If there is one thing that we amateurs hold dear, it is licence conditions.
In April this year, the WIA board put a submission to the ACMA proposing a radical overhaul of amateur licence conditions. Standard and Foundation class licencees were to be given access to many more bands.
As we pointed out in our analysis of the WIA board’s submission:
The WIA RG notes that there has been no consultation with WIA members, or indeed the general Australian amateur population, on these changes. They were simply presented to the ACMA by the WIA board as a fait accompli.
Does the WIA board have a mandate to go to ACMA proposing a major restructure of the amateur radio service without any consultation?
We would argue that they unequivocally do not.
It seems that no one bothered to ask the average amateur what they think…. So, we set about to change that. In early May, we published an electronic survey on licence conditions, using the Survey Monkey platform.
We have received more than 600 responses to the survey.
These are detailed below.
Question 1 – are you a WIA member?
63.3% of respondents indicated that they were members, and 36.7% were not.
Question 2 – what is your licence grade
65.7% Advanced, 15.9% Standard and 18.4% Foundation.
This split generally represents the amateur demographic by licence grade.
Question 3 – how long have you been licenced?
35.7% have been licenced longer than 25 years, 37.8% between 5 and 25 years and 26.5% less than 5 years.
The majority of respondents are therefore experienced practitioners of amateur radio.
Question 4 – should FLs have access to data modes?
54.7% were in favour and 45.3 against.
A majority were in favour, but the margin is relatively close. It seems that this issue is not as clear cut as many of us thought.
Question 5 – should FLs be able to build their own equipment
34.5% in favour, 65.3% against.
A clear majority feel that construction of equipment is outside the ethos of the FL.
Question 6 – should FLs have access to more bands
An overwhelming majority – 74.1% – feel that the current bands allocated to FLs are sufficient.
Question 7 – If you answered yes to 6, which bands?
Although this question is rendered moot by the response to question 6, the majority felt that the FL should have access to all HF bands, 6m, 2m and 70cm.
Question 8 – should Standard Licencees have access to more bands
Again, a clear majority – 60.9% – felt that the current bands allocated to Standard licencees were sufficient.
Question 9 – if you answered yes to question 8, which bands?
Rendered moot again by the response to the previous question, but a majority wanted all bands.
Question 10 – do you support combining the Advanced and Standard licence, thereby reducing licence grades to two (Advanced and FL)?
An overwhelming majority – 71.5% – were against this option.
Question 11 – if you hold an Advanced licence, would you undertake a supplementary course in EMR safety to allow you to operate high power?
A clear majority – 63% – were in favour.
Question 12 – If you hold an advanced licence, would you support changes to the licencing syllabus to bring it into line with the latest technical and safety advances in amateur radio, such as software defined radios, advanced digital modes and electromagnetic radiation safety?
There is unambiguous (88%) support for revision of the Advanced syllabus.
In the interests of transparency, we offer the following details regarding the survey method. The WIA Reform Group used the Survey Monkey online survey tool.
The survey was made available online to all Australian amateurs with internet access. We did not target specific interest groups.
Links to the survey were provided on our website, distributed to clubs and interested members via email and made available on various Facebook pages. The only requirement was that respondents needed to have internet access.
The above link should answer any questions you may have regarding the statistical outcome that resulted from this survey.
We used the following metrics:
- Population size: 10,000 (probably too large given many amateurs are not active, and many don’t really care about the hobby enough to take an interest).
- Margin of error: 5%
- Confidence Level: 95%
- Recommended sample size: 370 (actual number of respondents was 616; another 9 responses would have given us a 99% Confidence Level)
A clear majority of respondents support the current incentive based licencing system – i.e. band access is a function of technical knowledge, as demonstrated by examination.
The existing band allocations/privileges per licence grade and the number of grades are seen as appropriate – the majority feel that extra bands for the lower two grades and FLs being able to construct their own equipment would undermine the incentive based system.
This is clearly at odds with the WIA board’s submission to the ACMA.
One area where changes were supported was data modes for FLs. This is a logical step and should be progressed without delay. A slight modification to the FL syllabus is obviously required.
It is pleasing to see that Advanced licencees are very keen to upgrade their syllabus to include modern technologies.
Similarly, there is a recognition of the importance of EMR safety for high power operation. A logical next step would be the development of an EMR safety module by the requisite specialists.
However, the survey results raise serious questions as to the legitimacy of the WIA board’s recent submission to the AMCA. The WIA board have no right to propose sweeping changes to our licence conditions without any consultation.
The results of this survey prove that the WIA board’s submission to the ACMA does not represent the views of Australian amateur radio operators.
We therefore call on the WIA board to immediately withdraw their submission to the ACMA.
G.C. Dunstan VK4DU, C. Chapman VK3QB, R. Dollar VK8RD