Two comments filed by ARRL before the FCC

andre kesteloot andre.kesteloot at
Fri May 30 15:02:30 CDT 2008


On Tuesday, May 27, ARRL filed electronic comments concerning two
matters that the FCC has under consideration. The first set of comments
concerns a company that filed a request for a waiver of Part 90 of the
FCC rules; ReconRobotics, an electronics manufacturer, wishes to sell,
and for its public safety customers to use, a robotic device that
operates in the 430-448 MHz band. The primary allocation in that portion
of the spectrum is United States government radiolocation (military
radars). The Amateur Service has an allocation on a secondary basis. The
second matter deals with GE Healthcare and their request for allocation
of spectrum (as a secondary user) in the 2300 MHz band; the Amateur
Service has a primary allocation in a portion of the requested band.

On January 11, 2008, ReconRobotics filed a request with the FCC for a
waiver of Part 90 of the Commission's Rules with respect to the Recon
Scout, a remote-controlled, maneuverable surveillance robot designed for
use in areas that may be too hazardous for human entry. This device can
be thrown, dropped or launched into hazardous areas and can provide an
operator located a safe distance away with video and audio, along with
infrared, biological, chemical, heat, radiation or other data. According
to the FCC, ReconRobotics seeks a waiver to permit equipment
authorization of the Recon Scout, and its use by state and local law
enforcement and firefighting agencies and by security personnel in
critical infrastructure industries.

The FCC said a waiver is required to permit licensing of the Recon Scout
because "the device operates in the 430-448 MHz band." ReconRobotics
asserts that because the Recon Scout operates with 1 W peak power, it is
"unlikely to cause interference to these services."

The ARRL contends that "Because [this device] operates on a channelized
basis, each of the three channels being six megahertz wide, the
necessary bandwidth of the device is apparently close to 6 MHz.
[ReconRobotics] asks that it be granted an unspecified series of
permanent waivers to allow the marketing and sale to, and use of this
device by law enforcement and fire department personnel for public
safety applications. The Amateur Service, which has a heavily occupied,
secondary allocation in the 420-450 MHz band...would be potentially
substantially impacted by grant of these waivers."

The ARRL's comments also state that ReconRobotics "fails to establish
that the 420-450 MHz band is the only viable choice and that no other
band would be suitable; an obligation of the Petitioner in order to
entitle it to a waiver." In requesting the waiver, ARRL asserts that
ReconRobotics only claimed, but did not show, prove or demonstrate, that
other bands were not suitable for its purposes. In other cases before
the FCC as recent as 2006, the Commission denied such waivers, saying,
"We do not believe that the public interest requires grant of a waiver
merely to accommodate a manufacturer's choice of a specific frequency
when others are available."

The ARRL contends, in its comments, that "nothing in the four corners of
[ReconRobotics'] request indicates anything that would verify the
factual conclusions offered. The waiver request boils down to 'trust us,
we have checked into this.'"

The ARRL points out in its comments that there are differing amateur
operations throughout the 420-450 MHz band. One of the channels
ReconRobotics is requesting use of -- 442-448 MHz -- is used by amateur
repeaters (with band plans varying by locality) and also for Amateur
television repeater inputs. "These repeater inputs, both for voice and
video, are at high locations where line-of-sight to [ReconRobotics]
devices should be expected anywhere in the United States. Repeaters in
this band are routinely used for emergency communications via amateur
Radio for numerous served agencies including FEMA, and so at times when
[ReconRobotic's] device may be expected to be used, the repeaters may be
expected to be in operation in the same areas," ARRL comments state.

For this reason as well, the ARRL maintains that interference to [the
Recon Scout] device may be expected on a regular basis from Amateur
Radio operations: "While it is all well and good for [ReconRobotics], a
manufacturer, to suggest that it understands that operation of the
device would be subject to interference received from licensed users in
the band, such interference is not a comforting thought for licensed
radio amateurs who could very easily be perceived to be, or held
responsible for the failure or malfunction of these analog devices in a
given application and the danger to public safety officers who are
relying on them. It is also too much to expect that a Public Safety
licensee will understand that the use of the device is unpredictable
because interference to the device is unpredictable. [ReconRobotics] is
correct about one thing: Amateur Radio operators take their relationship
with First Responders very seriously. Creating fundamental
incompatibility between Public Safety communications and Amateur Radio
operations serves no one well at all, and for this reason,
[ReconRobotics] should reconfigure its device to operate in a different

The ARRL urges the FCC to deny the waiver request, "either permanently
or even temporarily," and calls on the Commission to require
ReconRobotics to "initiate a rulemaking proceeding if it feels that the
Part 90 or Part 15 rules governing analog devices are not sufficiently
accommodating and should be changed, and could be changed consistent
with interference avoidance. Repeatedly granting waivers for analog
devices which do not meet the fundamental interference avoidance
requirements of the existing rules is bad spectrum management and
ill-serves the Amateur Service."

In December 2007, GE Healthcare filed ex parte comments in response to a
Notice of Inquiry (NOI) in the pending "MedRadio" proceeding, proposing
that the band 2360-2400 MHz be allocated on a secondary basis for "Body
Sensor Networks" (BSNs). These systems are apparently to be used for
wireless patient monitoring. They are very short-range networks
consisting of multiple body-worn sensors and nodes, connected via
wireless to nearby hub stations at medical facilities and in homes. The
Amateur Radio Service is currently allocated 2390-2400 MHZ on a primary

In its comments, the ARRL states that it does not expect a "significant
amount of harmful interference to Amateur operations at 2390-2400 MHz
from BSNs." GE Healthcare's proposal, however, makes "erroneous
assumptions about Amateur uses in these bands, and the interference
potential of the devices to Amateur Radio stations in residential areas
is not known." 

According to GE Healthcare, they propose an allocation of the entire
2360-2400 MHz band for use of the BSN devices, but the ARRL contends
that "in any given area, only 20 MHz of that band would be used. [GE
Healthcare's] proposal specifically mentions Amateur Radio and claims
that, because the band 2390-2400 MHz is 'designed [sic] for fast scan
video, high rate data, packet, control and auxiliary applications' and
not weak signal communications, it is well-suited for sharing with the
BSN systems."

The ARRL argued that this is a misconception on GE Healthcare's part:
"The fact is that there are no limitations on the type of Amateur uses
to be made in these bands. The band may in fact be used in some areas
for weak signal communications, on a completely unpredictable basis. The
uses of this band by radio amateurs, though guided overall by a national
band plan, are very much subject to local variation dictated by custom
and usage. Weak signal Amateur communications utilize long propagation
paths, very low received signal levels, and very high transmitted signal
levels. The band is also used for long distance data, voice and
television communications using relatively weak received signal levels."

The ARRL, in its comments, said it "is far more concerned" about
potential interference to BSNs from licensed Amateur Radio operation in
the 2390-2400 MHz band: "The ramifications of radiofrequency
interference (RFI) to these systems in terms of danger to medical
patients are obvious, and potentially severe." The ARRL contends "that
the potential for interference from Amateur Radio operations, which are
in this band occasionally itinerant and mobile, but most often fixed in
residential areas, to BSNs operated at a patient's residence would
be...a problem."

In light of the possibilities of harmful interference, the ARRL
requested that the FCC "not proceed with the proposal of GE Healthcare
as proposed in the 2390-2400 MHz band."

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