Message to ZL and EU amateurs

By   24 October 2020 11:21

Just one day ago, I woke up and read that New Zealand radio amateurs were notified about expiry of the 60 m trial licenses. It felt like a lightning strike. Today, October 24th, the 60 metre band in New Zealand will become silent.

The New Zealand Defence Forces did not approve renewal of the licenses because “having access to the highest quality HF spectrum is very important to support their new platforms, tactical radio equipment and refreshed HF site equipment, all soon to be delivered. Additionally, access to HF is a key part of their communications plans both in NZ and to support our forces overseas.”

This view however, raises serious questions. Although all radio users will agree that quality of radio communications depends on the quality of the spectrum, the NZDF remarks suggest that the new equipment is not adequately protected against interference. I have not seen tender documents for the new equipment, but if I were to write them, essential requirements would be reliability and ultimate protection against interference or jamming.

The real world situation is that the 5 MHz band is heavily polluted with over the horizon radar, pirates and other strong sources of interference. I do not expect this to improve soon.

Well designed equipment can cope with these threats and low power amateur signals would be hardly noticeable in that case. The defence forces licenses cover an extensive part of the spectrum. 15 kHz less is so little, that it cannot be as important as the forces claim.

The reasoning of the defence forces is thus contrary to common knowledge and lacks justification. One can only speculate about the true reasons.

The New Zealand amateurs operated very carefully and strictly by the rules. No complaints are known.

I would like to note the fact that, to my knowledge, the trial was never evaluated. Sound legislation processes require evaluation whether rules and decisions are effective and proportionate for example. An evaluation could have provided valuable conclusions about possible effects of amateur activity on the 60 metre band. Instead, it looks like the decision hides behind a smokescreen.

Over time, on a personal note, I have observed a worrying trend where governments increasingly distance themselves from those they claim to represent. As said, well substantiated legislation is generally accepted because expected effects of rules can be explained. Rules, based on non arguments like “because we say so” are invalid and at the end of the day, they result in revolt. If we want a peaceful society, this is not the way to go.

Another aspect I would like to mention are the International Radio Regulations. New Zealand is a Member State of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and a signatory to a United Nations treaty concerning the ITU. The International Radio Regulations (IRR) are annexed to this treaty. No serious argument can be found why the 15 kHz allocation cannot be allowed. The WRC-15 outcome came into effect in 2017 and the 15 kHz segment is already adopted in the Table of Radio Spectrum Usage in New Zealand.

I very well remember the first contacts back in January 2018 and at that time, I did not know how good propagation can be between Europe and New Zealand on 60 metres.

Many contacts were made and over time, a lot of experiments followed, trying  to understand the exceptional good propagation. Testing propagation to ZL became a regular activity and led to close friendship with a group of ZL amateurs. Future observations which could shed more light on the ionosphere, are cut off. An empty space on 60 m will be left.

I would like to sincerely thank my friends in New Zealand and Europe for the many contacts,  emails, inspiration, comments, ideas, experiments, perseverance and above all, the friendship that emerged from it. No one can take that away from us!

We all hope that the decision will soon be reversed and the governments Down Under will implement the internationally agreed allocation of the 60 metre band.

But for now, goodbye my friends and again many thanks, best 73s and hope to see you very soon!

Henk PA2S