T1E04: What determines the transmitting privileges of an amateur station?
A. The frequency authorized by the frequency coordinator
B. The class of operator license held by the station licensee
C. The highest class of operator license held by anyone on the premises
D. The class of operator license held by the control operator
A simple rule from FCC Part 97 addresses this question directly, but there are a few related operating conditions that may seemingly get into grey areas and cloud the issue. Let’s take a look at some scenarios and other related issues to make this perfectly clear, blowing away all clouds and keeping a nice, black and white pattern of rule application.
Section 97.105(b) states, “A station may only be operated in the manner and to the extent permitted by the privileges authorized for the class of operator license held by the control operator.” So, there’s the direct answer for us. The key is the station’s designated control operator. Let’s consider the other options.
Option A: The frequency coordinator helps ensure repeater frequencies do not conflict and coordinates other local band plan or spectrum use issues — Nothing to do with your transmitting privileges.
Option B: The station licensee could be the control operator, but he may also designate someone else as control operator of the station. So, not quite right.
Option C: Just because Joe Extra Class is hanging out in the living room has no bearing on the operation of the station. Dumb choice.
Now consider a couple of other situations and apply 97.105(b) to them each:
Situation Alpha: You are a Technician Class licensee. Your General Class friend has made a contact on the General Class portion of the 20m phone band with an Australian operator. You vacationed in Australia just this summer and the conversation is spellbinding, as the contact lives right in the community you visited! Your friend says, “Here, talk with him while I go to the bathroom.” What should you do?
Solution Alpha: Go to the bathroom for him instead. Or, clarify with a question, “So, you are designating me as the control operator?” If he designates you as control operator of the station you may not transmit on the General Class frequencies. Shift to Technician Class frequencies or do not transmit. If he is not designating you as control operator, do not transmit. Your friend, in spite of his apparent desire to be nice, cannot exercise the duties of control operator from the bathroom: FCC 97.109(b) states, “When a station is being locally controlled, the control operator must be at the control point.”
Situation Bravo: Same as Situation Alpha above, only your General Class friend hands you the microphone and says, “Why not tell him about your vacation to his town?” and remains with you in front of the radio, awaiting your response. What should you do?
Solution Bravo: Go for it! If he is sticking around and maintaining control operator duties there is no rules violation as long as you continue to identify with your friend’s station call sign. Do not use your own call sign. You may want to suggest that your buddy inform the contact that he is passing over the microphone to you and perhaps that he identify the communication as a third party communication since you are not the designated control operator or station owner. Yuck it up, mate, but do it within the rules.
Situation Charlie: Same station and license conditions as above, but your friend goes off to the bathroom, or maybe to the kitchen to fix up a snack, leaving you as the officially designated control operator of his station. You shift over to the 10m band Technician Class frequencies near 28.4 MHz and start calling CQ. What call sign do you use? You’re using your license privileges but at his station. Hrmmm…
Solution Charlie: Good amateur practice is to identify using both. State your friend’s station call sign followed by “stroke” (or “slash” or “slant”) and then your call sign. This lets any receiving or monitoring station know the station that is transmitting and the control operator at the helm.
There are other potential grey area scenarios, but you get the idea. What counts is the license of the control operator when it comes to frequency privileges. And with local control the control operator is the person responsible for adjusting and operating the station at the control point. With these two rules you can figure out almost any situation. Keep with good amateur practice, and don’t bend the rules!
The answer to Technician question T1E04, “What determines the transmitting privileges of an amateur station?” is D: The class of operator license held by the control operator.
Related Questions: T1E01, T1E02, T1E03, T1E05, T1E06, T1E07, T1E08, T1E09, T1E10, T1E11.