Lesson 2

Operating Rules

Amateur Extra operators are asked to be subject matter experts in many ways. This includes station operating rules we will cover in this section.  

If you have experienced Winlink, you are familiar with a message forwarding system. You send a digital message over RF to another station, and it forwards it down the line to its destination. Who is responsible to insure forwarded messages comply with FCC rules? It’s the control operator of the originating station who is primarily accountable if a station in a message forwarding system inadvertently forwards a message that violates FCC rules.

It’s likely that if you are hosting a Winlink station, it will be automatically controlled. That means it will transmit and receive even if you are not at the controls. An automatically controlled station may originate third-party communications only when transmitting RTTY or data emissions.

A repeater is another type of radio under autonomic control.  Sometimes repeaters are controlled by radio-link. That puts them into a classification called an “auxiliary station.” Only Technician, General, Advanced or Amateur Extra Class operators may be the control operator of an auxiliary station. So, hams with the old Novice class license would be excluded from being a control operator of these stations.

A control operator has to configure their equipment to follow some specific rules. For instance, a remotely controlled station may transmit for a maximum of only 3 minutes if its control link malfunctions.

Here’s a scenario for a 70-centimeter band repeater. As the control operator you have to be sensitive to interference with radiolocation systems.   If your 440 MHz repeater is interfering with a radio location system, what should you do? Cease operation or make changes to the repeater that mitigate the interference.

The transmission of one-way communications is generally prohibited in the Amateur Radio Service. The only exemptions are: a space station, beacon station or telecommand station.

To cover this in more detail we need to define telemetry. Telemetry is the one-way transmission of measurements at a distance from the measuring instrument. This might be data from an amateur satellite that provides the status of its batteries.  It could also be location data from a high-altitude balloon. If a station sending telemetry is attached to a balloon, it’s required to identify with its call sign.

Who can operate as an earth station and use the satellite’s features, like a repeater? Any amateur station, subject to the privileges of the class of operator license held by the control operator. 

A space telecommand station is an amateur station that transmits communications to initiate, modify, or terminate functions of a space station. Who can be a telecommand station and control the satellite’s equipment? Any amateur station so designated by the space station licensee is eligible. Telecommand signals from a space telecommand station are part of a very rare group of signals that may be encrypted. 

A station being operated by telecommand on the earth or within 50 kilometers of the earth’s surface must have posted 

  • A photocopy of the station license
  • A label with the name, address, and telephone number of the station licensee
  • A label with the name, address, and telephone number of the control operator

All these choices are correct.


You’ll find allocated frequencies for space stations across many bands. On HF the bands with space allocations include 40 meters, 20 meters, 15 meters, and 10 meters.  On VHF they are allocated on 2 meters, and on UHF space stations can use 70 centimeters and 13 centimeters. 

We’re back down on earth now to finish up about telecommand operations. Your max transmitter output power for operating model craft by telecommand is 1 watt. 

Let’s reinforce the rules about the types of communications allowed in the amateur radio service.

Amateur station communications that are prohibited include communications transmitted for hire or material compensation, except as otherwise provided in the rules.  When can an amateur station send a message to a business? Only when neither the amateur nor his or her employer has a pecuniary interest in the communications.

When transmitting to hams in foreign countries, there are only two types of communications allowed. Those are Communications incidental to the purpose of the amateur service and remarks of a personal nature.

Operating a mesh network station like part of the ARDEN program? You can not transmit any messages encoded to obscure their meaning.

Where You Can Operate

Operating rules also cover what locations you can operate from.  You may also experience limitations on the times you can operate.  

What happens if an amateur radio signal is causing interference to domestic broadcast reception?  The FCC can place time limitations on the station.  Then the amateur station must avoid transmitting during certain hours on frequencies that cause the interference. All this assumes that the receivers involved are of good engineering design.

An amateur station within 1 mile of an FCC monitoring facility must protect that facility from harmful interference.  As of 2021 there were 10 in the continental US and one each in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. 

The National Radio Quiet Zone is an area surrounding the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.  The observatory is in West Virginia and the quiet zone overlaps into nearby states.  It’s a nice part of the country to visit with several parks, and quiet doesn’t mean silent. If you want to operate in the Quiet Zone, reach out to the NRAO for more details.   

Moving on to where you can install an antenna. The FCC’s PRB-1 regulations cover how amateur radio is treated with respect to state and local zoning. You can view them on the FCC website.

PRB-1 requires that reasonable accommodations of amateur radio must be made. This is not legal advice but PRB-1 generally says ham radio regulations may not be more restrictive than other radio services.       

There are special restrictions for operating in the 420-430 MHz frequency segment near the Canadian border. This is an area called “Line A.” Geographically, Line A is a line roughly parallel to and south of the border between the U.S. and Canada.

Take a look at this map to get a better feel for the location of Line A which runs from Washington to Maine.

Map of ham restriction lines

Amateur stations in the contiguous 48 states and north of Line A may not transmit in the 420-430 MHz band. This is to protect public safety and other users in Canada. In the US this part of the band is allocated for Fast Scan TV.

Public use airports are another place with location restrictions. Be aware if you are installing an amateur station and / or antenna at an airport. You may have to notify the Federal Aviation Administration and register it with the FCC as required by Part 17 of the FCC rules.


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