Aviation Radio Frequency Spectrum Protection

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Aviation Radio Frequency Spectrum Protection

41TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Cancun, Mexico, 15-19 April 2002

WP No. 95

Aviation Radio Frequency Spectrum Protection

Presented by EVPT


1.1  There is considerable concern within the aviation community that the radio spectrum used for aviation will be compromised unless States recognise the importance of protecting the aviation spectrum from conflicting commercial activities.

1.2  This paper provides background and recommends IFATCA policy to assist IFATCA members and representatives in ensuring States and organizations are informed of the importance of protecting the aviation spectrum.


2.1 World Radio-communications Conference 2003

2.1.1  The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is an international organization within the United Nations system where governments and the private sector coordinate global telecom networks and services.

2.1.2  Within the ITU is the Radio-communications Sector (ITU-R). On the ITU web site it states “The ITU-R Sector plays a vital role in the management of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, finite natural resources which are increasingly in demand from a large number of services such as fixed, mobile, broadcasting, amateur, space research, meteorology, global positioning systems, environmental monitoring and last but not least, those communications services that ensure safety of life at sea and in the skies.” Note that “safety in the skies” is listed last. This is most probably due to the fact that the loudest voices in recent years have been from non-aviation interests.

2.1.3  The ITU-R every two to three years holds a World Radio-communication Conference (WRC). The next is to be held in 9 June – 4 July 2003 (ITU-R WRC 2003). At this meeting, States will make important decisions that will affect the aviation industry.

2.1.4  It is not the intent of this paper to go into the technical details of the ITU-R WRC 2003 agenda. It is however important to realise that we are talking about considerably more than HF and VHF radio frequencies. The whole useable radio frequency spectrum from (9 kHz to 60 GHz) is involved and affects radio navigation, satellite systems, etc.

2.1.5 ICAO prepares a position paper well in advance of the WRC and circulates this via a state letter. (For ICAO’s position for the ITU WRC 2003, refer to the attachment to ICAO State Letter E 3/5-01/79.) IATA, EUROCONTROL and other organizations also prepare position papers for the WRC. However aviation is one of many voices at the Conference. It is therefore important for IFATCA Member Associations ensure that States representatives, who make the decisions at the WRC, are informed of the aviation issues.

2.2 Commercial Environment

2.2.1  States have become aware of the commercial value of the radio communications spectrum. The sale of spectrum (that is licences) for mobile phones networks has been widely publicised.

2.2.2  The allocation of spectrum for the future use of aviation is often seen as “hoarding” valuable spectrum and may not be accepted at future WRCs.

2.2.3  In addition, the spectrum currently reserved for aviation is very attractive to commercial satellite activities as it is one of the few bands reserved worldwide.

2.2.4  There is the very real concern that, unless aviation needs are recognised, short term commercial considerations may outweigh safety concerns.

2.3 IFATCA Policy

2.3.1  There is currently no IFATCA policy on Spectrum Protection. The closest policy relates to Interference with ATC Radio Telephony and is not suitable for the broader and more proactive Spectrum Protection issue.

2.3.2  In the Summary of the ICAO position paper to ITU WRC 2003 it, in part, states:

”The ICAO position aims at securing availability of radio frequency spectrum to meet civil aviation requirements for current and future safety- of-flight applications. In particular, it stresses that safety considerations dictate that exclusive frequency bands must be allocated to highly critical aeronautical systems and that adequate protection against harmful interference must be ensured.”

2.3.3  However it may be possible for aviation and non-aviation uses to safely share frequency bands. In the detail of the ICAO position paper in Attachment paragraph 2.2 it, in part, states:

”the sharing of aeronautical radio services with non-aeronautical services or with other aeronautical services must be considered with extreme care” and

”where sharing conditions are not thoroughly proven exclusive allocations need to be secured to preserve the integrity of aeronautical services”.

2.3.4  Although it is not normally IFATCA practice to include in policy that which is contained in ICAO documents, in this particular case it may be appropriate for IFATCA to echo ICAO’s position in order to reinforce it.

2.3.5  IATA has considerable detail on its position to ITU-WRC-2003. In addition to safety concerns, it also has concerns regarding provision for future growth and the financial impacts of any changes to existing arrangements. IFATCA should support the IATA position, but at this stage should limit IFATCA’s policy to the safety concerns of Spectrum Protection. Safety is the most important item. Additional policy requires more consideration and is recommended as a work item for SC1.

2.3.6  IFATCA also needs to consider aviation use of the spectrum not specifically allocated to aviation. Policy is proposed that requires that safety-critical items must be considered.

2.3.7  It is recommended that the IFATCA Policy be included in the IFATCA Manual in the technical section under classification ATS (which relates to the provision of Air Traffic Services) and not under COM (Communications) as Spectrum Protection also involves radio-navigation aids, etc in addition to voice and datalink communications.


3.1  IFATCA policy on Spectrum Protection should be limited to safety concerns at this time and should echo ICAO’s position.

3.2  Member Associations should ensure that their respective states are aware of the importance of protecting the aviation spectrum.

3.3  IFATCA support should be given to ICAO, IATA and other organizations with compatible views, which are seeking to protect the aviation spectrum to ensure the safety of aviation activity.

3.4  The work item “Review Spectrum Protection Policy” should be added to the SC1 work program for the coming year. In particular, SC1 should consider whether additional policy is required.


4.1  That a new paragraph 3.15 titled “Spectrum Protection” be created in the IFATCA Manual in Chapter 32 (IFATCA Technical Policy) under the classification ATS. The new page reference will be 32315.

4.2  That the introductory text for Spectrum Protection is as follows:

Spectrum Protection refers to the management of the radio-frequency spectrum in order to protect particular interests. The spectrum includes not only communications and datalink applications, but also navigation and other uses. Aviation is just one of the many users of the spectrum. The useable spectrum expands with technological advances however there are often competing demands for particular frequency bands.

States decide on spectrum use at World Radio-communication Conferences (WRC) organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

4.3 That the following be adopted as IFATCA Policy under Spectrum Protection.

4.3.1  The radio-frequency spectrum must be managed in a manner that at all times ensures the safety of current aviation activity and allows for future safety-of-flight applications.

4.3.2  Existing spectrum allocations for exclusive aviation use must not allow other uses until it is thoroughly proven that aviation safety will not be compromised by the shared used of the spectrum allocation.

4.3.3  Prior to aviation use of shared spectrum allocations, it must be thoroughly proven that safety-critical aviation requirements are not compromised.

4.3.4  Adequate protection against harmful interference to aviation spectrum use must be ensured.


5.1  ICAO State Letter E 3/5-01/79 including the Attachment on the ICAO Position for the ITU-WRC-2003.

5.2  ICAO Doc 9718 “Handbook on Radio Frequency Spectrum Requirements for Civil Aviation including Statement of Approved ICAO Policies”.

5.3  Web addresses for additional information. Links may change.

5.3.1  International Telecommunications Union Home Page: www.itu.int
Radio Communications Sector: www.itu.int/ITU-R
WRC 2003: www.itu.int/ITU-R/conferences/wrc/wrc03/index.html

5.3.2  ICAO
Home Page: www.icao.int
WRC ICAO Position Paper: www.icao.int/anb/panels/amcp and then select ITU WRC-2003 and select language.

5.3.3  IATA
Home Page: www.iata.org
Frequency Page: www.iata.org/itu

Home Page: www.eurocontrol.int
Spectrum Protection Group: www.eurocontrol.int/spg

Last Update: September 29, 2020  

March 13, 2020   600   Jean-Francois Lepage    2002    

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