The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is urging the aviation industry to increase efforts to protect its radio frequency spectrum in preparation for next year's International Telecommunications Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC).

The aviation industry's vital radio spectrum was threatened by mobile satellite communication operators at the last WRC in 1997. At the time, the WRC, which is responsible for allocating the radio spectrum, decided against the expansion of mobile satellite services into the bands currently allocated to aeronautical navigation systems. Mobile satellite operators are again set to mount a major lobby campaign for spectrum increase at the WRC next May.

Speaking at the Flight International Air Navigation '99 conference in Amsterdam, John White, director of IATA's Infrastructure Support Group, told delegates the industry had received a "rude wake-up call" at WRC '97. Aviation access to radio frequency bands is no longer guaranteed, warned White. "We've enjoyed a measure of protection in the past, but demand now exceeds supply by three to one. Aviation has 12% of the spectrum," he said.

IATA has taken on the role of protecting aviation's interests. The association is seeking to preserve exclusively the 1559-1610MHz frequency band for global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), while IATA believes the 1545-1555MHz and 1646.5-1656.5MHz bands should be given guaranteed access and protected from interference. The GNSS band is particularly attractive to mobile users, but it is vital that aviation protects this band for future satellite navigation developments. "If we carry on this route do we kiss CNS/ATM [communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management] goodbye?" asks White.

IATA has a non-voting position at the ITU, which is dominated by states' telecom departments. IATA is co-ordinating a national lobby programme, establishing an international lobby mechanism and increasing awareness in the industry. "We have yet to show the sort of commitment we need to protect our position," says White.

Source: Flight International