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WIA review seeks Foundation Licence enhancement

Date : 21 / 09 / 2016
Author : Roger Harrison - VK2ZRH

The Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) in its submission to the Australian Communications and Media Authority on licence conditions sought as a priority a review of maximum permitted powers for each of the Advanced, Standard and Foundation licences. The WIA has proposed that such a review be carried out in a sensible, pragmatic approach to enable licensees to pursue their interests commensurate with their established knowledge – as measured by the assessment process – and within reasonable bounds of public and personal safety considerations. The submission acknowledged that the WIA is aware of differing views on the issue and notes the disparity in current permitted powers of all three Australian licence grades compared to the similar licence grades in other countries.

While the WIA submission covers in detail all licence grades and is well worth a read, this article touches only the proposed six key changes to Foundation Licence conditions.
These are:
• Use of digital modes
• Access to more bands
• Increased power
• Relaxation of the restriction to commercially made rigs
• More permitted bandwidths, and
• A review of the Foundation Licence callsign

Top of the list is permitting the use of digital modes. The WIA seeks the inclusion of a range of digitally-produced data modes – and not limited to the well-known digital voice modes. The WIA also advocates inclusion of digital text transmission modes and image transmission modes.

In researching background for the submission, it emerged that entry-level licence conditions in a number of other countries have included digital modes and image transmissions since inception, and no evidence arose that this gave rise to reports of negative issues or serious incidents. The submission points out that entry-level licences in Argentina, Canada, Japan, UK and the USA are cases in point. When comparing the entry-level licences of other countries, the number and variety of bands permitted for Australian Foundation Licensees is small - just five bands. The UK Foundation Licence, on which the Australian qualification was modelled, provides three times the number of bands permitted. Both Argentina and Japan provide four times the number of bands.

The underlying principal is this: Enabling access to more bands provides a wider range of opportunities for Foundation licensees to learn and gain experience in communications across the radiofrequency spectrum.

The WIA submission notes that the permitted maximum power for entry level licences varies widely around the world – from 10 watts in the United Kingdom through to 50 watts in Europe and South America, to 200 watts in some countries. While contacts are certainly achievable using 10 watts, it is noted that, for stations in urban areas, Foundation Licence operators frequently struggle making contacts battling against the prevailing RF noise levels experienced both locally and overseas. The submission advocates raising the permitted maximum power to 50 watts and points out that this does not present any particular electromagnetic emission safety issues and this is supported by the experience in other countries.

The WIA seeks relaxation of the restriction on the use of commercially manufactured transceivers for the Foundation Licence. The objective here is to enable Foundation licensees to broaden their range of learning experiences and for their conditions to more closely match those for similar entry-level licences overseas, in particular, the United Kingdom. Experimentation with the technology is at the heart of Amateur Radio, and has been since it began, over 100 years ago.

The WIA submission goes into the main details and notes that no evidence has emerged of compliance issues requiring regulatory action or management with entry-level licensees in other countries. Transmission bandwidths are also addressed. The WIA asks why should future Foundation operators be stuck with the basic legacy modes? The WIA advocates that permitted bandwidths be reviewed so as to reduce limiting specifications, where practicable. This is in keeping with the principle of enabling licensees to explore the use of more transmission modes.

The issue of Foundation callsigns has been a bone of contention since they were introduced more than a decade ago. The four-character suffix of the Australian Foundation Licence callsign format is unique in the world for ordinary station callsigns. Despite a decade's use, along with widespread promotion and education about the callsign format, recognition of it is low among the worldwide radio amateur community. In addition, a majority of the available range of computer-mediated digital transmission modes cannot accommodate callsigns with a four-character suffix. If the WIA submission is successful in terms of digital transmission modes, the current callsigns would preclude using them.

In addressing future Amateur Licence conditions, the WIA wishes to reiterate the desire to reduce the regulatory burden for both licensees and the ACMA, and to establish amateur licensing so as to accommodate emerging innovation in radiocommunications technologies and applications.

The WIA's full submission on licence conditions can be downloaded from the following Link


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