Tuesday, April 13, 2021

New FCC RF Exposure Rules Take Effect May 3

Back in 2019, the FCC adopted new rules relating to radio frequency (RF) exposure levels which ended amateur radio's categorical exemption making station evaluations. (The exposure limits have not changed, just the methods used to make measurements and the elimination of categorical exemptions.) The rules were not implemented immediately in order to give hams and other licensees time to figure out how to meet the new requirements. Time's up. The new rules take effect on May 3 and affect all of us. Here are key points relating to amateur stations, according to the ARRL:

* Existing stations have an additional two years in which to determine whether an evaluation is required (and if it is, to do it);

* New stations or existing stations that are modified in a way that affects RF exposure (such as putting up a new tower or antenna) must comply with the new rules before being put into service.

There are still exemptions, and some amateur stations may qualify. You now need to determine that on an individual basis. The ARRL is offering to help hams make the necessary determinations and has made its RF Exposure and You book available for free download from the ARRL website. The League is also working with the FCC to update its official guidance in "OET Bulletin 65" and is developing tools for hams to use in performing exposure assessments.


Put Away the Checkbook (For Now)


The FCC is not yet collecting the newly-enacted $35 fee for most amateur license applications. According to the ARRL Letter, the original effective date of the new fees has been delayed until at least this summer, and only after "requisite notice has been provided to Congress, the FCC's information technology systems and internal procedures have been updated, and the Commission publishes notice(s) in the Federal Register announcing the effective date." 

Once in effect, the fee will apply to all new and upgraded licenses, renewals, call sign changes and other less-common applications. Purely administrative changes, such as a change of mailing or email address, will not be charged the new fee. Note: The ARRL says the license fees will not be collected at license exam sessions, but rather will be paid separately, directly to the FCC. Exam fees will still apply for those Volunteer Examiner Coordinators that charge them.

NOAA Redefines "Average" Hurricane Season

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is redefining what constitutes an "average" Atlantic hurricane season, based on the average number of storms in the past 30 years. 

The previous 30-year average was 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. The "new normal," according to NOAA, will be 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and (still) 3 major hurricanes. NOAA says the averages for the eastern and central Pacific regions will not be changing.

Bouvet DXpedition Planned for Early 2023

Bouvet Island is the number two most wanted DX entity and the Intrepid DX Group is planning a DXpedition to the island in January 2023. A team of 14 hams plans to spend 20 days on Bouvet and is hoping for 14-16 days of good radio activity using the call sign 3Y0J, according to Intrepid. 

The group also notes that the trip will be very expensive (over $760,000), and while the participants will be providing much of the funding, support from the DX community will be needed to make the trip a reality. 

The Northern California DX Foundation and the International DX Association (INDEXA) are already providing support. For details, visit the 3Y0J website at <www.3y0j.com>. [Update: the DX column in the June 2021 issue of CQ will be devoted to the 3Y0J DXpedition]

Friedrichshafen "Ham Radio" Show Cancelled Again


The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has forced the organizers of the annual "Ham Radio" exhibition in Friedrichshafen, Germany, to cancel this year's event.

Friedrichshafen is the largest hamfest in Europe and second only to the Dayton Hamvention® in attendance. The next Ham Radio show in Germany is now scheduled for June 24-26, 2022.

"Last Man Standing" Special Event a Huge Success

A special event to mark the end of taping of the final season of the "Last Man Standing" television series ended up with more than 85,000 contacts in all 50 states and 138 countries. According to Newsline, the operation ran from March 24-30 and involved guest operators around the country. 

The comedy featured a ham radio station as part of its set and occasionally part of the script. "Last Man Standing" starred Tim Allen, KK6OTD, as fictional amateur Mike Baxter, KA0XTT. 

The station on the set was fully functional and was frequently put on the air during breaks in shooting by licensed crew members and visiting hams. John Amodeo, AA6JA, was the program's executive producer.

YOTA Plans Trio of Sprint-Type Contests

Europe's Youngsters on the Air (YOTA) program will be sponsoring a new series of sprint-type contests in which the age of the operator you work determines the point value of the contact. According to the ARRL Letter, there will be three 12-hour events this year – May 22, 0800-1959 UTC; July 17, 1000-2159 UTC; and December 30, 1200-2359 UTC. 

The contest exchange will be the age of each operator and a greater point value will be assigned to the youngest operators. Modes will be CW and SSB only, with contest contacts permitted on 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meters. For more information, visit the YOTA Region 1 contest page at <https://ham-yota.com/contest>.

Is FT8 Taking Over?

Club Log reports that the FT8 digital mode continues to grow in popularity and is now the mode of choice for 60% of HF operators. 

According to the ARRL Letter, the growth has come at the expense of contacts made using traditional modes. The report draws on data from more than 84,000 logs uploaded to Club Log, representing some 730 million contacts. Looking back to 2015, Club Log reports that the "typical call sign" at that time made 620 CW contacts, 558 SSB QSOs and 372 digital Qs. In 2020, those numbers were 500 CW, 300 SSB and 1700 digital. 

FT8 was introduced in 2017 and permits contacts to be made even when signals audibly are below the noise level. (It will be interesting to see if the trend continues as solar cycle 25 rises, with more band openings that make SSB and CW QSOs easier to complete. – ed.)

ARISS-USA Granted Tax-Exempt Status


The ARISS-USA organization - which coordinates the US portion of the Amateur Radio on the Internationl Space Station program - has been granted tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status by the Internal Revenue Service. 

This means that donations to the group are now tax-deductible in the U.S. The ARRL Letter reports that the action is retroactive to May 21, 2020.