Buying and Using a Radio
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So You Want to Buy a Radio?
(reprinted from Jan/Feb 2004 TCA)
Are you thinking about buying an amateur radio transceiver? Are you an amateur who has a Basic Qualification or perhaps both Basic and Morse Qualifications, but who does not have an Advanced Qualification? Are you a beginner thinking of acquiring amateur radio equipment before you write the amateur radio examinations?
Then read on.
Here is information that you need to help you as you buy your gear and operate your station.
Amateurs will find information about what equipment you are permitted to buy, install and operate in two key Industry Canada Radiocommunication Information Circulars (RICs) governing operations of the Amateur Service in Canada. They are RBR-4 (formerly RIC-2), Standards for the Operation of Radio Stations in the Amateur Radio Service, and RIC-3, Information on the Amateur Radio Service. They are available on the Industry Canada web site (click here).
Recent questions from amateurs show that there is much misunderstanding about what Basic qualification holders can buy, build, install and operate. For clarification of the provisions of RBR-4 and RIC-3, a set of commonly asked questions and answers in TRUE/FALSE format were addressed to Industry Canada's Headquarters and Amateur Radio Service Centre (ARSC). The answers were approved by the Director of the ARSC, who is also an amateur and a former Radio Inspector.
Clubs and individuals are welcome to reprint or use these questions with credit given to Radio Amateurs of Canada.
TRUE OR FALSE?
Q - I'm a Basic Qualification holder and have a radio that was a business radio but has been reprogrammed to ham frequencies. It is such a good radio that I know it works fine so it must be legal for me to use.
A - FALSE. By RIC-3 Basic Qualification holders must use commercially made transmitting equipment for the amateur service, not modified commercially made transmitting equipment. Modified equipment may not perform properly.
Q - I have a radio which has been modified to allow another ham band. I'm a Basic Qualification holder but an amateur with the Advanced Qualification did the work so it's ok.
A - FALSE. RIC-3 states that only the holder of an Advanced Qualification can install or operate a transmitter or a radio frequency amplifier that is not commercially manufactured for use in the amateur radio service. The operative words are "install and operate", which means that a Basic Qualification holder cannot operate commercial equipment that has been modified or equipment that has been homebuilt by an Advanced Qualification amateur.
Q - I am the holder of both Basic and Morse Qualifications. I'd like to operate HF with a linear amplifier that someone sold me. It is factory made so that must make it acceptable to operate.
A - TRUE, but there is a constraint. Basic Qualification holders are restricted to a power input of 250 watts. There is no problem if someone wants to drive a 100w linear with a 5w exciter. The key thing is that the amateur does not exceed the 250w to the circuit that provides the energy to the antenna.
Q - I want to be a ham and I found the perfect radio at a hamfest. I won't operate it until I get my license. That must be OK right? I can own anything I want.
A - TRUE. One can own any amateur equipment (it is illegal to possess certain type of equipment), but it cannot be put on the air. When a Qualification and call sign are obtained, whether or not the radio can be used will depend on the Qualification(s) held.
Q - I bought a ham radio that had been opened up for CB as well. If I don't use it for CB that will be legal won't it?
A - TRUE. But only holders with Advanced Qualifications can operate equipment that has been modified or equipment that has been home built and the equipment must be operated in the amateur bands only.
Q - I have a ham radio that can operate on CB as well as ham bands. I'll advertise that when I sell it. That will be ok won't it?
A - TRUE. But the equipment must be certified in accordance with Radio Standard Specification 136 (RSS-136) and labeled accordingly in order to operate in the CB band. It should not be advertised that someone could use it in the CB band if it is not certified accordingly.
Q - Since I got my Basic and Morse Qualifications I have had a great time using my Heathkit transceiver. It must be okay if it was a kit, right?
A - FALSE. At present, kits are not classed as "commercially manufactured" equipment. You must hold the Advanced Qualification to operate such equipment.
Q - When I tune my radio to extended receive it also transmits out of band. That must be OK or the manufacturer wouldn't have let this happen.
A - FALSE. Transmitting outside the amateur bands is not permitted, even if the equipment is capable of doing so, unless the equipment is certified accordingly and authorization from Industry Canada has been given. Listening on bands outside the amateur bands is permitted.
Unauthorized operation outside the amateur bands is not permitted and will not be tolerated by Industry Canada regardless of the reason why an amateur may have done so. They must also consider that the only reason why someone would get their transceiver modified to transmit outside the amateur bands is that they intend to operate outside the ham bands. In court, Industry Canada usually does not have any problems proving that.
Q - Since my radio was opened, I can transmit on the Family Radio Service (FRS) band. I keep the power low so that makes it legal.
A - FALSE. FRS equipment must be certified in accordance with Radio Standard Specification 210 (RSS-210). Amateur radio equipment is not certified; therefore it cannot be used for FRS purposes.
Q - I'm an Advanced Qualification holder and I sometimes use my rig to get in touch with others on CB. I use 5 watts so that must be legal.
A - FALSE. CB equipment must be certified in accordance with Radio Standard Specification 136 (RSS-136). Amateur radio equipment is not certified; therefore it cannot be used for CB purposes.
Q - At a hamfest I got some really neat radios. I don't have a license but nobody told me I couldn't buy them. I guess that is OK.
A - TRUE. One can buy and install amateur equipment whether it is commercially made or built by an amateur, but one cannot operate it on the air. When a Qualification and call sign are obtained, whether or not the radio can be used will depend on the Qualification(s) held. Purchasing other types of equipment is subject to licensing by Industry Canada and therefore cannot be installed or operated without proper authorization.
Q - Where can I get further information about building and/or installing amateur radio equipment?
A - Contact the Industry Canada Amateur Radio Service Centre at the following address:
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