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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. Thankfully the latter is being discontinued.

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. From north to south down the East Coast is 1 to 4. Much of the Gulf Coast is 5. California is 6, the Dakotas 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, originally issued as A9Xxx, corrected to A92xx; and AX to Australia, used for special events.

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, originally issued as A9Xxx, corrected to A92xx; and AX to Australia, used for special events.

Puerto Rico is KP4; Virgin Islands is KP2; the US base 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; AH8, KH8, NH8, and WH8 are American Samoa; 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. The

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 an AK call using the vanity system. KV is also an option, as is simply dropping the V, to form K2YJS.

For Kiwis (ZLs or New Zealanders) gaining a US Extra licence, 2x2 callsigns beginning with NZ are available.

Most of the info below is practical information only, rather than the exam.

Lower 48 2x1 and 1x2 are highly desirable, with multiple applications being made on the day each becomes available. Contesters, and those keen to work rare DX stations see them as providing an advantage, due to there being fewer syllables, and even "Alfa Golf Two Mike" has fewer than "November Seven Uniform Romeo". The length in Morse also varies.

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 organisation, 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).

If you upgrade you can opt to keep your existing callsign, or to request a new systematic callsign, noting that this really only applies if gaining an Extra. The third option is to keep the old call when filling in the Form 605 application for the licence upgrade, then make an application for a vanity callsign once the licence is issued.

The Lower 48 states are divided across 10 districts, indicated by the numeral, with District 10 being represented by 0. The table below indicates the callsigns issued to new licence grants, and those available via the Vanity programme. Note that callsigns in the sequential pool for that grade, and any call in the lines below, are available in the Vanity programme. These must avoid prefixes allocated to Alaska, Pacific, or Caribbean, unless you have an address there. A few further exceptions are mentioned below.

Extra2x2 AA-AL1x2 or 2x1
Advanced2x2 KA-KZ*2x2 K,N,W
General & Tech2x3 KA-KZ1x3 K,N,W
Novice2x3 KA-KZ*2x3 K or W

* New systematic Advanced calls are rare, and are only issued if a licence holder requests a new systematic callsign, perhaps as the result of changing region. This group is however availabe for Vanity use by Extra or Advanced hams.

The following are unavailable:

  • Suffixes SOS and QRA-QUZ
  • 2x3s with a suffix beginning in X (Experimental stations?)
  • xFnEMA (FEMA stations)
  • 2x3 beginning in N or with A
  • 2x3 WC, WK, WM, WR, or WT (WR were repeaters. WC are withdrawn RACES calls.)
  • KP, NP, or WP; and 0, 6, 7, 8 or 9
  • 1x1 (Short-term Special Event calls)

    + Used in Antarctica: KC4AAA–AAF for Byrd, McMurdo, Palmer; KC4USA–KC4USZ for US Naval bases. The KG4 prefix is used at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.

    See: Wikipedia - Amateur radio licensing in the United States and ARRL - Vanity call signs

    Primarily for Extras, information about 1x2 and 2x1 calls is available on ae7q.com. It is possible to track applications, etc. You don't want to apply before 2 years and 1 day from the expiration or cancellation, and have the application dismissed. Premature Application?

    Alaska, American Samoa, and several smaller islands have small populations, and thus shortened callsigns. Thus Extras get sequential callsings in the 2x1 format, and Generals get 2x2, The second letter indicates the region, Alaska, Pacific, or Caribbean.

    Unoccupied islands have no postal addresses, therefore the FCC won't issue callsigns for them, so "DXpeditions" to them can't get an appropriate call. Bureaucrazy!

    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 hill 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 between US and Mexico on VHF are also common. Contacts into Cuba are also presumably easy with a small Yagi from nearby areas, and are perfectly legal.

    J has been authorised for Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee, celebrating Elizabeth's unprecedented 70 years as Queen, during 2022.

    Globally, licences consist of the ITU issued prefix, a numeral, and 1 to 3 letters (no further 4 letter suffixes for Foundation licences in Australia will be issued).

    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. 1x1 Application Site. 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. However, an expired Advanced only gets credit for General. You can't operate during the 2 year period.

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

    There are currently three grades of licence, Technician, General, and Amateur Extra.

    There however remain 7805 Novice operators as of February 2022, 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 38,036 Advanced operators, who had to pass a quite fast Morse test, and a technical paper, and many refuse to upgrade, as holding this grade demonstrates 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. No Tech-Plus licences remain in force. April 2022 figures are 7721 and 37845.

    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.

    Third party communications, which means passing messages on behalf on non-hams internationally requires a mutual third party agreement between the two hams' countries.

    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, then the emergency support aspect over-rules the ban on business related communications.

    Amateur communications may be conducted in any language, but voice identification should use English character names for callsign letters and numbers, such a "double-u", rather that "dobbelt-v" or "vu doppia".

    Language should be decent.

    Automatic Retransmission of Signals

    Only repeaters, auxiliary stations, and space stations may retransmit signals.

    These are discussed on my other pages, but repeaters receive signals from a station, and retransmit them, usually in the same band, but with an offset. They are located on mountains, tall buildings, or commercial communications sites, and allow even a station with a HT or mobile to transmit to a wide area.

    Auxiliary stations are used to allow a ham with an HT to operate their home station remotely, or to use a UHF HT around their farm to access a distant VHF repeater, from places where an HT could not access it normally.

    Space station is another term for a satellite, and includes repeaters which may be placed on the ISS.

    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. These are legal, as long as you don't promoted them on-air. As an example, you may want to get a Ham related shirt or sticker designed by your author: VK-73. They have "Amateur Radio" and "73", meaning Best Wishes, on Australian style route number signs.

    Relevant Questions

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

    T1C01 [97.9(a), 97.17(a)]
    For which license classes are new licenses currently available from the FCC?
    A. Novice, Technician, General, Amateur Extra
    B. Technician, Technician Plus, General, Amateur Extra
    C. Novice, Technician Plus, General, Advanced
    D. Technician, General, Amateur Extra

    The three are Technician, General, and Amateur Extra, answer D.

    T1C02 [97.19]
    Who may select a desired call sign under the vanity call sign rules?
    A. Only a licensed amateur with a General or Amateur Extra class license
    B. Only a licensed amateur with an Amateur Extra class license
    C. Only a licensed amateur who has been licensed continuously for more than 10 years
    D. Any licensed amateur

    Any Amateur can apply for an appropriate callsign under the vanity programme, answer D.

    You can apply as soon as your initial callsign is in the ULS. The question is perhaps not perfectly stated, in that a Tech can't get a 2x1, for example.

    T1C03 [97.117]
    What types of international communications are an FCC-licensed amateur radio station permitted to make?
    A. Communications incidental to the purposes of the Amateur Radio 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, perhaps general comments about work (without soliciting for business), answer A.

    (That said, some people get over-excited about discussions regarding simple atmospheric physics...)

    T1C04 [97.23]
    What may happen if the FCC is unable to reach you by email?
    A. Fine and suspension of operator license
    B. Revocation of the station license or suspension of the operator license
    C. Revocation of access to the license record in the FCC system
    D. Nothing; there is no such requirement

    The station licence may be revoked or suspended, answer B.

    Which of the following is a valid Technician class call sign format? A. KF1XXX B. KA1X C. W1XX D. All these choices are correct

    Sequentially issued Technician callsigns are 2x3, beginning with a K, answer A.

    The remaining options are reserved for Extras.

    T1C06 [97.5(a)(2)]
    From which of the following locations may an FCC-licensed amateur station transmit?
    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 International Telecommunication Union (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. US 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]
    Which of the following can result in revocation of the station license or suspension of the operator license?
    A. Failure to inform the FCC of any changes in the amateur station following performance of an RF safety environmental evaluation
    B. Failure to provide and maintain a correct email address with the FCC
    C. Failure to obtain FCC type acceptance prior to using a home-built transmitter
    D. Failure to have a copy of your license available at your station

    Recent rules require that the FCC have an up-to-date email address, answer B.

    T1C08 [97.25]
    What is the normal term for an FCC-issued amateur radio license?
    A. Five years
    B. Life
    C. Ten years
    D. Eight 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 for renewal if an amateur license expires?
    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 transmit on the amateur radio bands?
    A. Immediately on receiving your Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE)
    B. As soon as your operator/station license grant appears on the ARRL website
    C. As soon as your operator/station license grant appears in the FCC’s license database
    D. As soon as you receive your license in the mail from the FCC

    You must wait until your licence appears in the FCC database, answer C.

    If your paperwork is mailed by the VE this usually takes a little under two weeks for an ARRL exam. Some VECs allow online submission of paperwork, speeding up the process. Electronic grading of online exams, inspired by COVID, has led to licences being issued within an hour in some cases. Licences no longer routinely mailed.

    T1C11 [97.21(b)]
    If your license has expired and is still within the allowable grace period, may you continue to transmit on the amateur radio bands?
    A. Yes, for up to two years
    B. Yes, as soon as you apply for renewal
    C. Yes, for up to one year
    D. No, you must wait until the license has been renewed

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

    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 American Radio Relay League (ARRL) that it objects to such communications
    C. Any country banned from such communications by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) D. Any country banned from making such communications by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL)

    The international (inter-governmental) agency concerned with radio communications is the ITU, so answer A.

    T1D02 [97.113(b),97.111(b)]
    Under which of the following circumstances are one-way transmissions by an amateur station prohibited?
    A. In all circumstances
    B. Broadcasting
    C. International Morse Code Practice
    D. Telecommand or transmissions of telemetry

    Broadcasting is prohibited, answer B.

    T1D03 [97.211(b), 97.215(b) 97.113(a)(4)]
    When is it permissible to transmit messages encoded to obscure their meaning?
    A. Only during contests
    B. Only when transmitting certain approved digital codes
    C. Only when transmitting control commands to space stations or radio control craft
    D. Never

    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)]
    Under what conditions is an amateur station authorized to transmit music using a phone emission?
    A. When incidental to an authorized retransmission of manned spacecraft communications
    B. When the music produces no spurious emissions
    C. When transmissions are limited to less than three minutes per hour
    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. Never
    B. When the equipment is not the personal property of either the station licensee, or the control operator, or their close relatives
    C. When no profit is made on the sale
    D. When selling amateur radio equipment and not on a regular basis

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

    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, so language should be polite. Whether this ban is valid under the first amendment is yet to be tested, partly because no one has been fined for this alone.

    Incidently the FCC regulates broadcast TV in the US, but not satellite pay-TV, hence prudishness on some content seen internationally, but not on the HBO show featuring four women in New York City, for example.

    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. Earth, repeater, or space stations
    C. Beacon, repeater, or space stations
    D. Repeater, auxiliary, 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 D.

    T1D08 [97.113(a)(3)(iii)]
    In which of the following circumstances may the control operator of an amateur station receive compensation for operating that station?
    A. When the communication is related to the sale of amateur equipment by the control operator's employer
    B. When the communication is incidental to classroom instruction at an educational institution
    C. When the communication is made to obtain emergency information for a local broadcast station
    D. All these choices are correct

    If a licensed teacher is using Amateur Radio in the classroom or similar situation, while receiving income, then this is permitted, answer B.

    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. When such communications are directly related to the immediate safety of human life or protection of property B. When broadcasting communications to or from the space shuttle C. Where noncommercial programming is gathered and supplied exclusively to the National Public Radio network D. Never

    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)]
    How does the FCC define broadcasting for the Amateur Radio Service? A. Two-way transmissions by amateur stations B. Any transmission made by the licensed station 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 on the air?
    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 model craft

    This is when transmitting to remote control models, D.

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

    On to: Regulations 3

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

    Written by Julian Sortland, VK2YJS & AG6LE, April 2022.

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