The Norwegian Government’s Svalbard Strategy states that “Radio silence and a local environment that is as pristine as possible are important premises for further development and use of Ny-Ålesund. Important instruments, observatories and other facilities depend on this. At the same time, it is important that on-site research organisations continue the constructive dialogue already under way to develop good systems for managing their shared presence and maintaining a solid basis for high-quality research and monitoring”.

Consequently, while the general rule is that the use of equipment that emits radio signals should be avoided, such equipment can be used for safety, operational and scientific reasons. However, any such use has to be done with care, by application, and closely coordinated with the rest of the science community in Ny-Ålesund. As a general approach, long-term RF transmitters should be located elsewhere.

Table Of Contents

Radio frequency use in Ny-Ålesund today

Several scientific instruments in Ny-Ålesund take advantage of the radio silence in Ny-Ålesund. An overview of both transmitting and receiving RF devices in use in Ny-Ålesund today is included in the NySMAC frequency list.

NySMAC frequency list

The Norwegian Mapping Authority’s (NMA) operates an observatory that includes two VLBI antennas that operate in the range 2–14 GHz (plans to extend this to 32 GHz in the future). While the observatory in a start-up phase is running 24h operations 2-3 times per week, this will increase to 24/7 operations in the near future. The new antennas are in a test phase now, and are expected to be fully operational from 2022. The NMA activity is protected by Norwegian law (see below).

The frequency range utilised by NMA (2-14 GHz) is protected by law, and reserved for relevant use by NMA in Ny-Ålesund. Personal devices (cell phones, cameras, watches, PCs etc.) equipped with Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth typically operate on a frequency (2.4 GHz), i.e. within the range reserved for NMA in Ny-Ålesund. Consequently, all such devices must be turned off completely, or set to “Flight Mode” prior to arrival Ny-Ålesund, in order to avoid interference with the instruments operated by NMA. These restrictions apply in Ny-Ålesund itself, and in an area covered by a 20 km radius around Ny-Ålesund. 

The GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences has a satellite receiving station operating between 2.2-2.29 and 2.4-2.45 GHz. Like the measurements conducted by NMA, the activities of GFZ rely on other actors in Ny-Ålesund adhering to the radio silence regulations described above. GFZ provides information on how to prevent disturbance of satellite reception on their web site.

An overview of other scientific equipment with radio receivers currently being used in Ny-Ålesund is available on the NySMAC frequency list.

Anyone planning additional use of equipment with radio transmitters must take into account the following:

  • Legal communication regulation framework managed by Nkom
  • NySMAC procedures for acceptance and coordination of RF activities
  • Local awareness/coordination

I – The legal framework for frequency use

Radio transmission in the 2–32 GHz frequency band is not allowed within a 20 km radius from Ny-Ålesund. Map: Norwegian Polar Institute

The legal framework for frequency use is managed by the Norwegian Communications Authority (Nkom). Nkom has the official responsibility for all frequency use in Norway, including on Svalbard and in Ny-Ålesund. Equipment that emits radio waves cannot be used without a frequency license from Nkom.

Information on how to apply for RF license

The Regulations No. 628 concerning general authorisations for the use of radio frequencies General authorisations regulations or fribruksforskriften in Norwegian allows for a general “free use” (no application needed) for use of some frequencies under certain conditions (e.g. signal power). The frequency range between 2 and 32 GHz in the geographical area within a 20 km radius from Ny-Ålesund (see map in Figure 1) is however exempted from such free use, and any use requires explicit permission from Nkom. This exemption is set up to protect the Norwegian Mapping Authority’s VLBI system. All licences given in this frequency range have to coordinate use with NMA.

An overview of scheduled VLBI measurements can be found here*

*The column Intensive, which gives the weekly 1h measurement, is usually updated every Monday morning. NMA in Ny-Ålesund is conducting active measurements in all time slots marked with Ny. Start time is given as UTC.)

It is worth noting that equipment that operates within the General Authorization legislation (e.g. wireless weather stations, licence-free hand-held radios, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) is designed to co-exist with other General Authorization equipment within the same band.

When Nkom processes applications for transmitters that do not fall into the General Authorization legislation, they will base their decision on international frequency regulations and harmonisations. Nkom will seek to protect other radio services with priority in the requested bands and other existing licences in Ny-Ålesund. Nkom may reject the application due to risk of interference with protected bands or existing licences.

Normally, devices that only receive RF energy do not require a permission from Nkom. Note, though, that satellite receiver stations do require such a permission. While an application (and, hence, a permission) is not required for RF receivers, it is recommended that information about any important RF receiving equipment in Ny-Ålesund is conveyed to Nkom. Having such information at hand will enable Nkom to reach an informed decision regarding any future applications for the placement of RF emitting devices in Ny-Ålesund – weighing pros and cons.

Information regarding passive RF receivers and their purpose should be sent to Nkom at firmapost@nkom.no.

Instrument owners always have to make sure that emissions outside their working frequencies are limited, in order to not interfere with equipment on other frequencies.

Coordination with NMA

Nkom will not grant licence for RF use within 2-32 GHz without the use being coordinated with NMA.

To streamline the process, applicants are encouraged to engage in a dialogue with NMA prior to submitting their application to Nkom:

  • Contact with NMA via email at vlbi@kartverket.no. Provide the information as requested in the NySMAC Radio Frequency Form.
  • NMA will confirm if the project can proceed as is, or if modifications are needed.
  • Contact with NMA should be established as early as possible to provide sufficient time for coordination and potential modifications if required.

II – NySMAC procedures

All RF usage in Ny-Ålesund needs to be brought to NySMAC (either at a NySMAC meeting or through the NySMAC PID forum). This will normally be done by the NySMAC representative from the institute hosting the project in Ny-Ålesund. (For institutions that are NySMAC members, but do not act as host institutions (this applies to GFZ, SU, NORCE, ASC, NILU, UNIS and UiT), information about planned RF usage should be presented by their respective NySMAC representative.

If it turns out that a new instrument disturbs measurements carried out by other actors in Ny-Ålesund, the new instrument has to be shut down until the RF interference has been investigated. NySMAC can decide that an instrument no longer can be used.

NySMAC procedures – Campaign based use of RF emitting devices

  • Check, if the device is really needed and no alternative is possible
  • Check the list of “frequencies in use” to avoid conflicts with other local equipment.
  • Provide all the information requested in the NySMAC Radio Frequency Form, and have the NySMAC representative from your institution or the institution hosting your project inform the other NySMAC members by posting information on the NySMAC PID forum under Projects.
  • Reply and follow up on comments that may arise.
  • At the same time, apply to Nkom for permission if required.
  • The NySMAC secretariat/NPI will update and maintain the list of frequencies in use based on the information provided to NySMAC.

NySMAC procedures – Long-term use of RF emitting devices

  • Check to see if the device is really needed and no alternative is possible. As a general rule, long-term use of RF emitting devices should be located elsewhere.
  • Check the list of “frequencies in use” to avoid conflicts with other local equipment.
  • Provide all the information requested in the NySMAC Radio Frequency Form, and have the NySMAC representative from your institution or the institution hosting your project bring the request to the table at the first upcoming NySMAC meeting.
  • Follow the recommendations given by NySMAC.
  • Apply to Nkom for permission if required.
  • The NySMAC secretariat/NPI will update and maintain the list of frequencies in use based on the information provided to NySMAC.

NySMAC procedures – Use of RF receiving devices

  • Provide the information as requested in the NySMAC Radio Frequency Form, and have the NySMAC representative from your institution or the institution hosting your project inform the other NySMAC members by posting information on the NySMAC PID forum under Projects.
  • Inform Nkom if needed.
  • Inform the NySMAC secretariat/NPI to have the frequency added to the list of RF emitting devices in use.

III – Local awareness

There is a need for local awareness when using RF equipment in Ny-Ålesund, irrespective of processes with Nkom and NySMAC.

The local coordination is set up as follows:

  • If you have an Nkom license (if required) and have discussed the use with NMA and NySMAC according to the principles defined above, the institution in Ny-Ålesund hosting the project or activity has to bring the accepted request for use to the Ny-Ålesund Research Station Weekly Meeting for situational awareness.
  • The detailed use of frequencies for drones (UAVs), balloons etc. in Ny-Ålesund should also be addressed during the daily “airspace coordination” meeting run by KB/AFIS.