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Amateur radio

Dr Larry Price, IARU

ITU/J.M. Ferré


Dr Larry Price, President of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU)

A worldwide community

Thousands of telecommunication professionals trace the beginnings of their careers to the exploration of the radio spectrum that was made possible by their early involvement in amateur radio. Many continue to pursue their passion for radio communication as a hobby, as well as a vocation. The amateur radio service and the related amateur-satellite service (collectively called the "amateur services") are unique, in that they are defined in the Radio Regulations as being open to those whose interest in radio is "solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest."

The operational and technical standards of the amateur services are as high as any other radiocommunication service. A total of some three million individuals in nearly every country of the world, from the very young to the very old, have demonstrated their qualifications and have been issued amateur radio licences by their administrations. These individuals constitute the global amateur radio community. They have formed radio clubs at the local level, and technical educational organizations at the national level, for the purpose of increasing the understanding of telecommunication technology and extending the benefits of radio communication to the wider community.

Participating in ITU

In ITU, the amateur radio community is represented by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), a worldwide federation of national societies in 159 countries and territories. The IARU is an active Sector Member of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU–R) and Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU–D), and is a regular participant in world radiocommunication conferences (WRC).


An early interest in amateur radio can lead to an exciting career.
For Dr Joseph H. Taylor, Jr., it led to the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of binary pulsars

David Sumner

The "self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations" that constitute the defined purposes of the amateur services are made possible by providing access to the radio spectrum by means of allocations of frequency bands. The principal objective of the amateur radio community at any WRC is to preserve this access to spectrum.

At the present time, allocations to the amateur service begin in the vicinity of 1.8 MHz (in the case of the amateur-satellite service, at 7 MHz) and appear at intervals throughout the Radio Regulations’ "Table of Frequency Allocations" up to 250 GHz. Use of these bands is managed through a combination of national regulations by telecommunication administrations and through self-management by the amateur radio community itself.

IARU Secretary David Sumner has observed that "the specific service rules for the amateur and amateur-satellite services, Article 25, were reviewed and modified at WRC-03. These modifications increased the emphasis on the use of amateur stations in providing communications in support of disaster relief and eliminated a long-standing requirement that amateur operators using frequencies below 30 MHz must demonstrate ability in Morse code. As a result, since 2003 the number of amateur stations equipped to operate below 30 MHz has risen sharply."

Items at WRC-07

While most of the agenda items under consideration at WRC-07 do not directly affect the amateur and amateur-satellite services, there are four that are of particular interest to radio amateurs:

Harmonization of frequency allocations

As befits radio services that are global in scope, most of the frequency allocations to the amateur services are on a worldwide basis, with a few regional variations. Some country footnotes provide for alternative or additional allocations in some of these frequency bands. The amateur radio community seeks increased harmonization of frequency allocations, through the reduction and avoidance of country footnotes that reduce the availability of bands that are allocated internationally to radio amateurs.

Maintaining and extending allocations

WRC-07 will review the allocations to all services in the high frequency (HF) bands between 4 and 10 MHz, with certain bands excepted. At present, the only allocation to the amateur service in this frequency range is at 7 MHz. WRC-03 expanded the amateur allocation in Regions 1 (Africa and Europe) and 3 (Asia and Australasia) from 7 000–7 100 kHz to 7 000–7 200 kHz, effective in March 2009, and maintained the allocation of 7 000–7 300 kHz in Region 2 (the Americas). The band 7 000–7 200 kHz is excluded from consideration at WRC-07.

Amateur radio offers young people opportunities to gain hands-on experience with telecommunications technology.
The girls from left are Fanny Winstén and Cecilia Ekholm from Finland

Mari Makio


To fulfill a longstanding requirement that was only partially met at WRC-03, the amateur service seeks to maintain its allocation of 7 200–7 300 kHz in Region 2 and to extend this allocation to Regions 1 and 3, as outlined in the Report of the Conference Preparatory Meeting (CPM) for WRC-07.

With only one allocated frequency band between 4 and 10 MHz, stations in the amateur service are unable to be as flexible as those in other HF services in adjusting their operating frequency to suit varying propagation conditions. To improve the reliability of communication at any time of day and to facilitate the role of the amateur service in support of disaster mitigation and relief, a worldwide secondary allocation of 150 kHz is sought in the frequency range just above 5 MHz, as proposed in the CPM Report for WRC-07.

Secondary allocation in the low-frequency range

A more straightforward issue is the conference’s consideration of a secondary allocation to the amateur service in the frequency band 135.7–137.8 kHz. At present, the amateur service has no frequency allocations lower than about 1.8 MHz. While the radiation efficiency of practical antennas has limited the effectiveness of communications at this order of frequency, digital processing now makes it possible to recover weak signals that previously would have been obscured by atmospheric noise. This opens a window of opportunity for amateurs to conduct technical investigations in the low-frequency range.

More than 20 administrations have permitted private individuals, virtually all of them licensed radio amateurs, to experiment with transmission and reception on various frequencies between 73 kHz and 200 kHz. A regulation from the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) on the use of the band 135.7–137.8 kHz by the amateur service has been implemented in 15 European administrations. An international allocation will harmonize these national arrangements, and a secondary allocation will provide regulatory protection for the primary services.

Proposals for the WRC in 2011

The amateur radio community wishes to see the following issues considered for inclusion on the agenda of WRC-11:

  • an allocation to the amateur service in the range 50–54 MHz in Region 1, in order to harmonize this allocation among the three Regions;
  • allocation of the band 495–510 kHz to the amateur service on a secondary or primary basis; permitting the development of reliable groundwave systems for disaster relief and providing spectrum for digital signal processing experimentation;
  • continued access for amateurs to frequencies at regular intervals above 275 GHz as allocations and protections for other services. (One option is to provide specific allocations to the amateur services of relatively narrow, primary bands adjacent to wider, secondary bands);
  • in any review of HF allocations, consideration of the expansion of the amateur bands near 10, 14 and 18 MHz, in order to better accommodate increased activity.

As always, several observers will be present at WRC-07 on behalf of the IARU. During the conference, members of the IARU team will be pleased to answer questions and provide information about the amateur services.



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