FCC is crystal clear: Remote ham radio licensing exams are absolutely permitted

Note: This post was first published on our sister site, the SWLing Post.

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, amateur radio VECs in the US have been experimenting with remote testing sessions–meaning, administering ham radio license exams via real-time teleconference apps like Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet.

Amateur radio operators in support of remote testing have been contacting the FCC asking for formal approval of remote exams and the ARRL has also been exploring and experimenting with the process.

Today, the FCC posted a public notice, making it clear that FCC approval is not required to conduct remote tests:

We make clear here that nothing in the FCC’s rules prohibits remote testing, and prior FCC approval is not required to conduct remote tests.  The Commission provides flexibility to volunteer examiners and coordinators who wish to develop remote testing methods or to increase remote testing programs already in place.”

I’ve pasted the text from the body of the public notice below (click here to download the full PDF doc):


DA 20-467 Released: April 30, 2020

WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATIONS BUREAU CONFIRMS THAT AMATEUR RADIO SERVICE OPERATOR LICENSE EXAMINATIONS MAY BE HELD REMOTELY

The Amateur Radio Service provides opportunities for self-training, intercommunication, and technical investigations for qualified persons of any age who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest. To operate an Amateur Radio Service station, an operator must have an FCC license. The Commission issues three classes of operator licenses, each authorizing a different level of privilege. 1 The class for which each licensee is qualified is determined during an examination by the level of skill and knowledge in operating a station that the licensee demonstrates to volunteer examiners, who conduct this testing on behalf of FCC-certified volunteer examiner coordinators.

Many potential amateur radio test takers and volunteer examiners have contacted the Chairman and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau to request that the Commission allow remote testing in light of current public health guidelines regarding social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We make clear here that nothing in the FCC’s rules prohibits remote testing, and prior FCC approval is not required to conduct remote tests. 2 The Commission provides flexibility to volunteer examiners and coordinators who wish to develop remote testing methods or to increase remote testing programs already in place.3

We recognize that some volunteer examiner coordinators may not have the immediate capacity for widespread remote testing. We expect those volunteer examiner coordinators with limited remote testing capacity to work closely with those requesting such testing to prioritize any available remote testing slots.

– FCC –


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Ham Radio Friedrichshafen 2020 has been cancelled

Many thanks to Harald Kuhl (DL1ABJ), who shares the following announcement from Ham Radio Friedrichshafen:

Radio silence due to coronavirus COVID-19: Ham Radio not taking place as planned 15.04.2020 Friedrichshafen – Due to current developments in regard to the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, Messe Friedrichshafen has been forced to make a very difficult decision: the international amateur radio exhibition Ham Radio will not be taking place in the planned period of June 26 to 28, 2020, but instead from June 25 to 27, 2021. The Federal Government and the Minister-Presidents of the Länder decided yesterday, April 15 that no major events shall take place until August 31, 2020. “Due to current developments relating to the coronavirus, we have the unfortunate duty of announcing that we cannot hold the 45th edition of Ham Radio as planned,” explains Klaus Wellmann, Managing Director of Messe Friedrichshafen. In recent weeks, it was already necessary to make the same decision in regard to other events (Aqua-Fisch, IBO, AERO, Tuning World Bodensee, and Motorworld Classics Bodensee). Project Manager Petra Rathgeber also expressed her sadness about this turn of events: “We very much regret that this event cannot take place as planned. However, the health of all exhibitors and visitors is of utmost importance to us. Unfortunately, our trade fair calendar and the dates of other industry events leave no room for postponing this fair to another date this year.” Christian Entsfellner, Chair of the German Amateur Radio Club (DARC), adds: “Our members, domestic and foreign guests, and we ourselves have been hit hard by this decision, which now became necessary to make on short notice. Until we get together again in Friedrichshafen, we as amateur radio operators are looking forward to keeping in contact with one another using amateur radio.” However, radio amateurs do not have to do without everything the Ham Radio fair normally has to offer: On the Ham Radio website, exhibitors will be presenting product innovations in the form of a virtual trade fair. DARC will also be offering presentations there. The exhibitors, visitors, and partners involved are currently being informed about this opportunity.

Thank you for sharing this, Harald! Not a surprising development, but sad nonetheless. I assume Covid-19 might also lead to the closure of Ham Fair 2020 in Tokyo.

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Icom IC-705 delivery delayed

Please note this is a cross-post from our sister site, the SWLing Post.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans, who writes:

As you’d expect, Icom has formally delayed the delivery schedule of the IC-705.

Here’s the announcement from Icom Japan: https://www.icom.co.jp/news/4720/

The following is a machine translation of the announcement:

“Thank you very much for your patronage of ICOM products.

We have received reservations from a large number of customers about the IC-705, a 10W walkie-talkie with HF~430MHz all-mode, which was scheduled to be released in late March 2020. Some of the parts involved in the production of the product are delayed due to the new coronavirus issue, and production has been delayed due to this.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused to all of you who are looking forward to our products.

As for the delivery of the product, because it is a situation in which the arrival schedule of the part does not stand now, I will guide it separately as soon as it turns out.

We will take a while to deliver it, but we will do our best to deliver it as soon as possible, so please understand us.”

Thanks for sharing this, Paul. No doubt, delays are due to the affects of Covid-19 on both manufacturing in Japan and throughout the IC-705 supply chain.

For updates, bookmark the tag IC-705.

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K-5589: Attempting rare POTA activation Tuesday

If you’re involved with the Parks On The Air program, you may be interested in a park I plan to activate on Tuesday, February 25, 2020.

I plan to activate K-5589, Seneca State Forest in West Virginia.

I thought I’d give a heads-up here in case you need this park–it’s only been activated once before and only a handful of contacts logged.

I plan to start around 22:00 UTC (Feb 25). Time is approximate as this activation will take place after a long day of driving. This activation is in the middle of the National Radio Quiet Zone thus I will have no mobile phone reception to self-spot or provide tips to chasers. I do have approval from the NRQZ coordinator to operate, however.

I will pack my Elecraft KX2 and Mission RGO One transceivers. I plan to deploy a long wire antenna with the idea that perhaps I can serve up 80 meters as well. I will also bring the W4OP loop in the unlikely event I’m not allowed to use a tree to support my wire antenna (this would certainly restrict me to 40 and 20 meters).

Look for me on 3,986, 7,286, and 14,286 kHz.

If, for some reason, I can’t activate this site due to access, I will attempt to activate K-1808 (Cass Scenic Railroad State Park) instead. Both are rare.

If time allows, I’ll attempt both!

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Silent Key: Marshall Emm (N1FN) owner of Morse Express, Oak Hills Research and Ameco

Many thanks to Dennis (K2DCD) who shares the following from the Fireflies QRP Group:

We are sad to announce that Marshall Emm, N1FN – long time QRP advocate, owner of Morse Express, Oak Hills Research and Ameco – is a Silent Key. Marshall passed away peacefully Monday morning, February 17, 2020, at Aurora CO Medical Center with his daughters and wife surrounding him. When more details are available, we will post a more comprehensive announcement. Our thoughts and prayers are with Marshall’s family. Messages, thoughts, stories can be sent to COLORADOQRPCLUB@GMAIL.COM.

Dick AB0CD.

Thank you for sharing this sad news, Dennis. Rest In Peace, Marshall.

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Icom IC-705 demo and pricing

Many thanks to QRPer, Pete (WB9FLW), who shares the following sneak peek video of the new IC-705 transceiver from Amateur Logic TV with guest Ray Novak from Icom America:

Pete also notes that Ham Radio Outlet’s price has been announced a the 2020 Orlando Hamcation. According to two members of the group, the pre-order price at Hamcation is $1,175 US–the price will increase $100 after Hamcation.

Availability is still unknown: retailers and Icom have not committed to firm delivery date yet other than noting it will be sometime in 2020.

Thanks, again, Pete for the tip!

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Draft of new ARRL HF Bandplans

(Source: Southgate ARC)

The HF Bandplanning committee has been looking at the HF digital mode segments and has issued a new draft bandplan

In their report the committee say:

“Conflicts have surfaced about interference among digital segments of HF bandplans.  The situation was referred to the HF Bandplanning Committee for consideration and recommendations to increase harmony.”  

“The group considered a variety of positions on the issues, and developed the recommendations below.  In general, the Committee agrees that the recent, extreme popularity of digital modes is likely to continue or accelerate.  FT8 as a mode is the poster child for the rapid and extreme rise in popularity that is possible with the new digital modes.  We expect more of this evolution in the future.  Along with digital modes, there has been an increase in automatically controlled digital stations (ACDS). We believe this trend will continue as well.”

“In general, the committee is of the opinion that there is justification for additional space to become available for digital modes, as well as for the operation of digital stations under automatic control.”

Read the HF Bandplanning Committee report at this link

Draft HF Bandplan – Click here

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On The Air: ARRL’s excellent magazine for newcomers…only available behind their paywall

Cover of the new “On The Air” e-magazine from the ARRL

[Please note: this is a cross-post from our sister site, the SWLing Post.]

Today, the ARRL released their new electronic magazine for ham radio newcomers: On The Air.

The ARRL describes On The Air‘s mission:

“On the Air magazine is the newest ARRL member benefit to help new licensees and beginner-to-intermediate radio communicators navigate the world of amateur radio. Delivered six times a year, the magazine will present articles, how-to’s, and tips for selecting equipment, building projects, getting involved in emergency communication as well as spotlighting the experiences of people using radio to serve their communities, and those using it for enjoyment.”

I checked out On The Air and was quite pleased with the scope of the magazine. The first issue covers topics such as: understanding the ionosphere, choosing your first radio, building simple antennas, and much more. I love the fact that the articles are written with newcomers in mind, too; less technical jargon and more explanations.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been teaching a ham radio class to a group of high school students. Most of the students have now acquired their Technician licenses, and we’re even plotting a General class course for the fall.

Last month, I shared some copies of QST (the ARRL monthly member magazine) with my students. While they enjoyed looking through the pages of QST, many told me they simply didn’t understand the articles yet…There’s just not a lot inside a QST issue to grab the attention of a fifteen or sixteen year old who’s just gotten her ticket. Understandable.

Then, I learned about On The Air from a friend with the ARRL.  I was so glad to hear that the League was finally making a bi-monthly magazine aimed squarely at newcomers! I was also pleased it was an e-publication, because it will be that much easier to share with my class and propagate to prospective students.

But today, I discovered, to my dismay, that other than the premier issue, On The Air is for ARRL members only. Here’s a screen grab from the website:

But…”for members only”––?

Alas, in limiting access, the ARRL has essentially insured that most of their target audience won’t ever have the opportunity to read On The Air, and thus they’ve crippled the best ARRL recruitment tool I’ve ever seen. 

What a shame.

I’ve contacted my ARRL representative and asked that they reconsider the decision to hide this brilliant magazine behind a membership paywall. I’m pretty sure that ad revenue and membership fees could readily cover the cost of publishing this electronic edition. After all, On The Air could lead to a lot more ARRL members! And, indeed, I hope it will.

If you feel as I do, please contact your ARRL Section manager. It may be that those making the decisions are, in this case, a little out of touch with the future of amateur radio.

Update – To be clear about this post: I’m not implying anything bad about the ARRL here, I just think it’s a lost opportunity if they keep future editions of On The Air behind the member pay wall. I imagine that ad revenue alone could more than support this niche publication if they simply release it as a free PDF. The real benefit, though, could be an increase in ARRL membership as On The Air readers get a taste of what the League could offer! In other words: this is an opportunity!

What do you think? Should On The Air be free to anyone interested in amateur radio, or for members only? Please comment!

Posted in Articles, Hams, News | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

The uBITX V6 is a power outage companion

QRPer Readers: Please note that the following is a cross-post from my other radio blog, the SWLing Post. For more information about the uBITX V6 and a short post about assembling it, check out this post.


Yesterday, a weather front moved through the area that dropped temperatures from an unseasonably high of 50F to 25F in the space of a couple of hours.  Fronts like this always equate to high winds here at our altitude. This time, it packed a little snow as well.

Last night, around 22:00 local, our power went out due to a fallen tree further down the road.

Here at SWLing Post HQ, we don’t panic about power outages. As I’ve mentioned before, our refrigerator, freezer and some of our home lighting is solar-powered and off-grid–we also rely on passive solar heating and a good wood stove to keep us warm and cozy.

Without fail, I always use power outages as an excuse to play radio on battery power.

This morning, the uBITX V6 transceiver was already hooked up to a LiFePo battery on my desktop, so I simply turned it on and started tuning around the 40 meter band, where I had recently logged a few POTA contacts. Problem was, the band was absolutely dead, save a couple weak stations. After thinking about it a few seconds (keep in mind this was pre-coffee) I put on my boots and coat, walked outside and confirmed my suspicions: the antenna feedline had become detached from my external ATU box.

The winds were strong enough last night, that the ladder line pulled itself out of the banana connector jacks on the side of the ATU box. This happens quite often during periods of high winds and is a bit annoying. Of course, I could secure the feedline in such a way that it would easily survive high winds without disconnecting, but frankly this is an intentional design choice. You see, when a black bear walks into my feedline, it easily disconnects before the bear gets tangled, up, frustrated and yanks my antenna out of the tree!

Trust me on this: bears and antennas don’t mix. I speak from experience.

After re-connecting the antenna, I fired up my portable alcohol stove (the one you might have seen in this post), boiled water, and made a fresh cup of coffee to take back to the shack.

I turned on the uBITX once again and found that the 40 meter band was chock-full of strong signals.

It’s time to go chase a few more parks today and plot my next POTA activation.

Frankly, I’m in no hurry for the power to be restored.  It’s a wonderful excuse to play radio.

Readers: Anyone else enjoy radio time when the grid goes down? Please comment!


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Posted in Kits, News, QRP | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

TK0C 2019 Contest Video

Many thanks to Paul (W4/VP9KF), who shares the following:

Having almost become a TK resident, this is one of the best ever contest
videos ever:

I recognise their QTH and so wish I’d been there!!!!!!

Thanks for sharing this, Paul! An amazing amount of effort was certainly put into this contest and no doubt it paid off!

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