FCC Proposes Amateur Radio Rule Changes to Promote Digital Use
Friday, July 29, 2016 | Comments

The FCC proposed amending Part 97 of its rules regarding technical standards applicable to data communications that may be transmitted in the amateur radio service. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) is in response to a petition for rulemaking filed by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).

Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, with reply comments due 90 days after Federal Register publication.

Specifically, the FCC proposed to remove limitations on the symbol rate (also known as baud rate) — the rate at which the carrier waveform amplitude, frequency, and/or phase is varied to transmit information — applicable to data emissions in certain amateur bands. The FCC said the rule change will allow amateur service licensees to use digital emissions, thereby better fulfilling the purposes of the amateur service and enhancing its usefulness.

The ARRL petition requests that the commission remove all of the symbol rate limits and add a bandwidth limitation for radioteletype (RTTY) and data emissions in the medium frequency (MF) and high frequency (HF) bands of 2.8 kilohertz. ARRL argues that the symbol rate limits are outdated and hamper or preclude amateur radio experimentation with modern data transmission protocols that are available and in active use in other radio services.

The FCC tentatively agreed with ARRL that the baud rate limits should be eliminated and proposed to amend Part 97 accordingly. However, the commission declined to propose adding a 2.8-kilohertz bandwidth limitation for RTTY and data emissions in the MF/HF bands as requested by the ARRL petition.

“After reviewing the record, we tentatively conclude that a specific bandwidth limitation for RTTY and data emissions in the MF/HF bands is not necessary,” the NPRM said. “We note that only the digital codes specified in Section 97.309(a) may be used for MF/HF data emissions, and our rules do not impose any specific bandwidth limitation on use of the specified digital codes in any frequency band other than the 60-meter band.”

The FCC also said that while a 2.8-kilohertz bandwidth limitation would accommodate HF data emissions currently used, such a limitation could undermine the goal of encouraging advances in technology if amateur radio operators were prevented from stepping beyond current radio science.

The full NPRM is here.

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