Radio frequency function and spectrum management

Ensuring the safe and efficient use of frequencies, without interference.

The radio frequency spectrum available for aeronautical use, in support of communication, navigation and surveillance systems, is very limited and in great demand by users outside aviation.

At EUROCONTROL, in our capacity as Network Manager (NM), we work to optimise the way we use this scarce resource. This is crucial to ensure the safety of operations and to allow the introduction of new aeronautical systems using the same frequency bands.

Our function

Through our Radio frequency function (RFF) and in coordination with the the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) EUR regional office, we support European States by:

  • helping them meet frequency requests for aeronautical communication and navigation systems;
  • ensuring that aeronautical frequencies can be used safely (i.e. analysis, mitigation and prevention of interferences);
  • promoting the application of frequency management best practices;
  • preparing for future demand for radio frequencies (i.e. demand planning and introduction of new systems, or improvements in the aeronautical bands);
  • coordinating the contributions from Member States on international forums, in particular the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

We have developed an automated mechanism for frequency coordination and registration to support communication and navigation systems in Europe in collaboration with our 41 Member States, ICAO and the National Frequency Managers (NFMs).

We also make our management support available to European States in order to underpin the safe evolution of an aeronautical spectrum that can support the aeronautical systems planned for the future.

Benefits

Since its inception, the RFF has significantly reduced the average time needed to satisfy frequency requests. Frequency request satisfaction in the congested areas rose from 53% to 100% by 2016. However, the demand for new frequency channels reached a peak in 2017 when frequency request satisfaction in congested areas dropped back to 50%. This problem is being addressed by the deployment of 8.33kHz channel spacing.

Monitoring the performance of 1030/1090 MHz radio frequency (RF) bands

The 1030/1090 MHz RF bands are a critical common resource shared by thousands of systems for different purposes (such as secondary surveillance radar). Unmanaged use of 1030MHz could degrade the performance of surveillance systems across Europe.

The monitoring of 1030/1090 MHz RF bands provides a consistent and current view of their usage. This allows us and national authorities to take the necessary measures to maintain efficient operations of the systems using these bands.

Harmonise military view on spectrum developments

National security and defence capabilities, including military aviation, are critically dependent on adequate access to the radio spectrum. The success of most military missions is dependent on access to spectrum resources, in particular to ensure the mobility and interoperability of forces. The military utilisation of spectrum bands must be guaranteed and protected as a joint effort between the civil and military authorities.

However, frequencies are not bound to borders. All nations recognise that international coordination and harmonisation of spectrum use and allocation is fundamental to ensuring an interference-free environment. The multinational and multi-service facets of today’s military operations call for a permanent pan-European harmonisation of spectrum utilisation conducted in close coordination with authorities and users.

At EUROCONTROL, we protect the interests of the aviation community (civil and military) in safeguarding permanent access to the required frequency bands. In addition to our RFF function, we are an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) observer, where we help draft resolution proposals, voted by the States at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC).

We also coordinate with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and national military organisations on spectrum matters.

Finally, we provide an overview of best practices and guidance on the military usage of frequency assignments in the ICAO Very High Frequency (VHF) communication band (117.975 MHz -137 MHz).

Tools

SAFIRE

Central register of European radio frequency assignments and the European frequency request coordination system

MANIF

Advanced frequency manager