Date : 03 / 07 / 2017
Author : Jim Linton – VK3PC
Following a public review the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has re-set the US General Class Licence as equivalent to Australia’s middle grade Standard Licence. This change has been made to the ACMA ‘Tables of Equivalent Qualifications and Licences’ which lists Australian equivalents to overseas amateur qualifications. Visiting radio amateurs and those from overseas who are residents in Australia, are granted an Australian licence based on their overseas qualification identified on the ACMA website.
In another review, the ACMA in September last year re-set the US Technician Licence to be equivalent to the entry level Foundation Licence. It had ruled that the qualification equivalency of the US Technician Licence granted after 22 September 2016, be that of the entry level Australian Foundation Licence. Previously it had been granted the top class Advanced Licence. Among those agreeing with the ACMA re-set was the American Radio Relay League that stated that the US Technician Class Licence was very close to the Foundation Licence, but not higher (It was downgraded in 1999). Existing licensees who obtained their Advanced Licence based on the US Technician Licence were grandfathered and the ACMA would allow them to continue to operate at the Advanced Level.
The ACMA, in the just completed review, said: “These changes are due to changes to the US licence structure which resulted in a misalignment between Australian and USA equivalent qualifications.” The review received two submissions. One was from the WIA who was made aware of the issue by a US Volunteer Examiner (VE) and others that there was concern the US General Licence was inappropriate to Australian Amateur Licence examination standards. This view was supported by the WIA Board.
The WIA believed that the standard of some of the foreign country exams had changed in recent years, and no longer reflected equivalence to Australian Amateur Radio qualifications. The WIA Board had analysed the US General Licence question bank in relation to where each question would fit into the Australian Amateur Radio Syllabus. Basically, the WIA found it had a single theory and regulations paper of 30 questions (21 needed for a pass), compared to Australia’s Standard Licence 50 question theory paper (35), 30 question regulations paper (21), and a 20 question practical test with a 100% pass mark. The other submission received believed the US General Licence was close to the Advanced examination, and the US Technician Licence (re-set to Foundation Licence equivalent in 2016) should result in the granting of a Standard Licence.
The ACMA assessed both submissions in its US General Licence review, and the one it held last year on the US Technician Licence, on the relative levels of each qualification, and the outcomes related to the level of knowledge that was the best fit for each class of licence. While the ACMA held its recent review, it froze all US General Licence applications and advised the WIA to not accept callsign recommendations after 26 April 2017 on that qualification.
Now that the ACMA review is complete, those people with a US General Licence submitted to the WIA after that date (26 April 2017) will be eligible for the Standard Licence. The issue of equivalency was first raised by the WIA with the ACMA in late 2015, and has resulted in the two reviews involving a public consultation process. The ACMA consultation on the US General Licence may be read here.