Lifetime ham radio licenses?


The ARRL reported today that the FCC is seeking comments on a Petition for Rule Making that asks the FCC to grant lifetime Amateur Radio licenses. Mark Krotz, N7MK, of Mesa, Arizona, submitted the petition in November, 2015.

The petition, RM 11760, notes that the FCC currently issues lifetime General Radiotelephone Operator License. The petition also notes that the Federal Aviation Administration issues permanent airmen certificates.

Here is an excerpt from the petition:


Amateur radio operators wishing to make a comment on the petition may do so here.

Matt Thomas, W1MST, is the managing editor of Contact him at [email protected].

13 Responses to “Lifetime ham radio licenses?”

  • Dave Karpiej K1THP:

    I think a permanent license for Extra Class operators makes sense because those ops are as far as they can go and it benefits no one to have to renew every 10 years once you have reached the top. Perhaps they could start with that and see if it could be offered to the other classes.

  • Richard KWøU:

    It’s a good idea and he is right about the FAA and FCC commercial licenses. (If anyone cares I’m the one who wrote the petition to make the GMDSS ones lifetime.) But I think the problem is that this is effectively a double license–operator and station. Making them as a unit lifetime would effectively lose control of the latter. In this situation unless the FCC is informed that an operator is deceased that person’s callsign could not be reused since nobody would officially know if the station is still active. Splitting the two and making the station license renewable (as it in effect is now) would avoid this issue but seems to defeat the purpose of reducing paperwork. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

  • Matt W1MST:

    Could the FCC periodically query active amateur licenses against the Social Security Death Index to determine if a licensee has died?

  • mark booth W5pyn:

    Seems like a very good idea to me!

  • Matt W1MST:

    I can appreciate the argument that there won’t be any way to know if a ham has died this needlessly tying up short, desirable callsigns… but with the speed that some vultures scan the obits to cancel still-warm callsigns, I can’t imagine many good calls will be tied up more than a day beyond the owner’s death! 🙂

  • Dick W0PZD:

    All of the above comments are good ones. Particularly the one about only granting permanent status to Extra. Now that’s incentive licensing!

  • ZL1DGK:

    Silent Keys can be a big issue with lifetime licenses as after a few years or more it becomes impossible to use official government records to determine how many living Hams there are. One ends up having to guess how many Hams are still alive.

    In ZL-land our licenses are life-time as well as free. And it’s becoming very difficult to avoid getting the service we paid for 🙂

  • David WB4ONA:

    This has been argued for ages, and it always comes out the same: While theoretically lifetime licenses are a great idea, the truth is that the Bloated U.S. Government is criminally inept, so call signs will never be effectively recycled. This brings us right back to the expiration/renewal process.

  • jeff n1kdo:

    The UK has lifetime licenses, but they must be “revalidated” every five years to ensure that their regulator OFCOM’s records are up to date.

    I think the FCC needs to keep its records of who is licensed up to date — that’s important. I don’t believe there is a mountain of paperwork, the FCC’s ULS has made renewal just about instant, provided you can remember your password. The FRN itself is right on your license itself, or will show it to you. Simple.

    Krotz’ comparison to the GROL is an apples to oranges comparison. The GROL is not a station license. Your ham ticket is.

    I don’t think this is a good idea.

  • N7MK:

    I just wanted to respond to several people’s premonition that lifetime licenses will tie up callsigns.

    If I renewed my license next week, and then died the following week, with the grace period, my call would be tied up for nearly 12 years. That is effectively a lifetime for many of us geezers.

    Currently, there is quite a system of obtaining callsigns of deceased hams, practically before their bodies are cold. Why would that need to be any different with lifetime callsigns?

  • N7MK:

    Further… others have commented that lifetime licenses will open licensing up to fraud, furthering the hoarding of callsigns.

    Could it be any worse than in the past? With the hoarding of callsigns under the guise of club calls.

    Several have commented that a ham license is both an “operator” license, and a “station” license. There used to be a fairly marked delineation between “operator” and “station” license, and such was indicated on your license. Not so much anymore. Part 97 states that you are granted a “operator/primary station license grant”, but find where it mentions “operator” or “station” on your license.

    A good analogy is the age old argument to accept the use of CTCSS on repeaters. Or SSB on HF. Some people just don’t want to accept change.

  • Richard KW0U:

    This is to express my limited support for RM-11760, “Petition for Proposed Changes in 47 CFR Part 97.25 License Term for Amateur Radio”. Instituting lifetime operator licenses would remove the needless burden of decennial renewals. These require no testing and so are valueless for demonstrating operator proficiency. Because they are without fees they also act as a burden on the Commission. At this time, and for largely the same reasons, the Commission requires no renewal of commercial operator licenses. Thus this change would place all individual certificates on the same footing.

    The difficulty is that the amateur privileges granted essentially results in a double license, giving operator and station privileges, the latter with a unique call sign. Permanent licenses would have the potential of removing call signs from future reassignment after the operator is deceased and would also result in an out of date database for station addresses.

    Accordingly, I respectfully suggest that the Petition be approved but with the provision that the Commission be notified when an operator is deceased or has moved. In the former case the license would be terminated. In the latter the database would be updated, and the operator could obtain a new certificate by downloading it, which in fact is now possible. This change of address could be done online and no manual Commission resources would be needed. This is essentially what the FAA now requires, with a 30 day window for change of permanent address, and a new license (a hard plastic copy) only issued on request.

    Because not every decedent’s survivor, nor every amateur who changes address, may be aware of this regulation, I also propose a backup system. Under the time limits listed below a licensee must complete a brief online Commission form stating the following:

    1. This person is not deceased.
    2. This person lives at the address shown in the database. A simple process for change of address, without penalty, can be included here.

    This would be done once between five and ten years following the granting of an initial or upgraded license, the date this regulation went into effect, or the last time this form was completed, whichever is later. The last date of its completion shall also be entered into the grantee’s database and available as part of the public record, thus serving as a personal reminder.

    Should a licensee not complete this process within ten years the Commission will hold the call sign for a grace period of two additional years, after which it may be reassigned. Should after that time the grantee wishes to be reinstated that person will receive examination credit for previous tests completed but will receive a new call sign if the previous one is not available.

    In effect this replaces and simplifies the existing system of 10 year license renewals. Analogous procedures could be instituted for Club station, military recreation, and RACES licenses.

    Thank you for your time and consideration of these comments.

  • Franz OE3FVU:

    I hold two life time licenses OE3FVU and PE0WGA. In both countries I have to pay a yearly fee. If that fee is not paid (for whatever reason, for example being deceased or having moved without informing the authorities) I loose the licenses – after a certain time, the call signs will become available for others. Unless the renewal of a license requires a new exam or test to be successfully taken, i do not see any reason for renewal of licenses. It only creates costs and cause for error.

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