Radio jamming risks on radar

Radio jamming risks on radar

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) joined forces yesterday with the Transport Ministry to address the problem of community radio transmissions disrupting aviation communications.

The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to work together in solving the issue, which has created a risk to aviation safety.

Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (Aerothai) reports receiving 100-300 complaints about radio frequency jamming each month.

Complaints are on the rise because of the increasing number of Thai-registered airlines.

Sanong Mingcharoen, president of the Thai Pilots Association, said the radio jamming problem had been occurring for a long time and was likely to worsen.

"Community radio is one of four sources of radio jamming that has affected aviation safety in Thailand," he said.

Radio jamming usually occurs during take-off or landing, interrupting communications between the pilot and air traffic control.

Thinnakorn Chuwong, director of air traffic management at Aerothai, called on the NBTC to tighten regulations to help reduce the radio jamming problem.

He said the NBTC should jointly specify the safe zone of air traffic with Aerothai and have a band of reserved frequency for emergency use.

Radio frequency jamming has not been specified as an urgent problem by the International Civil Aviation Organization, but Mr Thinnakorn said Thailand would be wise to solve the issue before it harms the entire aviation industry.

NBTC's secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said community radio remains a big problem for the broadcasting industry.

The regulator struggles to govern the many community stations thoroughly, so radio frequency jamming occurs often.

Community radio emerged from the 1997 constitution, which held that 20% of radio frequencies must be set aside for the people.

The phenomenon of community radio took hold rapidly, resulting in a massive number of operators.

The 6,000-7,000 community radio stations nationwide are being operated by 50 major operators, reflecting that community radio is not really being used for community purposes, said Mr Takorn.

For example, Buddhism-related associations own more than 500 radio stations and a majority of those are used for commercial purposes.

The NBTC views the current penalties as severe enough for those who create a jamming signal that interrupts aviation communications. Jammers are fined 5 million baht and face five years in prison.

"But the main obstacle is weak legal enforcement, which is why the radio jamming problem still happens frequently," Mr Takorn said.

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