GET READY TO HIT THE BOOKS! A NEW CLASS OF AMATEUR RADIO LICENSE COMING!
There are about 140,855 Amateur Extra Class hams in the USA who thought they were done taking tests. Although some might be, there will be a percentage of those amateurs who will begin studying for the next round of incentive licensing brought to you by our good friends at the FCC.
Prepare yourself for the Amateur Master Class Exams!
Factual Radio has learned from a well placed source that the FCC intends to release details in an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule-making) in the spring of 2015. It turns out that they have been working on this program for more than 2 years!
INCENTIVE LICENSING REVISITED
The real goal of any “incentive” program is quite simple, really. It’s all about money. Even if only some of the nations 140,000 plus Extra class licensees pursue the Masters Class license, there’s revenue in this for everyone, especially after you explore of a few of the details that have leaked out.
What we know so far:
- Must be an Amateur Extra Class Licensee for 10 years or more
- Will require both a written and practical examination
- Will carry a separate fee schedule
- May include new band privileges exclusive to Masters class licensees
- May also offer other perks relative to vanity callsign upgrade
- May also include “speciality” endorsements
TIME IN GRADE
The general feeling among those in the industry that have quietly supported the new license class is that amateurs should have “paid their dues” with time as an Amateur Extra before being allowed to pursue the Masters class license. This is very consistent with receiving an advanced degree from an educational institution.
Examination for the new license class will include both a written and a practical examination. Applicants will not only be required to answer a 100 question exam, with questions pulled from a 1200 question pool, but must demonstrate ability in several areas related to amateur radio.
Details on the “practical” side of the new Masters test are a bit sketchy, but it’s been suggested that it might include things as simple as soldering on a PL259, drawing a block diagram of a superheterodyne receiver, or troubleshooting a PSK31 configuration.
NEW VE TEAM REQUIREMENTS
VE testing teams will be required to have at least 3 Masters level amateurs to administrate the practical exam. The written test will be allowed to be given by Extra class VE members.
Because of the new testing complexities, and the desire to make a little extra money, the Masters license will require a 60 dollar application fee. Testing fees are being hinted at being another 60 dollars.
There is a strong potential that some new amateur radio frequency allotments in the US may be assigned to Masters class amateurs only. We have no details on what those might be at this time.
One of many new additions being considered is that Masters license holders would be able to change their callsign ahead of any other vanity requests for the same call. The example that was explained to us was, say that the callsign N0ASS became available. If multiple folks applied, Masters applicants would jump to the head of the line, and then be sorted by their application time and date. Additionally, the 1 year wait to recycle old callsigns would be waived for Master class amateurs. There are some other options being considered for Masters class amateurs as well, although we were not offered any details.
As part of the new Masters class licensing incentive, there has been much discussion about offering special endorsements for fields of study. Each would require yet another testing fee, and a separate (but written only) examination. Specialty ratings may include:
- Digital Focus
- Universal Operator (CW Test of some sort)
- Mobile Operations (special focus on mobile antennas)
- Builder (general equipment construction expertise)
The Master class ham earning these ratings would be entitled to list them after their callsign, for example N1XX, DUMB.
THE REAL MOTIVATION
As already mentioned, this new program stands to raise a significant amount of cash for the Federal agency, as well as spur industry related sales of new training materials, study guides, and potentially even new equipment.
Keep an eye out for the upcoming NPRM, and be sure to weigh in on the discussions that will most likely follow! When we latch onto more details, we’ll post them here!