Could a new Entry Level Licence boost VHF/UHF activity?

Found this interesting article on Southgate ARC.  Although the story is relating mainly to the UK and parts of Europe I wonder if this could happen here?  Is it happening here already?  The other big question if it’s happening here does anybody  care?  The article points out how repeaters are under used.  Well we have seen that happen here also.  I’ve left the comment section open what do you think?
Activity on the 144 MHz and higher bands is at its lowest for decades at a time when commercial interests are prepared to pay £1 million per MHz annually for spectrum

In 2016 the RSGB VHF Manager’s report noted: “The general level of 432 MHz activity continues to cause concern with many repeaters remaining unused for much of the day.”
http://rsgb.org/main/files/2016/11/5.2_VHF-Managers-report_Oct2016.pdf

In many parts of the country even 144 MHz activity has dropped alarmingly compared to the 1990s, SSB, FM Simplex and even Repeaters can be very quiet for much of the time.

The decline in VHF/UHF activity is not just a UK phenomena, a 72 hour monitoring exercise in Sweden revealed a similar pattern, see
http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2018/may/study-of-ham-radio-in-sweden.htm

At the same time as this decline in amateur activity we have seen a rapidly growing commercial interest in UHF and Microwave spectrum. The sums that commercial operators are prepared to pay are eye-watering, up to £1 million per MHz per year.
http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2018/june/revised-fees-for-mobile-operators-to-use-900-and-1800-mhz-spectrum.htm

In recent years we have seen significant losses of amateur spectrum and there’s a fear of more losses. What can be done to save our valuable VHF/UHF/uW allocations? – Use it or Lose it.

One approach would be the introduction of a new Entry Level Licence class that permitted low power (e.g. 10 watts) operation on 144 MHz and all the higher frequency bands.

Some might reasonably say “isn’t the Foundation licence Entry Level?” but when you read the ITU Recommendation M.1544 that details the minimum requirements for an Amateur licence you can see that the current UK Foundation is set at a much higher level. A new Foundation syllabus and exam are expected to be introduced in the later half of 2019, this will set the bar even higher.

We sometimes forget how much the Foundation exam has changed over the years. When it was first introduced in 2002 the exam comprised just 20 questions and took 30 minutes to complete. The current exam is 26 questions in 55 minutes (there are of course 12 practical exercises to successfully complete as well).

The “scope creep” in Foundation means it is no longer realistic to run a course over just a weekend, many so-called “weekend courses” now include part of Friday or else require the candidate to have done some study prior to the course commencing.

If the requirements for a new entry level 144 MHz and Above licence were set at the minimum level needed to meet ITU Rec M.1544 it should be possible to teach it to absolute beginners in about 7 hours, followed by a 20 question 30 minute exam. This would enable a complete course to be taught during weekend Youth events such as Jamboree On The Air and attendees could leave the event with the necessary qualification for an amateur licence.

Unlike the other levels there would be no compulsion to do this course before Foundation, people could chose at which level they wished to join the hobby either at 144 MHz and Above or take the full Foundation for the lower bands. Foundation should of course have access to all the higher bands as well.

Over the past decade we have seen the increasing use by Experimenters of licence-exempt UHF/Microwave spectrum. Once if somebody wished to carry out wireless experiments they would get an amateur licence, not anymore, it seems these days keen hobbyists are putting together their own equipment for the licence-exempt bands, using SDR technology in many cases, and establishing their own wireless networks. Experimenters are a group we should be encouraging  to join amateur radio, a 144 MHz and Above licence may be the way to achieve it.

ITU Rec M.1544 minimum qualifications of radio amateurs
https://www.itu.int/rec/R-REC-M.1544-1-201509-I/en

Trevor M5AKA

 

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2 thoughts on “Could a new Entry Level Licence boost VHF/UHF activity?

  1. One of the things I think is causing the decline is that mobile phones and computers pretty much pushed amateur radio to the side. That said, I know well that when the proverbial crap hits the fan the only thing that does work is amateur radio gear.

    de kd1s

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more. Like many other things computers and cell phones have pushed to one side amateur Radio. I guess the real question lies with the younger generation. Are they really interested in preserving this hobby or are us older people who have been in the hobby for along time don’t want to admit the end is in sight?

    Liked by 1 person

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