It was - or wasn't?

Today I will remember the 23cm band - by the way - these days it is 70 years since the first OK amateur radio QSO on 23cm!

Once upon a time there were radio amateurs who were interested in everything new, trying propagation on ever higher bands, overcoming circuit intricacies, learning physics and mathematics because without their knowledge they could not get ahead of the competition. Competition was a natural companion to their efforts. It's logical, every man strives to achieve something better and higher. Hence, amateur radio contests were born - contests to make more contacts over the greatest distance and with the greatest number of states on the greatest number of bands. Antennas began to be improved, the laws of the electromagnetic field were studied. Many radio amateurs achieved top education and wide knowledge, which was behind the rapid development of the radio industry during World War II and the post-war years. Probably the last principled technical revolution that radio amateurs mastered as one large community was the transition from telegraph to SSB. They even founded a large amateur radio organization that had a worldwide scope and represented the interests of all active radio amateurs. Everything was looking great. But the Cold War started, and some powerful countries started acting like they owned the whole world, radio spectrum not included. But physics is not constrained by borders, nor by the political views of any rich people. Just as it has not been possible (yet) to privatize oxygen for breathing, it has not been possible to do so with the radio spectrum. The International Telegraph Union, which regulates the international postal service, has become the International Telecommunications Union, to which the member states of the world have also imposed the regulation of the radio spectrum. Radio amateurs were there and succeeded in achieving not only recognition of the Amateur Radio Service as one of the common radio services that others must respect, and even, by the time of the late 1940s and 1950s, worldwide validity of the exclusive use of certain frequency bands by amateur radio operators. Those of them who understood that the future of radio communication lay in the use of frequencies that were still lying fallow in the decimetre and even shorter bands. The second group of amateur radio operators unfortunately stagnated and improved the details of what had already been discovered and commonly used. Collectors started to hunt for QSL tickets of so called rare countries, DXpeditions were organized to make money, contesting using unlimited power and remotely controlled stations. To this was added the shameful forcing of some radio amateurs to train conscripts in telegraphic radio communication during the Cold War by the great powers, which was supported by the armed forces with material benefits that brought more people into paramilitary associations who did not understand the legacy of the basic radio amateur principles of friendly peaceful coexistence between people of all countries, nations and states. Thus, those interested in operating exclusively on shortwave bands (honouring the exceptions) have become the majority leadership of amateur radio organisations and communities, regardless of the political orientation of individual countries, starting with the Russian Dosaaf and ending with the American Mars organisation.

Those interested in technology and operation on VHF and GHz bands remained on the sidelines. These were mainly younger and more educated people who were of higher social status and very busy. There was no thought of any positions in amateur radio organizations. When the next technical revolution occurred - which was digital and mobile - the fossil leadership of the amateur radio organizations came under pressure from the microwave lobby - and understandably succumbed... So, under circumstances as yet unknown, they handed over the hitherto exclusive amateur radio allocations of the early 1950s to the national radio regulators, apparently free of charge (perhaps), and so these hitherto blocked frequencies came into the hands of the ITU. Certainly 21st century radio amateurs should push for a careful study of the ITU archives and find out who (by name), when and in collaboration with whom else and from what organisations were involved in this theft of the century! By the way - in a similar manner, fixed IPV4 addresses that were (supposedly) held in trust by the ARRL were (somehow) stolen from the world amateur radio community. After the ITU obtained exclusive allocations of amateur radio frequencies, it promptly sliced them up so that radio amateurs would be left with nothing but eyes to cry on... Not surprisingly, the military got most of them - that's the way it goes in totalitarian societies... Or at least they were allocated to services that had a direct link to the armies of individual countries (or military blocs) (for example, radio navigation and radar). Well, radio amateurs lost these VHF/GHz frequencies - forever! Of course, in practice nobody actually noticed - radio amateurs remained on these frequencies (mostly) as a secondary radio communication service. Whereas with radar, this coexistence was mostly seamless - for if the military transmits, amateurs do not hear any weak signals from counter stations and therefore do not transmit (and therefore cannot interfere with the primary operation of the radar service). Not to mention that the amateur radio service is a truly peaceful operation and when amateurs transmit, military machines to support the killing of people are usually silent. But let's get back to the facts:

allotment year 1947   allotment year 2021

freq. band MHz/GHz

E -exclusive,
S - shared

freq. band MHz/GHz

E -exclusive,
S - shared
3,5 až 3,9MHz S 3,5 až 3,9MHz


7.0 až  7,1 E 7.0 až  7,2 E
14,0 až 14,35 E 14,0 až 14,35 E
21 až 21,45 E 18.07 až 18.17 E
28 až 29,7 S 21 až 21,45 E
144 až 146 E 24.9 až 25 E
420 až 460 S 28 až 29,7 E
1215 až 1300 E 144 až 146 E

2300 až 2450

E 430 až 440 S
5650 až 5850 E 1240 až 1300 S
10 až 10.5 GHz E 2300 až 2450 S
    5650 až 5850 S
    10 až 10.5 GHz S

As you can see, the representatives of the amateur radio associations have won exclusive frequency allocations in the shortwave bands over 70 years, and have de facto paid for this advantage by surrendering exclusivity in all commercially valuable amateur radio frequency bands above 146MHz. Is there any better evidence that the representatives of the amateur radio associations (which are organized by the IARU) don't give a damn about the VHF bands and don't represent VHF radio amateurs? The situation is so serious that it would not be surprising that even today all VHF bands (except perhaps the de facto borderline two-meter) would be happily traded by these "fighters" for a few extra kHz - if they were in the CW bands...

Worse, the IARU member organizations were silent for decades. I wish they hadn't, when they are commanded by shortwave officers... Worse, it left even VHF managers in the lurch... Until Galileo came along - a project funded by the European Union. The first to point out the operational collision was G3LTF in 2005. That's 17 years ago! Unfortunately nothing happened and the sheep kept quiet. After all, it was "just VHF"... IARU Reg.1 was about shortwave, especially the 6MHz band. As with the  EESS project. which threatened to destroy the 70cm band, no one from the member organizations came forward to lodge a formal protest to the IARU..The development continued and the RSGB only started to deal with it seriously relatively recently.That is why OK1TEH applied to be a member of the RSGB, so that we could get up-to-date information. But there was silence. Until June this year.

G4SJH presented an EMC analysis prepared for IARU also during the EME meeting in Prague. The fundamental flaw in this analysis is that it communicates to the reader virtually only this (and I'll be vulgar): 'we know that the 23cm band is deeply f***ed... But we will try to do everything we can to preserve the ability of all amateur radio services that use this band to operate on it. Although it may be necessary to limit the radiated power to just 1W RF power..."

This is a tragedy.

I spoke at length with author and try explained to him that publishing some IARU analysis and resolutions is the worst thing the IARU can do now. When they understood that 23cm was deeply f**ked up, they should have prepared a Plan B first, because the results of the analysis clearly show that the biggest problem for the compatibility of the two services is the operation of unattended transmitters, especially those that operate around the clock - i.e. ATV converters and FM/DSTAR converters. Their operation needs to be urgently terminated and negotiations with the ECC and ITU need to be triggered (lobbying in advance for success, explaining and listening carefully and accommodating opponents) and in particular negotiating with the spectrum advisory body working for the European Commission (under DG Connect) as well as with representatives of the ECC's Freguency Management Group (CEPT) and the association of European regulators BEREC and persuading them, that 23cm is the most used EME band in the world and banning its use would cause total damage to the amateur community - which is why the IARU should propose (in addition to banning other types of traffic) moving DX narrowband traffic to the 1299 to 1300MHz band. That is, to show a willingness to suppress mutual interference as much as possible, and to show that even radio amateurs will be harmed but want to come to an agreement. Except IARU R1 didn't do all that... And he should have been working on it for at least the last 5 years! I guess it's too late now...

Do you know what is likely to happen then? When WARC 2023 decides that the IARU must ensure the immediate termination of operations in the 23cm band that interfere with Galileo receivers, the European Commission's Spectrum Commission will take this conclusion to the European Commission. And the latter will issue a EC Decision which has the force of law and must be respected by EU Member States. The result will be that the CTU will cancel amateur radio traffic on 23cm (and perhaps for precautionary reasons elsewhere). Why have all these shortwave bodies (IARU, CRC, DARC, EDR, etc, etc, etc...) been asleep for so many years? Well, because it's "all about VHF" after all.

Expect the cessation of amateur radio operation in the 23cm band no earlier than January 1, 2024, and no later than summer 2024. Get ready for it. The 6cm band is already basically liquidated here in OK - CTU moved WIFI there (5725 to 5950MHz free of charge) even though it is against international harmonisation - the 3cm band is very endangered as well as, 9cm was liquidated by CRC. In addition, the 24GHz - the first GHz band with amateur radio primary allocation is allowed to share fixed free data service traffic, so there will be drifts of interference there over time. I guess someone from CRC is trying to convince CTU that GHz traffic needs to be channeled to HF among prospective CB youth...

I wrote to G4SJH in conclusion:

  •  The radio amateur service in the 23cm band were exclusively allocated many years ago. Who and when in IARU (or ARRL) decided to continue to be a secondary service? Can ITU submit such consent?

  •  Moving of narrowband types of operation to the 1299MHz segment must be the next step after termination of all broadband radio amateur operations in the band

  •  We should consider that the end of the operation of all unmanned radio amateur transmition outside the segment of 1298 to 1300MHz, including de facto stop of unmanned FT8 transmit. Or limit any unmanned device power to 1W RFor so.

  •  We shall consider that the potential interference of navigation receivers is usually less critical in practice than the measurements presented by Barry G4SJH. Narrow interference, albeit of the same power level as broadband data, does not cause its interruption, but only a higher error rate and because the radio amateurs in their communication will do always a longer gap at the transmission (due to RX), the interference disappears and the data are then loaded correctly. Thus, satellite navigation will be not interrupted by sharing of radio amateur signals, but only it may create some possible delay.

  •  The 100W power level, which are now counts for radio amateur broadcasting, is as insufficient, all who run EME and similar types of DX operation knows it well. The negotiations could therefore monitor the performance restrictions over time - for example, the average (mean) level of radio amateur transmission in any minute period must not exceed the 100W. This is closely related to the potential interference of data transfer, listed in the previous point. The power level EME transmitters using a parabolic mirror as an antenna should not be subject to power restriction if the antenna is used in elevation higher than 30 degrees above the horizon.


    73 OK1VPZ