London, 6 April 2005
Access as applied to Radio Astronomy
Consultation published: 06|04|2005
Consultation closes: 13|06|2005
This consultation concerns proposals by Ofcom in respect of introducing recognised spectrum access ("RSA") for the radio astronomy service.
This document is structured as follows:
* Section 2 sets out a general description of the radio astronomy service;
* Section 3 sets out a general description of RSA;
* Section 4 sets out Ofcom's proposals for the introduction of RSA in relation to radio astronomy;
* Section 5 sets out a provisional timetable and next steps for introducing RSA in relation to radio astronomy.
The concept of RSA is a legal one in the sense that section 159 of the Communications Act 2003 (the "2003 Act") prescribes the circumstances relevant for a grant of RSA, namely:
i. a person is proposing to use or to continue to use a station or apparatus for wireless telegraphy;
ii. the circumstances of the use are circumstances specified for the purposes of that section in regulations made by Ofcom;
iii. that use does not require a wireless telegraphy licence but will involve the emission of electro-magnetic energy with a view to the reception of anything at places in the United Kingdom or in the territorial waters adjacent to the United Kingdom; and
iv. for the purposes of that section it is immaterial whether the emissions are from a place within the United Kingdom or from a place outside the United Kingdom.
As a general rule, the establishment or use of any station (or apparatus) for wireless telegraphy is prohibited under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 (the "1949 Act") unless a licence has been granted or such establishment or use is subject to an exemption under statutory regulations. Licensing is reserved for equipment that Ofcom considers has the potential to cause harmful interference.
When carrying out functions under enactments relating to the management of the radio spectrum, Ofcom
must act in accordance with various statutory duties including sections 3, 4 and 154 of the
Communications Act 2003 (the "2003 Act"). In particular, section 154 provides that Ofcom must have
* the extent to which the electro-magnetic spectrum is available for use, or further use, for wireless telegraphy;
* the demand for use of that spectrum for wireless telegraphy;
* the demand that is likely to arise in future for the use of that spectrum for wireless telegraphy; and
* the desirability of promoting (i) the efficient management and use of the part of the electro-magnetic spectrum available for wireless telegraphy; (ii) the economic and other benefits that may arise from the use of wireless telegraphy; (iii) the development of innovative services; and (iv) competition in the provision of electronic communications services.
Put simply, the grant of RSA would have the effect of requiring Ofcom under section 160 of the 2003 Act to take account of receiving equipment on a comparable basis to a licensed use. In other words, where for instance Ofcom carries out a licensing function under section 1 of the 1949 Act, Ofcom would be under a duty to take into account the existence of any grant of RSA in respect of radio astronomy that is in force and the provisions imposing restrictions and conditions subject to which the grant has effect to the same extent as Ofcom would take into account a wireless telegraphy licence.
Radio astronomy is based on the detection of radio signals from the cosmos to further our knowledge about the universe and its origins. As radio astronomy is a so-called 'passive service' (i.e. it receives signals from space but does not transmit so cannot, by definition, interfere with other radio use), radio astronomy is exempt from licensing. However, it is very vulnerable to interference from man-made electro-magnetic noise as it attempts to detect extremely weak signals across the vast distances of outer space.
The introduction of RSA for radio astronomy would place use of spectrum for radio astronomy on a more substantial footing. Under Ofcom's proposals, radio astronomers will gain enhanced certainty about the levels of interference they can expect to receive in the radio astronomy bands; and spectrum pricing and trading may be extended to provide incentives to use spectrum more efficiently.
These proposals will, however, involve a net increase in the overall amount paid for spectrum used for radio astronomy. The government has indicated that this will not prejudice the UK's world-class position in the field.
These proposals are in line with recommendations of the Cave review of radio spectrum management and the government's response Radio Spectrum Management Review.
This consultation seeks views on the principle of introducing RSA for radio astronomy and the technical parameters proposed to be used to define the RSA.
It will be of particular interest to those involved in radio astronomy and to other radio users whose services share or are adjacent to the frequency bands used by the radio astronomy service.
As the introduction of RSA for radio astronomy would require various statutory regulations to be made, Ofcom will consult on the substance of these regulations following the conclusion of this consultation.
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