TRENDS IN AMATEUR RADIO LICENSING OVER THE PAST TEN YEARS
The bottom line: There are substantially more General and Extra Class licensees than ten years ago. And far fewer Advanced and Novice Class operators. The number of Technician Class licensees has pretty much stayed the same. FCC rulemaking changes are responsible for the rearrangement to higher class licences. Here are the numbers:
- - - - - - CENSUS OF RADIOAMATEURS BY LICENSE CLASS - - - - - -
Year End - - - Extra - - - Advan - - - Gen - - - Tech - - - Novice - - - TOTAL
Mar-2007 - - 109,010 - - 68,496 - 134,173 - 318,838 - 22,467 - - 652,984
Dec-2006 - - 108,223 - - 69,915 - 131,224 - 323,073 - 23,633 - - 656,068
Dec-2005 - - 107,440 - - 74,221 - 135,067 - 319,125 - 26,747 - - 662,600
Dec-2004 - - 106,090 - - 77,948 - 138,292 - 319,742 - 29,765 - - 671,837
Dec-2003 - - 104,894 - - 82,034 - 141,498 - 322,821 - 32,812 - - 684,059
Dec-2002 - - 103,257 - - 84,326 - 139,848 - 321,805 - 36,072 - - 685,308
Dec-2001 - - - 97,977 - - 86,545 - 138,625 - 319,735 - 40,155 - - 683,037
Dec-2000 - - - 93,807 - - 88,783 - 134,144 - 319,874 - 45,632 - - 682,240
Dec-1999 - - - 75,392 - 103,471 - 110,386 - 335,768 - 52,375 - - 677,392
Dec-1998 - - - 74,669 - 103,592 - 111,513 - 326,432 - 57,617 - - 673,823
Dec-1997 - - - 73,949 - 105,835 - 114,877 - 317,676 - 64,169 - - 676,506
The total number of U.S. radio amateurs with unexpired licenses increased from 1997 to 2002 and then began to decline. The biggest increase (about 5,000) was in 2000, the same year that the FCC restructured the hobby. There are, however, less total amateurs than ten years ago. The advent of the no-code Technician (in 1991) and restructuring (2000) has not increased the total number of radioamateurs as had been hoped.
As of April 15, 2000, no new Advanced, Tech Plus, or Novice Licenses were issued by the FCC and Technician Plus renewals were assigned Technician licenses. Although these licenses could be renewed, this effectively reduced the number of classes from six to three. The number of license examinations decreased from eight to four.
Eliminated also in 2000 were the 13 and 20 words-per-minute Morse code exams - only a single 5 wpm requirement remained. This caused a dramatic increase in the number of General and Extra Class licensees ...and a corresponding decrease in the number of Technician and Advanced Class amateurs who no longer had to pass an additional telegraphy test.
Amateurs who qualified for the Technician Class license prior to March 21, 1987, were able to upgrade to the General Class by providing documentary proof to a VE team.
The Novice Class continued its decline which began in 1991 when the FCC adopted the code-free Technician ticket. Techs without taking a Morse code test were authorized to use all amateur VHF and UHF frequencies above 50 MHz and limited power on the 80, 40, and 15 meter bands using CW, and on a segment of the 10 meter band using CW, voice, and digital modes. Ten years ago there were almost as many Novices as Extra Class licensees. Today there are ten times more Extra Class operators than Novices.
Two recent FCC rulemakings (WT Dockets 04-140 and 05-235) expanding HF voice frequencies and eliminating all telegraphy testing is contributing to a 2007 increase in the number of Extra and General Class operators. We expect that trend to continue.
The FCC considers an Amateur Radio license to be active for 12 years: the 10 year license term plus the two year grace period. According the FCC records there are 711,000 individual radioamateurs (plus about 10,000 clubs) in the FCC database. Fifty-eight thousand of these - 8 percent of the total - are expired individual licenses. They consist of 7,000 Novices, 28,000 Techs, 12,000 Generals, 8,000 Advanced and 3,000 Extra Class licensees. These licenses will be dropped from the FCC database once the 2 year grace period expires.
FCC ISSUES FINES FOR SELLING NON-APPROVED RADIO TRANSMITTERS
The FCC is fining Charles E. Vance III, owner of CB Candy Electronics (Ontario, California) $14,000 for repeatedly marketing non-certified CB radios and external power amplifiers.
An agent from the FCC’s Los Angeles office visited the store’s website in 2005 and noted that it was offering for sale several types of illegal CB transceivers (including Galaxy and Connex models) and RF linear amplifiers (including those from Skipper, Palomar and Red Devil.)
CB radio transceivers are subject to a equipment authorization process and must be
certified and properly labeled prior to being marketed in the United States. Unlike CB radio transceivers, radios that transmit solely on Amateur Radio frequencies are not subject to FCC equipment approval. Amateur transceivers that transmit on the 10-meter ham band but incorporate built-in easy access to the CB bands also may not be sold.
Regulations also provide that “no person shall manufacture, sell or lease or offer for sale” any external radio frequency power amplifier or amplifier kit capable of operation on any frequency below 144 MHz unless the device has received a grant of type acceptance. None of the devices had received FCC equipment authorization.
A citation was issued on June 28, 2005, warning Vance that future violations would subject him to fines totaling up to $11,000 for each day of a violation, seizure of the equipment, and criminal sanctions including imprisonment. Vance’s attorney said he expected that the warning “would be withdrawn” but it was not.
On September 6, 2005, and again on February 3, 2006, FCC agents noted the website was still offering the illegal equipment for sale. On March 22, 2006, the FCC notified Vance that he was liable for a $14,000 fine. Counsel for Vance filed a response on May 4, 2006, stating he was unable to obtain a copy of the store’s password-protected catalog and refusal to provide him a copy was a denial of due process. The FCC didn't agree.
On March 14, 2007, the FCC affirmed its findings and ordered Charles E. Vance, III (doing business as CB Candy Electronics) to pay the $14,000 fine by April 16, 2007 or face action by the Department of Justice.
In a related action, Richard Mann who operates “The Antique Radio Collector” in Toledo, Ohio, has been socked with a $7,000 fine for selling uncertified AM radio transmitters. “Intentional radiators” operating under Part 15 of the Rules must be “certificated” by the Commission prior to sale.
On November 15, 2006, the FCC asked Mann to respond to the allegation that he was marketing fully-assembled AM transmitters ...specifically, the SSTRAN model AMT3000 AM transmitter. The Antique Radio Collector said that they were not aware that a “certification” was necessary. Mann said he purchased the transmitters in kit form from a third party and assembled them at his home and advertised them online at www.oldtimeradio.com. He said he had sold a number of them. Richard Mann was ordered to pay the fine by April 15, 2007.
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE K7DX VANITY CALL SIGN
The following anecdote dramatically indicates just how important a call sign is to some radioamateurs. 1-by-2 and 2-by-1 call signs in the 7th call district are unavailable and, as you might guess, there is a very big demand for them. Before December 15, 2006, it was legal for a single amateur to file multiple applications for the same call sign.
K7DX became available on December 16, 2005 and garnered a great many applications, But the interesting part is that a total of 656 of the applications came from only 9 amateurs! W7CF Mitchell B. Wolfson (Anaheim, California, ended up with K7DX after filing 110 applications. K7DX was assigned to him on January 10, 2006 He had to prepay about $2000 in FCC regulatory fees ...most of which he got back. (The system is: if your application is dismissed, you can apply for a refund. The FCC took in more than $10,000 in fees for this one call sign alone, only to have to return almost all of it.)
W7CE Clayton B.Curtiss (Lacey, WA) filed the most: 232 applications for K7DX. W7PU, the All Amateur Radio Club (Bellevue, WA) was second with 115, AB7SW Matthew D. Probert (Woodinville, WA) filed 46, WB7VVD Ward M. Wheaton (Tonopah, AZ) filed 21, W1NNI Karl E. Prinsen, Sr. (Worland, WY) filed 11, KD7RDY Caleb W. Gerbrandt (Lynden, WA) filed 10 as did KN7S Craig G. Weygandt (of Big Horn, WY.) W7PU, the All Amateur Radio Club filed another 101 on December 15 a day early. The statistics for this came from AE7Q who keeps track of things like this.
FCC ENFORCEMENT CASES INVOLVING AMATEUR RADIO
According to the local repeater coordinator, Richard S. Laing, WB2JPQ, of Eden, New York, is operating an uncoordinated repeater on 444.100 MHz that is causing interference. It seems that Laing moved his repeater several times which resulted in the loss of coordination. The FCC is now involved and wants to know if his repeater is indeed coordinated. And if so, the agency wants to be furnished a copy of the coordination document. The FCC also wants copies of any complaints Laing has received and a detailed description of the WB2JPQ repeater system configuration.
Bruce H. Williams, N2YHI, of Long Island City, NY, has been ordered by the trustee of the N6LUI repeater system (operating on 147.360, 223.940 and 447.825 MHz) to refrain from using those repeaters. The request was made because of Williams’ “...failure to follow operational rules set forth by the licensee/control operator.” The FCC said it expects Williams to abide by the request. “If you use the repeater again, we will initiate enforcement action against your license, which may include revocation, monetary forfeiture (fine) or a modification proceeding to restrict the frequencies on which you may operate N2YHI,” FCC said in a February 20, 2007 letter.
Oscar Resto, KP4RF, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is causing interference to the KP4IA repeater. Resto’s repeater is coordinated but the output signal is mixing with another signal. The frequency coordinator has found another frequency pair for the KP4RF repeater which Resto has declined. The FCC is holding him responsible for the interference and wants to know what action he is taking to solve the mixing problem.
Thorland J. Bristol, Jr., K1ACD, of Orange, Connecticut, is apparently operating with an expired Amateur Radio license. His llcense expired July 5, 2005, and (at this writing) still has not been renewed. The FCC warned him that operation without a license is a violation that carries criminal penalties including fines and imprisonment. “Monetary forfeitures normally range frm $7,500 to $10,000,” FCC said in their February 28th letter.