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GA News

The latest news from light aviation

Ofcom backs down on radio sell-off

First Posted: Tue 06 Jan 2009

Ofcom, the UK government's communications regulator has been forced to back down on its plans to 'sell off' various frequencies associated with aviation.

According to the UK AOPA website, the proposals could have cost airfields 126,000 annually to host a DME and 115,000 for a VOR or ILS, with even .25 mHz air/ground radio ground installations costing 4,950 a year.

However, AOPA says that Ofcom has been forced to reconsider its proposals in the face of an outcry from UK pilots and the aviation industry. Many of the respondents to a Ofcom consultation pointed out that aviation frequencies are 'ring fenced' by international law, and therefore cannot be sold off to commercial organisations. But it also seems that non-commercial organisations, such as NATS and the CAA, are unwilling to take on the responsibility and costs.

Ofcom says: "We have no plans to change the fees for VHF communications channels before April 2010 at the earliest, and we will give stakeholders as much notice as possible of any specific changes."

It should be noted that Ofcom has emphasised that the costs will not apply to any aircraft installations - so pilots will not be asked to pay directly. However, the charges would apply to airfields and other providers, who would then be certain to pass these increased costs onto pilots in the form of increased landing fees and other fees.

"This was a tax-raising plan and nothing else," says AOPA's Martin Robinson, "and they shot themselves in the foot by trying to dress it up as an efficiency measure." However, he warns that Ofcom is unlikely to let the matter rest, and we can expect a new round of proposals in the spring. As Ofcom says: "We will provide further information on the next steps we plan in this area in spring 2009. "

Related websites: UK AOPA websiteOfcom's reaction to the consultationOfcom website

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