W3BE'S BE Informed!
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Remote Base


Part 97

John B. Johnston, W3BE

Q. What is the difference between a VHF/UHF remote base and a repeater? They are both amateur stations that simultaneously retransmit the transmissions of other amateur stations on a different channel or channels.

A. The difference is that a remote base station should be only intercommunicating with other amateur stations. It should not be simultaneously retransmitting the transmissions of another amateur station, as must a repeater station. In a remote base system, any repeating that takes place should be confined to point-to-point (P-T-P) communications within a system of cooperating amateur stations.

Q. Repeaters and remote bases sure look alike.

A. Their station apparatus might be nearly identical. It is their configuration and usage that makes the difference. Our amateur service community has made successful arguments for repeater station Section 97.205 accommodations. Not so for remote base stations. They seem to function satisfactorily without special accommodations.

   Refer to block diagram 8.5.1. It depicts the Section 97.213 telecommand of a remote base station via remote P-T-P uplink/downlink. (Control-click here for a more detailed diagram.)

Diagram 8.5.1

   It is a very elementary remote base system. It consists of three amateur stations: the remote base station, the uplink auxiliary station, and the downlink auxiliary station. The control points for all three stations are collocated so as to facilitate the control operator’s initiation, modification of, or termination of transmissions from any or all of the system’s stations. The only special operations accommodations rule provisions are those for the Section 97.201 auxiliary stations. Read Part 97 and Auxiliary Stations BE Informed No. 8.1.

Q.  So what does all that mean?

A. It means that a remote base system is not subject to the privileges and constraints unique to a  

Section 97.205 repeater station. Its receiving and transmitting channels are not confined to our repeater bands and segments. Although the two auxiliary stations are eligible for Section 97.3(a)(22) frequency coordination sanction, the remote base station is not.

Q. Just how many amateur stations make up a remote base system?

A. A complex remote base system can consist of several cooperating stations. In its most rudimentary form, however, there is just the remote base station - such as where there is a wire line uplink and down link interconnecting the remote base with its Section 97.3(a)(14) control point.

Q. Should a remote base be coordinated like repeaters and auxiliary stations?

A. Coordination is usually desirable because it helps us maintain a more orderly use of our allocated spectrum. But it all depends upon your Section 97.3(a)(22) frequency coordinator’s inclination. Read Frequency Coordination BE Informed No. 8.3

Q. Are the stations in the diagram 8.5.1 eligible for automatic control?

A. Only the uplink and down link auxiliary stations are authorized for automatic control where the use of devices and procedures for control of a station when it is transmitting so that compliance with the FCC rules is achieved without the control operator being present at the control point. In Diagram 8.5.1, the downlink auxiliary station is the only practical candidate.  

Q. Could the uplink and downlink be implemented via the Internet?

A. Amateur stations are apparently having considerable success with such linking. An amateur station may be under telecommand where there is a wire-line control link between the control point and the remote base sufficient for the control operator to perform his/her duties. A control link using another telecommunication service is considered a Section 97.213(b) wire-line. Numerous remote base systems apparently have enjoyed success with such arrangements. Read The Internet & Part 97 BE Informed No. 8.5.

Q. When the downlink station is under automatic control, why must be there a control point for it?

A. Because Section 97.109(a) says: Each amateur station must have at least one control point. Even an automatically controlled station must have a Section 97.109 control point and a Section 97.105 control operator.

Q. What is telecommand?

A. Section 97.3(a)(43) defines telecommand as a one-way transmission to initiate, modify, or terminate functions of a device at a distance.   

   Section 97.213 authorizes an amateur station on or within 50 km of the Earth's surface to be under telecommand where:

   (a) There is a radio or wireline control link between the control point and the station sufficient for the control operator to perform his/her duties. If radio, the control link must use an auxiliary station. A control link using a fiber optic cable or another telecommunication service is considered wireline.

   (b) Provisions are incorporated to limit transmission by the station to a period of no more than 3 minutes in the event of malfunction in the control link.

   (c) The station is protected against making, willfully or negligently, unauthorized transmissions.

   (d) A photocopy of the station license and a label with the name, address, and telephone number of the station licensee and at least one designated control operator is posted in a conspicuous place at the station location.

Q. What is a control link?

A. Hamslanguage BE Informed No. 1.12 describes a control link as a radio or wireline connection between the control point and a remotely controlled station for the purpose of enabling the control operator to perform his/her duties. 

   Section 97.3(a)(38) employs that term in the definition of remote control as the use of a control operator who indirectly manipulates the operating adjustments in the station through a control link to achieve compliance with the FCC Rules.

    Section 97.213(a) says that if by radio, the control link must use an auxiliary station. Section 97.3(a)(7) says an auxiliary station is an amateur station, other than in a message forwarding system, that is transmitting communications point-to-point within a system of cooperating amateur stations. 

Q. What frequencies can be used for my radio control link?

A. Section 97.213(b) authorizes auxiliary stations to transmit on at least one segment in all of our VHF and shorter wavelength bands except 6 meters. To minimize potential interference, seek from your local Section 97.3(a)(22) frequency coordinator a recommendation for a channel and associated operating and technical parameters.

Q. Can I use the Internet from my home to remotely control my remote base station in a distant city?

A. That would depend upon the regulations in force in the country of the distant city where your transmitter is located. In places where the FCC regulates our amateur service, such is permissible provided that the station transmits in compliance with the FCC rules. Read Part 97 & The Internet BE Informed No. 8.5.

Q. Could I designate my friend in Japan as being the control operator for my remote base in the United States?

A. Yes, if your friend is a person for whom a suitable amateur operator/primary station license grant appears on the ULS, or who is authorized for Section 97.107 alien reciprocal operation.

Q. Could another ham use my remotely controlled 40-meter base station with his auxiliary station being via the VHF uplink and UHF downlink?

A. Yes provided, you - the Section 97.103 station licensee – designate him the Section 97.105 control operator of your remotely controlled 40-meter station. Consult Section 97.301 for the 40-meter segments available to the station for your friend’s operator class of license.  

   You also have the option of transferring Section 97.5(a) physical control of your 40-meter station apparatus to him. In which case the call sign transmitted in the Section 97.119 station identification announcement would be that assigned to his station. Read Which Call Sign? Your options and accountability when someone uses your station apparatus or vice-versa BE Informed No. 4.0.

Q. In a remotely controlled station using the Internet for uplink/downlink, does Part 97 require the control operator of the station through which the computer is operating to be personally present at the station?

A. The Section 97.105 control operator is required to be at the Section 97.109(a) control point of the station whenever it is transmitting. Not just standing around, but doing the things that the control operator is supposed to do. Read W3BE Checklists For Domestic and Foreign Amateur Service Licensees In Places Where the U.S. FCC Is Our Regulator BE Informed No. 1.0.

Q. Section 97.213(d) requires a photocopy of the station license and a label with the name, address, and telephone number of the station licensee and at least one designated control operator in a conspicuous place at the remote station. Depending upon the station usage, there could be hundreds of control operators. There would have to be a way to determine when each person used the station so that responsibility could be established in the case of a malfunction.

A. The Section 97.103 station licensee should have designated each Section 97.105 control operator, otherwise The FCC will presume the station licensee is also the control operator unless documentation to the contrary is in the station records.

Q. This matter has become controversial is because of the awards programs that are the competitive side of ham radio. 

A. This issue is not one for the FCC to untangle for us. Our awards sponsors should deal with it.

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September 19, 2015

Supersedes all prior editions