CRAF Newsletter 2005/2

November 2005

The European Science Foundation is an association of its 76 member research councils and academies in 29 countries. The ESF brings European scientists together to work on topics of common concern, to co-ordinate the use of expensive facilities, and to discover and define new endeavors that will benefit from a co-operative approach
The scientific work sponsored by ESF includes basic research in the natural sciences, the medical and biosciences, the humanities and the social sciences.
The ESF links scholarship and research supported by its members and adds value by cooperation across national frontiers. Through its function as coordinator, and also by holding workshops and conferences and by enabling researchers to visit and study in laboratories throughout Europe, the ESF works for the advancement of European science.

On behalf of European radio astronomers, the ESF Committee on Radio Astronomy Frequencies, CRAF, coordinates activities to keep the frequency bands used by radio astronomers free from interference.


1. Chairman's corner

Guy Rochard’s death just before Christmas shocked all of us. Guy has strenuously defended the spectrum usage by passive services, in particular meteorology. We will never forget his dedication, commitment and personal sympathy.

At the same time I have the pleasure to extend a warm welcome, in the name of all CRAF members, to our new three collaborators: Patrick Bressler, as ESF liaison; Laurentiu Alexe, as CRAF Frequency Manager (since last October when he started work in Dwingeloo); and Pietro Bolli as CRAF Secretary (elected unanimously at CRAF41 in Aveiro). Dr. Titus Spoelstra will continue to help in the background for some time, as supporter and good advisor for all of us. Thanks Titus for all that you have done for CRAF and for whatever help you will provide in future.

ESF is proposing a new strategic plan in view of a possible integration with the European Research Council (ERC). When consulted on this, CRAF has stressed the need for keeping ESF independent from industrial and commercial interests. We expect that ESF will support us by defending the basic research requirements; in particular with respect to the easy vulnerability of a passive service like Radio astronomy, that wants to disclose the mysteries behind the origin and evolution of the Universe by making experimental observations of the radio sources in the distant Universe, which produce signals on Earth that are many orders of magnitude weaker than those produced by radio telecommunication service. As a matter of fact, our activity has now to face an unprecedented direct confrontation with many new usages of the radio spectrum. Some of these offer large economic returns in a very short time scale that cannot be compared in any way with the benefits brought by fundamental discoveries of science, on a much longer evolutionary timescale.

In June 2005 we had the Second Summer School on Spectrum Management: in our opinion it has been a success first, for the very wide representation of the teachers both for their single expertise and international affiliations and secondly, for the substantially positive reports by the students. For the next summer school we would like an even larger and more international audience.

In spite of all changes underway, CRAF is still very much alive and motivated in its goals. On behalf of the radio astronomy community I thank the old and new CRAF members for all the efforts that they have put and will put into this activity.

Roberto Ambrosini - Istituto di Radio Astronomia, Bologna

2. Report from the 41st CRAF meeting [17-18 November 2005]

The 41st CRAF meeting took place on 17-18 November 2005 at the Instituto das Telecomunicações, in Aveiro (Portugal). The following key items were discussed.

  • Intensify CRAF participation in ITU meetings. Ohishi from NAOJ pointed out that very few radio astronomers attend the ITU meetings. He invited all the CRAF members as well as their radio astronomer colleagues to participate in ITU meetings. A wider participation from the radio astronomical community would improve the CRAF visibility and would help in preserving access to the electromagnetic spectrum by the Radio Astronomy service. Each CRAF member must undertake his best effort in order to partcipate to such ITU meetings in person or by sending a representative.
  • CRAF Memorandum of Understanding and Annex 2. The MoU is primarily intended as a sort of obligation for the Observatories to financially support the Frequency Manager. Several nations have signed the MoU, whereas some other nations are still pending for many different reasons.
  • RadioNet FP6. RadioNet has been a great success in funding travel expenses for CRAF members, radioastronomical scientists interested in CRAF meetings, and as the main sponsor of the 2005 Summer School on Spectrum Management for Radio Astronomy. During the meeting, it was pointed out how important it is to increase the communication between the radio astronomy observers and the people in charge of frequency protection of the radio astronomical bands. For this purpose all comments are welcomed.
  • Radio Spectrum Policy Group. The RSPG addressed the Request by France and The Netherlands to the Radio Spectrum Policy Group for an Opinion on “a coordinated EU spectrum approach for scientific use of radio spectrum”. Passive services, like Radio Astronomy and Meteorological Science (as users of internationally assigned frequency bands) are not represented, either as members or as observers.
  • New CRAF Secretary. During the meeting P. Bolli’s nomination was unanimously approved. P. Bolli is an electronic engineer with a Ph.D. degree in computer science and telecommunications, from the University of Florence. He is currently a Research Engineer at the Institute of Radioastronomy, Bologna, where he conducts research on electromagnetic aspects of instrumentation (large reflector antennas and passive microwave devices) for Radio Astronomy applications.

    The next CRAF meeting is scheduled for April 6-7, 2006 at the Observatoire de Bordeaux.

    3. Summer School 2005

    The second Summer School in Spectrum Management for Radio Astronomy was held in Castel San Pietro Terme (Bologna, Italy), from 6 to 10th June, 2005. This second Summer School followed the first one held in Green Bank (West Virginia, USA) in 2002. SS2005 was sponsored by RadioNet, IUCAF, the Municipality of Castel San Pietro and the Institute of Radio Astronomy of the National Institute for Astrophysics. The purpose of SS2005 was to offer a comprehensive view of both regulatory and technical issues related to radio astronomers' use of the spectrum, as well as a view of how these issues are dealt with by other passive radio services.

    The composition of the team of SS2005 teachers was pan-European and even more international: we had representatives from the European Commission, the Italian Administration and radio frequency management experts coming from the main Observatories all over the world. The Organizing Committee was co-chaired by W. van Driel (IUCAF) and R. Ambrosini (CRAF), with members A. Clegg (NSF), A. Boonstra (ASTRON), J. Cohen (Jodrell Bank), T. Gergely (NSF), B. Lewis (NAIC), H. Liszt (NRAO), E. Marelli (ESA), M. Ohishi (NAOJ), T. Spoelstra (CRAF), K. Tapping (DRAO) and A. Tzioumis (CSIRO).

    The participants were 21 members of the radio astronomy and related radio engineering community, coming from Europe and South Korea.

    The main issues discussed during the SS2005 were:

  • Views of spectrum management from the Italian and the EC administrations.
  • Technical aspects of the instrumentation for radio astronomical observations.
  • Interference to radio astronomy.
  • National and regional regulatory structures: Europe, Americas and Asia-Pacific Region.
  • International regulatory structures: ITU-R Recommendations, ITU Structure, WRCs and preparatory mechanisms, IUCAF.
  • Case studies in satellite coordination: IRIDIUM, GLONASS, CLOUDSAT.
  • Other science services: Space Frequency Coordination Group, Earth Exploration Satellite Service, Meteorology and Remote Sensing.
  • Expanding the spectrum frontier from sub-mm to optical.
  • Regulatory implications of new interfering technologies: UWB, vehicular short range radar, power line communications.
  • New telescopes (ALMA and SKA), interference mitigation and Radio Quiet Zones.

    During the SS2005, two visits were also arranged:

  • to the Medicina radio astronomy station, to see Northern Cross which, as one of the largest transit radiotelescopes in the world, still plays a key role in Low Frequency (408 MHz) observations, and the 32-m single-dish radio telescope, which is part of the European VLBI Network, and
  • to the Marconi Museum in his first residence, where the young inventor made the first ever telecommunication experiment across an obstructed radio path.

    All the presentations, the final programme, and several photographs of the sessions are downloadable from the RadioNet Wiki page of the Network Activity NA8 on Spectrum Management:

    4. RSPG actions and Radio Astronomy

    The Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) was established under the European Commission Decision 2002/622/EC as one of the actions following the adoption of the Radio Spectrum Decision 676/2002/EC. The RSPG shall adopt opinions, which are meant to assist and advise the European Commission on radio spectrum policy issues, on coordination of policy approaches and, where appropriate, on harmonized conditions with regard to the availability and efficient use of radio spectrum necessary for the establishment and functioning of the internal market. The RSPG should consult extensively and in a forward-looking manner on technological, market and regulatory developments relating to the use of radio spectrum in the context of EU policies on electronic communications, transport and research and development. Such consultations should involve all relevant radio spectrum users, both commercial and non-commercial, as well as any other interested party.

    The members of the Group are representatives of the Member States and of the Commission. Representatives of the EEA countries, the candidate countries, the European Parliament, the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) and the European Telecommunications Standardization Institute (ETSI) attend as observers.

    The policy issues considered by RSPG are wide ranging, and include scientific use of spectrum. The indicative context was to ``Discuss the implications of the increasing market demand for spectrum and of new technologies (e.g. UWB) on the availability of spectrum for scientific use.'' The RSPG recognizes the high level of protection against interference that passive services require, but is also tasked with balancing this against other EC policies, as we have seen in the case of short-range radar (SRR) at 24-GHz (CRAF Newsletter 2004/2), where road safety considerations took priority over technical and regulatory arguments. The ``temporary'' use of the passive band by 24-GHz SRR, when a dedicated allocation for this application already exists since WRC-97, sets a dangerous precedent.

    The work programme of the RSPG includes public consultations, some of which could have major implications for the science services, such as

  • Public consultation on Wireless Access Platforms for Electronic Communications Services (WAPECS);
  • Consultation in the context of the development of an RSPG Opinion on priorities and objectives for the (European) Community in the World Radio Communication Conference 2007;
  • Public consultation on secondary trading of rights to use radio spectrum.

    There are also workshops and specially commissioned studies.

    In particular, the RSPG is currently preparing an Opinion on scientific use of spectrum. This was initiated following a submission by The Netherlands and France, reflecting the strong disquiet among the science community caused by the authorization of 24-GHz SRR in Europe. The RSPG agreed to establish a working group which is co-chaired by the French and Dutch delegations. The first meeting of the working group took place in October 2005, with participation by the scientific community. This is a very positive step. However the outcome of the work is not predetermined at this stage. It could be an Opinion, if that is considered appropriate, or it could take other (weaker) forms, such as a recommendation. A draft document is in preparation, and further meetings of the working group are planned. The working group will report to RSPG in May 2006.

    Andre Deschamps, Observatoire de Paris

    5. SKA Design Study (SKADS)

    The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be the next generation large radio telescope, able to map the sky with a sensitivity 100 times greater than is currently possible. European radio astronomers were the first to outline the basic rationale for such a telescope over ten years ago but the project is now a full-scale collaboration between scientists and engineers from all over the world. The timeline calls for Phase 1 (10% of the area) to be completed in 2014 with the full instrument being ready by 2020.

    European radio astronomers and engineers are developing a fundamentally new design concept for the SKA based on phased arrays. The SKADS Consortium, consisting of 29 institutes in Europe and in four non-EC countries, has recently obtained funding to develop the required enabling technologies. These include broadband focal plane antenna arrays, robust microwave amplifiers, ultrafast analogue-to-digital converters and signal processing, high data throughput networks, and precise time and frequency transfer techniques via optical fibres. The 4-year long design study will cost 38 million euros, 10 million euros being provided by the European Commission's Framework 6``Design Studies'' programme and 28 million euros coming from individual countries of the SKADS consortium.

    With the funding of SKA-demonstrator programmes in Australia, South Africa and the USA it can be said that 2005 was the year that the SKA project started in earnest. A fully-costed design for the complete instrument is expected in 2009.

    6. New CRAF Frequency Manager

    CRAF has a new frequency manager, Laurentiu Alexe, who took up the position in ASTRON in September 2006. Laurentiu Alexe has previously worked in research, industry, education and for the Romanian Telecommunications Administration (IGCTI) where, during last six years, he held various position as frequency management expert, spectrum monitoring expert and head of the broadcasting department. He was involved in European harmonisation activities and he has experience in CEPT meetings. He is married and has two sons. Outside of working hours he enjoys being an active radio amateur.

    He replaces Titus Spoelstra, who has served CRAF since its foundation in 1987, first as CRAF Secretary, and since 1997 as Frequency Manager. We thank Titus for his enormous contribution to CRAF and wish him a long and happy retirement.

    7. Abbreviations used in this Newsletter

    ALMA = Atacama Large Millimetre Array
    CEPT = Conference of European Post and Telecommunication administrations
    CRAF = Committee on Radio Astronomy Frequencies (ESF)
    CSIRO = Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation (Australia)
    DRAO = Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (Canada)
    EEA = European Economic Area
    EC = European Commission
    ESA = European Space Agency
    ESF = European Science Foundation
    ETSI = European Telecommunications Standardization Institute
    EU = European Union
    GLONASS = Global Navigation Satellite System (Russia)
    IGCTI = Inspectoratul General pentru Comunicatii si Tehnologia Informatiei (Romania)
    ITU = International Telecommication Union
    ITU-R = International Telecommunication Union - Radiocommunication Sector
    IUCAF = Scientific Committee on the Allocation of Frequencies for Radio Astronomy and Space Science (UNESCO)
    NAIC = National Astronomy and Ionosphere Centre (USA)
    NOAJ = National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
    NSF = National Science Foundation (USA)
    RSPG = Radio Spectrum Policy Group (EU)
    SKA = Square Kilometre Array
    SKADS = Square Kilometre Array Design Study
    SRR = Short Range Radar
    UWB = Ultra Wide Band
    VLBI = Very Long Baseline Interferometry
    WRC = World Radiocommunication Conference (ITU)

    Editorial Group: R. Ambrosini, R.J. Cohen, P. Scott


    Last modified: July, 2006