A Foundation Licence for VK?
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A New Kind of Amateur Licence?
The concept of a Foundation licence for radio amateurs first appeared in the UK during 2001, and was implemented in January 2002. The Foundation licence was designed to be a simpler entry point into the hobby, requiring only 10 hours of study and a simplified exam, which can be completed over a weekend. The idea was to make amateur radio more attractive to time strapped newcomers.
The Foundation licence has been very successful in the UK, with thousands of new licences being issued by the RA, and the Wireless Institute of Australia have been watching the developments with interest, and are looking at working towards getting a Foundation style licence introduced to Australia. Such a move, if properly managed, has the potential to transform our hobby.
The VK Foundation licence?
TAs you can guess, I support the concept of a Foundation licence, as it opens up new possibilities for the amateur service, if properly managed. Personally, I feel some attention needs to be made to tie the Foundation licence into some aspect of amateur radio. One area I see as having potential is the public service side, which includes WICEN, but can be incorporate activities such as severe weather spotting. My ideas are based around this premise.
The Foundation Licence According to VK3JED
As I mentioned above, the Foundation licence can serve two purposes - as an introduction to amateur radio, and as a source for potential new operators for WICEN and other public service activities.
Typically, the public service aspects of our hobby have a need for reliable regional communications, from 0 to 500km. This implies that a combination of lower HF and VHF bands would suit these purposes best. I've settled on the following:
80 metres (3.525 - 3.625 MHz SSB/CW). This is the Novice 80m segment, which provides reliable night time communications over the required distances. In addition, this segment is already allocated to Novices, and is the home of club and slow Morse nets.
40 metres (7.025 - 7.100 MHz SSB/CW). This is the "domestic" part of 40 metres, and is very good up to 600km during the day for base to mobile work, further for base-base.
2 metres (146 - 148 MHz FM, and possibly the packet segments as well) - 2m is the mainstay of VHF, and is commonly used for WICEN and other exercises. 2m also has an extensive repeater network, which is useful for emergency communications. 2 metres is also a popular band for club nets, and one of the "common bands" where all classes of licence can communicate with each other.
70cm (433-435 and 438-440 MHz FM and possibly packet). If 2 metres is opened up for Foundation licensees, then 70cm must be also. This is to prevent issues with IRLP and other linked repeater systems which will suddenly breach regulations, dur to linking restrictions. An alternative approach is to change the linking rules, so that Foundation stations can be retransmitted on 70cm (as well as Novices on 10m, 6m and 23cm). The third alternative is to decimate many existing linking systems, which is not desirable for obvious reasons.
These are the bands I see as being the "key" bands. However, consideration could be given to adding the Novice segments 15 metres and 10 metres as well, to make the Foundation licence a replacement for the Novice licence.
As for the Novice licence, I feel it could be replaced by the Foundation licence. Novices would keep their current bands and modes, as well as gain the Foundation segment of 40 metres (with all the modes allowed to Novices on the other HF bands). Novices would also retain their current privilege of being able to completely home brew their equipment, unlike Foundation licensees who would be restricted to commercially built transceivers and approved kits.
I feel the Novice licence could eventually be phased out and replaced by the Foundation licence, to keep the number of licences to a minimum.
Another point that deserves mentioning is that a simplified UK style Morse test could be adopted, which would require minimal study. This would satisfy the ITU requirements for HF band access. The test could be dropped if the ITU Morse requirement is dropped in the future.
I'm sure there will be a Foundation licence in VK in the not too distant future, but the form of the licence will determine its success. If properly managed, it could be the start of a new era for amateur radio in VK. The emphasis would change from learning the theory first to learning the basics, then learning on air with the help of local Elmers - a more "hands on" approach.