The WIA – does it protect our bands?
One of the benefits of being a WIA member goes something like this… “I’m proud to be a member, the WIA protects our bands”. We see people making these comments regularly on social media and the President is often heard crowing this. Indeed, this goal is enshrined in the WIA Constitution: “to protect and enhance the privileges of Radio Amateurs”….
In our last newsletter we touched on the value of being a WIA member; one such benefit being “they protect our bands”. What then of the WIA’s own Intruder Watch service? A quick search of the WIA web site provides the following:
The WIA IARU Monitoring System is an agreed mechanism between the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Wireless Institute of Australia to identify and instigate (compliance) action to remove non-amateur “intruders” which are causing substantial interference to Australian amateurs in amateur HF frequency bands which are designated by the ACMA for exclusive use by amateurs.
The ACMA interprets ‘substantial interference’ as that level of interference which degrades reception by a considerable degree. The ACMA is obliged under the WIA IARU Monitoring System mechanism to investigate and as much as practical resolve intrusions into amateur HF bands in which Australian amateurs have Primary status.
What is the WIA’s responsibility?
The WIA’s Intruder Watch Co-ordinator collects and forwards intruder complaints to the ACMA. There is no evidence to indicate that the ACMA or the Board of the WIA takes any active interest in these reports.
There is no evidence to indicate any reports are being submitted to the ACMA. Given protection of our bands is enshrined in the Constitution, it would seem reasonable for the Board to review reports and actions on regular (monthly) basis?
After all, isn’t that one of the key benefits of being a member?
A review of available board meeting minutes indicates that this board takes no active interest whatsoever in protecting our bands from intruders; over the course of at least the last three to four years there have been no reports or topics of discussion on these important matters at any board meetings.
The board makes no effort to encourage members to get involved; a quick scan of AR Magazine over the last couple of years reveals no discussion on this topic. There is no evidence to indicate the Board has liaised with the ACMA on these matters. The WIA Co-ordinator has made no reports to members.
A quick review of the WIA Monitoring System report suggests that there have been 496 observations of potential intruders into our bands in December alone!
What is the WIA doing about these reported incursions? Is any analysis being done to determine how many might have originated from within our own borders, thereby allowing ACMA to take some action. Have the ACMA received, reviewed and provided any feedback on these reports?
The WIA is certainly not informing members of any reports or actions in this regard.
What are the responsibilities of Australian Radio Amateurs
As active radio amateurs, it is our job to report any potential intruders we may observe. From our research it appears only ONE Australian Radio Amateur goes to the trouble to report potential intruder observations to the WIA.
The mechanism to submit reports is somewhat unclear, with the WIA’s own intruder watch email address being inactive. Nonetheless, it appears that Australian Radio Amateurs take little interest in protecting their bands. Most assume the WIA Board has it in hand; this is a dangerous and ill-founded assumption……
Intruder watch can work!
Hence we were surprised when a ZL amateur brought an intruder alert to our attention in December 2016. Attempts to raise the matter with the WIA failed, as the Intruder Watch email address is inactive. Try it for yourself. firstname.lastname@example.org
This intruder report relates to Australian Department of Defence CW signals on 7, 14, 21 and 29.7 MHz. Not only have observations been made, but further investigation reveals that these allocations had been licenced to the Navy by the ACMA.
That’s right, licences have been granted to Defence within primary amateur allocations under ITU Regulations. The licence allowed 250 watts of CW on 7.000, 14.000, 21.000 and 29.700 MHz….
Given a clear lack of focus or action by the WIA, the WIA Reform Group submitted a report to the ACMA on 30th December 2016 along with a recommendation that the Defence allocations be shifted below (or above) the primary Amateur Band allocations. On the 19th January 2017, the Reform Group received an acknowledgement from the ACMA, along with advice that the Defence Department allocations would be moved.
This removal of an intruder was successful for two reasons; two parties took an interest and took action. The first party, a concerned radio amateur, took the time to identify and report the intruder. He conducted some research and provided adequate information.
The second party, a small group of concerned radio amateurs, took the time to review the report, conduct further analysis and then take action.
They took effective action; they reported the intrusion to the ACMA along with supporting evidence and also offered a solution (something the WIA rarely does).
Why is this important?
We’ve all heard the phrase “give an inch, take a mile”. Radio spectrum is a finite resource, and in recent years has become extremely valuable to commercial and government users.
Whilst this example may have been a narrow band Continuous Wave signal on our band edges, what could happen next if we don’t take action? Some wide band digital mode or other experimental signal? Worse still, incursions by commercial users?
Those of us who enjoy the 40 metre band in particular will be well aware of the massive QRM from our northern neighbours. And of course, every HF user will be aware of the OTHR Radars out of Russia.
This is just another example of a Board out-of-control. These directors do not have the skills or experience to deliver 21st century services to members or to deal with government regulators.
Their inability to focus on key services continues to undermine our WIA and its relevance to all stakeholders. When was the last time this board reported on Intruders to the members, or took any proactive action with the ACMA?
Members have every right to question their membership at renewal time. $95 is a lot of money to pay for negligible services….
As illustrated in this newsletter, the WIA is doing nothing to protect your bands and privileges.
Contact us if you have any questions.