Informed No. 2.0
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Does a Ham Really
Need to Know?
John B. Johnston W3BE
What does a ham really need to know?
A. For a catalogue of those duties, read W3BE Checklists for Domestic
and Foreign Amateur Service Licensees in Places Where the U.S. FCC Is Our Regulator BE Informed No. 1.0.
W3BE-O-GRAM: Ideally, it would
seem there are three fundamental duties to carried out by persons licensed by our federal government to cause or allow an
amateur radio station to transmit electromagnetic energy from practically anywhere:
1. Understand and avoid the possibilities for causing excessive RF radiation
to themselves, their families, friends, neighbors, and the general population.
2. Make correct decisions and take actions necessary to avoid causing any disruption
to the reception of transmissions from stations in any legitimate radio service, including our own amateur service.
3. Cooperate in maintaining an orderly over-the-air
functioning of our amateur service while conducting self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations normally
expected from duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.
Q. What abilities are required in order to perform
these duties properly?
They can be summarized under five topics:
1. Possess the ability to read, understand, apply, and follow the rules – including knowledge of eighty technical terms
(e.r.p., isotropically radiated power, modulation index, multiplex, PEP, etc.) that must be understood in order to make the
2. Possess and
apply the ability to determine whether or not an amateur station’s transmissions are compliant with the technical standards
codified in Part 97 Subpart B Technical Standards Section 97.301 through Section 97.313. This provides the assurance that the transmitting apparatus can be exempt from FCC equipment authorization oversight without unwanted consequence.
3. Possess and apply the ability to properly assemble amateur stations composed of apparatus not necessarily FCC equipment authorized. Section 97.1(b) states our regulators’ expectation for the continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to contribute
to the advancement of the radio art. The FCC does not include amateur station transmitters in its equipment authorization oversight. The Section 97.103 station licensee, rather, is the only person accountable for the amateur station being compliant with the necessary technical standards.
4. Possess and apply the ability to properly
assemble systems of amateur stations. The FCC does not pre-approve systems of amateur stations transmitting in the amateur
service. The individual participating stations do not even have to be provided by the same Section 97.103 station licensee.
5. Possess knowledge of and utilize
the Section 97.101(a)-required good amateur practice transmitting protocols in widespread use in the amateur service.
What is the exam all about?
Section 97.503 says that a written examination for a license grant must be such as to prove that the examinee possesses the operational
and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee. Possessing about
75% of those qualifications is the minimum acceptable for passing.
Q. Just who decides what those operational and technical qualifications are?
A. In places where the FCC is our regulator, our Section 97.507 preparing VEs are charged with doing that. It says: Each question on each VEC question pool must be prepared by a VE holding the required
FCC-issued operator license. In other places, the qualifications are determined by the regulatory authority there.
Q. What are the credentials of those VE question
Section 97.507 preparing VEs are VEC-accredited hams holding FCC expert Amateur Extra Class operator license grants. Section 97.507 also authorizes intermediate General and Advanced Class operators to prepare questions for certain examination elements.
Q. Does it matter which
25% the examinee doesn’t know about operational and technical qualifications?
A. You might think that it should matter very much,
but our Section 97.509 administering VEs apparently are unconcerned. They reportedly do not routinely take any action to remedy an examinee’s partial lack of
Q. What do the international
ITU-R M.1544 minimum qualifications
of radio amateurs recommends:
administrations take such measures as they judge necessary to verify the operational and technical qualifications of any person
wishing to operate an amateur station. In places where the FCC regulates our amateur service, this work is outsourced
to our VEs.
any person seeking a license to operate an amateur station should demonstrate theoretical (i.e., hypothetical, academic, notional,
imaginary, conjectural, speculative, abstract) knowledge of: Radio Regulations (international, domestic); Methods of radio
communication (radiotelephony, radio telegraphy, data and image); Radio system theory (transmitters, receivers, antennas and
propagation, measurements); Radio emission safety, Electromagnetic compatibility; and Avoidance and resolution of radio frequency
Q. Should our VEs
implement ITU-R M. 1544.1?
A. They should incorporate
its standards into our Element 2 because it contains the minimum qualifications to demonstrate by any person seeking an amateur service license. Passing Element
2 is common to every FCC amateur operator license grant.
Q. I am very disappointed with the way the volunteer examiner system has matured and the way it is being carried
out by our local VE teams. I volunteered to help out as an instructor. I intended to explain the background of each question
and correct answer choice. I also intended to explain why the distractor answers were incorrect. I was told, however, to just
point out the correct answers and move on. To my mind, this does not teach newcomers how to perform properly the duties of
an FCC amateur service licensee.
You must be an elder ham. Things have changed. Examining has taken on a life of its own. So has teaching.
Q. As a VE, I don’t like telling a 95-year
old man that he has to take a test.
Then you probably shouldn’t be a VE. One’s age should not have anything to do with our VEs’ determinations.
Either an operator does or does not need to prove his/her possession of the operational and technical qualifications required
to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee.
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June 23, 2017
Supersedes all prior versions