'd love to be able to challenge this is law if I had the money - which is another whole conversation. Good luck to those trying to get on 8M.

John, G0JJL said...

Hello all, I have quire recently successfully applied for and received an Innovation and Research Licence from Ofcom which permits use of 40.680MHz and 40.690MHz using narrow band digital modes and CW to study and experiment with propagation in this part of the radio spectrum. These licences are a totally separate licence catagory from and are in no way shape or form associated with Amateur Radio. Anyone can apply for an Innovation and Research licence in the UK, whether licensed as an Amateur or not. I have seen postings elsewhere online mentioning UK Amateurs have been issued "permits" for access to 40MHz, this is not correct.

Ofcom do not issue, administer or manage callsigns for use with Innovation and Research licences and there is no legal requirement to use one with this type of licence. During a conversation with the relevant person at Ofcom, it transpires that licensees can simply use any callsign of their choice and there is no requirement to inform Ofcom of this callsign.

Of course, this means that you could use your existing Amateur Radio callsign but this will probably cause confusion and misunderstandings going forward. Using your Amateur Radio callsign does not automatically mean that your station is then designated as an Amateur Radio station, it remains a licensed Innovation and Research station, that is all. Using your Amateur Radio callsign to transmit on non-Amateur Radio assigned frequencies, for which you have a relevant licence (or the service is licence exempt) is not illegal in the UK but your Amateur callsign is then just another callsign, such as ABC123 for example. Any communications with other stations with approved access to 40MHz will not be Amateur Radio communications so far as the UK side is concerned.

Many years ago Innovation and Research licences were called Test and Development licences and callsigns in the series G9 were issued by the regulator but this is no longer the case.

So, where does this leave us in the UK? Well, the Innovation and research licence I have permits transmissions in the 40MHz band but I am yet to decide on the callsign I will be using. I am not going to use my Amateur Radio callsign as this is misleading. My licence is valid from 1st May this year for a 12 month period. Looking forward to some activity on the band.

Anonymous said...

The UK Government are not actually in charge of civilian spectrum and Ofcom is not a Government department, it is an independent public corporation. Since taking over spectrum management from the Radiocommunications Agency in 2003 Ofcom has actually liberalised spectrum access and availability.