Danger! A no-fee Amateur licence could mean no service

image_1_hiresFrom the WIA, original post here.

Date : 02 / 10 / 2015
Author : Jim Linton – VK3PC

The WIA Board has become aware of a campaign, circulated by email, to lobby the new Minister for Communications to “review the pricing of amateur radio licences, to bring them into line with other countries”. WIA Director Roger Harrison VK2ZRH has responded to the proponents of this lobbying campaign, who are asking the Minister to direct the ACMA to drop Australian amateur licence fees to zero.

The other countries cited in the campaign email are the United States, where “amateurs are issued a licence for 10 years, requiring revalidation after expiry, with no fee”; the United Kingdom, where “amateurs are issued a licence for life requiring revalidation five-yearly, with no fee”; and “in New Zealand, amateurs are licensed under a General Users Licence, with no fee”.

The campaign suggests writing a personal letter to the Minister in your own words, arguing that amateur radio’s past and possible role in disaster communications deserves to be valued, as it is in “many countries of the world”, then citing the three examples (US, UK and New Zealand), along with the argument that a large number of Australian amateurs are pensioners, for whom “the annual licence fee has seen some simply abandon their hobby due to the cost, and to the detriment of the nation”.

At first blush, said Roger VK2ZRH, the proponents of this lobbying campaign seem to have the interests of Australian radio amateurs at heart, particularly those living on a pension. So, when Senator the Honourable Mitch Fifield, the Minister for Communications, receives a letter along the lines advocated, an advisor in his office will likely ask one of the Departmental Liaison Officers what it’s all about, VK2ZRH explains. The DLO will be able to tell the Minister’s advisor that the ACMA already reduced the amateur licence annual renewal fee in April this year, from $75 to $51. The Minister’s advisor might also be told that amateur radio isn’t exactly a low-cost hobby, like stamp collecting, when even second-hand amateur transceivers sell for prices between $250 to $2000, and many new transceivers are priced from $2000 to over $10,000.

While well-meaning, a lobbying campaign along the lines being advocated is unlikely to make much of an impression within the Minister’s office, says VK2ZRH, let alone with the Minister. And not for the two reasons just highlighted. At this point, Roger VK2ZRH explains that his day job for the past 15 years has involved dealing with correspondence to ministers . . . composing, editing and coordinating responses to letters from the public, other politicians, companies and all sorts of stakeholders.

With many years of experience in dealing with ministerial correspondence, Roger VK2ZRH said that, each letter for the minister to sign in response is accompanied by a briefing note, setting out the background to whatever issue or issues an author has written about, and justifying the content of the letter the minister might sign. Writing to government ministers is a huge industry in voter land. Government departments have special units that compose responses for their ministers to sign; sometimes a minister’s office will ask the department to respond instead of the minister.

Before entering the world of ministerial correspondence, Roger VK2ZRH was involved with various lobbying groups attempting to influence the policies or decisions of ministers and governments. Not always successfully, he says. A prime lesson learnt was the need to do the homework on the subject – know as much as possible about government and political processes, the how and why of things. Some homework, he suggests, is needed about why we pay amateur licence fees in Australia and why the arguments being advocated by the current lobbyists are not likely to succeed.

In Australia, it is government policy that all spectrum users pay a tax for the use of spectrum – even defence; that is, the armed forces.Spectrum is a resource. The resource is a public good. It isn’t consumed when used, as minerals are, for example. There is a cost for “looking after” the public interest in the use of spectrum. Use of it is allocated and regulated by a complex set of arrangements, arising from both local and international inputs. As you would be aware, the ACMA has a large role here.

However, the ACMA does not set the fees. This is done by a combination of the Department of Communications, the Department of Finance and the ACMA. The ACMA is responsible for the administrative component of the fees that funds spectrum planning and monitoring, regulatory investigations and the like, along with ITU and World Radiocommunications Conference activities, plus the costs associated with management of the licensing data and issuing of licences. The Amateur Service pays its way, along with everyone else.

To introduce a no-fee amateur licence risks a much lower – or no – service from the ACMA, explains Roger VK2ZRH. Arguing to drop amateur licence fees based on amateur radio’s role in emergency communications – “when all else fails” – no longer has traction in the halls of government in Australia.

Amateur involvement in community service may get some recognition, given the significant number of sporting-type activities that rely on amateur radio for safety communications. But not enough to justify a no-fee licence on the basis of volunteer activities. Citing the licence fee situation in other countries will not hold water as the argument does not compare like-with-like in terms of political and government policy, processes and spectrum regulation regimes.

So three countries have no amateur licence fees – what about the other 150-odd countries that allow amateur radio operation and charge licence fees?  Someone in the Minister’s office is likely to ask that question. What answer is there to that?  The NZART has told the WIA that they and many radio amateurs in New Zealand regret the introduction of the no-fee licence there.

Here, amateur radio gets a seat at the table when it comes to negotiating changes in legislation and regulations – locally and internationally. Over the years, the Australian radio amateur community has benefitted as a result, Roger VK2ZRH explains.

Do you want to give that up for the sake of a fee-free licence, he asks?

Digipeater Update and Meeting Reminder

FM828Hello All!

Henry filed this report from today’s trip to the mountain:

The VK2RPM-1 Middle Brother APRS digipeater is now back in service. The replacement radio transceiver for the digipeater was installed on Friday the 2nd of October and the digipeater is performing well.

Thank you to Lyle VK2SMI, Arthur VK2ATM and Henry VK2ZHE for installing the radio and placing the digipeater back in service. Fortunately, the weather on site remained fine while the work was carried out.

Also, just a reminder that the monthly general meeting is on tomorrow, 3rd October, at 2pm – see you there!

Big sunspot with flares

From ARVIC, original story here.sunspot30092015

Sunspot AR2422 with M-class solar flares is promising some good propagation with HF openings already being reported.

The propagation forecasts are that 10m will be good, and if conditions turn out as predicted this weekend should see many stations on 40m.

Whether you are chasing DX or joining the Oceania DX Contest there is expected to be plenty of stations on air.

For up to date information visit Space Weather http://spaceweather.com

Oceania DX Contests begin this weekend

From the WIA, original story here:Oceania Contest

Date : 30 / 09 / 2015
Author : Jim Linton – VK3PC

Held every October are the Oceania DX Contests – first this weekend is the Phone Contest, and on the following weekend CW. The latest reports of sunspot numbers indicate that suitable propagation should exist this weekend.

The Oceania DX Contests are co-sponsored by the Wireless Institute of Australia and the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters – and managed by a committee of VK and ZL contesters. It has been around since the mid-1930s, was previously called as the VK/ZL Contest, and the VK/ZL/O Contest. At one stage, reflecting then on poor participation, the VK/ZL/O was to end. That proposal was discussed, put the vote, and the WIA Federal Council soundly rejected its demise.

After further promotion, it was renamed 15 years ago to increase participation and focus on the entire Oceania Region. One avid contester describes the Oceania DX Contest as a time when the whole world points their beam antennas and listens to Oceania for 24 hours.

The Phone Contest starts on Saturday October 3, and the CW Contest is Saturday October 10, with all logs due by October 31. As always, please study the rules and requirements, available on the WIA website.

Please see our detailed post on the contests here.

China Successfully Launches Nine Amateur Radio Satellites

ARRL SatelliteVia ARRL, original story here.

After being postponed several times, nine Chinese satellites carrying Amateur Radio payloads were launched on September 19 at 2300 UTC, separating from the Long March launch vehicle about 15 minutes later.  China Amateur Satellite Group CAMSAT CEO Alan Kung, BA1DU, has said that four of the microsatellites and two of the CubeSats included in the launch have been designated as XW-2A through XW-2F.  The other three satellites — a CubeSat, a nanosatellite, and a picosatellite — carry the designations CAS-3G, CAS-3H (LilacSat-2), and CAS-3I (NUDT-Phone-Sat), respectively.  All of the new satellites have downlinks on 2 meters and uplinks on 70 centimetres.  Satellite enthusiasts have been enjoying the sudden surfeit of spacecraft to work.

“So many signals, so little time,” was the observation on the AMSAT-BB from Alan Biddle, WA4SCA, who lives just south of Nashville.

“Very good copy on CAS-3 CW beacons on [XW-2] A, B, C, D, E, F. Strong!” Clayton Coleman, W5PFG, reported from Texas.  Not long after launch time, W5PFG and fellow Texan Glenn Miller, AA5PK, worked each other via CAS-3F.  He reported the CW beacons were strong on all of the CAMSAT satellites.  The CW beacons carry individual call signs for the satellites as well as telemetry in the form of three-character text groups and the word “CAMSAT.”

“CAMSAT will release decoding documents for CW beacon and telemetry very soon,” said Kung.

Edward Chuang, BX1AD, in Taiwan, posted to the AMSAT-BB the text he copied on September 20 at 0938 UTC from XW-2A through XW2-F:

bj1sb dfh xw2 xw2 aaa rtt rur rur ruv tnv r6i rmk rrn ttt rmn tkt rdr ttt ttt 6it ttt tti ttt ttt 6rk vtt camsat camsat

bj1sc dfh xw2 xw2 aaa rtt rrm ru6 rui tnn r6i rmi rrk ttt rk6 tvn rer ttt ttt 6it ttt tti ttt ttt 6uk vtt camsat camsat

bj1sd dfh xw2 xw2 aaa rtt rrn rrm rui tnr r6v rmn rur ttt rk4 t4m eur ttt ttt urt ttt tti ttt ttt uvk vtt camsat camsat

bj1se dfh xw2 xw2 aaa rtt rur rur ruv tmt r6i rnt rur ttt rmt tii far ttt ttt mkt ttt tti ttt ttt t4k vtt camsat camsat

bj1sf dfh xw2 xw2 aaaa irbc kbkc aink iua6 ur6f 64ck aaid vbim im4d 4e4c 4dtt tttt tttt tfn4 tttt kbt4 ikkm dddd dddd dddd dddd dddd dddd camsat camsat

bj1sg dfh xw2 xw2 aaaa iubs kf6t ain4 4fcd tttt 6i4k ari4 4ci6 ik4f 4d4b 4ett tttt tttt tbn4 tttt 4ct4 6kim dddd dddd dddd dddd dddd dddd camsat camsat

The satellites also have been heard in Europe.  “Good signals from CAS3-F at 0700 UTC,” reported David Bowman, G0MRF, who was at the Rugby World Cup special event station GB0RWC.  He reported contacts with SP5ULN and F1AFZ.

The XW-2 satellites also have been heard in South America and in Southeast Asia.  “I received CW beacon from XW-2 during 1108 UTC pass, including CAS-3A, CAS-3B, CAS-3C, and CAS-3D, maximum elevation 72° over Bangkok, Thailand,” Karn Suwanrat, E20ZFD/AA1AF reported on September 20.  He has posted a YouTube video.

“Wow, impressive to see all six satellites via SDR on a 4° degree pass,” enthused Mark Hammond, N8MH, in North Carolina. “Bravo, CAMSAT and Alan! Congratulations on a wonderful start of mission.”

Information on all of the just-launched CAMSAT satellites is available on the ARRL website.  XW2 predictions are available on the AMSAT website.