Ofcom Updated Amateur Licence Guidance Released

Ofcom LogoOfcom has just issued its long-awaited updated ‘Amateur Radio – Guidance for Licensees‘ document. This PDF document is intended to offer advice and clarification on the updated licence conditions that started rolling out in April 2015.

The guidance document weighs in at 21 pages, and the licence itself is 23 pages.

The full PDF can be downloaded from here: OFCOM: Amateur Radio – Guidance for Licensees

What’s included

On our initial look through the new guidance document, we’ve identified a few notes that are worth noting.

Please note that this is only our interpretation – read the guidance yourself before making any judgement. We’d also be interested to hear from you if you disagree with our initial assessment.

Number of licences

There has been discussion of a desire on Ofcom’s part to reduce the number of licences that an amateur holds. The new guidance states in section 1.2 :

“Although it is not currently a condition of the Licence and is not required in order to obtain a licence, it helps us to ensure that our records are up-to-date if licensees surrender the lower class of Licence, when progressing from one class to the next.”

Surrendering callsigns is certainly something Ofcom seems keen to encourage, and the use of ‘currently’ implies that it may at some point become mandatory to resign your Foundation licence when you progress to Intermediate.

Identification / Use of callsign

The new licence conditions removes the old “15 minute” rule, and adds that a station must be “clearly identifiable at all times” and identify “as frequently as practicable”.

This has caused much debate, and the new guidance goes some way to helping.

  • Section 2.88: Re. “clearly identifiable at all times” – another station must be able to identify the transmitting station clearly with relative ease
  • Section 2.89: The callsign must be given “as frequently as practicable“. The guidance notes state that the last licence stated that the “callsign must be transmitted at least once every 15 minutes”, and that for voice and Morse, “this interval seems sensible, but that not every situation may lend itself to such a strict requirement”
  • Section 2.91 adds that digital transmissions may have the callsign embedded in the transmission, and at an absolute minimum would need to identify at the beginning and end of transmissions. It’s not clear if this is referring to digital voice modes (like DMR and D-Star), or data modes (PSK31, JT65, etc) – or both.
  • Section 2.92 includes a note that radios may have embedded callsigns (e.g. D-Star and DMR), and software used for data modes may have pre-configured callsigns. It notes that care needs to be exercised when borrowing equipment containing someone else’s callsign or ID. Deliberately using a false identity is deemed a serious breach
  • Section 2.94 notes that identification may need to be more frequent than the 15 minute guidance for nets or when using a repeater

Finally, we note in section 2.106 that there are references to the use of suffixes ‘/M’, ‘/P’, ‘/T’ or ‘/MM’. If a licensee is unsure which to use, it may be simpler to omit the suffix, which is optional anyway. We’re assuming that the ‘/T’ suffix is a mistake, and should read ‘/A’.

Airborne use

  • Section 2.31 adds guidance on use of amateur radio equipment from high altitude balloons and unmanned vehicles (drones). Neither is permitted.

Maritime Mobile / At sea

Some interesting guidance here, with potential to re-open the debate on where a Foundation and Intermediate licensee can operate.

  • Section 2.15 states that “Under the Licence, all licensees may use their Radio Equipment beyond the baseline to the extent of UK territorial seas”.
  • Section 2.13 states “The UK’s territorial seas extend either for 12 nautical miles from the baseline or until a point is reached halfway to another country, such as France. Generally speaking ‘baseline’ means the mean low water mark but can be a line across the mouth of a river estuary.”
  • Section 2.14 states that “The UK Hydrographic Office has published maps showing the Baseline and the extent of UK territorial seas, which may be of assistance to licensees but these maps are for guidance only.” (Link: UK Maritime Limits Maps)

On the first reading, 2.15 implies that Foundation and Intermediate may be able to operate from up 12 nautical miles out (or up to the halfway point to another country if less than 12 nautical miles): “all licensees may use their Radio Equipment beyond the baseline to the extent of UK territorial seas

However it is also clearly stated that Maritime Mobile (defined as ‘Vessel at Sea’) is for Full licence holders only. We’re assuming that /MM should therefore only be used when in UK territorial seas or in International waters, and not in Internal Water.

So… all licensees can operate in territorial seas, except those that can’t?

Extract of UK Territorial Sea Limits (For illustrative purposes only)
Extract of UK Territorial Sea Limits showing Essex (For illustrative purposes only)

Club Callsigns

  • Section 2.39 implies that use of the “X” prefix for an English club callsign seems to be optional
  • Various items clarify the position for transferring a club callsign to another official. Section 2.49 offers guidance on reissuing a club callsign should a rift develop between a club and the licence holder. The club would have to provide Ofcom with evidence (e.g. extracts of minutes), and Ofcom would seek representation from the existing licensee before revoking the club licence and allowing another club official to apply.

Encryption

Of interest to RAYNET operators re. the relaxation on encryption in emergencies:

  • Section 2.79 offers advice on the recent change to the licence that allows message encryption if requested by a User Service local incident commander in an emergency. It is noted that encryption in these circumstances only applies to messages sent within the UK. Encryption of messages to other countries is not permitted, even in emergencies.
  • If encryption is used, the licensee needs to log the transmission, together with a reason for encryption and who requested it.

Fees

In Section 2.101, it states that Ofcom is likely to address amateur radio licence fees in 2016 or 2017, but that apparently does not mean that a fee is inevitable, and any decision on fees would be subject to consultation.

Summary

That’s all we’ve seen so far – and as stated earlier, this is just our non-legally-binding take.

We’d welcome your comments and interpretations! Please add your thoughts in the comments box below.

11 Comments

  1. Avatar M5AKA 2 November 2015 Reply
    • Pete M0PSX Pete M0PSXAuthor 2 November 2015 Reply
      • Avatar M5AKA 2 November 2015 Reply
  2. Avatar M5AKA 2 November 2015 Reply
    • Avatar Kevin Jackson 2 November 2015 Reply
      • Avatar M5AKA 2 November 2015 Reply
  3. Avatar M5AKA 2 November 2015 Reply
    • Pete M0PSX Pete M0PSXAuthor 2 November 2015 Reply
      • Avatar M5AKA 2 November 2015 Reply
  4. Avatar Tim K 5 November 2015 Reply
  5. Avatar John Rowlands 13 April 2016 Reply

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *