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These notes apply to General papers taken between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2023.
These are the regulations you need to know to pass the US General exam. They include rules regarding operating on HF.
General class operators have access to all LF and MF amateur spectrum; and to significant amounts of HF spectrum, meaning part or most of all amateur bands. In some cases it is most of the RTTY and data segment, and most of the voice and image segment. In others the entire band is available.
Old Advanced licence holders have access to further portions of the bands; and Extra licence holders, access to all of all the bands.
I would suggest downloading one of the PDF versions of the Frequency Allocation Charts, and printing it. Note that the colour-coded mode bars represent compulsory mode rules, unlike those shown on the WIA band-plans, which are mostly voluntary. The colours are mainly red, indicating RTTY and data; and green, indicating voice and image. If operating in the US, placing a copy within view of your operating position is a great idea.
Morse is permitted in all segments of all bands, except 219-220 MHz. You may however find the most activity in the VHF bands where it is the only mode permitted, or on HF in areas where it is the only mode permitted for Novices and Technicians; or by referring to various operating guides. A couple of crystal locked channels used as often QRP Morse frequencies are 1.8432 MHz, 3.579 MHz, and 10.116 MHz. For HF bands, it is most often the lowest parts of the bands where CW is used.
That said, sending CW, as opposed to MCW (a tone on a carrier, with the carrier sustained for the period of transmission) on a repeater input frequency would probably qualify as deliberate interference. MCW can be used for Morse practice over repeaters. It is however treated as "phone" rather than data or CW when selecting a band segment.
Morse can be sent using a straight key, where a tone is sent by depressing the key; or by a side-swipe keys, "bugs", Vibroplex keys; or by using an electronic keyer with iambic keys, using a sideways or squeeze motion. Computer systems, from full-sized PCs to small systems like Raspberry Pis allow sending from a keyboard, as do dedicated devices from 1970s and 1980s.
2200 metres, 135.7 to 137.8 kHz, is a narrow Low Frequency band, available to Generals. Operation is often using beacons, rather than for communications. It is not on the exam, as access has only just been granted. Power is 1 Watt EIRP (Equivalent Isotropically Radiated Power). I understand that getting near this limit would require a large input to the matching network.
The non-Amateur LowFER (Low-Frequency Experimental Radio) allows all to experiment in the 160 to 190 kHz range, within Region 2. This is in the Longwave Broadcasting band in Africa and Europe (Region 1), which includes eastern Russia, although operation there has ceased.
630 metres, 472 to 479 kHz, is a newly granted medium-frequency band, which would behave like the big city ABC (national broadcaster) transmitters at the bottom end of the MW / AM band Down-under, with good ground-wave coverage during the day, and interstate coverage from dusk on. Power is 5 Watt EIRP, reduced to 1 Watt within 496 miles (798.235 km) of Russia.
Until now, the only MF band was 160 metres. This runs from 1.800 to 2.000 MHz in the US. As the name suggests, large antennas are required for efficient use of this band. The band behaves like the upper portions of the AM broadcast band, or 2180 kHz, the AM maritime channel. This means that it provides local coverage in the day, and regional coverage at dusk, and in the evening. The entire band is available to Generals; and Extras. I have made contacts from Sydney into NZ in the evening, as part of what is now the Trans-Tasman Low-Band Contest. Serious operators on the band have several antennas, such as towers (or top-loaded towers), four-square arrays, long-wires, and "Beverage" antennas; often using one for reception, another for transmitting, to match conditions. From 1900 to 2000 kHz you need to be aware of radio-location beacons.
The original bands were 160, 80, 40, 20, and 10 metres, with 15 metres added in the early 1950s. WARC Bands 30, 17, and 12 metres are the WARC bands, added in 1979. 60 metres dates from early in this century.
80 metres, from 3.500 to 4.000 MHz is a good band for regional coverage in the evening. Generals are allowed portions in the data and voice segments. The voice segments are sometimes termed 75 metres. You may hear some "SPAM" activity, that is, the Society for the Preservation of Amplitude Modulation members using AM, in addition to the regular LSB voice on this band. See: SPAM (NZ)
Off the exam, Alaska Emergency Channel, 5.1689 MHz (the suppressed carrier frequency displayed on Ham rigs) is permitted at 150 Watts PEP in Alaska, or within 92.6 km (50 nautical miles) of the state, using USB for emergency communications. It is shared with stations in the Alaska-Private Fixed Service, including state police and emergency agencies, as well as people working and travelling in the area. On many radios it can be activated by turning on the "Emergency" channel in the menus, and it becomes one of the memory channels.
60 metres is available in many countries, either as a regular band, or in the US, as specific channels. The first has a suppressed carrier (Ham display) frequency of 5330.5 kHz, the fifth and last 5403.5 kHz. Each is 2.8 kHz wide, and originally USB only. CW, RTTY, and data are now also permitted. Power is 100 Watts PEP into a dipole, or the same effective radiated power (ERP). Generals can use all channels. A diagram is on the following page. Note that while several narrowband mode could fit in a single channel, only one station should use a channel at once, I suppose to save confusing non-ham users. WRC-15 (World Radiocommunication Conference 2015, Geneva) approved a band from 5351.5 to 5366.5 kHz at restricted power, on a secondary basis (see below). This has not been implemented yet in the US, and many other administrations are dithering too.
40 metres, from 7.000 to 7.300 kHz is a good regional daytime band, with DX at night. Generals have only portions of the voice and RTTY / Data / CW segments. I have gotten to Oregon from rural NSW on the band, with just 100 watts and a low dipole.
In certain areas voice is permitted from 7.075 to 7.100 MHz. This includes Region 1, Region 3, and the west and south of Region 2. While East Coast people might think of Region 1 as across the Atlantic in Europe, and maybe Africa, it wraps around towards Alaska, taking in all of Russia. Region 3 is Asia, from Iran east, and Oceania. Thus Guam and American Samoa are in Region 3. The areas in Region 2 are those west of 130° West, taking in Alaska, and Hawaiʻi; and those south of 20° North including Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. This rule also applies to operation on US vessels or aircraft in the areas discussed. If operating in another country their allocations apply.
The above, and rules regarding 70 cm, are however summarised to "allocations may differ" in these areas.
30 metres, covering 10.100 to 10.150 MHz is a fairly narrow band, and as such, in most countries, voice is prohibited, and in the US, also image modes. Power is limited to 200 Watts PEP, and Generals get access to the whole band. Voice is permitted in Australia, and as an indication of propagation, at 11:00 am the ARNSW site in Sydney tries to be off the band, to avoid possible interference with the Perth-based broadcast, which starts at 9:00 am their time. At times the WA service is certainly audible in Sydney. This is the first of the "WARC Bands" we are discussing, bands which became available following the World Administrative Radio Conference in 1979, in Geneva, following preparatory meetings in Panama.
20 metres, 14.000 to 14.350 MHz is an important DX band. Even a wire dipole allows lunch-time (eastern) contacts from Sydney to Perth, and from Sydney to Europe during the afternoon. This is the lowest band at which yagis or "beams" become practical for back-yard use. Generals have access to most of both the data and voice segments.
17 metres, 18.068 to 18.168 MHz is a WARC band, which has similar characteristics to 20m. Generals get access to all of the band.
15 metres, 21.000 to 21.450 MHz has performance which varies with the sunspot cycle. It can provide Trans-Tasman and DX contacts in the daytime. A benefit is that it is a harmonic of 40 metres, so many 40 m antennas can be used on this band. Generals have access to most of the band.
12 metres, 24.890 to 24.990 MHz is the third WARC band, it is mainly a daytime band, but can work at night too. Like the other WARC bands, generals get access to all of the band.
10 metres, 28.000 to 29.700 MHz works well during solar activity maximums, and during spring and summer. Repeaters are available on this band. Gain antennas, such as beams, can be valuable, and applying some of the ideas from VHF-DXing helps. Generals get access to all of the band.
The bands for for which the whole band is available to Generals are 160 metre (MF); the five channels at 60 metres (5 MHz); the "WARC bands", being 30m, 17m, and 12m; and the 10 metre band.
From the chart (you did download one, didn't you?), where Generals are not allowed the entire voice segment, it is the upper portion of the band which is permitted. Off the exam, the same rule applies to General and Advanced Hams in several data segments.
On this band mobile antennas, including re-tuned CB ones, can be efficient on this band, depending on size.
27 MHz CB was once a Ham band in many countries, including the US, hence its nickname, 11 metres. NZ allows Amateur telemetry in the band, but now also allows it to be used as a second CB band, using Australian channel numbers.
You will notice that the original bands follow a a pattern of doubling in frequencies. This was deliberate, as it meant that harmonic content from one ham band tends to end up in another ham band. For example, twice 3.5 MHZ is 7 MHz.
21 MHz is 3 times 7 MHz, meaning 40 metre band antennas may work well on 15 metres.
10 metres is the only HF band where repeaters are permitted. Specifically, this is from 29.5 to 29.7 MHz. As this segment is the top 200 kHz of the band, the shift is only 100 kHz. Generally the repeater's receiver is located on a different site to the transmitter, to prevent the transmitted signal getting into the receiver.
In some bands Amateurs are the primary users, meaning they typically have exclusive use. On other bands, Hams are secondary users, and must avoid interfering with the primary users, such as by ceasing transmission, or changing frequency.
If you erect a tower over 60.96 metres (200 feet) high, it may need to be registered with the FCC and FAA, although the exams says it must. It appears that this may apply if you gain access to the roof of large building (exceeding this height) to erect a short mast, or otherwise mount an antenna for a repeater, or other Ham operations. Be aware that lower restrictions may apply near airports, and that even adding to a building height by a small amount, by adding an antenna could be a problem within 3 or 5 km of some airports.
For most amateur activities 30 metres is sufficient, unless you are need an efficient antenna for 160 metres. There is also a restriction of 60 metres for 2200 m and 630 m band antennas.
If Part 97 (the rules for Ham radio) does not have a rule on a particular topic, then "good engineering and good amateur practice" applies; and who determines what this is? The FCC.
Beacons are primarily used for evaluating propagation, and determining if communications are possible to a certain location. They are most often used on 10 metres, VHF, UHF, and SHF. There are also the IARU beacons on a range of upper HF frequencies. The power limit is 100 W PEP.
In the US any ham of Technician or higher grade can operate one or more beacons under their personal callsign, provided that there is only one per band.
The rules are listed here: 47 CFR § 97.203 - Beacon station
In Australia permanently running or unattended beacons must be licensed.
Nah! Music, except as part of re-broadcasting material from manned space-craft (NASA-TV), is prohibited.
Amateur Radio can't be used for general news-gathering, but if a situation causes a risk to life or property, then it is acceptable to send a message for broadcast by a radio or TV station.
Codes which obscure the the meaning of the message, whether spoken, or in a digital system is prohibited, unless sending commands to a space vehicle (satellite).
However, Q-codes and pro-words are permitted. Q-codes are a set of 3 letter terms, such as QTH, meaning location. The 10-code, discouraged on Amateur bands, is used on CB and some police systems. 10-20 is location, hence "What is your 20?", and 10-4, for confirm. Informal terms are OM, for Old Man, applying to all male hams.
These are actual questions from the General exam pool. The only edit I have made is changing the several quote mark styles to a standard style, in case they generate an error character.
On which HF/MF bands is a General class license holder granted all amateur frequency privileges?
A. 60 meters, 20 meters, 17 meters, and 12 meters
B. 160 meters, 80 meters, 40 meters, and 10 meters
C. 160 meters, 60 meters, 30 meters, 17 meters, 12 meters, and 10 meters
D. 160 meters, 30 meters, 17 meters, 15 meters, 12 meters, and 10 meters
It is the MF 160m; the channels of 60m; the three WARC bands, 30, 17, and 12m; and the almost-VHF 10m, answer C.
Alternatively, you could remember it excludes the big-3 HF DX bands, and long-standing band, 15m.
On which of the following bands is phone operation prohibited?
A. 160 meters
B. 30 meters
C. 17 meters
D. 12 meters
Remember, in the US, neither phone nor image is available on 30 metres, answer B.
You could perhaps visualise the red-stripe (RTTY & data) with 200 Watts PEP on it, but no green (voice and image) area, in the band-plan.
On which of the following bands is image transmission prohibited?
A. 160 meters
B. 30 meters
C. 20 meters
D. 12 meters
Remember, in the US, neither phone nor image is available on 30 metres, answer B.
200 Watts PEP
G1A04 [97.303 (h)]
Which of the following amateur bands is restricted to communication on only specific channels, rather than frequency ranges?
A. 11 meters
B. 12 meters
C. 30 meters
D. 60 meters
The new 60 metres (5 MHz) band is the only Amateur bands channelised, answer D.
Should the access to the whole band authorised at WRC-15 be implemented, then either this question will stand as is, or it will be withdrawn, but not changed, until mid 2023.
Which of the following frequencies is in the General Class portion of the 40-meter band?
A. 7.250 MHz
B. 7.500 MHz
C. 40.200 MHz
D. 40.500 MHz
7.250 MHz is the only answer in the entire band, answer A.
Which of the following frequencies is within the General Class portion of the 75-meter phone band?
A. 1875 kHz
B. 3750 kHz
C. 3900 kHz
D. 4005 kHz
The General allocation in the "75 metre" band starts at 3800 kHz, and finishes at 4.000, so only 3900 is sensible, answer C.
Which of the following frequencies is within the General Class portion of the 20-meter phone band?
A. 14005 kHz
B. 14105 kHz
C. 14305 kHz
D. 14405 kHz
The first two are in the data & CW section, the last is above the top of the band, so only 14305 gets the banana, answer C.
Which of the following frequencies is within the General Class portion of the 80-meter band?
A. 1855 kHz
B. 2560 kHz
C. 3560 kHz
D. 3650 kHz
Being tricky here: 3560 kHz is in the RTTY and data band, available to Generals and also somewhere you can use CW with Techs, answer C.
The only other 80m frequency here is in the phone and image section, but reserved for Extras.
Which of the following frequencies is within the General Class portion of the 15-meter band?
A. 14250 kHz
B. 18155 kHz
C. 21300 kHz
D. 24900 kHz
Easy: only 21300 kHz is in the 15 metre band, answer C.
Which of the following frequencies is available to a control operator holding a General Class license?
A. 28.020 MHz
B. 28.350 MHz
C. 28.550 MHz
D. All of these choices are correct
How much of the 10 metre band do Generals get? All! Answer D.
When General Class licensees are not permitted to use the entire voice portion of a particular band, which portion of the voice segment is generally available to them?
A. The lower frequency end
B. The upper frequency end
C. The lower frequency end on frequencies below 7.3 MHz and the upper end on frequencies above 14.150 MHz
D. The upper frequency end on frequencies below 7.3 MHz and the lower end on frequencies above 14.150 MHz
It is the upper end (in frequency terms), answer B.
The long ones are conflating this with the the LSB / USB selection issue.
Which of the following applies when the FCC rules designate the Amateur Service as a secondary user on a band?
A. Amateur stations must record the call sign of the primary service station before operating on a frequency assigned to that station
B. Amateur stations are allowed to use the band only during emergencies
C. Amateur stations are allowed to use the band only if they do not cause harmful interference to primary users
D. Amateur stations may only operate during specific hours of the day, while primary users are permitted 24 hour use of the band
You can only use a secondary frequency if it will not cause interference to primary users, answer C.
What is the appropriate action if, when operating on either the 30-meter or 60-meter bands, a station in the primary service interferes with your contact?
A. Notify the FCCs regional Engineer in Charge of the interference
B. Increase your transmitter's power to overcome the interference
C. Attempt to contact the station and request that it stop the interference
D. Move to a clear frequency or stop transmitting
You need to change frequency, or stop transmitting, answer D.
Which of the following may apply in areas under FCC jurisdiction outside of ITU Region 2?
A. Station identification may have to be in a language other than English
B. Morse code may not be permitted
C. Digital transmission may not be permitted
D. Frequency allocations may differ
Frequency allocations may vary, answer D.
Frequencies in the US 40 metre band are in the 41 metre broadcast band outside the US. Thus operators outside the US mainland may have to avoid this, with voice permitted lower in the band to compensate.
What portion of the 10-meter band is available for repeater use?
A. The entire band
B. The portion between 28.1 MHz and 28.2 MHz
C. The portion between 28.3 MHz and 28.5 MHz
D. The portion above 29.5 MHz
Repeaters are confined to the uppermost portion of 10 metres, answer D.
What is the maximum height above ground to which an antenna structure may be erected without requiring notification to the FAA and registration with the FCC, provided it is not at or near a public use airport?
A. 50 feet
B. 100 feet
C. 200 feet
D. 300 feet
Structures over 60.96 meters (200 feet) need to be registered, answer C.
With which of the following conditions must beacon stations comply?
A. A beacon station may not use automatic control
B. The frequency must be coordinated with the National Beacon Organization
C. The frequency must be posted on the Internet or published in a national periodical
D. There must be no more than one beacon signal transmitting in the same band from the same station location
In the US, there is no need for a special repeater licence, but your beacon can only have one transmission in the same band, at each location, answer D.
Which of the following is a purpose of a beacon station as identified in the FCC rules?
A. Observation of propagation and reception
B. Automatic identification of repeaters
C. Transmission of bulletins of general interest to Amateur Radio licensees
D. Identifying net frequencies
Beacons are used to observe the radio propagation, and can be used to see if reception is possible over a path, answer A.
If an Aussie hears "dah-dah-di-dit - di-dah-di-dit", meaning ZL, on 2m, it is time to try to work New Zealand stations!
Which of the following transmissions is permitted?
A. Unidentified transmissions for test purposes only
B. Retransmission of other amateur station signals by any amateur station
C. Occasional retransmission of weather and propagation forecast information from U.S. government stations
D. Coded messages of any kind, if not intended to facilitate a criminal act
Weather and propagation information can be transmitted occasionally, answer C.
Which of the following one-way transmissions are permitted?
A. Unidentified test transmissions of less than one minute in duration
B. Transmissions necessary to assist learning the International Morse code
C. Regular transmissions offering equipment for sale, if intended for Amateur Radio use
D. All these choices are correct
Transmissions to assist learning Morse are permitted, answer B.
G1B06 [97.15(b), PRB-1, 101 FCC 2d 952 (1985)]
Under what conditions are state and local governments permitted to regulate Amateur Radio antenna structures?
A. Under no circumstances, FCC rules take priority
B. At any time and to any extent necessary to accomplish a legitimate purpose of the state or local entity, provided that proper filings are made with the FCC
C. Only when such structures exceed 50 feet in height and are clearly visible 1000 feet from the structure
D. Amateur Service communications must be reasonably accommodated, and regulations must constitute the minimum practical to accommodate a legitimate purpose of the state or local entity
State and local government must allow reasonable antennas necessary for amateur operations, answer D.
What are the restrictions on the use of abbreviations or procedural signals in the Amateur Service?
A. Only "Q" signals are permitted
B. They may be used if they do not obscure the meaning of a message
C. They are not permitted
D. Only "10 codes" are permitted
Appropriate procedural terms and abbreviations may be used, as long as they don't hide the meaning of the message answer B.
Wilco, for "will comply" is an example, and Q-codes are fine, as they are in a published list. Using 10-codes tends to annoy people, so should be avoided, but they are not prohibited. I suppose "QOD 8" could be used by some of Mr Trump's associates.
When choosing a transmitting frequency, what should you do to comply with good amateur practice?
A. Insure that the frequency and mode selected are within your license class privileges
B. Follow generally accepted band plans agreed to by the Amateur Radio community
C. Monitor the frequency before transmitting
D. All of these choices are correct
They all sound like great ideas, so answer D.
Examples of following the informal band-plan might be using the agreed AM frequencies within the phone section, if you want to use AM.
On what HF frequencies are automatically controlled beacons permitted?
A. On any frequency if power is less than 1 watt
B. On any frequency if transmissions are in Morse code
C. 21.08 MHz to 21.09 MHz
D. 28.20 MHz to 28.30 MHz
Only on the indicated segment of 10 metres, answer D.
Note that the 4U1UN beacon may be in NYC, but it is under UN jurisdiction.
What is the power limit for beacon stations?
A. 10 watts PEP output
B. 20 watts PEP output
C. 100 watts PEP output
D. 200 watts PEP output
100 watts, answer C.
This is a reasonable balance between stations being able to hear the beacon, and it being too powerful to have practical use for indicating that a regular station can communicate over the path. It is also the power output of many off-the-shelf HF Ham radios.
Who or what determines "good engineering and good amateur practice" as applied to the operation of an amateur station in all respects not covered by the Part 97 rules?
A. The FCC
B. The Control Operator
C. The IEEE
D. The ITU
The FCC is the authority relating to radio operations, so answer A.
If you didn't find "QOD 8", it means "I can communicate with you in Russian", from the Maritime Q-codes; not that there is anything wrong with being multi-lingual. I am much more 1 (English), with a little 7, or in plain language, "Snakke litt Norsk".
On to: Regulations 2 - Power, Data, and Volunteer Examiners
You can find links to lots more on the Learning Material page.
Written by Julian Sortland, VK2YJS & AG6LE, March 2022.
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