Proposed Licence Changes – Ofcom Consultation

Ofcom Consultation - Sept 2014 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:

The Consultation

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of a named club, and by adding a further ground for revoking the Licence to include circumstances where the licensee no longer represents the club, will help ensure that a club’s call sign remains with the club?

Revoking Licences

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 2×0 and 2×1 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?

Have Your Say

If you have views on the proposed changes, which would come into effect from April 2015, you need to make your views known to Ofcom by the 20th of October.

See http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/amateur-radio-licence/howtorespond/ for details on how to comment

Ofcom's Ash Gohil and Paul Jarvis G8RMM

Ofcom’s Ash Gohil and Paul Jarvis G8RMM at the RSGB 2013 Convention (Pic: Trevor M5AKA)

What we didn’t see

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…


Comments

Proposed Licence Changes – Ofcom Consultation — 37 Comments

  1. I think 15 minutes between callsigns is to long already, using the wording “be transmitted as frequently as is practicable” will mean some stations will never give their callsigns, sounds more like cb to me :(

    Nice to see all the nonsense about forced progression has been left out, progression should be voluntary not forced this is a hobby, The old b licencees were not forced to progress with the morse test it was a choice, that same choice should be left for foundation and intermediate licencees to make.

    • Richard – Agreed, although I still don’t understand the time-between-callsigns thing. “Frequently as practicable” could be read as “every 10 seconds” or “start and end of every over”. If the new requirement is that everyone should who who you are, then we;d have to give the callsign more often, not less often. Open to confusion and mistunderstanding, I think.

  2. Thank god no mention of the loony plans to bully people to progress. Finally they seem to have some common sense and will let people enjoy the hobby without risk of losing their licence.

    I feel callsigns do need to be given more often as if not you hear people talking for hours with no call sign, Even at present i think it should be a tighter number like 5 minutes as most people QSO’s its hard to tell who is who

  3. Glad to see common sense prevailed on the forcing of progress issue. Well done RSGB and OFCOM for listening to the majority

  4. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the current “15-minute rule” and most people apply common-sense/good-practice to that and give their call at the start and/or end of each over. If the rule was relaxed as proposed, I’m not sure which way it would go: Would Hams relax or over-compensate? Only this week there was a news item on the wires about the FCC sending a warning letter to 2 Hams who hadn’t observed their 20-minute rule.

    470KHz/5MHz sounds fine so long as those who operate are aware of the requirements (particularly 5MHz re: MoD) and procedures when using the band.

    I had to read the Club Callsign bit a few times before it sunk in exactly what they’re trying to do. Assigning GX0ABC to Club X rather than Person X makes sense as long as the callsign is used and operated as per the terms of the licence. Essentially, a Committee Member at the station as a “guardian” and a Full licence holder supervising any Foundation/Intermediate operators.

    Regional Prefixes – Wowzers! I think they should stay as they are and certainly can’t see the rationale behind MW0PZT operating in Essex (had I obtained my licence in Wales originally). I know the Americans have their Zone system and sometimes you may hear a W6, get excited that it’s West-Coast, only to find out that the bloke has re-located to New York… Boo! The funny thing is that a Welsh operator on holiday in Tenerife would use EA8/MW0ABC which literally means a UK station, in Wales, operating in Tenerife. Sure, you go by what’s on your licence document but “technically” they should revert to the base-callsign and sign EA8/M0ABC.

    Having said that, it would fix the problems that QRZ.com has with our RSL system – Those of use who visit (and operate) in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland etc have to manage additional Callsigns as QRZ cannot interpret the variations.

  5. Sorry but I feel the only people confused abour licensing conditions are Ofcom.
    The system has worked for as long as I can remember.
    As for callsign ident, this should be full calls at begining and end of each over. Unlike some nets where only the last three letters are used, total confusion.
    We never had this problem when the R.A. was in charge, why, because they understood what was required.
    Antway, depending on what happens next week I may not even have a “G” in my callsign!!!!

    73 de Brian GM4XQJ

  6. This bit regarding regional secondary locators confused me:
    “An Intermediate living in England but operating in Scotland would be a “2E0″ as opposed to a “2W0″. There are 8,000 Intermediate licence holders”

    I didn’t think an Intermediate living in England but operating in Scotland would ever have signed “2W0”!

  7. “There is one exception, “Intermediate”. for a 2×0 and 2×1 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 Scotland would be a “2E0″ as opposed to a “2W0″. There are 8,000 Intermediate licence holders”

    I always thought if yoy were operating in Scotland then the call in this case would be 2M0 and not 2W0

  8. I’ve used their online form to agree in the most point, but add the following:

    I agree with the spirit of this change [call sign announcement] (to be less prescriptive) but find the proposals 2.61 A and B to be ambiguous if not contradictory.

    “a) a station must be clearly identifiable at all times;
    b) a valid call sign for the station be transmitted as frequently as is practicable during transmissions to ensure that the station is clearly identified”

    I feel this may actually lead to amateurs repeating their call sign more frequently than 15 minutes, and at best to be unclear whether to do so.

    For example, it is likely practicable to speak a call sign after every ‘over’ on 2m, but probably not necessary.

    It should be clearer to whom the station should be identifiable (passers by? the intended recipient?) and a guideline should be stated to avoid confusion/constant transmission of call signs.

    “At all times” in the literal sense is not achievable (think “tone coded squelch must be used at all times”) — it needs explanation.

    In removing the definition of “at sea” (2.89), it should still be clear that operation is permissible from inland waterways outside of Maritime Mobile.

    Could this [RAYNET encryption] be extended to permit amateurs (whose stations must still remain identifiable), to transmit encrypted (or partially encrypted) messages?

    Encryption is very much a key component of modern data transmission, and currently amateurs are prevented from experimenting with these technologies, where they could be used to benefit amateur radio.

    For example, securing over-the-air remote control of repeaters/equipment (to the owner/authorised persons only); in digital data/IP networks; or to relay internet traffic (much of which uses encryption) to events/rural locations.

    I think the last one is unlikely to come to anything, but upcoming technologies aren’t going to be “less secure” and it’d be great if the licence allowed amateurs to play around with them.

  9. Nice to see two individuals jumping in to point out what was obviously a minor error in this useful summary. That sums things up perfectly… Far better to show off and find fault than to offer any actual input on the subject in hand.

    It occurs to me that some of the proposed wording changes, in particular to use and frequency of callsign, would be far more worthy of attention and pedantry than what letter Wales begins with. Hopefully the commenter will be equally thorough when critiquing the Ofcom wording, so that we get clear guidance on identification?

  10. Not sure why GM etc should be dropped. It is good to have national identity.

    In fact I often thought that the old G / GM etc calls could still be issued if the call signs were allocated in a date manner….

    eg my own call, instead of MM0HSV, I could have had GM07HSV with the 07 extra digit being the date issued.

    Simple and keeping traditional call letters….

    • Ken. This format would become rather tedious for the CW operator. Overseas visits would be worse…. e.g. on your skiing holiday… HB9/GM07HSV/P QRP LOL. Shorter callsigns please.

      Best 73
      Rob M0KCP

  11. Giving the callsign too often pushes people away from amateur radio. I have friends who were interested until they actually heard callsigns being given after every over and they just said “forget it. I’m not doing that”. Now they have stayed on SSB on 11 meters

  12. No plans to bring in ‘enforced progression’ This is a BIG mistake as far as i am concerned . Any amateur radio operator worth anything would surely want to progress in the hobby and gain a full licence. After all the Foundation Licence ( the clue is in the name here) is supposed to be exactly that ! A foundation to build on . You are supposed to progress in the hobby through experimentation, self teaching ,help from others and so on . Why on earth would somebody NOT want to learn more and gain a further qualification?
    It is nothing to do with having more power output ,It is about self improvement. Lets face it , you could just about drag any person of the street and they would pass the foundation exam.It is extremely easy and is meant to be to get people started in the hobby.
    Amateur radio is a wonderful hobby and you get put what you put in.There is so much to learn. I know people that got an M3 licence when they very first came about and STILL have the same callsign because they refuse to even attempt to progress.Why not at least try? They often have a plethora of excuses usually involving not having the time.Seriously , no time in over ten years ?
    I gained my full licence as soon as possible because I wanted to learn and I am still learning today and always will be,There is always somebody far smarter than me that can teach me so much.
    Also, we now have the insane situation where C.B. Users on 11 meters a allowed …what 12 watts is it? and foundation licencies allowed 10 watts !
    I am NOT saying. I am better than anybody just because I have a full licence, indeed, therre are foundation licencees that know far more than I ever will about radio and electronics.However, there are a lot of people that are either too lazy or too scared to wven try to progress.

    • Some have no interest in amateur radio. Some simply want to make use of better communication options than PMR or CB.

      A 2m rig on a motorbike at 5w costs £30 and will tend to propagate further than a 0.5w PMR rig or Bluetooth setup.

      No need to learn anything more if all you want to do is talk to your mates a bit further than PMR can cope with.

      Forced progression is just not needed or wanted.

    • i like my m3 i dont want to take any more tests i dont use radio much i listen lots , i use hand helds a lot when i am out doing stuff and thats all i need , i like the ssb on cb thats far more relaxed and much more fun none of them people listening in to what you are saying and then pulling you up says you have not said that right or not said your call enough , that really puts me off ham radio ,

  13. As official callsigns were never given to CB operators in the first place I don’t see why people should object to giving callsigns if they become radio amateurs. All radio operators give ID as a matter of course. If you don’t want to be identified stick to Twitter then.

    • actually they WHERE – near the end of the time you had to get a licence for cb – but they did not have to be used – odd situation – but official callsigns where issued at one time

  14. There is a reason that encryption was placed last on the consultation! Encryption removes accountability to a large extent. This is a dangerous option indeed, and one which was recently debated in the USA. If a RAYNET member needs to use encrytion, it should be on a frequency provided by the user service, not mine.

    • It’s possible to be both accountable, and use encryption. Either by requiring stations transmitting encrypted messages also identify themselves regularly with non-encrypted transmissions, or with the use of cryptographic signing which can be read and verified by others (without knowledge of the private keys) and would guarantee for sure which station was transmitting without revealing the message content.

      Neither are proposed here — I’d have to agree that unidentifiable encrypted traffic on a shared band would be frustrating, and make it rather difficult to determine the source of an interfering signal vs. a genuine one.

  15. Presumably OffCom will have no jurisdiction in Scotland after Independence, so they will be issuing their own callsigns.

    • It’ll get interesting… Scottish amateurs would have to talk to their new regulators, and could even need new non-UK callsigns. Also, as Foundation and Intermediate can’t work outside the UK, they potentially couldn’t operate in England

  16. I know 2E0s who whould dearly love to get the full licence, but don’t drive: in the more rural parts of the country, with no public transport, they’d run up an enormous bill in taxi fares getting to the nearest place where there is an instructor to take them up to and through the exam. It seems to me that instructors are getting fewer and geographically further between, as age and illness restrict their ability to conduct courses, making it difficult for students to progress. Not like the days when people who knew a bit about electronics could swot up the regulatory part of the RAE the night before the test was due, go to the examination centre, and be home before the pubs closed. All done and dusted in less than a day.

    • It’s not just rural areas that are affected even large towns like Southend-on-Sea – population 173,600 – don’t have any training courses, not even Foundation. Residents face a 30 minute drive to get to the nearest Foundation course and a longer journey to do Intermediate.

      Currently only a minority of radio clubs run Foundation courses and only half of those run Intermediate courses. The lack of courses is the greatest barrier to people getting an amateur licence and upgrading.

  17. Given the lack of courses it is all the more remarkable that the UK is the World Leader in amateur radio progression. More UK amateurs upgrade from Foundation than do their equivalents in the world’s largest amateur countries Japan and the USA.

  18. Sorry for the thread drift but I just wanted to say that the correspondence courses offered by Bath club and others are excellent and only require real attendance for assessments and exams. In exceptional cases an examiner can attend someone disabled in their home and I have done that.

  19. Re giving callsigns at the beginning and end of each over.

    This would/could result in the following exchange:

    GI0xxx Hello John. Are you going to the club on Wednesday? GI0KAN
    GI0KAN Yes. GI0xxx
    GI0xxx Good. GI0KAN
    GI0KAN OK. GI0xxx

    More callsigns than real information.

  20. Hello all,
    Why does Raynet have to be encrypted? Don’t see the point. Here in N.Ireland people attending our motorcycle road races get great enjoyment of being able to listen to what is going on, in a race when the tannoy system is lacking.
    73

    Michael MI6MME Lisburn N.Ireland.

    • Not all RAYNET traffic will be encrypted – this is to support situations where encryption is important, or requested by the user services. A good example of this is a recent real-world situation where people had to be evacuated from their homes, and names & addresses had to be sent over-air to a control station. Reading people’s names, addresses and potentially some personal information over-the-air for anyone to receive is not a good thing, so the proposed changes would give RAYNET the opportunity to encrypt if the need arose.

  21. My understanding was that RAYNET’s original request to Ofcom was for clarification on the current licence regarding the transfer of data that had been encrypted by the User Service.

    Who is doing the encryption is important. If RAYNET offers to provide a service to encrypt a Users data would they then be liable for damages if the form of encryption they used was cracked and the information revealed ?

    I think it should be the User Service that is responsible for encrypting any data they perceive to be sensitive. RAYNET would simply transfer the binary data.

  22. In fairness, Ofcop do say theyll pubish guidance. If that says ’15 minutes is normal but there might be cases where a different interval is needed’ then fair dos, shurely? I’ll be interested to see what that gidance says when it’s published.

  23. Quote I know the Americans have their Zone system and sometimes you may hear a W6, get excited that it’s West-Coast, only to find out that the bloke has re-located to New York… endquote.

    The US zone system is no longer enforced but lingers. An operator can request any callsign using the Vanity Callsign system although the initial callsign allocation is still done using the old zone numbers.

    Coming back to the UK I am confused about “regions”, these are DXCC countries and not regions or am I missing something?

    73 Mark N1UK G3ZZM

  24. I am 89 years old and obtained my licence in 1950 ( by proper exam) when you could work the world with a 6L6 valve XO/PA and long wire through a Pi coupler’

    Now a days you are lucky if you hear another station to exchange call signs with
    at any time interval.

    I have always used CW but now only the oldies use it. Unfortunately a lot of them
    try to show their superiority by sending at unnecessary fast speeds which prevents
    younger hams who are interested in CW taking it up. It doesn’t help my age deafness either.

    Rather than waffling on about minor changes by Ofcom think about reviving our dying hobby

    73 de G3HNC

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