ATC Communications

Communications with aircraft over the North-Atlantic is a critical part of our services. Isavia ANS ensures the provision of secure and efficient communications for our customers through Iceland Radio (BICC/Gufunes).


Main services

Our Communications Center at Gufunes maintains voice communications on HF and VHF frequencies in close co-operation with the Ballygirreen Radio Station in Ireland. The communications are conducted in English and mainly involve the receipt and transmission of messages relating to aviation safety, such as position fixing, various changes in altitude, speed or route, weather messages, information on landing conditions at airports, etc. Messages from aircraft are transmitted, as the case may be, to area control centres, meteorological offices and aircraft operators.

Operations at Iceland Radio can be split into two main areas, these are:

  1. Voice communications with active aircraft (aeronautical fixed service - AFS)
  2. AFTN messaging system

Voice communications make up the majority of Iceland Radio's operations and require more staff. Oceanic en-route services are provided with voice communications by Iceland Radio unless they are within radar range of the area control center. Radio operators act as the middleman between pilots and air traffic controllers, receiving and sending messages from both parties.

Common services

The following are the most common type of services provided by Iceland Radio:

  • Aircraft location reports
  • Altitude and/or route change requests from pilots
  • Providing clearance to pilots given by the area control center
  • Providing and receiving weather reports to/from pilots
  • Information provision to airline operation centers

Iceland Radio provides its services 24/7 on both HF and VHF frequencies. In total there are 8 COM desks. Iceland Radio also provides service in the Irish Control Area in cooperation with Ballygirren Communication Centre in Ireland.

The VHF service is continuous over the North Atlantic Ocean, with COM equipment located in the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. Working frequencies are VHF 126.550 and 127.850.

The HF service is provided in three frequency groups:

Pilots generally prefer to communicate on VHF frequencies rather than HF because listening conditions on VHF are far superior. However, the transmission range of VHF is only a fraction of that of HF and is limited to little more than line of sight. This makes it important to position the equipment as high up as possible to increase range. VHF connections commonly have a range of some 250 nautical miles. Iceland’s geographical position provides a certain uniqueness, since by installing VHF equipment in Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, the Gufunes Communications Centre can offer a continuous VHF service area over the North Atlantic. VHF GP service is provided at three frequencies: 126.55 MHz, 127.85 MHz and 129.75 MHz. In Iceland, VHF equipment is located at Mt Gagnheiði, Mt Háfell, Mt Háöxl, Mt Þorbjörn and Mt Þverfjall. In the Faroe Islands, the equipment is located on the island of Fugloy, and in Greenland it is located at the Dye One and Dye Four stations. HF transmitter equipment is located in the town of Grindavík and at Bessastaðir in the West Húnaþing region, with receivers located at Þverholt in Borgarfjörður, at Garðskagaviti and on the west coast of Norway. There is also one transmitter and receiver in Söndreström on Greenland’s west coast. Each year, approximately 500,000 messages are dispatched from the Centre, of which 65% are on VHF frequencies.

Another area of activity for the Gufunes Communications Centre is data communications with aircraft. In collaboration with the American communications company ARINC, equipment for data communications with aircraft on both HF and VHF frequencies is operated from Gufunes. At Grindavík, there are HF transmitters for this use, with a receiver located at Þverholt. Equipment for data communications at VHF frequencies is located on Mt Háfell and Mt Þorbjörn in Iceland, on Mt Spáafell in the Faroe Islands, and at three locations in Greenland: DYE One, DYE Four and TOP775. These locations provide a continuous service area over the North Atlantic on VHF frequencies. Outside this area, HF services are provided. The volume of data communications with aircraft continues to grow, both in the form of data received by airlines from their aircraft and because communications between aircraft and area control centres are increasingly shifting to data links.

Clearly, the share of traditional voice radio links with aircraft will decrease in the coming years. Such services are currently provided from six stations located in Ireland, Canada, the United States, Portugal and Norway, in addition to Iceland. The number of these stations is certain to fall progressively over the coming years. Currently, approximately 50% of the traffic transiting the Reykjavik control area uses data-link communications. However, the increase in traffic using data links will be partly offset by the overall increase in air traffic forecast for the coming years. Within Isavia, preparations have long been underway for these changes.

The stations at Gufunes and Ballygirreen in Ireland are integrated and operate as a single unit. The Ballygirreen Radio Station provides communications services in the British/Irish-managed Shanwick Oceanic Control Area south of the Icelandic area. Instead of dividing the traffic between the stations at the edges of the respective control areas, it is divided so as to minimise the traffic peaks at each station. This provides an enhanced combined service at lower operating costs. At the same time, the stations serve as alternative stations for each other, which reduces capital and running costs by eliminating the need to build a new alternative station.