W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 1.25

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Spectrum Management


Our Amateur Service

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. What is “spectrum management?”

A. It is the process for regulating the use of radio frequency to promote efficient use and gain a net social benefit.

   In our amateur service, the 28 frequency bands listed in Section 97.301 are the culmination of more than a century-long series of international and domestic deliberations in the process. From there, the process continues within our amateur service community. Amateur service spectrum management relies upon the real-time decisions and actions of each Section 97.7 control operator situated at each station’s Section 97.3(a)(14) control point.   

Q. Where can I find out more about amateur service spectrum management?

A. Ask any ham whose license grant appears on the ULS. That person has been certified by three volunteer examiners as having proven that he/she has the operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee in places where the FCC regulates. Observing contemporary spectrum management practices is a basic must-do.

Q. Who decides what those qualifications are?

A. That is decided by our Section 97.507 volunteer examiners who prepare the license examinations.

Q. Where are the rules for amateur service spectrum management?

A. They are codified in Section 97.101(b) general standard. It says: 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. No frequency will be assigned for the exclusive use of any station.

   Then there is Section 97.7 control operator required: When transmitting, each amateur station must have a control operator. The control operator must be a person: (a) For whom an amateur operator/primary station license grant appears on the ULS consolidated licensee database, or (b) Who is authorized for alien reciprocal operation. It is a Section 97.105 control operator duty to ensure the immediate proper operation of the station.

Q. CB and Family radios have their channels. So do ham repeater radios. But a lot of the other ham radios do not. Users have to dial around a ham band scanning to hook up with someone. Why the difference?

A. The CB Radio and the Family Radio Services are intended for different purposes than our Amateur Radio Services. Section 95.401 (CB Rule 1) says the Citizens Band (CB) Radio Service is a private, two-way, short-distance voice communications service for personal or business activities of the general public. The CB Radio Service may also be used for voice paging. Further, it says the Family Radio Service (FRS) is a private, two-way, very short-distance voice and data communications service for facilitating family and group activities.

  Otherwise, our amateur and amateur-satellite services are intended to be 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. Note: In 2012, our regulator reported to Congress its conclusion that amateur radio emergency communications require not only stations in a position to originate the emergency message, but also (serve as) an alternative to the commercial communications infrastructure impacted by the emergency.

   Having passed our VEs’ examinations, a ham should have proven to possess certain operator skills such that do-it-yourself on-the-spot spectrum management protocols have been deemed most appropriate for varying occasions. For unproven operators, on the other hand, apportioning a frequency band into channels is a practical way to enable stations whose transmissions are caused by persons having unknown skills in spectrum management protocols to occupy radio spectrum in an orderly and efficient manner.    

Q. Then why is our 60-m ham band channelized?

A. Amateur service stations are secondary users in that band. Channelization was a condition of gaining shared access to it.

Q. Why are the ham repeater radios channelized?

A. That is the doing of our amateur service community. When castoff vacuum tube land mobile VHF radios started becoming obtainable circa 1958, hams adapted them to our 2-m band. After a somewhat disjointed startup, our community eventually came up with repeater/simplex channel band plans stemming largely from civil defense communication activities.

Q. What do the rules have to say about the hams doing their own spectrum management?

A. Beyond the Section 97.101(b) general standard, they are silent. There are, however, accommodations in Part 97 Subpart C for certain special operations including auxiliary stations, beacon station, repeater stations, space station, Earth station, etc. For four of these, there may even be recognition of their Section 97.3(a)(22) frequency coordinators’ recommendations wherever the local amateur service community can agree upon the entity that is.

Q. Those emergency nets seem to have their own channels.

A. Yes. But they must also be selected by the participating Section 97.105 control operators. There is but the one assigned channel at 5.1675 MHz for providing emergency communications during a Section 97.401 (“EmComm 401”) disaster in Alaska. In some localities, the Section 97.407 RACES civil defense organization adopts a band plan for sharing bands and segments with our amateur service.   

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March 6, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions