[OZAPRS] Foundation and RF APRS

vk2tv vk2tv at exemail.com.au
Wed Dec 25 17:16:06 AEDT 2019

Hi All,

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.

Ray vk2tv

P.O. Box 5055
Frederickton 2440
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.

Yours Truly

Ray Wells
Amateur Radio callsign VK2TV

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