2014 Tech study guide: control operator and control type

An important concept in amateur radio is the control operator. Only a person for whom an amateur operator/primary station license grant appears in the FCC database or who is authorized for alien reciprocal operation is eligible to be the control operator of an amateur station. (T1E02) The FCC presumes the station licensee to be the control operator of an amateur station, unless documentation to the contrary is in the station records. (T1E11)

An amateur station is never permitted to transmit without a control operator. (T1E01) The station licensee must designate the station control operator. (T1E03) When the control operator is not the station licensee, the control operator and the station licensee are equally responsible for the proper operation of the station. (T1E07) The control operator of the originating station is accountable should a repeater inadvertently retransmit communications that violate the FCC rules. (T1F10)

The class of operator license held by the control operator determines the transmitting privileges of an amateur station. (T1E04) At no time, under normal circumstances, may a Technician Class licensee be the control operator of a station operating in an exclusive Extra Class operator segment of the amateur bands. (T1E12)

Two related concepts are the control type and control point. An amateur station control point is the location at which the control operator function is performed. (T1E05)

Local control is the type of control being used when transmitting using a handheld radio. (T1E09) Operating the station over the Internet is an example of remote control as defined in Part 97. (T1E10) Repeater operation is an example of automatic control. (T1E08) APRS network digipeaters operate under automatic control. (T1E06)

2014 Tech study guide: authorized and prohibited transmissions

As a licensed radio amateur, it’s important to know what you can and can’t do on the air. For example, any language that is considered obscene or indecent is prohibited. (T1D06). For the most part, transmitting music is also prohibited. The only time an amateur station is authorized to transmit music is when incidental to an authorized retransmission of manned spacecraft communications (T1D04).

Transmitting any codes whose specifications are not published or well-known is prohibited. The transmission of codes or ciphers that hide the meaning of a message transmitted by an amateur station is allowed only when transmitting control commands to space stations or radio control craft (T1D03).

Amateur radio operators are only allowed to communicate with other amateur radio stations, except in specific instances. For example, in an emergency, you are allowed to communicate with stations in other radio services. Another example is during the special event called Armed Forces Day Communications Test. An FCC-licensed amateur station may exchange messages with a U.S. military station during an Armed Forces Day Communications Test (T1D02).

FCC-licensed amateur stations are prohibited from exchanging communications with any country whose administration has notified the ITU that it objects to such communications. (T1D01) Currently, there are no countries that U.S. amateurs are prohibited from contacting.

Amateur radio operators may not use their stations to make money, except in some very special circumstances. For example, the control operator of an amateur station may receive compensation for operating the station only when the communication is incidental to classroom instruction at an educational institution (T1D08). Amateur radio operators may use their stations to notify other amateurs of the availability of equipment for sale or trade, but only when the equipment is normally used in an amateur station and such activity is not conducted on a regular basis (T1D05).

All amateur communications must be station to station. That is to say, amateur radio operators may not broadcast. The term broadcasting in the FCC rules for the amateur services means transmissions intended for reception by the general public (T1D10). Only when transmitting code practice, information bulletins, or transmissions necessary to provide emergency communications may an amateur radio station engage in broadcasting. (T1D12)

Amateur stations are authorized to transmit signals related to broadcasting, program production, or news gathering, assuming no other means is available, only where such communications directly relate to the immediate safety of human life or protection of property. (T1D09).

So, what is allowed? Communications incidental to the purposes of the amateur service and remarks of a personal character are the types of international communications that are permitted by an FCC-licensed amateur station (T1C03).

2014 Tech study guide: operator licensing

Technician, General, Amateur Extra are the license classes for which new licenses are currently available from the FCC. (T1C13) You may operate a transmitter on an amateur service frequency after you pass the examination required for your first amateur radio license as soon as your name and call sign appear in the FCC’s ULS database (T1C10). Ten years is the normal term for an FCC-issued primary station/operator amateur radiolicense grant (T1C08).

When the FCC issues an amateur radio operator license, it also issues a station license. The call sign of that station consists of one or two letters, followed by a number and then one, two, or three letters. W3ABC is an example of a valid US amateur radio station call sign (T1C02).

After you pass the test, the FCC will assign you a call sign sequentially from the pool of available call signs. If you do not like this callsign, you can apply for a vanity callsign. Any licensed amateur may select a desired call sign under the vanity call sign rules. (T1C12)

The callsign you select must not only be available, it must have an appropriate format for the class of license you hold. Extra class licensees are the only ones who may hold 1×2 or 2×1 callsigns. K1XXX is, therefore, is a vanity call sign which a Technician class amateur operator might select if available. (T1C05) A Technician class amateur radio operator may not choose the callsigns KA1X or W1XX.

Two years is the grace period following the expiration of an amateur license within which the license may be renewed. (T1C09) If you don’t renew your license before it expires, or within the two-year grace period, you will have to take the test again to get a new amateur radio license. If your license has expired and is still within the allowable grace period, transmitting is not allowed until the ULS database shows that the license has been renewed (T1C11).

Amateurs that set up stations at special events, such as a community fair or fundraising event, can request a special callsign specifically for that event. A special event call sign is the type of call sign that has a single letter in both the prefix and suffix (T1C01). An example of a special event callsign is W8P.

Clubs may apply for a station license for their club station. The club may even apply for a vanity call sign. At least 4 persons are required to be members of a club for a club station license to be issued by the FCC. (T1F12) Only the person named as trustee on the club station license grant may select a vanity call sign for a club station. (T1C14)

When you get your first license, you must give the examiners a mailing address. Should you move, you must inform the FCC of your new mailing address. Revocation of the station license or suspension of the operator license may result when correspondence from the FCC is returned as undeliverable because the grantee failed to provide the correct mailing address (T1C07).

You are allowed to operate your amateur station in a foreign country when the foreign country authorizes it (T1C04). Sometimes countries have reciprocal licensing agreements, and you can operate from that country without any specific authorization. For example, I could operate my station in Germany by simply using the callsign DL/KB6NU. There are restrictions on your operating privileges, depending on the country from which you plan to operate, and you should investigate these before you get on the air.

You can also operate your station while aboard a ship in international waters. An FCC- licensed amateur station may transmit from any vessel or craft located in international waters and documented or registered in the United States, in addition to places where the FCC regulates communications (T1C06).

2014 Tech study guide: ITU, frequency allocations, modes

The ITU is a United Nations agency for information and communication technology issues.(T1B01) There are three ITU regions. North American amateur stations are located in ITU region 2.

One of the reasons that it is important to know about the ITU zones is important is that different zones often have different frequency assignments. For example, the frequency assignments for some U.S. Territories different from those in the 50 U.S. States because some U. S. Territories are located in ITU regions other than region 2. (T1B02) [97.301] Similarly, frequency assignments for U.S. stations operating maritime mobile are not the same everywhere in the world because amateur frequency assignments can vary among the three ITU regions. (T1B12) [97.301]

Because operation outside of the amateur radio bands is a serious offense, it is important to know about the frequencies and bands that amateur radio operators can use:

  • 52.525 MHz is a frequency within the 6 meter band. (T1B03)
  • The 2 meter band is the amateur band are you using when your station is transmitting on 146.52 MHz. (T1B04)
  • 443.350 MHz is the 70 cm frequency is authorized to a Technician Class license holder operating in ITU Region 2. (T1B05)
  • 1296 MHz is a 23 cm frequency is authorized to a Technician Class licensee. (T1B06)
  • 1.25 meter band is the amateur band are you using if you are transmitting on 223.50 MHz. (T1B07)

All of these choices are correct when thinking about why you should not set your transmit frequency to be exactly at the edge of an amateur band or sub-band (T1B09):

  • To allow for calibration error in the transmitter frequency display
  • So that modulation sidebands do not extend beyond the band edge
  • To allow for transmitter frequency drift

In addition to defining which frequencies are available to amateur radio operators, the FCC also defines sub-bands for various modes. For example, CW only is the emission mode permitted in the mode-restricted sub-bands at 50.0 to 50.1 MHz and 144.0 to 144.1 MHz (T1B11) [97.301(a), 97.305 (a)(c)]. The 6 meter, 2 meter, and 1.25 meter bands are the bands available to Technician Class operators that have mode-restricted sub-bands (T1B10) [97.301(e), 97.305(c)]. The use of SSB phone in amateur bands above 50 MHz is permitted in at least some portion of all the amateur bands above 50 MHz. (T2B13)

Amateur radio frequency operators share some bands with users from other services. Sometimes, amateurs are the primary users, such as the 2m band, but sometimes amateur radio operators are secondary users. One result of the fact that the amateur service is secondary in some portions of the 70 cm band is that U.S. amateurs may find non-amateur stations in the bands, and must avoid interfering with them. (T1B08) [97.303]

2014 Tech study guide: FCC rules – Amateur Radio Service

The Amateur Radio Service is a service administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is the agency regulates and enforces the rules for the Amateur Radio Service in the United States. (T1A02) Part 97 is the part of the FCC regulations contains the rules governing the Amateur Radio Service. (T1A03)

Part 97.1 lists five “purposes” for the existence of amateur radio. The first is recognition of its usefulness in providing emergency and public-service communications. My favorite, enhancing international goodwill is another purpose of the Amateur Radio Service rules and regulations as defined by the FCC. (T1A05)

The rules also cite the use of amateur radio as a way to help people become better technicians and operators. Advancing skills in the technical and communication phases of the radio art is a purpose of the Amateur Radio Service as stated in the FCC rules and regulations. (T1A01) Allowing a person to conduct radio experiments and to communicate with other licensed hams around the world is a permissible use of the Amateur Radio Service. (T1A12)

Part 97 also defines terms and concepts that every amateur radio operator needs to know. For example, the FCC Part 97 definition of an amateur station is a station in the Amateur Radio Service consisting of the apparatus necessary for carrying on radio communications. (T1A10)

One of the most important concepts in amateur radio is that of harmful interference. The FCC definition of harmful interference is that which seriously degrades, obstructs, or repeatedly interrupts a radio communication service operating in accordance with the Radio Regulations. (T1A04) At no time is willful interference to other amateur radio stations permitted. (T1A11)

The Radionavigation Service is one of the services are protected from interference by amateur signals under all circumstances. (T1A06) If you are operating on the 23 cm band and learn that you are interfering with a radiolocation station outside the United States, you must stop operating or take steps to eliminate the harmful interference. (T1A14)

The FCC Part 97 definition of telemetry is a one-way transmission of measurements at a distance from the measuring instrument. (T1A07) Transmitting telemetry is one of the very few examples of a one-way amateur communication. Another is sending telecommands, usually to a satellite or radio-control model. The FCC Part 97 definition of telecommand is a one-way transmission to initiate, modify or terminate functions of a device at a distance. (T1A13)

The Frequency Coordinator is the entity that recommends transmit/receive channels and other parameters for auxiliary and repeater stations. (T1A08) Amateur operators in a local or regional area whose stations are eligible to be auxiliary or repeater stations select a Frequency Coordinator. (T1A09)

Deadline to Comment on ARRL’s “Symbol Rate” Petition Looms

If you support this petition, please consider submitting a comment…Dan

ARLB034 Deadline to Comment on ARRL’s “Symbol Rate” Petition Looms

ARRL Bulletin 34 ARLB034
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT December 11, 2013
To all radio amateurs

ARLB034 Deadline to Comment on ARRL’s “Symbol Rate” Petition Looms

The deadline is December 21 to file comments on the ARRL’s “SymbolRate” Petition for Rule Making (PRM). The ARRL filed the Petitionlast month, and the FCC has put it on public notice for comment asRM-11708. The League subsequently filed an Erratum to correct an incorrect appendix included within the Petition. The Petition already has attracted more than 70 comments. The Petition can be found on the web at http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/comment/view?id=6017477458.

The ARRL has asked the FCC to delete the symbol rate limit in §97.307(f) of its Amateur Service rules and to replace it with a maximum data emission bandwidth of 2.8 kHz on frequencies below 29.7 MHz. The ARRL contends that the changes it proposes would “relieve the Amateur Service of outdated, 1980s-era restrictions that presently hamper or preclude Amateur Radio experimentation with modern high frequency (HF) and other data transmission protocols” and “permit greater flexibility in the choice of data emissions.” Symbol rate represents the number of times per second that a change of state occurs, not to be confused with data (or bit) rate.

Current FCC rules limit digital data emissions below 28 MHz to 300 baud, and between 28.0 and 28.3 MHz to 1200 baud. The League’s petition points out that other radio services use transmission protocols in which the symbol rate exceeds the present limitations set forth in §97.307(f), while staying within the bandwidth of a typical HF single sideband channel (3 kHz).

“The symbol rate restrictions were created to suit digital modes that are no longer in favor,” the ARRL noted in its petition. “If the symbol rate is allowed to increase as technology develops and the Amateur Service utilizes new data emission types, the efficiency of amateur data communications will increase.”

Plans Announced to Update the Communications Act of 1934

From the ARRL. It’s good that Rep. Walden is a licensed radio amateur, but this kind of thing always makes me uneasy….Dan

ARLB033 Plans Announced to Update the Communications Act of 1934

ARRL Bulletin 33 ARLB033
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT December 5, 2013
To all radio amateurs

ARLB033 Plans Announced to Update the Communications Act of 1934

The US House Communications and Technology Subcommittee has announced plans for a multi-year effort to examine and update the Communications Act of 1934, the overarching law under which the FCC functions. The subcommittee, part of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, is chaired by Oregon Republican Greg Walden, W7EQI. Walden and Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton of Michigan made the announcement December 3.

“Today we are launching a multi-year effort to examine our nation’s communications laws and update them for the Internet era,” Upton said in a news release. “The United States has been the global leader in innovation and growth of the Internet, but unfortunately, our communications laws have failed to keep pace.”

ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, noted that the most recent significant update of the Communications Act was in 1996. “Under the leadership of Greg Walden, the subcommittee and its staff are well equipped to take up the challenge,” Sumner said. “The ARRL will be monitoring the work closely as it goes forward next year and beyond.”

The plan was made public via Google Hangout, where the committee leaders were joined by former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who said he was “delighted” to learn of the update plans. Upton explained that the process, to start in 2014, will involve a series of white papers and hearings focusing on what might be done “to improve the laws surrounding the communications marketplace as well as a robust conversation utilizing all platforms of digital media.” He suggested a bill would be ready by 2015.

Walden said, “A lot has happened since the last update” and that the Communications Act is “now painfully out of date.” He pointed out that the Act, drafted during the Great Depression, was last updated “when 56 kilobits per second via dial-up modem was state of the art.”

Upton said, “We must ensure that our laws make sense for today but are also ready for the innovations of tomorrow.”

Walden said he wants to open the discussion to input from everyone. Interested parties may follow the plan’s progress via Twitter. “It’s important for people to have an opportunity to weigh in,” he said. “This is really a public process to get better public policy.”

ARRL Files “Symbol Rate” Petition with FCC

Here’s the latest bulletin from the ARRL. I like this idea. How about you?

ARLB030 ARRL Files “Symbol Rate” Petition with FCC

ARRL Bulletin 30 ARLB030
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT November 20, 2013
To all radio amateurs

ARLB030 ARRL Files “Symbol Rate” Petition with FCC

The ARRL has asked the FCC to delete the symbol rate limit in §97.307(f) of its Amateur Service rules, replacing it with a maximum bandwidth for data emissions of 2.8 kHz on amateur frequencies below 29.7 MHz. The ARRL Board of Directors adopted the policy underlying the petition initiative at its July 2013 meeting. The petition was filed November 15.

“The changes proposed would, in the aggregate, relieve the Amateur Service of outdated, 1980s-era restrictions that presently hamper or preclude Amateur Radio experimentation with modern high frequency (HF) and other data transmission protocols,” the League’s petition asserted. “The proposed rule changes would also permit greater flexibility in the choice of data emissions.” Symbol rate represents the number of times per second that a change of state occurs, not to be confused with data (or bit) rate.

Current FCC rules limit digital data emissions below 28 MHz to 300 baud, and between 28.0 and 28.3 MHz to 1200 baud. “Transmission protocols are available and in active use in other radio services in which the symbol rate exceeds the present limitations set forth in §97.307(f) of the Commission’s Rules, but the necessary bandwidths of those protocols are within the bandwidth of a typical HF single sideband channel (3 kHz),” the ARRL’s petition pointed out.

The League said that while bandwidth limitations are reasonable, the  symbol rate “speed limit” reflective of 1980s technology, prohibits radio amateurs today from utilizing state-of-the-art technology. Present symbol rate limits on HF “actually encourage spectrum inefficiency,” the League argues, “in that they allow data transmissions of unlimited bandwidth as long as the symbol rat is sufficiently slow.” The League said eliminating symbol rate limits on data emissions and substituting a “reasonable maximum authorized bandwidth” would permit hams to use all HF data-transmission protocols now legal in the Amateur Service as well as other currently available protocols that fall within the authorized bandwidth but are off limits to amateurs.

The League said it’s been more than three decades – when the Commission okayed the use of ASCII on HF – since the FCC has evaluated symbol rate restrictions on radio amateurs as a regulatory matter. “The symbol rate restrictions were created to suit digital modes that are no longer in favor,” the ARRL noted in its petition. Modern digital emissions “are capable of much more accurate and reliable transmissions at greater speeds with much less bandwidth than in 1980.”

As an example, the League pointed to PACTOR 3, which is permitted under current rules, and PACTOR 4, which is not. Despite PACTOR 4′s greater throughput, both protocols can operate within the bandwidth of a typical SSB transmission.

“If the symbol rate is allowed to increase as technology develops and the Amateur Service utilizes new data emission types, the efficiency of amateur data communications will increase,” the ARRL concluded.

ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, has emphasized that there is no broader plan on the League’s part to seek regulation by bandwidth.

The FCC has not yet assigned an RM number and put the League’s petition on public notice for comments, and there is no way to file comments until that happens.

Amateur radio in the news: oldest social media, convention, FCC shutdown

Ham radio operators stay true to social media’s low-tech roots. Long ago, before Facebook, Twitter and email, ham radio operators were the original social media geeks. And they’re still out there, in greater numbers than ever, chatting and messaging each other all over the world without an Internet connection or even a telephone line.

Amateur radio club hosts convention. The Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club hosted the 2013 ARRL Southwestern Division Convention in September at the Marriott Hotel in Buellton. The conference brought together amateur radio enthusiasts from all of Southern California and Arizona to share and learn from the experts on specific topics of concern. The conference stressed two areas of interest: emergency preparedness and attracting young students to the art of Amateur Radio.

Shutdown upends ham radio buffs’ Wake Isle trip marking massacre. For anyone questioning the reach of the federal government shutdown, consider Wake Island. Not much more than military-plane refueling and classified operations occur on the unincorporated U.S. territory, a coral atoll located between Hawaii and Guam, about 6,700 miles (10,780 kilometers) from the legislative standoff in Washington. That was about to change this week with the arrival of a dozen ham-radio operators who thought they’d won approval for a two-week commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the World War II massacre of almost 100 U.S. civilian contractors on Wake Island by the Japanese on Oct. 7, 1943. Instead, after months of preparation, the trip is on ice because of a paperwork delay the group attributes to the partial federal shutdown, which started Oct. 1 as Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on a stopgap spending measure.

ARRL Executive Committee to consider regulatory issues

There’s some interesting stuff on this agenda. For example, I like the idea of changing the rules to delete all mention of “symbol rate,” and instead specify maximum bandwidths. That seems more in line with our charter to “advance the state of the radio art.”

As always, if there’s something that you feel passionate about, get in touch with your ARRL director.

ARLB023 ARRL Executive Committee to Consider Numerous Regulatory Issues

ARRL Bulletin 23 ARLB023
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT October 3, 2013
To all radio amateurs

ARLB023 ARRL Executive Committee to Consider Numerous Regulatory Issues

The ARRL Executive Committee (EC) will face an agenda heavy on FCC and regulatory issues when it meets Saturday, October 5 in the Denver, Colorado, area.

Among action items, the EC is expected to consider the filing of a Petition for Rule Making, now in draft, seeking to delete restrictions on symbol rates for data communication and to establish a 2.8 kHz maximum authorized bandwidth for HF digital data emissions. At its July meeting, the ARRL Board of Directors directed ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, to prepare a Petition for Rule Making with the FCC seeking to modify §97.307(f) to delete all references to “symbol rate.” The Petition would ask the FCC “to apply to all amateur data emissions below 29.7 MHz the existing bandwidth limit, per §97.303(h), of 2.8 kHz.”

The Board determined that the current symbol rate restrictions in §97.307(f) “no longer reflect the state of the art of digital telecommunications technology,” and that the proposed rule change would “encourage both flexibility and efficiency in the employment of digital emissions by amateur stations.” ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, explained the Board’s action on symbol rate regulation in his September 2013 QST “It Seems to Us” editorial.

The EC also will consider authorizing comments on an FCC Public Notice on recommendations approved by the WRC-15 Advisory Committee. The Committee will consider approving the filing of comments with the FCC that express concerns about expanding proposed radiolocation use of the 77.5 to 78 GHz band beyond on-vehicle applications to, for example, fixed roadside applications. The comment deadline is October 11, although the FCC shutdown may change that date.

The EC also will continue to evaluate strategies to improve the FCC’s Amateur Radio enforcement program and consider filing reply comments on FCC ET Docket 13-84, regarding a reexamination of RF exposure regulations (reply comments are due November 11, subject to the FCC shutdown). While the FCC proposals do not alter existing RF exposure limits, they do call for the elimination of existing special evaluation exemptions spelled out in §97.13(c) of the Commission’s rules. Minor rules changes adopted in the Report and Order section of the document took effect August 5.

In addition the EC will discuss a manufacturer’s proposal to delete §97.317(a)(2), requiring that amplifiers operating below 144 MHz “not be capable of amplifying the input RF power (driving signal) by more than 15 dB gain.” The Committee will consider whether to propose the rules change described.

The EC will hear status updates on other regulatory matters, including the ARRL’s Petition for Rule Making filed last November to create a new MF allocation for the Amateur Service at 472-479 kHz. The FCC’s ET Docket 13-101 regarding receiver performance standards also will come up for discussion, as will pending amendments of the Amateur Service rules governing qualifying exam systems, Amateur Radio use of TDMA equipment, and remote proctoring of exam sessions.

Other topics on the EC agenda for review include the FCC’s proposed revision of Part 15 rules to permit unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices in the 5 GHz band, the effects of communications towers on migratory birds, and amendments to the FCC’s CORES system. There has been no recent FCC action on these items.

The EC also will hear a report on the status of the effort to have the “Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2013″ introduced in the 113th Congress. The objective of the League’s draft bill is an instruction from Congress to the FCC to extend the existing limited preemption of state and local regulation of Amateur Radio station antenna structures to private land-use regulations.