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New Entry Level Licence to boost VHF/UHF activity?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 2:07 pm
by m0lsx
Spotted on Southgate ARC's news site.

Activity on the 144 MHz and higher bands is at its lowest for decades at a time when commercial interests are prepared to pay £1 million per MHz annually for spectrum

In 2016 the RSGB VHF Manager's report noted: "The general level of 432 MHz activity continues to cause concern with many repeaters remaining unused for much of the day."

In many parts of the country even 144 MHz activity has dropped alarmingly compared to the 1990s, SSB, FM Simplex and even Repeaters can be very quiet for much of the time.

The decline in VHF/UHF activity is not just a UK phenomena, a 72 hour monitoring exercise in Sweden revealed a similar pattern.

At the same time as this decline in amateur activity we have seen a rapidly growing commercial interest in UHF and Microwave spectrum. The sums that commercial operators are prepared to pay are eye-watering, up to £1 million per MHz per year.

In recent years we have seen significant losses of amateur spectrum and there's a fear of more losses. What can be done to save our valuable VHF/UHF/uW allocations? - Use it or Lose it.

One approach would be the introduction of a new Entry Level Licence class that permitted low power (e.g. 10 watts) operation on 144 MHz and all the higher frequency bands.

Some might reasonably say "isn't the Foundation licence Entry Level?" but when you read the ITU Recommendation M.1544 that details the minimum requirements for an Amateur licence you can see that the current UK Foundation is set at a much higher level. A new Foundation syllabus and exam are expected to be introduced in the later half of 2019, this will set the bar even higher.

We sometimes forget how much the Foundation exam has changed over the years. When it was first introduced in 2002 the exam comprised just 20 questions and took 30 minutes to complete. The current exam is 26 questions in 55 minutes (there are of course 12 practical exercises to successfully complete as well).

The "scope creep" in Foundation means it is no longer realistic to run a course over just a weekend, many so-called "weekend courses" now include part of Friday or else require the candidate to have done some study prior to the course commencing.

If the requirements for a new entry level 144 MHz and Above licence were set at the minimum level needed to meet ITU Rec M.1544 it should be possible to teach it to absolute beginners in about 7 hours, followed by a 20 question 30 minute exam. This would enable a complete course to be taught during weekend Youth events such as Jamboree On The Air and attendees could leave the event with the necessary qualification for an amateur licence.

Unlike the other levels there would be no compulsion to do this course before Foundation, people could chose at which level they wished to join the hobby either at 144 MHz and Above or take the full Foundation for the lower bands. Foundation should of course have access to all the higher bands as well.

Over the past decade we have seen the increasing use by Experimenters of licence-exempt UHF/Microwave spectrum. Once if somebody wished to carry out wireless experiments they would get an amateur licence, not anymore, it seems these days keen hobbyists are putting together their own equipment for the licence-exempt bands, using SDR technology in many cases, and establishing their own wireless networks. Experimenters are a group we should be encouraging to join amateur radio, a 144 MHz and Above licence may be the way to achieve it.

Re: New Entry Level Licence to boost VHF/UHF activity?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 2:11 pm
by m0lsx
Personally I use to use 2 & 70, but stopped using anything but occasional SSB on 2 meters, as the very poor operating standards on FM, especially the repeaters just wound me up. I know we are called amateurs, but there is a difference between being amateurish & half witted.

Re: New Entry Level Licence to boost VHF/UHF activity?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 5:47 pm
by G4RMT
Anybody want to buy a radio or two, This is common sense, from bean counters. Their logic is amazingly flawed. The bands are empty, so under threat. The solution is to fill them with people who have different interests to the current inhabitants. All it means is that the ham system will simply die, and be replaced by something different. If I was a repeater keeper - why would I bother? To safeguard one system, they start a new one? I know we often argue the merits and status of ham radio - as in My G4 trumps a 2E something - joke! but you often hear petty bickering on this subject. A whole new licence class, with watered down entry requirements, and perhaps high numbers? Can you imagine?

70cm belongs to the MOD, the report is off target on the cost, by the way. OFCOM published the info that it can be up to 1.5 million per MHz, not a paltry million - so a few thousand hams stand no chance if they wish to sell it off. If the new licence ups it to double, they'll still sell it off. However - they seem to be reading the actual ITU rules somewhat differently. I cannot see how the minimum requirements can be met in 7 hours. Educationally 7 hours to get all this covered is ludicrous - at best, 7 hours is a skim across the subject.

Any person seeking a licence to operate an amateur station should demonstrate theoretical knowledge of:
– Radio regulations
– international
– domestic
– Methods of radiocommunication
– radiotelephony
– radiotelegraphy
– data and image
– Radio system theory
– transmitters
– receivers
– antennas and propagation
– measurements
– Radio emission safety
– Operating procedures
– Electromagnetic compatibility
– Avoidance and resolution of radio frequency interference.
30 minutes on each, or an hour on some and 10 minutes on others? Seriously, some of these subjects are complex, and to people with no maths, impossible too understand without very intensive schooling. Somebody used to soaking in information quickly, with a good grasp of maths and science could do it, but my experience with 16-21 yr olds in college is that you could easily spend 2 hours on one of those subject areas and have everyone fail the Q&A at the end.

If Southgate ARC are proposing this themselves - not that clear if it's them or the RSGB proposing this - they're plainly very out of touch. After all - these are minimum recommendations with NO criteria. Demonstrate theoretical knowledge is an educational slip-knot. Theory is a rotten one - as in what? If you tag the word understand, then you need to also tag at what level. So add theory to electromagnetic compatibility. Anyone care to ask a question that will test they even know what electromagnetic compatibility even is? Can anyone put together a question that would be able to be asked to 6 year olds in yr 1 that would allow them to demonstrate theoretical knowledge of electromagnetic compatibility? Then try it for somebody 15 or 16 doing their GCSEs in the lower tier - with D grade a prediction. Then somebody doing A Levels.

These topic areas are pretty well what I had to look at in 1979. All we've done is change the depth. It's a hobby that needs a minimum level of technical expertise. We've all seen what happens when unskilled people buy big amplifiers and don't understand how they work, wiping out TVs and other devices.

Madness. I'd rather lose the band. 2m I suspect is safe because of propagation and interference to services abroad, 70cm could also creep into this safety band too.

Re: New Entry Level Licence to boost VHF/UHF activity?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 10:47 pm
by m0lsx
G4RMT wrote:If Southgate ARC are proposing this themselves - not that clear if it's them or the RSGB proposing this -

There were/are links on the Southgate story to the relevant RSGB meeting minutes. This is an RSGB debate.

Re: New Entry Level Licence to boost VHF/UHF activity?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:03 pm
by m0lsx
I have to say, personally. I would not have any real issues with a new lower class of licence. As long as they also limited the current foundation licence too.
Make the system tiered again. Like it use to be & with real incentives to move to the next level.
When i held my foundation. I could not pass third party messages, or use 10 meters. Among other limitations. I NEEDED Intermediate to be able to belong to Raynet in a meaningful way.
And I do not understand why we went from a system where we went from A & B licences, where both had exactly the same theory test, but one had a Morse code test pass too & with real differences between what both could do. To a system that was allegedly tiered, but were the differences went from VHF & up, to a much simpler test & in reality, what ever you want, but with very minimal power differences.
The dB difference between the 10 watts foundation power & the 100 watts that most full power radios put out is minimal. And 10 watts foundation level to 50 watts intermediate is not even a full S point.
We need a proper licencing SYSTEM. At present we do not have it. And as far as I am concerned, black box 2 & 70 use is nothing I would object to. But I do not use 2 & 70, as I already see 2 & 70 as a band that is currently used by people who, far too often. Fit the below foundation level ability already. So what is the issue?

Re: New Entry Level Licence to boost VHF/UHF activity?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:58 am
by G4RMT
In practice - nothing, apart from the purely personal thing that happens when established systems and practices change. It's similar, I suppose to the reaction when gay weddings were legalised. The people who had the old marriage licence saw it as a devaluing (or enter other emotive words) of what they had. The people upset couldn't see why the civil partnership was not sufficient, as apart from the word marriage, it was similar. To the new licencees, however, marriage was important. Eventually the people upset will come round, or die off - and marriage numbers went up. I suppose this is progress, and marriage is now different. Is radio the same?

Re: New Entry Level Licence to boost VHF/UHF activity?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:23 am
by m0lsx
My biggest concern about a lower class of licence is that like the current foundation licence, it will be given more & more rights, until we need a new lower class.
I would happily vote in favour of a four tier licence system. But I want to know that it is going to be a meaningful system & I want to know that the other three tiers are also going to be looked at too.
Also what answers do the RSGB have to all of those who have said & for years, that the problem with the current system is that, unlike the last system. We do not limit the first tier of licensees to VHF & up & what do they say to the argument that this was killing off VHF/UHF usage?
As a foundation licensee I would have had no issues with being limited to VHF & up. I was & still am a big fan of 6 meters & in America they limit their bottom tier, which is why their 10 meter band is so much more active than ours.

Re: New Entry Level Licence to boost VHF/UHF activity?

PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:47 pm
by Mrwoosh
Nice to see any actions even if just hot air at the moment in favour of getting amateur radio buzzing again before it’s binned ,

Can’t believe how many hams are using mobile phones (network radios) instead of flooding the bands and using their license which they worked for ! 60+ users per channel mainly g and m stations and the funny thing is they sit on a phone moaning about how dead the bands are instead of talking on them !! Don’t believe me check the rad com and rsgb ltd for more info on the network radio and their review , lol a mobile phone in a handheld radio case ,

Got no issues with these new radio (phones) but sitting on em giving out your call on every over even though it’s on the screen when you press the ptt and treating it like a radio in my eyes is just fantasy role play which is crazy when our actual rf hobby is declining and needs these operators on the radio spectrum which they worked hard to obtain a license to use and not on a phone with a 7 year old ptt app like it’s the next best thing !!

Fact is if the bands are dead it’s only because the current licence holders are not using them so we need new blood who want too use them apart from that any positive solutions are more than welcome