As part of Government plans to release a proportion of public sector spectrum by 2020 for commercial use, such as for mobile broadband, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has been tasked with assessing the possibility of safely reducing the aviation industry’s reliance on the bandwidth reserved for air traffic control radar. A major research programme will look at the feasibility of releasing 100MHz of the 2.7GHz–2.9GHz band currently being used for civil and military primary surveillance radars.
The research, which is being funded by the Department for Transport, will analyse ways of improving the efficiency with which radars currently use the 2.7-2.9GHz band and whether emerging surveillance technologies could reduce aviation’s reliance on this spectrum in the future.
Mark Swan, Director of the CAA's Safety and Airspace Regulation Group, said: "This programme provides us with an opportunity to evaluate new surveillance technology and identify whether wider benefits, in terms of reduced costs and improved performance of surveillance capabilities, could be delivered while meeting the Government's spectrum release aspirations.”
If the project confirms that use of 2.7-2.9 GHz by aviation radars can be reduced, it will then need to assess the potential impact of introducing commercial communications services into the band. This assessment will address compatibility issues with radars operated by civil air traffic control providers, military aviation and naval forces, civil maritime stakeholders and, potentially in the future, the Met Office.
The CAA said some early packages of feasibility validation work with industry have now begun. Information on progress will be exchanged with stakeholders in due course, particularly through the setting up of industry and operational consultation groups.
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The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy from an economic standpoint.