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Amateur Radio Service


About Amateur

Communications & Operations

The following are answers to frequently asked questions about communications appropriate for the amateur service. See Part 97 of the Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. Part 97, ("rules") for the complete regulations.


Q: Can I operate my station as soon as I see that information about my amateur operator/primary station license grant appears on the amateur service data base?
Yes. You have authority to operate when the information about your license grant appears on the data base.
Q: Does this mean that I don't have to wait until the license document arrives in the mail?
That is correct. You do not have to have the license document in your possession in order to operate an amateur station at a location where communications are regulated by the FCC. See Part 97. Appendix 1.
Q: I have my license grant. Can I operate my station (in a specific manner) without prior approval from the FCC?
Yes, you can operate your station as long as you comply with the Rules.
Q: May my station transmit (a certain type of communication) on amateur service frequencies?
You determine for yourself whether your communications should be transmitted on amateur service frequencies.
Q: What are the standards that I should use when deciding whether or not my station should transmit a certain type of communications?
Section 97.113 provides four general standards for you to observe. In summary, any amateur-operator-to-amateur-operator communication is permitted, unless it is:
  1. Specifically prohibited, or
  2. Transmitted for compensation, or
  3. Done for the pecuniary benefit of the station control operator, or
  4. Done for the pecuniary benefit of the station control operator's employer.
Q: Do these standards also apply to repeaters? Packet? Message forwarding? ATV? Phone nets? Bulletin stations?
Yes. They apply to all amateur service communications.
Q: Why doesn't the FCC just provide me with a list of communications suitable/unsuitable for the amateur service?
A request to develop and maintain a list of anecdotal examples has been considered. See Report and Order in PR Docket No. 92-136 adopted July 15, 1993, 58 Fed. Reg. 43071, August 13, 1993; 8 FCC Rcd 5072 (1993). The FCC, however, declined to devote staff resources to such a project. In summary, there are two reasons:
  1. There would have to be thousands of examples
  2. To maintain a list would necessitate that the FCC intrude upon the day-to-day functioning of the amateur service to a far greater degree than is desirable.
Q: What types of communications are specifically prohibited?
Section 97.113 contains the specific prohibitions. In summary, your amateur station may not transmit:
  1. Communications specifically prohibited by the Rules;
  2. Communications for hire or for material compensation, direct or indirect, paid or promised, except as otherwise provided in the Rules;
  3. Communications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer. You may, however, notify other amateur operators of the availability for sale or trade of apparatus normally used in an amateur station, provided that such activity is not conducted on a regular basis;
  4. Music using a phone emission except as specifically provided elsewhere in Section 97.113; communications intended to facilitate a criminal act; messages in codes or ciphers intended to obscure the meaning thereof, except as provided for space telecommand (see Section 97.211(b)), telecommand of model craft (seeSection 97.215(b)), and RTTY and data emission codes (see Section 97.309(b)); obscene or indecent words or language; or false or deceptive messages, signals or identification;
  5. Communications, on a regular basis, which could reasonably be furnished alternatively through other radio services.
Q: Is the content of the communications my amateur station transmits protected against someone receiving, divulging, publishing or utilizing them?
No. Amateur stations are not afforded privacy protection. See Section 705 of the Communications Act of 1934 [47 U.S.C. 605].
Q: May my amateur station transmit codes or ciphers so as to obscure the meaning of the messages?
No. See Section 97.211(b).
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Two-Way Communications

Q: What types of two-way communications are amateur stations specifically authorized to transmit?
Section 97.111(a) provides for two-way communications. In summary, amateur stations are authorized to exchange messages with:
  1. Other stations in the amateur service, except those in any country whose administration has given notice that it objects to such communications. Moreover, transmissions to a different country, where permitted, must be made in plain language and must be limited to messages of a technical nature relating to tests and to remarks of a personal character for which, by reason of their unimportance, recourse to the public telecommunications service is not justified. Section 97.117 provides for international communications. The FCC also issues a public notice listing arrangements for international communications.
  2. A station in another FCC-regulated service while providing emergency communications;
  3. A United States Government station necessary to providing communications in RACES; and
  4. A station in a service not regulated by the FCC, but authorized by the FCC to communicate with amateur stations.
  5. A participating United States military station during the annual Armed Forces Day Communications Test.
Q: Which are the countries whose administrations have given notice that they object to communications between the amateur station they have authorized and amateur stations authorized by the United States?
Currently, there are no such "banned countries."
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One-Way Transmissions

Q: What types of one-way communications are amateur stations authorized to transmit?
Section 97.111(b) provides for one-way communications. In summary, auxiliary, beacon, space and stations in distress are specifically authorized to make certain one-way transmissions. Additionally, an amateur station may transmit the following types of one-way communications:
  1. Brief transmissions necessary to make adjustments to the station;
  2. Brief transmissions necessary for establishing two-way communications with other stations;
  3. Telecommand;
  4. Transmissions necessary to providing emergency communications;
  5. Transmissions necessary to assisting persons learning, or improving proficiency in, the international Morse code;
  6. Transmissions necessary to disseminate an information bulletin; and
  7. Telemetry.
Q: What is an "information bulletin"?
The term is defined in Section 97.3(b). It is a message directed only to amateur operators and consists solely of subject matter of direct interest to the amateur service. The control operator of the station transmitting an information bulletin is responsible for determining that the subject matter is of direct interest to the amateur service.
Q: Does an amateur station transmitting information bulletins have to share the channel?
Yes. Section 97.101 provides that each station licensee and each control operator must cooperate in selecting transmitting channels and in making the most effective use of the amateur service frequencies. A specific transmitting channel is not assigned for the exclusive use of any amateur station. Section 97.101 also provides that no amateur operator shall cause interference to any radio communication or signal. There is no exemption for amateur stations transmitting for information bulletins.
Q: Is broadcasting prohibited?
Yes. Section 97.113 prohibits amateur stations from engaging in any form of broadcasting or in any activity related to program production or news gathering for broadcasting purposes.
Q: Is there an exception to this prohibition?
Yes, there is one exception: Communications directly related to the immediate safety of human life or the protection of property may be provided by amateur stations to broadcasters for dissemination to the public where no other means of communication is reasonably available before or at the time of the event.
Q: What is "broadcasting"?
Section 97.3 defines the term "broadcasting," in the context of the amateur service, as a transmission intended for reception by the general public, either direct or delayed.
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Retransmitting Signals of Other Stations

Q: May my station retransmit the signals emanating from other amateur stations?
Yes, generally. Section 97.113, however, requires that the control operator of your station manually cause the retransmission because the radio signals of other amateur stations must not be automatically retransmitted.
Q: What do the words "manually" and "automatically" imply?
"Manually" means the retransmission is caused by some immediate physical action, e.g.,activating a push-to-talk key, voice-actuated-switch or similar action, by the control operator. "Automatically" means the retransmission is accomplished by some other means, such as a device which determines that a specific reaction is called for and then causes it to occur.
Q: Are there exceptions where my amateur station may automatically retransmit the radio signals of other amateur stations?
Yes. The Rules provide such accommodation for three types of operation. Section 97.201 accommodates auxiliary stations, Section 97.205 accommodates repeater stations and Section 97.207 accommodates space stations.
Q: May my station retransmit the programs or signals emanating from any other type of radio station?
Section 97.113 provides two exceptions for retransmissions that are for the exclusive use of amateur operators. Your amateur station may retransmit occasionally as an incident of normal amateur radio communications, but not on a regular basis:
  1. Propagation and weather forecast information intended for use by the general public and originated from United States Government stations; and
  2. Communications, including incidental music, originating on United States Government frequencies between a space shuttle and its associated Earth stations. You must, however, obtain prior approval for shuttle retransmissions from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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Third Party Communications

Q: May I permit a local government employee to operate an amateur station for which I am the licensee?
Yes, provided the person holds an amateur operator license. Section 97.7 authorizes only persons who have been granted an amateur operator/primary station license, or who is eligible for alien control operator privileges, or who hold an amateur service licenses issued to them by the Government of Canada and they are Canadian citizens, to be the control operator of an station.
Q: Is it correct that a third party cannot operate my amateur station?
Yes, only the control operator can "operate" the station. Section 97.3 defines the term "control operator" as an amateur operator designated by the licensee of the station as responsible for the transmissions from that station to ensure compliance with the Rules.
Q: What is a "third-party communication"?
Section 97.3 defines the term "third-party communication" as a message from the control operator (first party) of an amateur station to another amateur station control operator (second party) on behalf of another person (third party).
Q: Is it correct that there is no distinction between a third party who holds an amateur operator license grant and one who doesn't?
You are correct. The Rules make no distinction between a third party who holds an amateur operator license grant and one who does not.
Q: May I allow the third party to speak the words of the message during the transmission of a third-party communication?
Yes, you may allow the third party to participate in stating the message by speaking, typing, telegraph keying the words of the message, pointing the video camera or by whatever means the message is generated. Section 97.115, however, prohibits you from allowing the third party to so participate where the third party is a prior amateur service licensee whose license was revoked; suspended for less than the balance of the license term and the suspension is still in effect; suspended for the balance of the license term and relicensing has not taken place; or surrendered for cancellation following notice of revocation, suspension or monetary forfeiture proceedings. The third party, moreover, may not be the subject of a cease and desist order that relates to amateur service operation and which is still in effect.
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Compensation for Using an Amateur Station

Q: What do the Rules provide with respect to compensation for the use of an amateur station or for being the control operator of an amateur station?
Section 97.113 states that an station must not transmit communications for hire or for material compensation, direct or indirect, paid or promised, except as otherwise provided in Part 97. Section 97.3, moreover, defines the term "amateur service" as "A radiocommunication service for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest."
Q: Are there exceptions to this rule?
Yes. Section 97.113 provides for two situations where a person may accept compensation for being the control operator of an amateur station:
  1. As an incident of a teaching position during periods of time when an amateur station is used by that teacher as a part of classroom instruction at an educational institution.
  2. As the control operator of a club station transmitting telegraphy practice or information bulletins. Compensation may be accepted, however, only:
    • For those periods of time when the station is transmitting telegraphy practice or bulletins; and
    • Where the station transmits telegraphy practice and bulletins for at least 40 hours per week; and
    • Where operations are scheduled on at least six amateur service MF and HF bands using reasonable measures to maximize coverage; and
    • Where the schedule of normal operating times and frequencies is published at least 30 days in advance of the actual transmissions; and
    • Where the control operator does not accept any direct or indirect compensation for any other service as a control operator.
Note that control operators of other types of stations (refer to Section 97.5) transmitting telegraphy practice or information bulletins may not accept compensation.
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Operations in Emergencies

Q: Is it correct that my station must not transmit analog voice emissions on the HF band digital emission segments even during an emergency?
Yes. The Rules, including the analog/digital emission exclusive segments, are carefully designed to provide an amateur radio service in the United States that has certain fundamental purposes. Section 97.1 declares that the foremost purpose is expressed in the principle of recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary, noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications. It would be illogical to abandon these Rules -- which are carefully developed through the rule making process with the input of amateur operators and organizations experienced in providing emergency communications -- during an event of the very type for which the Rules were intended.
Q: Are there exceptions?
Yes. There are two exceptions. In summary:
  1. Section 97.403 states that no provision of the Rules prevents the use by an amateur station of any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communications in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available.
  2. Section 97.405 states that no provision of the Rules prevents the use by an amateur station in distress of any means at its disposal to attract attention, make known its condition and location, and obtain assistance. A sinking ship is a good example. It further states that no provision of the Rules prevents the use by a station, in that exceptional circumstance, of any means of radiocommunications at its disposal to assist a station in distress.
Q: What is "Field Day"?
Field Day is an emergency preparation exercise conducted each June under the sponsorship of the American Radio Relay League, Inc.
Q: Do the Rules apply during Field Day?
Yes. All of the Rules apply in all respects every day. The sponsor of a contest or other operating event may, however, impose additional limitations on your operation as a condition of your participation in the event.
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Rule Waiver

Q: May I obtain a waiver to operate my station temporarily in a way that is contrary to the Rules?
Yes, if you can satisfy the standards of Section 1.925 of the Rules.
Q: How do I apply for a waiver?
Follow the procedures in Section 1.925, including payment of any applicable fees.
Q: Must I provide the FCC with a report on the data obtained while the station was operating under a waiver?
No, you are not required routinely to submit to the FCC a report of your findings.
Q: What rules apply to authorization for special temporary authority (STA)?
The Rules applicable to STA in Section 1.931 of the Rules
Q: What provisions should I take to prevent disrupting other amateur stations?
That depends upon your operation. Here are some suggestions for you to consider:
  1. Simulate over-the-air operation with hard-wire interconnection or use a non-radiating dummy antenna system.
  2. Use an uncongested frequency band.
  3. Select a frequency band having only short-range propagation characteristics.
  4. Transmit only during periods when the channel is unlikely to be in use by other amateur stations.
  5. Confirm that the channel is clear before transmitting.
  6. Do not use any channels designated by the amateur service community for repeaters, space stations, networks, etc.
  7. Use the lowest possible transmitter power.
  8. Operate under the STA for the shortest time period possible
Q: How short of a time period is "temporary"?
Typically, an STA for an amateur station is granted for a period sufficient for you to obtain the data that you need. This should be no more than 30 to 90 days. For a very ambitious project, as much as six months might be justified.
Q: Does an STA to operate my station in a manner not provided for in the Rules entitle me to exclusive or primary use of the frequencies?
No, an STA does not entitle you to an exclusive channel. Moreover, if complaints are received that your station is causing disruption to other operations, your STA may be terminated at the FCC's discretion.
Q: Can someone obtain a permanent waiver to operate his/ her station in a way that the rest of us can't operate our stations?
No. All amateur stations transmit by authority of the FCC and they share the amateur service frequencies by operating under the same Rules. These Rules are established through a process in which all amateur operators and other interested parties may participate. To bypass this critical process might unfairly allow certain amateur operators to have greater privileges at the expense of everyone else.
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