Posts Tagged ‘Technician License’
It is my observation that by enabling someone a taste of what can be accomplished on HF (shortwave) spectrum, especially using one of the newer digital modes, that someone has an opportunity for inspiration, perhaps enough to catch the HF fever that is required to move that someone from entry-level to experienced, skilled expert. Right now, the regulations limit the Technician-level license holder to digital operation only on bands that barely propagate (if at all!) during the weak solar cycles. It is a far stretch to postulate that having privileges on dead bands will inspire exploration and tempt the operator to upgrade to a higher license class.
I believe that Technician-class priveledges should be expanded so that entry-level amateur radio operators can get a practical taste of effectively-propagating HF signals on lower frequencies than those frequencies currently available to them for digital operation. And, the allowed mode on these subbands should include digital modes. This “would encourage a sustained interest in Amateur Radio and encourage further development of knowledge and operating skills,” a concept already proven by General-class operators that get enough of a taste that they then pursue the Amateur Extra license.
Comments to me are below the following video section. I also include my response.
In the following video, I share my opinion regarding the ARRL asking the FCC to grant more operating privileges across the many amateur radio allocations on shortwave (HF, or, High Frequencies). The video is my brief takeaway of ARRL’s petition: What is the issue, as a whole, and what the ARRL is addressing–the lack of desire by most current Techs to upgrade. The logic of my perspective concludes that if you give them a taste of lower-shortwave propagation and excitement, then they will want to upgrade. This logic is already proven as applicable by the fact that the General class exists. All this proposal will do is allow the tech to experience what could be very attractive. Just like for the General.
The next two videos are addendums to the first video:
I made a few technical mistakes in the first video. The last video contains corrections and further comments.
Comments Received, and My Response
I have received many responses–some in opposition, some in support. Here are example contrarian responses along with my reply:
[Dear] Tomas David Hood[:] Something for absolutely nothing has never taught anyone anything good, but to want another free lunch. 35 multiple guess easy questions was all that was asked to get general class privileges, but that’s just too hard for the current class. Something for nothing is what sell today, and the ARRL, and probably half the country thinks socialism is the way to reach the new hams I guess. But the ARRL will never get another dime from me. You want a trophy or additional privileges, Get them as everyone else did,, Work for them, study, just a little is all that was asked. Remember, If it didn’t cost anything, it probably isn’t worth anything!
If they are not willing to take a simple test, and yet they want to upgrade, then yes they are the same as saying that we are asking too much, but would participate, you are suggesting, as long as it didn’t require any work or effort on their part, Its a shame.. And I am embarrassed on their behalf… Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could pass that test, but she would probably agree with you, that people are asking them to be smart and study, and that’s somehow probably racist and just over the line for you.
At this point the ARRL should just say, we are not protecting the spectrum, but about selling the ham radio spectrum to the highest bidders. In this case, they be;live that will be the techs who will purchase HF gear, and of course, the ARRL will benefit hugely from the equipment makers desire to market to the group.
My response is:
What the heck is wrong with selling radios?
But, seriously, which of the many Technicians say that they want to upgrade? That’s the point: the majority of Technician-class amateur radio operators are not upgrading. They get on VHF and above, and are stationary, with few realizing that there’s so much more than the aspect of the hobby evident in their local community.
With little to no exposure to other aspects of the hobby, the typical ham in the current ham-radio culture settles for what is presented by local mentors. Weather spotting, DMR, etc.
Because they have current HF privileges that have so little practical use (CW only on lower frequencies; voice on 10 meters which doesn’t propagate well during this period of no sunspot activity…), they see no incentive to delve into what appears like a waste of time.
The proposal is not giving away the farm. It simply adds a small slice on a limited set of HF bands (but where a signal has a better chance of propagation), allowing for Technician-class operators to get a real sense of the potential waiting for them if they pursue the General.
Then, once upgraded to General, they get even more exposure, and hopefully, see why it is great to be an Amateur Extra.
Tomas David Hood what’s wrong with selling radios. Nothing at all, but if I removed the test that drivers take to show they understand the rules and how to drive, then I can sell more cars and more insurance to poor drivers. Do you or anyone else think that’s a good idea. A few tech’s putting their hands on the plate of those high voltage amps, and maybe, just maybe, someone will believe me when I say some basic testing should be required for HF privileges. Now, all they will have is a cereal box license in my book, and in the opinion of many of my friends, so it;s not just me. If I am wrong, then there are a lot of people that are wrong like me, and they will fight for there hobby. I am a ARRL VE, but I will never test another Ham if this goes through, and I will spend the rest of my days making sure any newcomers realize what the ARRL did to what once was a good hobby, and how a few people didn’t seem to understand why giving away free privileges is always bad for our society, and always bad for our hobby.
Actually I have a real case study that is local,, and yes the guy doid put his hand on the plate, and yes he hit the floor.. and yes, after I found out he was ok,, I think it’s plenty funny,, Yes, they need to study more than that.
Your argument that Technician-class operators will kill themselves because the test is so easy that they will end up electrocuting themselves is yet another Red Herring. Technicians play with dangerous VHF, UHF, SHF equipment, with ominous dangerous aspects deserving respect. If you really think that the General test is the difference between life and death, why even worry? The number of technicians will be nicely reduced to a more acceptable, comfortable number.
I’ve seen Amateur Extra-class operators do the same sort of dangerous, life-threatening stunts.
The issue you are highlighting is a different problem that must be solved separately from the idea of creating a more practical incentive; all tests should be improved in such a way as to foster greater technical knowledge and awareness of all aspects of the hobby.
Better mentoring. Less us-vs-them. More education. More community. All of these should be explored and enhanced. Solve the problem, instead of ostracizing. And, realize that this proposed change is NOT a dumbing-down maneuver to give away the ham radio hobby to the unclean.
The FCC has invited public comments on two proposals to change the licensing requirements for amateur radio operators. Both of these proposals are aimed at attracting and retaining new amateur radio licensees.
The first one is the “Tyro” license proposal from Gary/AD0WU that creates a new license class with minimal licensing requirements and operating privileges on the 70 cm band. See the complete proposal on the FCC website.
I find this proposal severely flawed with way too many details that would need to be written into Part 97. For example, the proposal establishes 99 specific repeater/simplex channels in the 430 MHz portion of the band. Oh, and the repeaters use a non-standard 9 MHz offset. There’s lots more in the proposal that make it a non-starter.
Still there is a nugget of an idea in here: a GMRS-like entry-level amateur radio license that is super easy to get. This could be an easy-peasy gateway into ham radio for kids, spouses and family members. However, I expect the FCC to just dismiss this petition without serious consideration.
The second proposal is from the ARRL (see this ARRL news item):
The FCC has invited public comments on ARRL’s 2018 Petition for Rule Making, now designated as RM-11828, which asks the FCC to expand HF privileges for Technician licensees to include limited phone privileges on 75, 40, and 15 meters, plus RTTY and digital mode privileges on 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters.
The proposal would “add limited High Frequency (HF) data and telephony privileges to those currently available to Technician Class Amateur licensees.” The objective is to sweeten the Technician privileges to both attract new licensees and to retain existing Technicians (and maybe get them interested in moving up to General). There is an assumption/belief/hope that providing some HF telephony and digital privileges will accomplish these goals.
I am disappointed in the lack of data-driven analysis in support of this proposal. The ARRL filing claims that they “studied the comparable entry level license class operating privileges of other countries” but provided no data. There are different licensing schemes around the world…maybe we should compare and learn something from them. The data they did provide was survey data of ARRL members…which is really just an opinion poll: what do you think we should do with the licensing structure? This is not a great way to create public policy.
What’s the Objective?
Let’s start with the objective, which the ARRL petition says is “developing improved operating capabilities, increasing emergency communications participation, improving technical self-training, and increasing growth overall in the Amateur Radio Service.” I think this is a reasonable goal.
For some reason, every time there is a concern about improving and growing amateur radio, the proposed solution is a change in the licensing structure (usually to make it easier to obtain operating privileges). If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. While the licensing structure should be improved over time, it should not be the first (or only) tool to apply. The ARRL needs to take a much more strategic approach to working towards the objective. Fortunately, I see positive signs they are moving in the right direction. See ARRL CEO Howard/WB2ITX Speaks.
Back To Licensing
There is a worthy idea in the ARRL proposal:
Change the entry level license (Technician) to provide a taste of HF phone and digital privileges, so it attracts more people to the hobby AND get them more deeply engaged. This might actually work.
I am not an unbiased observer because I have plenty of fun playing around with radios on frequencies above 50 MHz. I originally thought I would be a Technician for life but gradually got pulled into the fun below 30 MHz. So part of my brain says “Technicians just need to figure out how to have fun on VHF/UHF.” There is a lot to be said for having the entry level license be focused on VHF/UHF to learn basic radio operating. HF can come later.
Another part of my brain sees the excitement and growing popularity of the WSJT-X digital modes, especially FT8. Why do Technicians get to use CW on some of the HF bands but not other digital modes? That seems kind of silly in the year 2019. And making HF contacts with other states and countries on SSB is lots of fun, too.
Another question to ask is “what harm could be done by this proposal?” We could see a lot more activity in the portions of the HF bands Technicians are given. Maybe so much that those subbands get overrun with signals…seems like a potential problem. Some people have argued that giving Technicians these HF privileges will cause them to not upgrade to General. That seems like a low risk…if they get hooked on HF operating, they will upgrade to get access to additional spectrum.
There are really two assumptions in play here:
- Attract Assumption: More people will be attracted to ham radio due to the expanded Technician HF privileges.
- Retain Assumption: That Technicians will be more engaged in ham radio activity due to the expanded HF privileges (perhaps upgrading to higher license classes).
The distribution of US amateur radio licenses is roughly Amateur Extra (20%), General (23%) and Technician (50%), the remaining 7% are Novice and Advanced. So roughly half of US radio amateurs have decided to get their “VHF oriented” license while the other half have gone on to get an “HF privileged” license. Frankly, I don’t see the General license exam as a big barrier…I see people studying for it in our license classes and 90% of them are successful on the exam. But the exam is yet another thing to do, so it does represent an obstacle to overcome, just not a big one. What I do see them struggling with actually getting on the air with HF. See Getting On HF: The Fiddle Factor. Easier licensing is not going to address that problem.
Who Wants HF?
A lot of Technicians are just fine with the operating privileges they have. I even noted some Tech’s complaining they are tired of OF hams telling them they need to fall in love with HF. Interesting. I don’t have reliable data on what Technicians think but I see several types of Technicians that are quite happy with their existing privileges:
- Family/Friend Communicators – these folks are not hard core radio amateurs but they got their license to communicate with friends and family.
- Outdoor Enthusiasts – these folks use ham radio to augment their outdoor activities: hiking, biking, offroad driving, camping, fishing, etc.
- Emcomm and Public Service Volunteers – these hams are involved in local emergency response, support of served agencies (Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.) or providing communications support for marathons, parades, charity walks, etc.
- Technical Experimenters – many radio amateurs are into experimenting with technology and the bands above 50 MHz offer a lot of opportunity for that.
I don’t know what percentage of Technicians are unconcerned about HF privileges but it is significant (half of them? perhaps more?) Providing HF privileges to this group will not have much of an effect. It seems like the ARRL should have data on this before serving up a proposal to change the licensing structure.
What do I think? I think this proposal most likely will not make a significant difference with regard to attracting and retaining new radio hams. Something else is needed to do that, such as effective training programs, strong local clubs and mentors available to help newbies get started and build skills.
But it might just work. Maybe HF is the bright shiny object that will motivate people to pursue amateur radio.
So count me as agnostic on this proposal. I won’t be filing comments with the FCC. What do you think?
73 Bob K0NR
Location: Black Forest Fire Station 1
(intersection of Burgess Rd. & Teachout Rd., Black Forest, Colorado)
Sponsored by the Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association
The FCC Technician license is your gateway to the world-wide excitement of Amateur Radio, and the very best emergency communications capability available!
- Earn your ham radio Technician class radio privileges
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- Multiple-choice exam, No Morse Code Required
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For more background on ham radio, see Getting Started in Ham Radio.
Registration fee: $30 adults, $20 under age 18
In addition, students must have the required study guide:
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Email: [email protected]
Our radio club (Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association) offers a 2-day Technician license class which has resulted in over 300 new Technician licenses in past years. We also offer a number of activities to help new licensees get started in ham radio. Still, we wonder how many of our newly-minted Techs have actually gotten on the air and are actively using amateur radio.
To assess that, I surveyed 258 people that went through our Technician license class from 2010 to 2017. We’ve actually had more students than that get their license but I don’t have valid email addresses for all of them. To improve the response rate, I kept the survey short at 5 questions.
The response rate was 42% which is quite good for this type of survey. I suspect there is a response bias in that active ham radio folks are probably more likely to reply to this survey. People that have lost interest are less likely to reply. That’s just my opinion; I don’t have data to support that.
Almost half of our Technician class students upgraded to General but only a few went on to Extra. Overall, I see this as a good result but I expected to see a few more Extra class licensees.
Most of the respondents have been on air recently: 60% of them have made a radio contact in the past 6 months. On the other hand, that means about 40% of not made a contact in half a year. It is disappointing to see that 13% have never made a ham radio contact.
There is quite a range on how active the respondents are with 45% making 10 or fewer contacts in 6 months.
About one half of the survey respondents are members of our radio club. Some of them are also members of other radio clubs in the area. Some of our students travel a long distance, up to 100 miles, to attend this class so it makes sense that they find a radio club near their home.
Most of the respondents reported being active on 2m/70cm FM. About 18% of them are on HF Phone. The total for all forms of HF operating (CW, digital and phone) is not shown on the chart but it is roughly 20%. While roughly half of the respondents have their General or Extra class license, only 20% are actually using the resulting HF privileges.
My broad conclusion is that our radio club should continue to provide opportunities for our members to develop their operating skills and expand their radio operating. I filtered the responses to our club members only to see if our club member responses are any different from the larger group. Basically, our members indicate they are somewhat more active than the rest of the respondents but the overall story does not change.
Obviously, this is a small slice of data relevant to our local situation. It may not apply to other parts of the country.
What do you think?
73, Bob K0NR
This is my reply to many responses that I have been receiving on my original blog entry, located at this AmateurRadio.com website,(my shortened URL: https://g.nw7us.us/arrl2fccR2) as well as to the original video, posted in that blog entry.
I wish to reply to all of those who are against the idea of expanding the privileges of the Technician-class licensee, the expansions including the ability to operate Voice and Digital in limited slices in a subset of lower-than-Ten-Meter amateur radio shortwave allocations.
It seems to me, that…
…the issue is not one of Technician-class licensees wanting more privileges, as a whole. What the ARRL is addressing is the *lack* of desire by most current Techs to upgrade.
The logic behind the idea of expanding privileges concludes that if you give them a taste of lower-shortwave propagation and excitement (by moving past the CW-only restriction on the lower tech allocations), then they *will* want to upgrade.
This logic is already proven as applicable by the fact that the General class exists! All that this proposal will do is allow the Tech to experience what could be very attractive–just like for the General. If it worked in the past with Novice, Technician, General, Advanced, and Amateur Extra (exposing to all of HF, even if by way of a CW-only requirement), then it will work, now. The difference is that the CW-only requirement on lower HF bands is highly restrictive because the mode is no longer needed to operate on any frequency, and, most will not take the time to learn it just to see if they WANT to explore the lower HF bands, or ever upgrade.
The bottom line is that we should make the Tech ticket more relevant. The expansion is not dumbing down, nor does it give away the farm.
I discuss this original point in the two videos that were lower down in the original post:
Thanks for reading, watching the videos, and having a useful dialog about this very important change to the amateur radio regulations in the USA.
That aside: This may, in the long term, reveal one of two possible truths:
1. There is no real need for three license classes. Two would suffice. General and Amateur Extra, or Technician (merged with General) and Amateur Extra.
2. There is no real need for three license classes. One would suffice. Make the test hard enough to cover the Extra-class material, and all material under that class, and merge everyone into one tested class. I believe that this has been tried in other countries, and it appears to work well.
I’ll be crucified for stating those ideas, but, hey, this is just a hobby.
In this video, I expound on another point of view regarding the ARRL petition to the FCC. The petition requests an expansion of operating privileges of Technician-class operators in the USA. The ARRL believes that giving broader shortwave access, using digital communications, to Technicians, will better entice the Techs to upgrade to General or Amateur Extra. In this video, I discuss this a bit.
If you are wondering why I’ve made a few videos about this topic, when the topic has been the hot item on many forums already, I believe that the drama will not cease until well after the FCC makes a decision, because this is a relevant topic, and one that has a significant impact on the amateur radio community at large. It is not a trivial conversation about which type of coax is best suited for Arctic field activity.
After some replies came from various viewers, I clarify my point. I stand corrected.
I failed to mention that there are a limited few slices of VOICE (SSB) spectrum on HF that the petition seeks for the Tech licensee. The ARRL states, “ARRL has asked the FCC to expand HF privileges for Technician licensees to include limited phone privileges on 75, 40, and 15 meters, plus RTTY and digital mode privileges on 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters.”
More specifically, “ARRL proposes to provide Technician licensees, present and future, with phone privileges at 3.900 to 4.000 MHz, 7.225 to 7.300 MHz, and 21.350 to 21.450 MHz, plus RTTY and digital privileges in current Technician allocations on 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters. The ARRL petition points out the explosion in popularity of various digital modes over the past 2 decades. Under the ARRL plan, the maximum HF power level for Technician operators would remain at 200 W PEP. The few remaining Novice licensees would gain no new privileges under the League’s proposal.” Reference: http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-requests-expanded-hf-privileges-for-technician-licensees
My point holds: give some reason to desire to upgrade to a higher class. Do this by granting HF operations on lower bands (lower in frequency than 10 Meters), with more than a CW-only privilege.
If a tech can only use CW on 80m, but doesn’t know CW, then it is likely she won’t ever try making contacts on 80m. Hence, no exposure to the magic of 80-meter DX. If, however, the Tech can dabble with digital or limited SSB, on 80m, then she gets a real, practical exposure to the magic, and may well upgrade. Why do you think a General, who has limits, would ever upgrade? What am I missing here?
The following video expands this idea:
The truth is, I see a strong argument for just ONE license, permanent. Or a temporary entry-level training ticket, then the permanent. But, that would make us like some other countries. That can’t be good.
The original video to which this new video continues is here:
Some viewers are asking me why I am making a video while driving. They try to convince me that talking while driving is too distracting. My answer is here:
73 de NW7US
The Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association just completed another successful Technician license class resulting in 21 new Technicians plus one person that passed both the Technician and General exams. We survey the class a week or two later to get their feedback and capture some demographic information. In recent years, our Technician class has consistently filled to capacity, causing us to ask the question “Where are those new hams coming from?”
The key relevant question on the survey is:
I’ve abbreviated the response choices so they read better on the graph. For example, “Comms during disasters/event” actually says “For communications during disasters or other major events” on the survey. These 18 responses represent over half of the students so they are representative of the class. However, it is a small sample size overall, representing just one class at one time at one location in the US. I will add that the surveys from our other classes are similar.
The two highest responses, both with 67%, are Comms During Disasters/Event and Backcountry Comms. It was no surprise that communications during a disaster would be a prime motivation for getting a ham radio license. Per FCC Part 97, this is one of the stated purposes of the Amateur Radio Service. Here in Colorado, many people have had the recent experience of wildfires disrupting communications causing them to look for alternatives. In general, the prepper movement is causing people to think in terms of disaster preparedness. Communications in the backcountry includes hikers, climbers, fishermen, dirt bike riders, four-wheel drive enthusiasts and anyone who spends time in the mountains. There are many locations in Colorado that don’t have cellphone coverage, so people are looking for alternative communications. This is likely a regional phenomenon…I don’t think you’d see “backcountry communications” on the short list of amateur radio interest is downtown Chicago.
Radio as a hobby gathers 50% of the responses, followed by 39% interested in learning about radio communications. This says that about half of the students are pursuing ham radio as a hobby. I wonder if this is different that the historical average from 20 years ago? I suspect it used to be higher but I don’t have any data to support that. This would likely be a leading indicator for how many of these new licensees get deeply involved in ham radio activities. I have seen students start out with a narrow focus on emergency preparedness but then discover there’s a lot more to ham radio that they choose to pursue.
What do you think about these results?
73, Bob K0NR