Awanui Radio ZLA returned to the air in 1995, as a US-owned automated marine station – and ran afoul of radio regulations when it began transmitting digital data on voice frequencies. The following is from the ICT Regulation Toolkit, a joint production of infoDev and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
International cooperation in spectrum management
One of the responsibilities of administrations that support the International Telecommunications Union is to monitor and control radio transmissions. This is done to ensure that frequencies are used in accordance with the internationally planned spectrum framework.
While all member countries maintain internal monitoring and radio control services to deal with interference to, and between, their radio users, some have established dedicated international monitoring stations. These stations check that transmissions that have effects beyond national boundaries, particularly for frequencies below 30MHz, are in accordance with the internationally agreed conditions of operation. This includes checking frequency, bandwidth, emission type and content (usage). Where non-compliance with any prescribed condition is determined, the ITU provides for an infringement report to be sent via their central administration to the country responsible.
New Zealand recently received such a notice as a result of monitoring conducted by the mobile radiocommunication services monitoring centre (CCRM) at Ophain (Belgium). The transmissions complained of were determined as coming from a station identified as Awanui Radio and using the callsign ZLA, from Northland, New Zealand. The original Awanui Radio coast station was established in 1913 as one of the New Zealand stations providing a public radiotelegraphy service for vessels at sea – primarily those making international voyages. While this government station closed in 1930, a new commercial service was established at the same site in 1995 by an American company with an international network of maritime coast stations. The monitoring by CCRM had established that four of the transmission frequencies used by Awanui Radio were being used for data transmissions, whereas the ITU planning specified that the particular frequencies are for voice communication.
As a member of the ITU, New Zealand issues radio licences that follow the ITU plan. The radio licences that had been issued to the company transmitting from Awanui had therefore specified voice emission only on the frequencies concerned. Transmission of automated data posed a risk of interference to vessels wishing to pass voice messages. Radio Spectrum Management, as the group looking after New Zealand’s radiocommunications administrative responsibilities, had the duty of ensuring the offending transmissions ceased.
Although the station at Awanui is an un-staffed automated service, email contact with the owners in America achieved a prompt stop to the offending transmissions. An infringement notice was issued to the company and has since been settled. This incident is a good example of the international coordination of radiocommunications that has been achieved by ITU members over the past century. It is also a good example of the global nature of radiocommunications, with monitoring in Europe, of an American-controlled transmission, from a New Zealand site.