Spring 2007 Issue

New FCC Rules
Help VHF-plus Activity

With the elimination of the Morse code as a requirement for licensing, WB6NOA has observed that with the influx of newly licensed hams has also come an increase in those interested in the VHF-plus bands. He challenges us to be good mentors for them.

By Gordon West, WB6NOA

Sam’s Radio Hams have regular Elmering sessions for new amateur radio operators.
(Photos courtesy of the author)

Recent FCC rules changes surprisingly have increased weak-signal activity on 6 meters and up. The following quote is typical of the old-timers’ reaction: “On our W6OMF Sunday evening 2-meter SSB weak-signal net we had more new visitor check-ins than I have ever heard before,” commented Bill Alber, WA6CAX, working with net control Larry Hogue, W6OMF.

“We thought we might lose Technician Class operators when they upgraded without a code test to General Class, so it was a nice surprise to see some fresh new signals on the VHF and UHF bands,” added Alber.

Two FCC rulemakings have contributed to increased VHF/UHF weak-signal activity. In this article we can examine some reasons why they have done so.

In December 2006 the FCC adopted “Novice Refarming” to allow ham operators more voice spectrum in four currently authorized amateur HF bands. A handful of Novice operators and thousands of Technician Plus operators could take advantage of CW practice on expanded CW spectrum shared with General Class, Advanced Class, and Extra Class CW operators. These frequencies are: 10 meters, 28.0–28.5 MHz; 15 meters, 21.025–21.200 MHz; 40 meters, 7.025–7.125 MHz; and 80 meters, 3.525– 3.600 MHz. Novice and Technician Plus operators would retain SSB HF privileges from 28.3–28.5 MHz.

This rulemaking gave Extra Class, Advanced Class, and General Class operators more voice elbow room on these bands, while at the same time giving Novice and Technician Plus operators more CW-only elbow room, too.
To the Novice and Tech Plus hams this was no big deal. The no-code Technician operator would continue to wait patiently for the anticipated elimination of the 5 words-per-minute code test, which is precisely what happened this past February.

On February 23, 2007 not only was the code test for General Class eliminated, but no-code Techs received an unanticipated bonus: “WT Docket 05-235 will call for a single Technician Class license regardless of whether the applicant has passed a Morse code examination or not. No-code Technician Class operators and those with a Technician Plus license will also have access to the Novice and Technician Plus frequencies on high frequency,” commented Larry Pollock, NB5X, of the W5YI VEC (Volunteer Examiner Coordinator) program.

What’s the big deal here for a no-code Technician Class operator with zero interest in operating Morse code on HF? Beginning February 23, 2007, no-code Technician Class (and higher) hams can now enjoy 200 kHz of SSB privileges on 10 meters!

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