Ofcom has today published its long-awaited consultation on proposed changes to the amateur radio licence: Updating the Amateur Radio Licence.
This consultation was first discussed at the RSGB Convention in October 2013, where it caused some controversy (See Ofcom Licence Review)
Here's a link to the consultation document, a summary of the main points, and details of how to respond. Amateurs have until the 20th of October to respond to the proposals:
A summary of the proposed changes was published today, Tuesday the 9th of September 2014. Anyone wanting to respond to the proposals has until the 20th of October to do so. Ofcom will make a statement in November, with any changes to the licence coming into effect in April 2015.
The full 32 page document is available here: stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/amateur-radio-licence
Summary of Proposed Changes
There are ten proposed changes - the two most interesting being:
Changes to how often we use our callsigns
Dropping the Regional Locators ("M" for Scotland, "W" for Wales, etc)
If you don't fancy reading the entire document, here's our summary:
Access to 470kHz and 5MHz
Access to 470kHz and 5MHz bands for full licence holder. Currently, Full licence holders need to apply for an NoV to use these, but the proposal is that these are available to full licence holders "as a matter of course", subject to certain restrictions.
Q1: Do you agree with the proposal to include, as a matter of course, the 470 kHz and 5 MHz bands into the Licence for all Amateur Radio (Full) licensees?
Changes to Club Licences
Currently, Club Licences are held by a person, not a club. If the holder of a club licence leaves the club (or dies), that can leave the club without a licence. There are almost 1,500 club licences out there. The proposal is that the club holds the licence, not a person.
Q2. Do you agree that expressly linking a Full (Club) Licensee’s authorisation to use the spectrum to his or her representation of a named club, and by adding a further ground for revoking the Licence to include circumstances where the licensee no longer represents the club, will help ensure that a club’s call sign remains with the club?
Wording changes to the definition of who is disqualified from holding a licence, and to reflect that revocation after 5 years is not actually "automatic".
Q3. Do you agree that Ofcom should include a further ground of revocation in the Licence as proposed above in order to better align Clause 4 with the definition of ‘Disqualified Person’?
Q4. Do you agree that the word “automatically” should be removed from Clause 4(5) of the Licence, in relation to the revocation of the Licence for failure to comply with the revalidation requirements?
Wording around licence fees
No changes to the fees are proposed, but a minor change to wording is proposed for clarification
Q5. Do you agree that Clause 15 of the Licence should be updated to reflect the wording included in Ofcom’s General Licence Conditions Booklet?
Changing how often we use callsigns
Currently, the licence mandates that we give our callsign during initial calls/contacts, on change of frequency, and every 15 minutes. The proposal is to relax this so that:
a station must be clearly identifiable at all times,
a valid call sign for the station be transmitted as frequently as is practicable during transmissions to ensure that the station is clearly identified, and
the station’s identity be given in voice, Morse Code or a format consistent with the modulation in use.
The exception is that more strict requirements will be applied to 5MHz, which is shared with the military
Q6. Do you agree that Clause 13 of the Licence should be amended to allow for a simpler, more flexible approach for identifying Amateur Radio stations?
Thoughts: How would you interpret using your callsign "as frequently as practicable"? Start and end of every over? Every minute?
Removal of Regional Secondary Locators
The dropping of the requirement to use Regional Secondary Locators (e.g; "W" for Wales, "M" for Scotland, "I" for Northern Ireland, etc) is proposed. It seems that Ofcom intended these to be used to identify the main station address, not the current operating location. As there is confusion, the proposal is to drop the requirement altogether (although people will still be allowed to add the RSL if they wish).
Q7. Given the current uncertainty amongst Radio Amateur licensees in relation to Clause 2(2), do you believe that it would be a practical solution for Ofcom to remove this Clause and to insert additional wording into Clause 13, as proposed above?
There is one exception, "Intermediate". for a 2x0 and 2x1 callsign, the Regional Secondary Locator is required, and this will be the location of the main station address, not the operating location. An Intermediate living in England but operating in Wales would be a "2E0" and not a "2W0". According to Ofcom, there are 8,000 Intermediate licence holders
Q8. Do you agree with Ofcom’s proposals to amend Clause 2(3) of the Licence to require Intermediate licensees to transmit a call sign that reflects the location of their main station?
Use of licences at specific locations
No changes to the rules, just some clarification of the wording. Clarification on Full licence holders working overseas and clarification of using one callsign at multiple locations simultaneously. Changes to the definition of "at sea" for Maritime Mobile.
Q9. Do you agree that replacing Clauses 2(1) and 16(1) with a new Clause to simplify and bring together all of the licence conditions relating to the operation of radio equipment away from the Main Station address will make these provisions clearer?
Clarification for RAYNET
Proposed changes to better facilitate RAYNET operations: Allowing operators to address non-amateurs (i.e User Services), and allowing encryption that may be required by a User Service
Q10. Do you agree that the proposed changes will clarify RAYNET operation under the Licence?
At the RSGB Convention in 2013, Ofcom announced that they may be looking at other changes - See our Licence Review Announcement summary. In today's consultation, here's what we didn't see:
No forced progression - there are no plans in the document to make changes or to force licence holders to progress!
No "one ham, one licence" - there are no plans in the document to remove multiple licences held by amateurs
Any thoughts on the changes? Add a comment below...