Amateur licence changes coming

Ofcom’s 2023/24 Annual plan includes plans to change amateur licensing and to give us “greater freedom to operate”. No details are given but we can expect a consultation in the next three months and a final statement (ie decision) in the first few months of 2024.

Also included in Ofcom’s plans for spectrum are to reduce the risk of interference by ‘limiting the availability of non-compliant equipment on the market’. Hopefully this will mean they will target ‘wall wart’ power supplies. Radio enthusiasts more generally may also be interested to hear that Ofcom plan to launch small-scale (ie very local) DAB multiplexes around the country. (Interestingly, the initial proposal for Ofcom’s small-scale DAB multiplexes was made by a radio amateur.)

On amateur licensing, Ofcom say “We will consult on proposals to simplify our licensing framework for amateur radio licensing and incorporate new areas of amateur radio activity. Our aim is to provide clear updated rules which afford radio amateurs greater freedom to operate, drawing on feedback provided by the sector.”

It isn’t clear what Ofcom mean by their licensing framework. Could they be referring to the different licence levels (Foundation, Intermediate, Full? There may be arguments in favour of an Extra licence with greater freedoms eg higher TX power. On the other hand Ofcom previously (in 2014) talked about the legislative framework (ie UK laws) for licensing and a cost-based licence fee framework for licensing. So it may be that Ofcom is talking about changes to those.

What greater freedoms to operate might be allowed? There are a host of activties that might conceivably be allowed in future, including a few current ones that may technically be in breach of current licence conditions. Operation on two frequencies simultaneously eg a data mode QSO or WSPR TXn at the same time as a voice QSO? Remote operation of stations not owned by the licensee? Use of amateur frequencies for high altitude balloons? Higher transmit power? – many other countries have limits around 1kW. Perhaps fewer restrictions on internet linking? Or what is probably every amateur’s fantasy dream – rescinding the EMF regulations!

Hopefully all will be made clear soon.

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