[OZAPRS] Foundation and RF APRS
vk2tv at exemail.com.au
Wed Dec 25 17:16:06 AEDT 2019
After sprouting that we should write our local federal member about the
Foundation callsign anomaly I took the bit between my teeth and have
done just that, my email being sent this afternoon.
I wish to acknowledge the input of Peter Clee VK8ZZ, WIA Secretary, for
some valuable input that tidied up some points and added missing content.
For those inclined to write their local member, please feel free to use
my letter as a draft.
P.O. Box 5055
25th December 2019
Mr. Pat Conaghan MP
Member for Cowper
Dear Mr Conaghan,
I've been a licensed Amateur Radio operator for fifty years and I'm
writing with regard to a recent change to the license conditions that
apply to the Foundation Level Amateur Radio license in Australia.
Amateur Radio, which is also known in some quarters as ham radio, is the
use of the radio frequency spectrum for purposes of non-commercial
exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, private
recreation, radio sport, contesting, and emergency communication. The
term "amateur" is used to specify a duly authorised person interested in
radio-electric practice with a purely personal aim and without any
pecuniary interest; (either direct monetary or other similar reward) and
to differentiate it from commercial broadcasting, public safety (such as
police and fire), or professional two-way radio services (such as
maritime, aviation, taxis, etc.).
The licensing of Amateur Operators is administered by The Department of
Communications through its agency the Australian Communications and
Media Authority (ACMA). Australia has three grades of Amateur Radio
license, being Advanced, Standard and Foundation, with the level of
technical knowledge required for each grade decreasing with each step
down the list. The Foundation license grade was introduced in October
2005 to provide an easier pathway by which individuals could access the
hobby of Amateur Radio, and it did this through requiring a lower level
of technical knowledge than that required for the other two license
grades. In September 2019 the ACMA amended the allowable transmission
modes used by Foundation Level licensees to include all modes, including
the popular data mode of AX25 that is used widely throughout the world
for Packet Radio, and Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS). AX25 is
extremely popular but is one of several digital modes available for use
by Amateur Radio operators both in Australia and around the world.
Australian Amateur Radio operators are issued a callsign by the ACMA
that takes the format VK#AA through VK#ZZZ, where # is a state or
territory number, with a maximum of six characters. For example, VK2ABC
would be in NSW while VK6XYZ would be in Western Australia. When the
Foundation license was introduced in 2005 the ACMA deviated from the
long-established practice of issuing callsigns with a six character
limit, and chose to issue callsigns with seven characters in the range
VK#FAAA to VK#FZZZ. Again, the # is a state of territory number.
When the AX25 and other digital protocols were introduced in the late
1970s they were designed to work with a callsign no longer in length
than six characters, this being the maximum length used by every
licensing administration in the world. Because Australian Foundation
licensees have a seven character callsign it is rejected by the AX25,
and other digital protocols, that are so entrenched in the Amateur Radio
Service around the world that it cannot be changed. Australian
Foundation licensees face an anomaly in that even though they are now
permitted to use data modes of transmission they can't do that easily or
in the same way as other Australian licensees, which effectively limits
their ability to use some newly approved modes.
The Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) is the peak body for Amateur
Radio in Australia. They are recognised by the International Amateur
Radio Union, a division of the International Telecommunications Union.
The WIA has been lobbying the ACMA to make changes to the callsign
structure without success.
The Foundation license callsign incompatibility problem is something
that needs to be addressed sooner, rather than later, and I respectfully
request you discuss this problem with the Minister for Communications in
an effort to obtain a rapid resolution.
Amateur Radio callsign VK2TV
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