W3BE'S BE Informed!
Home1.0 W3BE Checklists1.1 RF Safety1.2 Antenna Structures1.3 Quiet Zones1.4 60 Meter Privileges1.5 Take A Paying Job?1.6 Hams At Sea1.7 Imported Radios1.8.0 Reciprocal Privileges1.8.1 For Canadians1.8.2 Reciprocal I.D.1.8.3 More Reciprocal Q&A1.8.4 Hear Something Say Something1.9 Third Party Communications1.10 Incentive Licensing1.11 GEPs and GAPs1.12 Hamslanguage1.13 Visiting Operators1.14 Terms in Part 971.15 Amateur Station?1.16 Licenses & Call Signs1.17 What Is Our Purpose Now?1.18 Transmitter Stability1.19 Selling Over Ham Radio1.20 Still an Amateur?1.21 Use My Station?1.22 Digi-Standards1.23 No Secrets1.24 Where's My License?1.25 Spectrum Management1.26 A Little Bit Commercial1.27 What is CW?2.0 Ham Needs To Know2.1 VE System Management2.2 What A VE Does2.3 Remote Testing2.4 Get Your Pools Right2.8 GOTA Experience: License Qualifier?2.12 Former Hams2.13 The Hunt for Stereotype W2.14 VE's Universe2.15 More HF for Techs2.16 Can A VE Accept Pay2.17 VEC Supposed To Do2.18 Significance of License Grant2.19 Enough Operator Classes?3.0 Smell Tests3.1 Maintenance Monitoring3.2 International/domestic3.3 Excuses3.4 Heed The Rules!3.5 Regulatable3.6 No Broadcasting3.7 Station Records4.0 Which Call Sign?4.1 Self-assigned indicator4.2 Station ID4.4 Make the Source Known4.5 Indicator Schedule4.6 Special Event 1 by 14.7 Non-Appended Indicator4.8 Club Station ID5.0 Alternatives To Exams5.3 Big Red Switch6.0 Constitution Go-By6.1 What Ia A Radio Club?6.2 School Radio Club6.3 Club Stations Control Op6.4 Radio Club Repeater Station7.0 EmComm7.2 RACES7.3 Commercial Communications7.11 Supposed To Be7.12 Emergency Responders & Part 978.0 Repeaters & Part 978.1 Auxiliary Stations & Part 978.2 Remote Control, Telecommand & Part 978.3 Frequency Coordination8.4 Automatic Control & Part 978.5 The Internet & Part 978.6 Beacons & Part 978.7 Automatic Control & Part 978.8 Frequency Coordination & Part 9710.0 Comments in RM-1170810.2 Deceased's Call Sign10.3 A New Era for Ham Radio10.4 New Era Q/A10.5 Four Operator Classes10.6 Novice ArtifactQUIZ

BE Informed No. 2.0

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What Does a Ham


Need to Know?

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. What does a ham really need to know? 

A. For a catalog of the duties each FCC-authorized amateur service licensee is supposed to be operationally and technically qualified to perform properly, 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.

   W3BE-O-GRAM: Conceptually, it would seem there are three fundamental duties to carried out by each person licensed by our federal government to cause or allow an amateur radio station to transmit substantial amounts of electromagnetic energy from practically anywhere:

  1. DON’T HARM ANYONE. Understand and avoid the possibilities for causing excessive RF radiation to themselves, their families, friends, neighbors, and the general population. 

  2. DON’T CAUSE RADIO INTERFERENCE. Make correct decisions and take such actions necessary to avoid causing any disruption to the reception of transmissions from stations in any legitimate radio service, including our own amateur service. 

  3. SHARE THE SPECTRUM. Cooperate in maintaining an orderly over-the-air functioning of our amateur service while conducting self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations normally expected from duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.

Q. What abilities are required in order to perform these duties properly?

A. They can be summarized under five topics:

   1. Possess the ability to read, understand, apply, and follow the rules – including knowledge of eighty technical terms (e.r.p., isotropically radiated power, modulation index, multiplex, PEP, etc.) that must be understood in order to make the rules meaningful.

   2. Possess and apply the ability to determine whether or not an amateur station’s transmissions are compliant with the technical standards codified in Part 97 Subpart B Technical Standards. This provides the assurance that the transmitting apparatus can be exempt from FCC equipment authorization oversight without unwanted consequence.

   3. Possess and apply the ability to properly assemble amateur stations composed of apparatus not necessarily FCC equipment authorized. The FCC does not include amateur station transmitters in its equipment authorization oversight. The Section 97.103 station licensee, rather, is the one and only person accountable for each amateur station being compliant with the necessary technical standards.

   4. Possess and apply the ability to properly assemble systems of amateur stations. The FCC does not pre-approve systems of amateur stations transmitting in the amateur service. The individual participating stations do not even have to be provided by the same Section 97.103 station licensee.

   5. Possess knowledge of and utilize the Section 97.101(a) good amateur practices adopted by our amateur service community.

Q. Many folks with FCC call signs do not really possess those operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee. They just memorize the VECs answers to our VEs questions.

A. Hopefully, our amateur service still includes a majority of people actually possessing the required knowledge so as to perpetuate our claim of legitimacy.

Q. What is the exam all about?

A. Section 97.503 says that a written examination for a license grant must be such as to prove that the examinee possesses the operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee. Possessing about 75% of those qualifications is the minimum acceptable for passing.

Q. Just who decides what those operational and technical qualifications are?

A. In places where the FCC is our regulator, our Section 97.507 preparing VEs are charged with doing that. It says: Each question on each VEC question pool must be prepared by a VE holding the required FCC-issued operator license. In other places, the qualifications are determined by the regulatory authority for those places.

Q. What are the credentials of those VE question writers?

A. Our Section 97.507 preparing VEs are VEC-accredited hams holding FCC Amateur Extra Class operator license grants. Section 97.507 also authorizes intermediate General and Advanced Class operators to prepare questions for certain examination elements.  

Q. Does it matter which 25% the examinee doesn’t know about operational and technical qualifications?

A. You might think that it should matter very much, but our Section 97.509 administering VEs apparently are unconcerned. They observably do not routinely take any action to remedy a successful examinee’s partial lack of correct knowledge.

Q. What do the international regulations say?

A. ITU-R M.1544 minimum qualifications of radio amateurs recommends:

   1. That administrations take such measures as they judge necessary to verify the operational and technical qualifications of any person wishing to operate an amateur station. In places where the FCC regulates our amateur service, this work is outsourced to our VEs.

   2. That any person seeking a license to operate an amateur station should demonstrate theoretical (i.e., hypothetical, academic, notional, imaginary, conjectural, speculative, abstract) knowledge of: Radio Regulations (international, domestic); Methods of radio communication (radiotelephony, radio telegraphy, data and image); Radio system theory (transmitters, receivers, antennas and propagation, measurements); Radio emission safety, Electromagnetic compatibility; and Avoidance and resolution of radio frequency interference.

Q. Should our VEs implement ITU-R M. 1544.1?

A. They should incorporate its standards into our Element 2 because it is supposed to contain the minimum qualifications to demonstrate by any person seeking an amateur service license. Passing Element 2 is necessary to every FCC amateur operator license grant.

Q. What is contained in Element 2?

A. According to Section 97.503, it is supposed to be a written examination must be such as to prove that the examinee possesses the operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee. Each written examination must be comprised of a question set as follows: (a) Element 2: 35 questions concerning the privileges of a Technician Class operator license. The minimum passing score is 26 questions answered correctly.

Q. What are the privileges afforded to a Technician Class operator?

A. They encompass all possible transmitting privileges in our VHF, UHF, SHF and EHF bands. In the HF bands, there are limited privileges at 10, 15, 40, and 80 meters.

Q. I am very disappointed with the way the volunteer examiner system is being carried out by our local VE teams. I volunteered to help out as an instructor. I intended to explain the background of each question and correct answer choice. I also intended to explain why the distractor answers were incorrect. I was told, however, to just point out the correct answers and move on. To my mind, this does not teach newcomers how to perform properly the duties of an FCC amateur service licensee.

A. You must be an elder ham. Things have changed. Examining has taken on a life of its own.

Q. I firmly believe we are attracting the wrong people to the hobby.

A. Your use of the term “we” apparently refers to our current amateur service community. So, you may have a difficult job ahead of convincing us that we are the wrong people for our own hobby. Don’t expect very many of us to be pleased with your belief.

   Your motivation to attract the “right” people to share our amateur spectrum bounty, therefore, must be based upon something else.

   If, for instance, as a business model, your objective is to sell amateur station apparatus, services, etc., you would want to attract people with the inclination and wherewithal to frequently purchase such commercial offerings.

  If, rather, you want to help satisfy our regulators’ expectation, you would want to attract willing people having the capability of providing an alternative to the commercial communications infrastructure impacted by an emergency.

   If, rather, you want to participate on behalf of an employer in a Section 97.113(a)(3)(i) emergency preparedness or disaster readiness test or drill, you would want to attract employees of entities willing to entrust their communication needs to them.  

   If you are a Section 97.519 volunteer-examiner coordinator, you are on the public record of wanting to make the amateur service accessible to as many citizens as possible.

   If, rather, you want to strictly observe the long-standing pertinent statutes and international regulations, you would want to attract people interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest who want to engage in self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations.

Q. What sort of people should we be attracting to ham radio?

A. As far as our regulator’s rules are concerned, no one is under any obligation to attract anyone to our amateur service. In Section 97.1(d), in fact, our regulator assures us that Part 97 is purposely designed to expand the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronic experts.

Q. Our VEs just don’t get it. Instead of preparing and administering examinations such as to prove that examinees possess the operational and technical qualification required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee, they are mesmerized by exam tinkerers having other – sometimes commercial - agendas.

A. Our Section 97.507 examination preparing VEs are supposed to provide questions for three pools maintained by our fourteen Section 97.519 volunteer-examiner coordinators. Element 2 is supposed to concern the privileges of a Technician Class operator license. Element 3 is supposed to concern the privileges of the General Class operator license. Element 4 is supposed to concern the privileges of the Amateur Extra Class operator license. Those privileges are authorized in Part 97. That is the base from where our VEs should be using their certified knowhow of those privileges to prepare and administer examinations.

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December 2, 2017

Supersedes all prior versions