Statement by Ofcom on proposals for applying Recognised Spectrum Access to radio astronomy

October 18, 2005

London, 17 October 2005

A statement on proposals for applying RSA to Radio Astronomy

Summary

1.1 This Statement presents the conclusions following a consultation which proposed applying Recognised Spectrum Access (RSA) to radio astronomy. The public consultation was published on 6 April 2005 and is available electronically on Ofcom's Website | http:///www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/ astronomy

1.2 This Statement sets out Ofcom's policy decisions in respect of the proposals highlighted within the consultation.

1.3 Ofcom would like to reiterate that this Statement and the preceding consultation relate only to the introduction of RSA for spectrum used by radio astronomy. Work is being undertaken separately in relation to the introduction of RSA for satellite (and other) services and this will be the subject of a separate consultation.

Ofcom's role and RSA

1.4 Ofcom has a duty under the Communications Act 2003 (the "2003 Act") to secure optimal use of the radio spectrum, having regard to a number of factors including the efficient management and use of the spectrum. Section 159 empowers Ofcom to introduce RSA for the purpose of carrying out certain of its functions in relation to the radio spectrum. RSA is a means for OFCOM to take into account, within national spectrum planning, the use of frequencies used for reception of services that do not require to be licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949, for example because transmissions are made from outside the UK. Radio astronomy comes within this category because the equipment used receives signals from space but does not transmit.

1.5 Under section 160 of the 2003 Act, a grant of RSA would have the effect of requiring Ofcom in planning and managing the radio spectrum to take account of the use of the spectrum that is the subject of the grant on a comparable basis to a licensed use.

1.6 The consultation sought views on:

* the appropriateness of RSA as a spectrum management tool for the Radio Astronomy Service;

* whether the list of typical RSA parameters was appropriate;

* whether an indefinite duration with minimum 5 year notice period in the event of revocation was suitable;

* the proposed basis for fees;

* whether spectrum trading and liberalisation should be applied;

* whether additional regulatory impacts or policy implications should be considered.

* the proposed basis for fees;

* whether spectrum trading and liberalisation should be applied;

* whether additional regulatory impacts or policy implications should be considered.

1.7 During the consultation period, the independent audit of spectrum holdings by Professor Martin Cave, which is reviewing the effectiveness of ongoing incentives for public sector users to maximise efficient use of the spectrum, sought views on a number of emerging issues. That document, which referred to spectrum used for radio astronomy and mentioned Ofcom's proposals to introduce RSA for radio astronomy, sought views on the general question of the role of market mechanisms in meeting public sector requirements for spectrum.

1.8 Professor Cave intends to report later this year. While it would not be appropriate for Ofcom to anticipate the conclusions of the audit or the Government's response, it is relevant to note that the Government, in responding to the review of spectrum management by Professor Cave that was published in 2002, agreed with his recommendation that radio astronomers should face incentives to use spectrum efficiently through a combination of spectrum pricing and trading. This was coupled with a commitment to continue to support world-class radio astronomy in the UK and the expressed intention that spectrum pricing should act as an incentive to spectrum efficiency but should not reduce the resource currently devoted to radio astronomy.

1.9 The funding of radio astronomy is, of course, a matter for the Government, not for Ofcom. In setting fees for RSA, Ofcom will, however, exercise its power in accordance with the relevant provisions set out in the 2003 Act and the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1998. This includes Ofcom having regard in particular to various factors, such as the efficient management and use of the radio spectrum.

1.10 From the radio astronomers' point of view (in shared bands), there is no formal security that Ofcom will not license terrestrial services that may interfere with reception to an extent greater than the radio astronomers would wish. At a time of growing demand and increasing spectrum congestion, RSA would require that Ofcom take into account radio astronomy users when carrying out its spectrum management functions. Radio astronomy is a major user of spectrum using approximately 2% of spectrum below 50 GHz of which two thirds is shared with active services. A list of these frequencies is given in Annex 3.

Responses to the consultation

1.11 Ofcom received 13 responses from the scientific research community within the UK as well as from the satellite and mobile industry. A full list of respondents is given in Annex 2. The responses have been placed on Ofcom's website.

1.12 The responses dealt with 3 main issues, which are addressed separately in Section 4 of this Statement:
a) the principle of introducing RSA for radio astronomy;
b) the fee basis for RSA;
c) spectrum trading and liberalisation

1.13 A summary of the other points raised with Ofcom's comments is tabulated in Annex 1.

Ofcom's conclusions

1.14 Ofcom is grateful to all who responded and has carefully considered the comments.

1.15 Ofcom's conclusions and reasoning are set out in more detail in the following Sections of this Statement. Where appropriate, we have modified some aspects of our proposals to meet the concerns that were expressed by respondents to the consultation. Key points made in this Statement are summarised below.

* Ofcom's policy objective is to secure optimal use of the radio spectrum used for radio astronomy. It believes this is best secured by:

o making transparent the economic cost of making spectrum available for radio astronomy and so assisting rational and informed decision-making;

o providing appropriate incentives for radio astronomers to use spectrum efficiently.

* We remain of the view that the introduction of RSA for radio astronomy will help secure optimal use of the radio spectrum and intend to proceed but have modified our proposals to reflect concerns expressed in the responses.

* The parameters proposed in the consultation to be included in the RSA are appropriate.

* Initially, RSA will only address in-band interference issues although Ofcom is aware of the sharing issues which exist for out-of-band emissions. We will adopt a balanced approach to avoid undue constraints on the deployment of other services. It is unnecessary to consult separately on the initial values of those parameters as they will reflect the status quo so no additional restrictions will be imposed on other services.

* An indefinite term with a minimum 5 year notice period is appropriate for RSA for radio astronomy.

* In bands used for radio astronomy and in which alternative use of the spectrum is permitted by the International Radio Regulations, the RSA fees should be set by Administrative Incentive Pricing (AIP) based on the opportunity cost of denying the spectrum to alternative services.

* Were radio astronomers to relinquish their use of any part of the spectrum they currently use, whether on a national or regional basis, Ofcom would consider each request for change of use in accordance with Ofcom's liberalisation policy. Ofcom favours maximum flexibility in how spectrum is used but would check in particular that any change of use was compatible with the UK's international obligations and did not cause an unacceptable increase in interference for neighbouring spectrum users.

* It is desirable in principle for radio astronomy RSA to be tradable to give increased incentive for spectrum efficiency. However, the incentive effect will depend on whether or not the radio astronomy community is allowed to retain the proceeds of trading. Ofcom does not intend to introduce trading for radio astronomy RSA at this time but will revisit this issue in the light of the Government's response to the Cave Audit.

Next steps for radio astronomy RSA

1.16 To introduce RSA for radio astronomy, it will be necessary for Ofcom to make RSA regulations under section 159 of the 2003 Act and also to make fees regulations. We expect to publish a notice to consult on the necessary regulations in due course.

1.17 Please note that you can register to obtain automatic notifications of when Ofcom documents are published.

1.18 The remainder of this Statement is structured as follows:

* Section 2 - provides an overview of the legal and regulatory framework associated with RSA and describes broadly what Ofcom's policy on RSA for radio astronomy is aiming to achieve.

* Section 3 - describes Ofcom's approach to managing the radio spectrum and explains how RSA will promote optimal use of spectrum for radio astronomy.

* Section 4 - summarises the responses to the consultation and sets outs Ofcom's general policy position.

* Annex 1 - provides a summary of the other points raised in the consultation with Ofcom's comments.

Office of Communications
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