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Amateur Radio Info & Exams - Regulations 2

This continues the regulations you need to know to pass the US Technician exam.

More on Callsigns

Each amateur operator is identified by a sequence of letters and numbers, called a callsign. A few special calls are 3 letters, but 4, 5, or 6 are normal, and one rather silly regime uses 7 - for the VKnFxxx Foundation licence, which upsets some systems.

If you obtain a Technician licence the FCC will give you a "systematic" callsign, something like KG7TAZ. This is called a 2x3 callsign, due to the two letters ahead of the number, and three after. The number indicates the region, 7 being the North-West, including Oregon, where Australia Post has its "Shopmate" warehouse. From north to south down the East Coast is 1 to 4. Much of the Gulf Coast is 5. California is 6, the Dekotas and central states are 0. The eastern Mid-West in 8, including Ohio; the western part 9.

The prefixes for the US are are K, N, W, and AA-AL. The first three can be used as single letters or as double-letters, but only A only paired with a second letter. (A-numeral, and remaining A-letter are allocated to other countries, such as A9 for Bahrain, and AX to Australia (used for special events). A9 were originally issued as A9Xxx, replaced with A92xx.

Puerto Rico is KP4; Virgin Islands is KP2; the US area at Gitmo is KG4; Hawaii is AH6, KH6, NH6, WH6, AH7, KH7, NH7, and WH7; Alaska gets AL, KL, NL, and WL, all with numerals 0 to 7; AH2, KH2, NH2, and WH2 are Guam; and there are further islands.

Once your callsign in listed in the FCC's ULS, the Universal Licensing System, as the licence database is know, you can operate. Printed licences are no longer mailed out, but you can (and should) log in, and print the PDF of your licence.

You can also obtain a personalised, or "Vanity" callsign. The length depends in the class of licence, noting that you can have a longer one than your licence grade allows, but not shorter. In addition to the 2 x 3 a Technician can select a 1x3. AG6LE is a sequential issue California Extra call, a 2x2. A call like KH8J or K0AB is also available to Extras, these being 2x1 and 1x2. All grades can apply, including Novices (but only a 2x3). A few with VK (Aussie) calls have managed to pair them with a AK call using the vanity system.

You also need to know about club vanity callsigns. A club "must be composed of at least four persons and must have a name, a document of organization, management, and a primary purpose devoted to amateur service activities consistent with this part", meaning Part 97. The club must appoint a person who is a holder of a US licence as trustee, and this person may select a vanity callsign on behalf of the club (or at least make the application on behalf of the club, based on their selection).

Some overseas callsigns can begin with a number, such as 3D2PI from Fiji, or contain two numbers, such as P29XX, a PNG call, as the country is allocated P2, including for aircraft. UK Intermediate calls include the 2*0XYZ (0=zero) format, where the * is the nation or Crown Dependency the operator is in, noting that an English operator, 2E0ABC becomes 2W0ABC once they cross the Welsh border, into Cymru. Northern Ireland is I; Jersey, J; Guernsey, U; Isle of Man, D. Currently those living in, or visiting Scotland insert an M into their callsign, but this may well change once Scotland is independent, and likely gets its own prefix. There is a second series of letters used by club stations, and this includes C for Cymru, S for Scotland, and X in England.

Your author has accessed a repeater in IoM from a holl in North Wales, using a handheld, and also to the north west coast of England. Likewise, it is possible to make VHF-FM contacts across the English Channel. Contact between Canada and the US, and the US and Mexico on VHF and UHF are also common.

Special Event Calls

Amateurs run stations at or concurrent with celebrations and commemorations of historic events, or during major sporting events. In the US groups and individuals are granted short-term use if a "1x1" call, such as K3J. The exam terms this as a single letter in both its prefix and its suffix. Only W, K and N can be the first letter. Overseas, there are longer special calls, like VI100ANZAC.

Licence duration and classes

Your licence will last for 10 years, after which you must renew it. This can be by submitting an application form to the FCC, or by requesting the ARRL-VEC to do so, free for members. Other VECs, such as W5YI can also do this. No reminders are sent, although members can ask the ARRL to send one.

If you allow your licence to lapse there is a two year grace period, after which you need to sit the Technician exam again, but gain the class you last held. You can't operate during the 2 year period.

You must ensure you keep your licence up to date with the FCC, as if they attempt to send you a letter, and it is returned they can cancel your licence.

There are currently three grades of licence, Technician, General, and Extra. There however remain over 9,000 Novice operators, who passed a 5 WPM Morse test and a basic paper, so have quite limited band access, and restrictions on power, etc. There are also 42,000 Advanced operators, who had to pass a quite fast Morse test, and a technical paper, and some refuse to upgrade, as holding this grade demonstrated the high Morse speed. Technician Plus was an indication that the Technician had passed a Morse test. Technician-Plus holders were "grandfathered" to General, if licensed before 1987, or were renewed as Technicians.

Permitted Communications

Amateurs are generally permitted to make International contacts and communications. Officially, these are limited to "Communications incidental to the purposes of the amateur service and remarks of a personal character". Business related communications are not allowed.

Communications in support of combating a disaster are acceptable, and if this were to say, relate to replacing an exhausted tanker-driver for fire-suppression helicopter refuelling operations, than the emergency support aspect over-rules the ban on business related communications.

Payment for operating

Payment for operating an Amateur station is generally prohibited. Some exceptions include operation by a teacher in the classroom, or as an emergency management employee during drills or emergencies.

Selling products, such as callsign plaques, badges, clothing, and jewellery; training material; and various items of equipment are business opportunities relating to the hobby. As an example, you may want to get a Ham related shirt designed by your author: VK-73

Relevant Questions

These are actual exam questions, from the published NCVEC Technician pool.

T1C01 [97.3(a)(11)(iii)]
Which type of call sign has a single letter in both its prefix and suffix?
A. Vanity
B. Sequential
C. Special event
D. In-memoriam

The other term for one prefix and one suffix letter is 1x1, and these are used as short-term "Special event" callsigns, answer C. The others are all longer.

Which of the following is a valid US amateur radio station call sign?
A. KMA3505
D. 11Q1176

US Amateur calls must contain one or two letters a single numeral and one, two, or three suffix letters, subject to certain restrictions. The only one complying with this is W3ABC, answer B. The all letter one is a broadcasting callsign.

T1C03 [97.117]
What types of international communications are permitted by an FCC-licensed amateur station?
A. Communications incidental to the purposes of the amateur service and remarks of a personal character
B. Communications incidental to conducting business or remarks of a personal nature
C. Only communications incidental to contest exchanges, all other communications are prohibited
D. Any communications that would be permitted by an international broadcast station

International communications are somewhat more limited than local communications, and thus this is limited to discussions related to Amateur Radio, and general chat such as the weather, general comments about work (without soliciting for business), answer A. That said, some people get over-excited about simple atmospheric physics...

T1C04 [97.107]
When are you allowed to operate your amateur station in a foreign country?
A. When the foreign country authorizes it
B. When there is a mutual agreement allowing third party communications
C. When authorization permits amateur communications in a foreign language
D. When you are communicating with non-licensed individuals in another country

The foreign country must authorise operation in their country, answer A. The language is generally not restricted, and these are not "third party communications", and the arrangement need not be a mutual one. For US Amateurs, there are arrangement with other nations in the Americas. Australia recognises US licences of visitors - just make sure you have evidence of the date of first issue of your licence*. The European authorities recognise the Extra as the highest grade of licence, and the General as the second grade, or "Novice" level, allowing operation under the CEPT arrangements. As the US licence, unlike the Australian Advanced, does not include the required text in English, French, and German, a separate document explaining the licence must be carried. Some non-European CEPT signatories recognise the licences of other non-member signatories, such as the US, others don't. (Off-topic, but the Australian "Standard" is not at the level required for the CEPT "Novice" arrangement.)

Beyond the scope of this question, some nations recognise US licences for the issue of a licence by that country to an Amateur moving to that country; and some require visitors obtain a local licence, based on their home-county (or other) licence.

*Due to game playing by the WIA, the ACMA has changed the equivalences for recently issued US licences, to the extent that proving you had a US Technician issues before 22 September 2016 is more useful than a General upgrade after 3 July 2017!!!

Which of the following is a vanity call sign which a technician class amateur operator might select if available?
D. All of these choices are correct

The shortest call a Technician can have is the 1x3, such as K1XXX, answer A.

T1C06 [97.5(a)(2)]
From which of the following locations may an FCC-licensed amateur station transmit, in addition to places where the FCC regulates communications?
A. From within any country that belongs to the International Telecommunications Union
B. From within any country that is a member of the United Nations
C. From anywhere within in ITU Regions 2 and 3
D. From any vessel or craft located in international waters and documented or registered in the United States

The FCC does no regulate communications in other countries, so the first 3 are wrong. Amateurs can operate from US registered boats and ships in international waters, answer D.

This also extends to aircraft, whether HTs on Cessnas; or pilots using one of the frequency agile HF-SSB transceivers aboard commercial or other aircraft. The Vertex-Standard VXA-700 "Spirit" 2m + Airband hand-held turns up on ebay occasionally, and uses the same batteries at the Yaesu VX-7R.

T1C07 [97.23]
What may result when correspondence from the FCC is returned as undeliverable because the grantee failed to provide the correct mailing address?
A. Fine or imprisonment
B. Revocation of the station license or suspension of the operator license
C. Require the licensee to be re-examined
D. A reduction of one rank in operator class

The licence may be revoked or suspended, answer B. If you are using a friend's address, make sure they let you know if they change address, so you can update your address with the FCC.

T1C08 [97.25]
What is the normal term for an FCC-issued primary station/operator amateur radio license grant?
A. Five years
B. Life
C. Ten years
D. Twenty years

A licence is normally issued for 10 years, after which you must renew it by completing a form, or asking the ARRL, etc to do so; answer C.

T1C09 [97.21(a)(b)]
What is the grace period following the expiration of an amateur license within which the license may be renewed?
A. Two years
B. Three years
C. Five years
D. Ten years

There is a two year grace period on renewals, after which you must re-sit the Technician licence paper again, answer A.

T1C10 [97.5a] How soon after passing the examination for your first amateur radio license may you operate a transmitter on an amateur service frequency?
A. Immediately
B. 30 days after the test date
C. As soon as your operator/station license grant appears in the FCC’s license database
D. You must wait until you receive your license in the mail from the FCC

You must wait until your licence appears in the FCC database, answer C. This usually takes a little under two weeks for an ARRL exam, taking into account postage and processing time. Some VECs allow online submission of licence applications by their VEs, so processing may be faster.

T1C11 [97.21(b)]
If your license has expired and is still within the allowable grace period, may you continue to operate a transmitter on amateur service frequencies?
A. No, transmitting is not allowed until the FCC license database shows that the license has been renewed
B. Yes, but only if you identify using the suffix GP
C. Yes, but only during authorized nets
D. Yes, for up to two years

No!, answer A. You must renew the licence, and wait for it to appear in the database.

T1C12 [97.19]
Who may select a desired call sign under the vanity call sign rules?
A. Only licensed amateurs with general or extra class licenses
B. Only licensed amateurs with an extra class license
C. Only an amateur licensee who has been licensed continuously for more than 10 years
D. Any licensed amateur

Vanity calls are available to any Amateur, answer D. You can apply as soon as your initial callsign is in the ULS.

T1C13 [97.9(a), 97.17(a)]
For which licenses classes are new licenses currently available from the FCC?
A. Novice, Technician, General, Advanced
B. Technician, Technician Plus, General, Advanced
C. Novice, Technician Plus, General, Advanced
D. Technician, General, Amateur Extra

Technician, General, Amateur Extra, answer D. The others include grades which are no longer available for new grants, although many amateurs continue to hold them, except Technician-Plus.

T1C14 [97.21(a) (1)]
Who may select a vanity call sign for a club station?
A. Any Extra Class member of the club
B. Any member of the club
C. Any officer of the club
D. Only the person named as trustee on the club station license grant

Only the trustee listed on the club licence grant may submit the application for a vanity callsign, answer D

T1D01 [97.111(a)(1)]
With which countries are FCC-licensed amateur stations prohibited from exchanging communications?
A. Any country whose administration has notified the ITU that it objects to such communications
B. Any country whose administration has notified the ARRL that it objects to such communications
C. Any country engaged in hostilities with another country
D. Any country in violation of the War Powers Act of 1934

The international (inter-governmental) agency concerned with radio communications is the ITU, so answer A. (There is no War Powers Act of 1934, rather 1941. The Communications Act was enacted in 1934).

T1D02 [97.111(a)(5)]
On which of the following occasions may an FCC-licensed amateur station exchange messages with a U.S. military station?
A. During an Armed Forces Day Communications Test
B. During a Memorial Day Celebration
C. During an Independence Day celebration
D. During a propagation test

Generally Amateur stations are not allowed to communicate with stations in other services, even when both services have overlapping allocations. The exception is during Communications Tests on Armed Forces Day, answer A.

T1D03 [97.211(b), 97.215(b)]
When is the transmission of codes or ciphers that hide the meaning of a message allowed by an amateur station?
A. Only during contests
B. Only when operating mobile
C. Only when transmitting control commands to space stations or radio control craft
D. Only when frequencies above 1280 MHz are used

Generally, encrypted messages are not permitted, except when controlling satellites or model aircraft. This is to prevent unauthorised people from sending damaging commands to the satellites, or crashing the model or "drone". Answer C.

T1D04 [97.113(a)(4), 97.113(c)]
What is the only time an amateur station is authorized to transmit music?
A. When incidental to an authorized retransmission of manned spacecraft communications
B. When the music produces no spurious emissions
C. When the purpose is to interfere with an illegal transmission
D. When the music is transmitted above 1280 MHz

Transmission of music is generally prohibited, however, wake up music, etc, included when retransmitting audio or video streams from NASA TV feeds from manned spacecraft is legal; answer A.

T1D05 [97.113(a)(3)(ii)]
When may amateur radio operators use their stations to notify other amateurs of the availability of equipment for sale or trade?
A. When the equipment is normally used in an amateur station and such activity is not conducted on a regular basis
B. When the asking price is $100.00 or less
C. When the asking price is less than its appraised value
D. When the equipment is not the personal property of either the station licensee or the control operator or their close relatives

Amateur Radio is not permitted for commercial purposes; however occasional sale of amateur radio related equipment is permitted, answer A.

T1D06 [97.113(a)(4)]
What, if any, are the restrictions concerning transmission of language that may be considered indecent or obscene?
A. The FCC maintains a list of words that are not permitted to be used on amateur frequencies
B. Any such language is prohibited
C. The ITU maintains a list of words that are not permitted to be used on amateur frequencies
D. There is no such prohibition

Offensive language is not permitted, answer B. There is however no official list of words, and terms merely impolite in one country may be offensive in another. Remember that children may be listening to your transmissions. Whether this ban is valid under the first amendment is yet to be tested, partly because no one has been fined for this alone.

T1D07 [97.113(d)]
What types of amateur stations can automatically retransmit the signals of other amateur stations?
A. Auxiliary, beacon, or Earth stations
B. Auxiliary, repeater, or space stations
C. Beacon, repeater, or space stations
D. Earth, repeater, or space stations

Auxiliary stations, such as links to control a home station from a HT, and link from the home station to the HT; repeaters (including digipeaters), and "translators" on satellites (space stations) are permitted to retransmit signals, answer B.

T1D08 [97.113(a)(3)(iii)]
In which of the following circumstances may the control operator of an amateur station receive compensation for operating the station?
A. When engaging in communications on behalf of their employer
B. When the communication is incidental to classroom instruction at an educational institution
C. When re-broadcasting weather alerts during a RACES net
D. When notifying other amateur operators of the availability for sale or trade of apparatus

If a licensed teacher is using Amateur Radio in the classroom or similar situation, while receiving income, then this is permitted, answer B. Outside the exam, emergency services or other public employees can take part in communications exercises during work time.

T1D09 [97.113(5)(b)]
Under which of the following circumstances are amateur stations authorized to transmit signals related to broadcasting, program production, or news gathering, assuming no other means is available?
A. Only where such communications directly relate to the immediate safety of human life or protection of property
B. Only when broadcasting communications to or from the space shuttle
C. Only where noncommercial programming is gathered and supplied exclusively to the National Public Radio network
D. Only when using amateur repeaters linked to the Internet

Only emergency related information may be sent for inclusion in radio broadcasts, answer A. A prime example is the location, size, and direction of travel of tornadoes, often through the "Skywarn" service. Wildfire behaviour, river heights, other storm activity, icy roads, are others. I am unsure if serious traffic congestion or disruption counts, although a serious snarl could result in loss of productivity, and the unnecessary burning of thousands of dollars worth of fuel, so rapid passing of information allowing others to take an alternative route would be beneficial.

T1D10 [97.3(a)(10)]
What is the meaning of the term “broadcasting” in the FCC rules for the amateur services?
A. Two-way transmissions by amateur stations
B. Transmission of music
C. Transmission of messages directed only to amateur operators
D. Transmissions intended for reception by the general public

Broadcasting is taken to mean deliberately transmitting to the general public, answer D.

T1D11 [97.119(a)]
When may an amateur station transmit without identifying?
A. When the transmissions are of a brief nature to make station adjustments
B. When the transmissions are unmodulated
C. When the transmitted power level is below 1 watt
D. When transmitting signals to control a model craft

One watt can cause significant interference, especially if on a repeater input frequency, so needs to be identified. The answer is when transmitting to remote control models, D. The use of amateur radio spectrum to control models is a US and Canada only rule, as far as I know.

T1D12 [97.111(b)(4,5,6)
Under which of the following circumstances may an amateur radio station engage in broadcasting?
A. Under no circumstances
B. When transmitting code practice, information bulletins, or transmissions necessary to provide emergency communications
C. At any time as long as no music is transmitted
D. At any time as long as the material being transmitted did not originate from a commercial broadcast station

Broadcasting, meaning, well casting the transmission broadly, and to the public, rather than to a specific station or members of a club or ad-hoc round-table group is generally prohibited. The exceptions are Morse code practice, bulletins of amateur radio related news or club information, and emergency communications. These take place in Amateur spectrum. Answer B.

On to: Regulations 3

You can find links to lots more on the Learning Material page.

Written by Julian Sortland, VK2YJS & AG6LE, December 2017.

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