Tuesday, October 9, 2018

FCC Cracks Down on Uncertified VHF/UHF Gear, With Hams Caught in the Middle

The FCC has issued a broad warning to importers, retailers and users of certain "low-cost two-way VHF/UHF radios that do not comply with the FCC's (equipment certification) rules … and are frequently imported into the United States." These include some brands and models that are popular among hams. The FCC points out that devices that operate "only on frequencies that the FCC has allocated for use by Amateur Radio Service licensees, it does not require FCC equipment authorization, and an amateur licensee may use his or her license to operate such radios." However, the same paragraph notes that "(i)f a two-way VHF/UHF radio is capable of operating outside of the amateur frequency bands, it cannot be imported, advertised, sold, or operated with the United States without an FCC equipment certification." (emphasis added)
This leaves hams in a quandary – the traditional FCC view on radios capable of operating outside the amateur bands has been that they're OK for hams to use within the amateur bands and on authorized frequencies outside the ham bands, such as those used for MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) operation. This new memo, however, suggests that no one, including hams, may legally use these radios at all, if they are capable of operating outside the ham bands. The ARRL says it is in discussions with FCC enforcement officials to try to clarify the situation.