Basically, it is a form of voluntary participation in an organized program intended to keep interference between repeaters and their users to a minimum. To do this, repeater sponsors work with their local frequency coordinator (FC) who maintains a database of repeater frequencies in active use (as well as new repeaters which are under construction but may not yet be in operation). The FC recommends repeater operating frequencies (and perhaps other technical details) which will, hopefully, be compatible with other existing repeaters.
Who is a frequency coordinator?
An Amateur Radio frequency coordinator is, first, a volunteer. He may be a single individual or an organization of volunteers who are recognized by the Amateur Radio community they serve as their “coordinator”. He/they might participate in the program because they are interested in either the technical or the political aspects of coordination, but they all do it as a way of putting something back into Amateur Radio. These days, no coordinator worth his salt is in it for the ego! It’s too much work! But all coordinators do get some form of self-satisfaction out of doing the job, or they wouldn’t bother.
Who benefits from a frequency coordination?
In a nutshell, everyone does. Sponsors of existing coordinated repeaters are assured that the FC will attempt to protect their repeaters and their users from interference caused by new repeaters. Likewise, sponsors of proposed new machines will get knowledgeable assistance from the FC in selecting frequencies for their machines, so that they and their users can feel confident that their new operation will not adversely affect any existing repeaters, and they should experience little interference on their new machines.
How does frequency coordination work?
In order to make a recommendation, the FC needs some data about the proposed new repeater, such as its location, antenna height, and transmit power. These items all affect, to one degree or another, the repeater’s area of coverage. The FC will review the data on the new repeater, then in conjunction with the data in his data-base, the FC will attempt to determine if the chosen frequency pair is suitable. Most frequency coordinators will consult with the sponsors of nearby co-channel (same frequency) and adjacent-channel repeaters, and frequently with his adjacent-area counterparts, to make sure there are not any valid objections to the new repeater. This way, sponsors of existing repeaters are given the opportunity to look out for their own interests. Once a new coordination is issued, there is usually a limited construction period (usually three to six months or so) to get the new machine on the air. If it’s not on, or close to it, after this deadline, the coordination is subject to cancellation. This keeps the coordinator’s data-base from filling up with “paper” repeaters.
What other activities do frequency coordinators conduct?
Many coordinators are involved in “band-planning” or “spectrum management” efforts, often in association with adjacent-area coordinators, other special-interest groups, or the ARRL’s Spectrum Management Committee, Digital Advisory Committee, and Membership Services Committee. Different special-interest groups include the packet community, the DX Cluster community, weak-signal/SSB/CW interests, FM simplex users, ATV’ers, etc. All of these other interest groups need to be considered when “band-plans” are being developed or revised, so frequency coordinators need to keep them in mind as they conduct their spectrum management effort. Band-planning/spectrum management cannot be done in a vacuum! Good familiarity with the FCC Rules is helpful here, since repeater, remote-control, link and remote-base operation is prohibited in some parts of the Amateur HF, VHF and UHF bands.