We are writing to urge your association’s participation in efforts to address the Year 2000 problem, also known as the 'Millennium Bug." As you know, many of our automated and intelligent systems were not designed to take into account the date change that will occur on January 1, 2000. Computer and technology experts are working busily to assess the potential impact of this problem. What is certain is that all sectors of the global economy, including financial and food distribution, depend upon reliable telecommunications networks. Failure to avert significant network failures could be calamitous. Therefore, it is critical that the U.S. international telecommunications industry take prompt, comprehensive and effective action to address the Year 2000 problem.
Although we are aware that many U.S. international telecommunications companies have already acted to address this situation, we are concerned that some telecommunications carriers, especially those operating in developing countries, have not yet taken the necessary steps to prevent system failures. Because global telecommunications rely upon seamless interconnection of networks, the international dimensions of the Year 2000 problem are especially significant. Our nation's well-being is dependent upon the reliability of the global telecommunications network, and government and industry must work together to ensure that whatever disruptions occur do not lead to widespread outages and failures.
Clearly, government agencies cannot solve the Year 2000 problem by administrative fiat. This is a job that individual companies in all sectors of our economy must undertake. RF licensees should be aware that any automated station operations that involve keeping track of what day it is should be examined for Year 2000 compliance. Also, licensees should examine their personal computer systems (which have date/time functionality) and all counter software such as accounting and database applications, for Year 2000 compliance.
We want to emphasize that the FCC takes very seriously its responsibility to work closely with the communications industry to ensure that the Y2K challenge is successfully met. As part of the Commission's outreach and guidance initiative, the FCC is already working closely with other Federal departments and agencies on the Y2K problem. Commissioner Michael Powell, in connection with his role as Defense Commissioner, is the FCC representative to the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion. The efforts of this government-wide group are detailed in a Special Internet Web site, located on the World Wide Web at http://www.y2k.gov>. The FCC has also established a Y2K Working group to coordinate internal Y2K compliance efforts and outreach to the communications industry on this issue. The FCC's Y2K page on the Internet, located at <http://www.fcc.gov/year2000/>, serves as a resource center concerning the Y2K problem and the communications industry.
The FCC is taking an active role in the International Telecommunication Union's ("ITU") Year 2000 Task Force to promote international awareness and provide guidance on Year 2000 readiness. The ITU Year 2000 Task Force is establishing "'Y2000 Ambassadors" who will serve as regional coordinators for assistance on Year 2000 problems and activities, and the FCC will assist in the region of the Americas.
We realize that you have every incentive to ensure that our telecommunications networks continue to operate with minimal disruption, and that you are devoting significant resources to meet this challenge in the Year 2000 and beyond. We commend your efforts to date and want you to know that the FCC is ready to offer whatever assistance you may need.
Thank you for your attention to this most important matter.
All U.S. shortwave broadcasting has been subject to coordination
since 1962. Coordination is a process by which shortwave broadcasters
submit their frequency requirements to a host at a central collection point.
There they are processed, listed in
ascending numerical order, and examined for co-channel and adjacent channel conflicts. Efforts are then made by the participants to resolve as many conflicts as possible by negotiation.
The coordination group that started in 1962 is still in existence today. It is called the G6, because there are six participating organizations. These are: IBB (VOA, RFE, RL), FCC (representing 23 private U.S. shortwave broadcasters), Radio Canada International, Radio Nederland, Deutsche Welle, and BBC.
In 1990 a new coordination group was formed. Soviet and East European communist jamming had ended, the Cold War was over, and it was time for the West (EBU) and the East (OIRT) to start working together in the field of shortwave broadcasting. This new coordination group was called The High Frequency Coordinating Committee - The HFCC, and it is now the most important shortwave coordination group ever to be assembled.
Over the past fifty years there have been numerous unsuccessful attempts
to plan under divisions of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
the specific assignments of frequencies in the bands allocated to shortwave
Such planning attempts have failed because the number of requirements submitted by the broadcasters has always exceeded the amount of available shortwave spectrum. To fit all the requirements into a viable master plan would have required either mandatory reduction of many of these requirements or the massive expansion of the bands allocated to shortwave broadcasting. Neither option was realistic.
The most recent efforts to plan the shortwave bands took place at planning conferences in 1984 and 1987. These failed dismally because they would have drastically reduced the requirements of most of the world's shortwave broadcasters. Their impact on U.S. private broadcasting would have been devastating. For the foreseeable future, the HFCC Coordination approach spares shortwave broadcasters from the negative impact of rigid, centralized assignment ("planning") of frequencies.
The HFCC meets twice a year to coordinate the schedules of its members. During the first week in February, the seven-month Z(summer) schedule is coordinated, and during the fourth week in August the five-month W(winter) schedule is coordinated.
The HFCC coordinates about 17,000 daily frequency hours, which represents approximately 70% of the world's shortwave broadcasting. At the HFCC meeting held in Belgium in February 1998, 90 delegates from 33 countries (representing more than 60 broadcasting organizations) attended.
Thus far, HFCC membership has been open. Any administration or broadcaster wishing to participate is invited to attend as an observer. At the conclusion of the meeting, the observer is usually invited to become a permanent member. At the beginning of an HFCC conference, each broadcaster receives several working documents. A book lists all the requirements ofall of the participants. For each frequency the following data is given: hours of operation; transmitter location; power of the transmitter; antenna bearing; the type of antenna; the target area, listed by CIRAF zone. In addition, everyone gets a paper copy of his submitted requirements, as well as a diskette with all of his requirements. Each broadcaster also receives a copy of co-channel and adjacent channel collisions in which he is involved. A software program seeks out collisions in which the same CIRAF zone is targeted. Thus, if broadcaster (A) targets zones 27 and 28, and broadcaster (B) targets zones 28 and 29, on the same or an adjacent channel, the common zone 28 triggers a collision.
Clearly, the system has its shortcomings. Participants realize that collisions can occur even when a common zone is not involved. (If, for example, adjacent CIRAF zones are targeted over the same or similar paths.)
Software recently developed by a member of the group targets cases in
which antenna beams overlap. Such potential clashes are listed and
distributed to each broadcaster. At the end of each day, changes
made by each participant are handed in to the
secretariat, either on paper, or on diskette. Over 90% of the participants now have notebook computers which can be used to amend schedules, produce propagation predictions, and access data bases which contain worldwide frequency usage information. The use of diskettes to enter changes has significantly speeded up the process.
Generally, the co-channel problems are dealt with first. Members visit, or are visited, by other members, and try to resolve the problems during face to face consultations. Sometimes, to solve a problem, characteristics (such as antenna bearing) are changed.
At times, one of the parties moves to another frequency. One advantage of participating in an HFCC conference is that as broadcasters move about and make changes, good frequencies can become available on a daily basis. Thus, an early, careful perusal of the day's schedule can be productive.
Each morning, participants receive an updated list of requirements and
of obvious or potential conflicts. HFCC meetings have started with
as many as 2,000 collisions. By the end of a meeting, five days later,
the number is generally reduced to under 1,000.
HFCC coordination is expected to serve as the cornerstone of a new short-term
planning procedure. The new Article 12 of the ITU Radio Regulations
proposes a Procedure which is based upon HFCC
The next meeting of the HFCC (August 1998) will be hosted by the Arab
States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) in Tunis to coordinate the W-98
schedule. The People's Republic of China has expressed interest in
becoming a member of the group, and they have been invited to attend.
This will represent approximately 100 to 125 additional transmitters to
coordinate. Although this would increase HFCC coordination to a level
of approximately 80% of the world's shortwave broadcasting, it would mean
an added burden for the HFCC. It is therefore possible that at some
point saturation will be reached. At that point it would not be possible
to solve a problem without creating a new one.
HFCC problem-solving is part of the adventure of frequency coordination on a global scale. Whatever the outcome of the Tunis meeting, it is clear that as a result of the work of the HFCC, shortwave broadcasting has taken a major stride forward in the arena of worldwide frequency coordination. It will never be the same.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stanley Leinwoll started working for the Voice of America as a Propagation Specialist in 1950. Later on, he was associated with RFE/RL in propagation, frequency management, and engineering functions. He attended the first G6 meeting in 1962 and has been attending coordination meetings ever since. Stanley also served on five U.S. delegations to major international broadcasting conferences. In 1994 he retired from government service. He has been attending HFCC conferences on behalf of his private U.S. broadcasting clients, WYFR and WEWN since 1993.
The summaries below cover two of the presentations given at the
1998 NASB Annual Meeting. We expect to include summaries of
other presentations from that meeting in future issues of the NASB
IBB Remote Monitoring Systems presently activated are located in: Alexandria, Virginia; Santa Cruz, California; Washington, DC; Accra, Nairobi; Tunis; Belgrade; Helsinki, Minsk; Vienna; Yerevan; Bahrain; Islamabad; Kathmandu; New Delhi; Hong Kong; Bangkok; Guam; Jakarta; Beijing; Kobe; Seoul; and Shanghai.
Monitoring information is collected daily from about 40 part-time contract monitors, 14 full-time monitors, and 23 remote-controlled monitoring systems. Monitoring data formats available are: SDO (Signal/Degradation/Overall Merit) reports, bandscans, and sound samples. Professional monitors prepare the SDO reports. Bandscans of each registered international shortwave broadcast band are run on the remote-controlled receivers twice each half hour in steps of 1 kHz. The bandscan output (time/frequency/digitized S-meter reading) is available both as a numerical listing or graphically. The frequency scale on the bandscan graphs can be expanded for more detailed study of a given frequency span. The RealAudio-encoded sound samples are usually 17 seconds long. This length permits collecting 2 samples per minute. Other sample lengths are possible when necessary.
All the monitoring information is available on a web site for convenient access: the “IBB Monitoring Home Page”. The web site in Washington is mirrored by sites in Hong Kong, Helsinki, and Vienna. This provides for convenience of access for international users. On the IBB Monitoring Home Page http://voa.his.com , you can access two major monitoring areas: FMDS and RMS.
FMDS (Frequency Management Data Systems) is a database of observations that accumulates throughout a broadcast season. These can be accessed through a data base query system on-line. RMS (Remote Monitoring System) provides several ways to access recent monitoring information. Each user can get sound samples from two different servers. When a server is down, a backup is usually available.
These monitoring services are available to other broadcasters on a quid pro quo basis. See the URL http://voa.his.com/monfees.html for further details.
Continental Electronics Corporation conducted demonstrations of digital shortwave transmissions during the 1998 NAB convention. The transmissions emanated in the 19 Meter band from WEWN in Birmingham, Alabama with the receiver located in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Spectrum bandwidth occupied by the Continental digital transmission system is about 10 kHz for recovery of a mono 6 kHz audio program.
The system requires a transmitter with DC coupling in the modulator, SSB capability, and relatively flat frequency and phase response out to about 15 kHz. A special receiver or adapter is needed for reception.
Test results: When propagation was good, results were excellent (clearly superior to usual shortwave reception); when propagation was poor (or when “multi-hop” reception was supported), many “drop-outs” or “mutes” occurred.
The “drop-out” problem must be substantially reduced before the system will be practical for regular use. The demonstration showed that digital broadcasting can be accomplished with transmitting equipment that is presently available.