Radio silent area

Ny-Ålesund is a radio silent area. This is stated in the White paper of Svalbard (2016) and in The Strategy for Research and Higher Education for Svalbard (2018). However, for safety, operational and scientific reasons there are some transmitting radio frequency (RF) systems operating from Ny-Ålesund today, despite the principle goal to minimize the RF electromagnetic radiation.

The Norwegian Governments Svalbard Strategy states that “Radio silence and a local environment that is as pristine as possible are important premises for further development and use of Ny-Ålesund. Important instruments, observatories and other facilities depend on this. At the same time, it is important that on-site research organisations continue the constructive dialogue already under way to develop good systems for managing their shared presence and maintaining a solid basis for high-quality research and monitoring”.

This implies that it is still possible to use transmitting RF equipment in Ny-Ålesund for safety, operational and scientific reasons, but any such use has to be done with care, by application, information, and by coordination with the rest of the science community in Ny-Ålesund. As a general approach, long-term RF transmitters should be located elsewhere.

The use today

There are several scientific instruments in Ny-Ålesund that take advantage of the radio silence in Ny-Ålesund. An overview of both transmitting and receiving RF devices in use in Ny-Ålesund today is included in the NySMAC frequency list. The frequency list is currently under review.

NySMAC frequency list

The Norwegian Mapping Authority’s operates an observatory that includes two new VLBI antennas that operate in the range 2–14 GHz (plans to extend this to 32 GHz in the future). The number of 24-h operation is to increase from 2-3 per week to 24/7 operations in the near future. The new antennas are in a test phase now, and are expected to be in full operation from 2022. Tests for broadband use will start summer 2019. The NMA activity is protected by Norwegian law (see below). An overview of when NMA is operating the VLBI antenna can be found here: https://ivscc.gsfc.nasa.gov/sessions/ (links for scheduled  VLBI measurements. The column Intensive gives the weekly 1h measurement (usually Monday morning). NMA in Ny-Ålesund take part in all measurements marked with Ny. Start time is given as UTC.)

Note: The world wide harmonized 2.4 GHz band used for among others Wi-Fi and Bluetooth falls within the protected frequency band.

Many personal devises like cell phones, cameras, watches and PCs have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth embedded, and all visitors to Ny-Ålesund are asked to turn these off or in to “Flight mode” before coming to Ny-Ålesund.

 

The GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences has a satellite receiving station operating between 2.2-2.29 and 2.4-2.45 GHz. Information on how to prevent disturbance of satellite reception can be found here.

 

The other receiving scientific devices in operation in Ny-Ålesund today are listed in the NySMAC frequency list.

 

The procedures described here include the I) legal communication regulation framework managed by Nkom, II) NySMACs procedures for acceptance and coordination of RF activities, and III) the local awareness/coordination.

I - The legal framework for frequency use

Radio transmission in the 2–32 GHz frequency band is not allowed within 20 km radius from Ny-Ålesund.
Radio transmission in the 2–32 GHz frequency band is not allowed within 20 km radius from Ny-Ålesund. Map: Norwegian Polar Institute Photo: Map: Norwegian Polar Institute

The legal framework for frequency use is managed by the Norwegian Communications Authority (Nkom). Nkom has the official responsibility for all frequency usage in Norway, including Svalbard and Ny-Ålesund. Equipment that radiates RF cannot be used without a frequency license from Nkom. Information about how to apply for such a license can be found here.

 

The Regulations No. 628 concerning general authorisations for the use of radio frequencies General authorisations regulations or fribruksforskriften in Norwegian allows a general “free use” (no application) for use of some frequencies under certain conditions (e.g. signal power). The frequency range between 2 and 32 GHz in the geographical area of 20 km radius from Ny-Ålesund (see map in Figure 1) is however exempted. This exemption is set up to protect the Norwegian Mapping Authority’s VLBI system. All licences given in this frequency range have to coordinate use with NMA.

 

It is worth noting that equipment that operates within the General Authorization legislation (e.g. wireless weather stations, licence-free hand-held radios, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) is designed to co-exist with other General Authorization equipment within the same band.

 

When Nkom processes applications for transmitters that do not fall into the General Authorization legislation, Nkom will base their decision on international frequency regulations and harmonization’s. Nkom will seek to protect other radio services with priority in the requested bands and other existing licences in Ny-Ålesund. Nkom may reject the application due to risk of interfering with protected bands or existing licences.

 

Normally, devices that only receive RF energy do not require an application to Nkom, with an exception for satellite receiver stations. For important RF receiving equipment, it is recommended to inform Nkom, to lower the risk for future interference from devices emitting RF energy. Informing Nkom does not automatically lead to protection in the band. Information regarding passive receivers and their purpose may be sent to Nkom at .

 

Instrument owners always have to make sure that emissions outside their working frequencies are limited, in order to not interfere with equipment on other frequencies.

 

Coordination with NMA

Nkom will not grant licence for RF use within 2-32 GHz without the use being coordinated with NMA.

The applicant may save time if the discussion is started with NMA before the application is submitted to Nkom:

  • Make contact with NMA via email at . Provide the information as requested in the NySMAC Radio Frequency Form.
  • NMA will confirm whether the project can proceed as is, or whether modifications are needed.
  • Contact with NMA should be established as early as possible to provide sufficient time for coordination and potential modifications if required.

II - NySMAC procedures

All RF usage in Ny-Ålesund need to be brought to NySMAC (either at a NySMAC meeting or through the NySMAC PID FORUM). This will normally be done by the NySMAC representative from the institute hosting the project in Ny-Ålesund. (For the institutes that are NySMAC members themselves (but not host), this should be done by their NySMAC representative. These institutes are GFZ, SU, NORUT, ASC, NILU, UNIS and UiT.)

If it turns out that a new instrument disturbs other’s measurements, the new instrument has to be shut down until the RF interference has been investigated. NySMAC can decide that an instrument no longer can be used.

 

NySMAC procedures - Campaign based use of RF emitting devices

  • Check, if the device is really needed and no alternative is possible
  • Check the list of “frequencies in use” to avoid conflicts with other local equipment.
  • Provide all the information as requested in the NySMAC Radio Frequency Form, and have the NySMAC representative from your institute or the institute hosting your project inform the other NySMAC members by posting information on the NySMAC PID forum under Projects.
  • Reply and follow up on comments that may arise.
  • At the same time, apply to Nkom for permission if required.
  • The NySMAC secretariat/NPI will update and maintain the list of frequencies in use based on the information provided to NySMAC.

 

NySMAC procedures - Long-term use of RF emitting devices

  • Check, if the device is really, really needed and no alternative is possible. As a general rule long-term use of RF emitting devices should be located elsewhere.
  • Check the list of “frequencies in use” to avoid conflicts with other local equipment.
  • Provide all the information as requested in the NySMAC Radio Frequency Form, and have the NySMAC representative from your institute or the institute hosting your project bring the request to the table at the first upcoming NySMAC meeting.
  • Follow the recommendations given by NySMAC.
  • Apply to Nkom for permission if required.
  • The NySMAC secretariat/NPI will update and maintain the list of frequencies in use based on the information provided to NySMAC.

 

NySMAC procedures - Use of RF receiving devices

  • Provide the information as requested in the NySMAC Radio Frequency Form, and have the NySMAC representative from your institute or the institute hosting your project inform the other NySMAC members by posting information on the NySMAC PID forum under Projects.
  • Inform Nkom if needed.
  • Inform the NySMAC secretariat/NPI to have the frequency added to the list of RF emitting devises in use.

III - Local awareness

There is a need for local awareness when using RF equipment in Ny-Ålesund, irrespective of processes with Nkom and NySMAC.

 

The local coordination is set up the following way:

  • If you have a Nkom license (if required) and have discussed the use with NMA and NySMAC according to the principles defined above, the base manager in Ny-Ålesund hosting the project or activity has to bring the accepted request for use to the Ny-Ålesund Research Station Weekly Meeting for situational awareness.
  • The detailed use of frequencies for drones (UAVs), balloons etc. in Ny-Ålesund should also be addressed during the daily “airspace coordination” meeting run by KB/AFIS.