Tracking down that interference

Wednesday, 24 March, 2010

The ACMA’s field operations section has a broad range of responsibilities and undertakes a number of activities around Australia, including signal monitoring, compliance investigations and identifying and investigating domestic and radiocommunications interference. The section has also been engaged to take measurements for the digital switchover.

When investigating interference to the radiocommunications spectrum, field operations staff use an array of technical equipment - from fixed radiocommunications monitoring sites through to portable spectrum analysers - to locate interference sources.

From time to time, the ACMA receives reports of deliberate interference to radiocommunications systems, a breach of the Radiocommunications Act 1992.

Recently, the ACMA received a complaint of deliberate interference targeting the radio system used by construction teams working on the Sugarloaf Pipeline Project north-east of Melbourne. The project is a 70 km water pipeline linking the Goulburn River near Yea to the Sugarloaf Reservoir. Construction workers reported that the frequency was being regularly jammed, preventing communications between construction crews and causing a potential safety hazard.

Field operations staff used a variety of mobile monitoring equipment to track down the source of the interference to a rural property in the Castella area, which is close to the pipeline construction.

Peter Tapai, an officer with Field Operations, led the investigation into this matter.

“The offender was using a handheld radio from inside his home to jam the construction teams’ communications. Thankfully, the equipment in our monitoring vehicle was able to quickly pinpoint the location of the transmitter,” said Tapai.

The operator of the equipment causing the interference received a warning from the ACMA staff.

This is just one example of the important work undertaken by the field operations section, whose work covers a huge area in a country that has one of the most uneven population distributions in the world.

Field operations teams travel great distances to investigate interference matters like these from offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Hobart.

Each year, more than 3000 complaints are investigated by the section, resulting in over 250 notices and fines issued.


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