Britain (RSGB) has taken issue with assertions by telecoms regulator Ofcom that the agency “advises and assists spectrum users to help resolve harmful interference.” RSGB said that, while Ofcom does advise complainants from the amateur community and elsewhere, it is “usually only to the extent of advising that they can do nothing and have no further interest in the case.” The regulator rarely uses its statutory powers to assist, RSGB said, responding to Ofcom’s proposed 2017-2018 Annual Plan.
The situation in the UK somewhat mirrors that in the US, where the FCC has dialed back the number of personnel available in the field to handle complaints. RSGB noted that when Ofcom took over responsibility for UK spectrum management in 2003, there were 100 field staffers dealing with interference and enforcement work, supported by other enforcement and engineering personnel.
“Several commentators felt that was insufficient for the challenges facing the threats to the radio spectrum,” RSGB said. “Since then, the spectrum has become steadily more polluted as the number of non-compliant and faulty pieces of electronic apparatus and equipment has risen, coupled with Ofcom’s reluctance to act against them, while spectrum use has continued to grow. Instead of rising to the challenge, Ofcom has in fact constantly reduced staff until it now claims to have just 30 field engineers for the whole UK. In our view, this is short-sighted and inadequate.”
Ofcom has masked this inadequacy, RSGB contended, by raising the noise threshold for technical assignments for commercial licensees, something it cannot do for the Amateur Service. Meanwhile, the sources of interference to radio amateurs “are manifold and increasing,” RSGB said, citing more recent developments as wind farms, domestic solar arrays, and VDSL as the cause of “severe problems.”
RSGB said Ofcom’s typical response “is to merely check that the individual components are CE marked” and don’t acknowledge that the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) regulations require that apparatus must be compliant when it’s first placed into service.
“Over many years, the RSGB has been urging Ofcom to update their interference Regulations, which can be used to stop interference from a wide range of apparatus when it is in use,” RSGB said. “While we welcomed the updating that took place in 2016, we pointed out several flaws in the Regulations. These were not accepted by Ofcom.”
RSGB said it hoped that Ofcom would reappraise its proposals with respect to interference resolution, “taking a more positive line and promising to increase resources.” The RSGB said its EMC Committee is ready to help in any way it can.