W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 4.4

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Make the Transmission Source Known

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. Our group disagrees over the proper way to ID our repeater. So, what is it the requirement?

A. That is codified in Section 97.119(a): Each amateur station, except a space station or telecommand station, must transmit its assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communication, and at least every 10 minutes during a communication, for the purpose of clearly making the source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions. No station may transmit unidentified communications or signals, or transmit as the station call sign, any call sign not authorized to the station.

Q. Is it absolutely established that it is not a rule that the station must announce that it is transmitting as a repeater, beacon, or auxiliary station?

A. Yes, at least for amateur stations transmitting from any location where the FCC regulates our amateur service. If you have concerns about any particular amateur station, contact its Section 97.103 station licensee.


   Every signal transmitted on our amateur service bands should be coming from a readily discernable station. When your station transmits a Section 97.119 station identification announcement, you are informing its listeners that its signal is emanating from a FCC-authorized station. The call sign transmitted can lead a listener to the ULS where the name and address of the Section 97.103 station licensee are shown. This practice should promote more responsible usage of a valuable public resource and discourage pirates from encroaching into our radio spectrum. It is a major deterrent to would-be rule violators. It aids self-policing and discourages interference-causing transmissions and annoying mischief-making because it reveals personal identities. 

  Transmitting properly the station identification announcement is especially critical to our uniquely unstructured radio service when it comes to creating and maintaining a culture of observing the FCC rules and using good amateur practices. It is the reason that there is a call sign system. It should never be compromised. It is basic to our maintaining a high level of rule compliance and promoting proper and efficient use of our allocated spectrum.

Q. Our radio club assists at public-service events by running a net to pass informal traffic between several operators located around the site. Our club organizer has said: “All stations will be operating under the club call sign and individual operators are only to identify themselves using their tactical call signs. Individual operators will not identify with either their own call signs or with the club call sign. Only net control will identify with an FCC-assigned call sign, the club call sign.” He said that would satisfy the legal identification requirements for all operators at the event. I asked how this would be legal. He simply said that it's legal. I don't understand how.

A. No, each and every station transmitting in the network should be making the required Section 97.119(a) station identification announcements. From those announcements, the identity of the Section 97.103 station licensee bearing the duty for the station transmitting properly can be determined by consulting the ULS. For an amateur station to fail to transmit the required Section 97.119(a) station identification announcements would make our Maintenance Monitors and other official and our unofficial monitoring efforts exceedingly difficult.

Q. Can tactical call signs be used during RACES operation? I ask this because 50 plus years ago, those of us involved in CD communications in this county and operating under the then RACES rules regularly used tactical call signs. We had a letter from the Engineer - in Charge of our local FCC office indicating this was an acceptable practice during RACES drills. 

A. Yes, but not as a substitute for our mandatory Section 97.119(a) station identification announcements. The rules for RACES reside in Section 97.405. There is no mention of any special rule.

   Tactical call signs might also be transmitted within a network of stations. In this instance, the club organizer wants to identify individual operators – presumably the Section 97.105 control operators – for the functioning convenience of the network controller. But they are not FCC-assigned call signs. No amateur station transmitting from a place where the FCC regulates our amateur service may transmit in its Section 97.119(a) identification announcement any call sign not authorized to that station.

Q. Does the net control station have to ID every time it talks to another station or is it OK to just ID every 10 minutes?

A. There are no special rules for our networks. The all-purpose Section 97.119(a) station identification announcement must always be transmitted at the conclusion of a QSO or other communications. When a transmission continues for more than 10 minutes, the ID must also be transmitted at least every 10 minutes. 

   Not all networks have a controller person directing the intercommunications. Where there is someone, however, the 10-minute protocol seems to be sufficient for the stated purpose of clearly making the source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions.

Q. I've heard some confusion about a group QSO and the ID requirements for each individual station in the group. The main point being whether a station which has been part of the group, but after IDing has been silent for some period of time is required to ID on the next 10 minute interval. I have maintained that as long as that station properly ID'd their last transmission they are under no obligation to transmit further identification when they have been silent even for a period of longer than 10 minutes. Instead, that station may continue to be silent and not ID until, in the natural course of the conversation, they make their next transmission, at which time they would ID again, even though more than 10 minutes have elapsed since their previous ID. Your comments please.

A. It is Section 97.119(a) that applies to each station participating in the group QSO. It does not include special provisions for station participating in a group QSO. A good amateur practice might be for the Section 97.105 control operator of one of the participating stations to call for a station break every 10 minutes to allow the participating stations to transmit their station identification announcements. 

Q. Our club station repeater is installed in a hospital. Its transmissions have become erratic. The hospital has changed ownership and the new owners refuse to allow us access. What is our recourse?

A. The pertinent requirement is in Section 97.5(a). It says: The station apparatus must be under the physical control of a person named in an amateur station license grant on the ULS consolidated license database or a person authorized for alien reciprocal operation by §97.107 of this part, before the station may transmit on any amateur service frequency from any place that is: (1) Within 50 km of the Earth's surface and at a place where the amateur service is regulated by the FCC.

   So, unless your Section 97.5(a)(2) club station trustee has the Section 97.5(a) station apparatus under physical control, the station should not be transmitting on our amateur service bands – at least not while your club station call sign is being sent in the Section 97.119(a) station identification announcements. Those announcements determine the Section 97.103(a) station licensee responsible for the proper operation of the station in accordance with the FCC rules. Consult the ULS for the name and mailing address of that station licensee.

   Unless the transmissions cease, or the situation becomes compliant, one recourse would be to request cancellation of the club station license: FCC, 1270 Fairfield Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325-7245 and to notify our Maintenance Monitors and your local or regional area Section 97.3(a)(22) frequency coordinator.

Q. We are installing a packet digipeater transmitting on 145.570 Mhz. It will transmit the control operator's call sign in the packet stream. It will also be transmitted every 60 minutes as a beacon. We think this meets the necessary FCC requirements. Do you agree?

A. It very well could be compliant. There are no special rules for a packet digipeater - an amateur station that receives a packet, processes it, and retransmits it on the same channel. A Section 97.3(a)(40) repeater is an amateur station that simultaneously retransmits the transmission of another amateur station on a different channel or channels. Your digipeter, therefore does not qualify for the special Section 97.205 accommodations afforded repeaters in such as automatic control, coordination recognition, etc. Here's where it stands: 

   Section 97.221 provides unique accommodations for an automatically controlled digital station (ACDS) - other than an auxiliary station, a beacon station, a repeater station, an earth station, a space station, or a space telecommand station. Perhaps those accommodations could be useful in your digipeater design.       

   Section 97.205 authorizes repeaters to receive and retransmit on 145.570 MHz. An ACDS, however, is not similarly confined to repeater segments in the 2-meter band.  So, unless there is a nearby repeater already on your chosen channel, your selection of that repeater channel may be suitable. Confirm with your local frequency coordinator that it will not be interfering with any Section 97.205 repeaters.

   Your Section 97.103(a) station licensee will have certain duties and your designated its Section 97.105 control operator will have certain other duties. Read BE Informed No. 1 for a checklist of each. The person listed on the ULS for the call sign transmitted in the station identification announcement is your Section 97.5(a) station licensee. When devising your station's Section 97.119(a) station identification procedure, please give due consideration to the volunteer work of our Maintenance Monitors and our self-monitoring. 

   Section 97.119(b) says the call sign must be transmitted with an emission authorized for the transmitting channel in one of the following ways:

   (1) By a CW emission. When keyed by an automatic device used only for identification, the speed must not exceed 20 words per minute;

   (2) By a phone emission in the English language. Use of a phonetic alphabet as an aid for correct station identification is encouraged;

   (3) By a RTTY emission using a specified digital code when all or part of the communications are transmitted by a RTTY or data emission;

   (4) By an image emission conforming to the applicable transmission standards, either color or monochrome, of Section 73.682(a) of the FCC Rules when all or part of the communications are transmitted in the same image emission.

Q. We have a local ham driving everyone nuts complaining about needing to ID at the end of a conversation. He states that anything said after the call sign is illegal and would require another ID; things like (call sign) clear, (call sign) monitoring, etc. My understanding is that if the call is included in the last transmission, that meets the requirement. What's your take?

A. Alas, he has it hair-splittingly correct. The rule to which he is referring is Section 97.119(a): “Each amateur station, except a space station or telecommand station, must transmit its assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communication, and at least every 10 minutes during a communication, for the purpose of clearly making the source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions.” It's that stated purpose in the last phrase, however, that should be our clue.

   This rule has its roots in 19th Century wireline telegraphy protocols. It has been utilized by at least seven generations of electronic communicators. It is deeply imbedded - along with personalized station call signs – in today’s ham culture.


   But let us not allow tradition to stand in the way of calling upon our amateur service community to get to work on shifting to a more modern means of station identification. We should demand that our suppliers sell us radios incorporating automatic station identification. Something that takes place in the background while our radio intercommunicating continues without interruption. They might adapt contemporary techniques brought in from other radio service suppliers. They should offer us radios that display to listeners not only our station call signs, but also informs them about our accomplishments, our station apparatus, our location, and all that other stuff we now try to cram into our vanity call signs and our Section 97.119(c) indicators.

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October 25, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions