Annual Report and Accounts 1999-2000
To ensure compliance with spectrum management requirements imposed for the benefit of all radio users in order to keep the spectrum clear of undue interference, by:
interference investigation and resolution;
close liaison with customers;
The Agency aims to make quality radio spectrum available to its customers. In deciding priorities, we consult with customers to determine which factors are preventing them from obtaining optimum communications. Where there is heavy demand for access to the radio spectrum, compliance with licence conditions is essential if interference between users is to be avoided. It is for this reason the Agency conducts conformity checks on radio installations, offering advice where appropriate.
The Agency is keen to ensure that it strikes the right balance between help and enforcement, only resorting to enforcement action when it is necessary to protect the radio spectrum. The Agency's performance under the Enforcement Concordat, a Government initiative to improve regulatory services to business, was audited during the year. 96% of respondents said that Agency staff explained why remedial work was necessary and allowed a reasonable amount of time for it to be completed.
Dealing with interference
The Agency's priorities, as set by Ministers, are to deal firstly with interference affecting safety of life services; secondly with interference affecting businesses; and, finally, to deal with domestic reception complaints. The Agency aims to respond to all safety of life complaints within 24 hours, to 98% of business complaints within one week and to 98% of domestic reception complaints within one month. In the latter two categories, the remaining 2% of complaints are to be dealt with within a further 5 days and one month respectively. In 1999/2000 the first target returned 99.56% and the others were met.
Where business users of radio are unable to resolve interference generated within their own system, the Agency will investigate and advise on a repayment basis. This service was used by 51 businesses during the year.
Interference problems often arise when a radio or television has poor immunity to unwanted signals and should therefore be dealt with by the private sector. This is explained in the Agency's leaflet "Advice on Television and Radio Reception" (RA 179). If the problem cannot be resolved by the private sector, the Agency will check the complainant's reception arrangements for a flat rate charge of £45.
When a suspected source of interference has been reported, this will first be checked free of charge. The cost of this work is met from the BBC television licence income, and an Agency Working Party is currently investigating how this work might be done more efficiently. Details of the number of domestic interference cases reported can be found in Table 6.1.
Enforcement and Prosecutions
It is a criminal offence knowingly to use or facilitate the use of radio equipment contrary to the Wireless Telegraphy Acts. On occasion the Agency will offer an offender the opportunity to accept a formal caution; as an admission of an offence this can be cited in court if the offender is subsequently convicted within five years.
The majority of prosecutions are brought against CB radio and pirate radio broadcasters, where in many cases the poor quality of the equipment used gives rise to interference to other radio users. The Agency's local staff seized equipment used by pirate radio stations on 1,594 occasions during the year. In one of these cases, broadcasts were interfering with aeronautical radio use. Of those convicted, two were sentenced to 28 days' imprisonment, and two people involved with pirate radio were also convicted following an assault on an Agency officer.
Details of prosecutions, cautions and warnings given can be found at Table 6.2.
Table 6.1: Domestic TV and Radio Interference
|Number of reports||848||724||767||1024||3363|
|Number of paid cases||108||37||68||124||337|
|Examples of seized pirate radio equipment|
The primary aim of the monitoring section is to help prevent undue interference occurring whenever possible and to be in a position to speedily resolve those cases of interference that do occur. The section is based at the monitoring station near Baldock in Hertfordshire and is made up of four discrete but closely related units.
The Terrestrial Monitoring Unit is manned 24 hours a day and is the Agency's central point of contact for the emergency services outside normal working hours. During the year 957 reports of interference were received both from users, including the emergency services, in the United Kingdom and from other administrations throughout the world.
The Unit is also responsible for contacting the Agency's field staff in cases of urgent interference to emergency services out of normal hours. Temporary earth station clearance requests are normally processed by a section at the Agency's London Headquarters but those received outside normal working hours, normally as a consequence of a late breaking news story, are dealt with by the Unit. Over 8,000 clearances were processed during the year and the total continues to rise year on year with a 25% increase on last year's figures.
Although the prime role of the Terrestrial Monitoring Station has traditionally been concentrated in the HF arena with limited on-site vhf and uhf monitoring facilities, a five-year programme has now commenced in order to provide a network of remotely controlled v/uhf receivers located throughout the United Kingdom. These can be used to help in the localisation and elimination of harmful interference and will be used not only by the unit at Baldock but will also be available to the Agency's field engineers to help them resolve interference cases more quickly.
The Satellite Monitoring Unit takes measurements and observations on the use of the geo-stationary arc by communications and broadcast satellites. Information on transponder occupancy and orbital arc occupancy is collected to enable interference and conflicts between users sharing this part of the spectrum to be resolved quickly and satisfactorily.
|Fig 1: Terrestrial Monitoring|
|Fig 2: Satellite Monitoring|
The facility is fully automated and remotely controlled via fibre optics from the main operations room. It is equipped with two fully steerable large parabolic reflectors for use in the Ku and C frequency bands and a smaller 1.8m antenna for the L band. Additionally, these facilities are available to satellite operators and service providers for specific measurements on a repayment basis.
The Mobile Monitoring Unit systematically monitors usage of all bands on a national basis. This on-going programme contributes towards future decisions on frequency assignments and supports the setting of costs for Spectrum Pricing.
The emphasis of the work of the unit has gradually shifted from manned manual and computer-assisted monitoring towards the use of fully automatic equipment and this year has seen the purchase and deployment of twenty units which are totally self contained and portable and which can be quickly placed in an urban area in order to assess channel occupancy and so aid future assignments.
In the coming year this data will be made available on-line to the Agency's field engineers throughout the United Kingdom in order to help them in their daily work of frequency assignment and interference resolution.
The EMC laboratory unit consists of two UKAS-accredited EMC and interference laboratories equipped to deal with complex measurement and interference work across the whole radio spectrum. These laboratories perform many roles including acting in support of the Agency's field staff in technically complex interference scenarios, particularly in the higher frequency ranges, as they are equipped with measurement and monitoring equipment up to 110 GHz.
Other tasks include work carried out on a repayment basis for industry such as the radio surveying of new permanent earth station locations.
|Fig 3: Mobile Monitoring|
|Fig 4: EMC Laboratories|
|Steve Hoye working in the Baldock mobile laboratory|
Table 6.2: Prosecution cases concluded in the courts and warning letters issued. Financial Year 1999/2000
|Total of fines imposed||Total of costs awarded||No. of forfeiture orders||No. of conditional discharges||No. of absolute discharges||No. of admonishments (Scotland)||Official cautions||Warning letters sent|
|CB AM||8||8 (1)||£475||£1,128||7||4||-||-||4||1|
|CB FM||33||33 (2)||£5,260||£4,270||22||9||-||-||20||25|
|Unlicensed Broadcasters on Radio||35||35 (3)||£3,430||£13,190||28||15||-||-||4||-|
|Cordless Telephones||2||2 (4)||£300||£207||1||-||-||-||1||-|
|Others||1||1 (5)||-||£750||1||-||-||-||3 (6)||2 (7)|