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Author Topic: UK Foundation License v US Technician License  (Read 9237 times)
M6YDB
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Posts: 51




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« on: October 03, 2013, 10:15:44 AM »

With the UK Foundation and US Technician licenses being broadly similar in terms of the knowledge required to gained it etc I was quite struck by the difference in privileges the two permit.

The Foundation license allows UK hams to transmit on most bands with certain limitations in some bands but only to 10W power and does not allow the use of home brew or kit transmitting equipment whereas the Technician license allows the use of bands above 30Mhz for voice, 10m voice and CW and CW on 80, 40 and 15 but at a nice healthy 1500W (I think - happy to be corrected).  Does it allow home brew also?

So which do people think are the better privileges?

Personally I'd go with the UK - being able to work HF on voice is what I wanted my ticket for and I think being able to work all bands on limited power is preferable to only some on high power.

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N3DF
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Posts: 253




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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2013, 11:22:07 AM »

A determined new US Technician can usually pass the General class examination with a week or two of additional study and then run a kilowatt on all bands, home-brew, kit or factory built. 
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Neil N3DF
M6YDB
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Posts: 51




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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2013, 11:26:00 AM »

Admittedly I am somewhat jealous of the power US hams can use.

Even on a full UK license we are only good to 400W.

That said could I afford a 1KW linear?  No!
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M0HCN
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Posts: 473




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« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2013, 12:36:25 PM »

Firstly, 1500W is about 6dB (1 S unit) up on 400W, so I am not at all sure that it is all that huge an advantage (A decent aerial and putting the matching network at the aerial end of the feeder can make more difference then that), and propagation can make WAY more difference then that.

I kind of like the UK scheme, foundation it seems to me does what it says on the tin, gets you on the air quickly with power that is unlikely to do serious damage to yourself or others if you screw up.
The US Technician was I think designed on the assumption that the holders would be experimenters on the VHF/UHF and Microwave bands, I am not totally convinced it really makes sense as an introduction to the hobby rather then as a near equivalent to the old UK class B license (Which was VHF and up only).

Intermediate requires you to build something (Almost anything), has a little more theory and more on safety, interference and its remediation, at this point you get to roll your own if you so desire. Power limits are a little higher (50W), and there is a little more theory.
This serves as a reasonable stepping stone in terms of knowledge required and increased potential for interference and RF burns...

Advanced adds a lot more radio theory and electronics into the mix, and gets you 400W, maritime mobile operations and high power telecommand links as well as the possibility of getting NOVs for experiments needing higher powers or other variations to the license, this paper is a complete nightmare if you don't have an electronics background.

It seems to me that while we can quibble about the power limits, the UK scheme has at least a reasoned approach to radio know how and interference potential, where the US approach of allowing a Technician to grab a 4CX10000 and a pole pig and build a radio while it was probably appropriate for the original use case for that license is not perhaps the best approach for what is now generally a beginners ticket.

Reasonable people may disagree, and as you say the general standard is about the same (But I **really** hate multiple guess as an exam format (Both countries have this perversion), and having an open question pool? WTF?).

Regards, Dan.
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K7KBN
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« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2013, 03:17:03 PM »

Unless I missed something (entirely possible), Technicians are limited to 200 watts on 10/15/40 and 80 meters.  My online reference claims to be up to date as of September 2013.
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
M6YDB
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Posts: 51




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« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2013, 09:34:25 AM »

I was just going on what was on hamuniverse.com - I don't know the US privileges that well so am happy to be corrected...
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W5ARP
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Posts: 54




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« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2013, 10:34:38 AM »

I'm a new ham (passed tech and general at the same time) so feel free to correct me, but looking at the allocations, first, I agree that tech is primarily a VHF/UHF license with enough lower frequency privileges to dabble and see if you you want to go further.  Second, I think the reason is the minimal long distance propagation of VHF/UHF means that new users start with local communications while they are still honing their practical knowledge.  It also makes sense because there are a fair number of people that are only interested in local communications (4x4 groups using it for trail communications, for example) and have no desire for access to the HF bands.  It all makes some kind of sense to me.

Geof
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N4KZ
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Posts: 605




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« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2013, 12:14:13 PM »

Some historical perspective might be in order on this topic.

I was licensed in 1969 with a novice class ticket. After six months, I upgraded to general because I loved HF DXing. I never considered upgrading to technician. Why? Because at the time, the tech ticket was not even designed for general-purpose ham radio operating. The FCC created it for technically inclined experimenters and model airplane fans. There were no 6 meter privileges then for techs, only 2 meters and higher and the license didn't even give the whole 2m band to holders. Techs were permitted only from 145-147 MHz. Repeaters across the country were in a growth period at the time and some were expanding to above 147 MHz which excluded techs. It would be a few more years before the 145 MHz repeater subband would be created.

In the mid-to-late 1970s, the FCC decided techs could have access to the whole 2m band. At the time, I was active on 2m SSB and those with general and higher tickets worked SSB just above 144.1 MHz and we had to go above 145 MHz to work techs who operated SSB. It was rather inconvenient. Giving everyone the whole band simplified things. At some point -- and I don't recall exactly when -- the FCC also gave 6 meters to techs. The whole 4 MHz. That might have been in the late 1970s or even a little later.

In the late 1980s, the ARRL was big on so-called novice enhancement. Novices gained limited SSB and digital on 10m from the FCC around 1987 or '88. They already had limited CW on 10. And, in addition, novices still had their legacy CW subbands on 80, 40 and 15m. The idea was then proposed by someone that since techs had passed the same CW test -- 5 wpm -- but a more difficult written exam, that they too should receive at least the same operating privileges on HF that novices now enjoyed. And that's how techs got on HF. They then had novice privileges on HF and all U.S. amateur privileges on VHF and above.

There was never really a grand plan for the tech ticket. It just kept evolving over the years into what it is today -- relatively unchanged I think since the late 1980s.

Personally, I much prefer the UK's foundation license approach for HF newcomers -- more bands and more modes but at lower power output. But the FCC has never been keen on that concept. While many nations allow licensees with lower classes of license on the HF bands with RF output restrictions, the FCC has never liked that approach. Too difficult to enforce. Instead, the FCC has opted for restrictions on certain bands or parts of those bands. Easier to enforce and thus create the incentive to upgrade.

I think many U.S. hams don't consider the tech as a good entry-level license. It gives too little on HF and too much on VHF/UHF. But the FCC has been reluctant to give it a major overhaul, opting instead for the slow evolution we've witnessed. And when people complain about the license's inadequate HF privileges, folks at the FCC just say tech license holders can upgrade to general and get more spectrum and privileges. Now that the mandatory CW requirement has gone away, it's hard to argue with the FCC's logic on this. Upgrading is about as easy as it's ever been -- or more so.

I continue to work folks who are new to HF and some tell me they felt that VHF ham radio -- FM repeaters and FM simplex -- just didn't give them the ham radio experience they wanted. And unless you are content to primarily work repeaters and FM simplex -- and there's nothing wrong with that but the hobby offers so MUCH MORE -- folks should not stop at tech. Get your tech and immediately hit the books and get your general. Once there, you then have a ticket to a place from where you can more thoroughly experience everything amateur radio has to offer on its multitude of bands and modes.

73, Dave, N4KZ
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N3DF
Member

Posts: 253




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« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2013, 04:01:42 PM »

While Technician class HF privileges may not be the ideal in a beginner's license, upgrading to General or even Amateur Extra just isn't very difficult.  General is well within the reach of high school (and some younger) students.  In the past few years, our club has had quite a few new members go from zero to Extra in less than two months and sometimes in one.
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Neil N3DF
W7HBP
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Posts: 166




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« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2013, 07:11:52 PM »

While Technician class HF privileges may not be the ideal in a beginner's license, upgrading to General or even Amateur Extra just isn't very difficult.  General is well within the reach of high school (and some younger) students.  In the past few years, our club has had quite a few new members go from zero to Extra in less than two months and sometimes in one.

My grandson who is 11 yrs old went from no license to general in about 1 month (KG7ESK) just got his general call in July.  Wink
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ARRL Life Member|QRZ Life Member
WA7SGS
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Posts: 43




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« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2013, 08:42:00 PM »

Comparing my Novice test from 1971 to the current Technician and General exams showed me that the tests today are relatively easier.  The Technician exam focuses on VHF-UHF while the General deals with HF  Both are of the same level of difficulty as the typical driver's license exam.  Only the Extra test steps it up and that is mostly dealing with a more complex vocabulary and 15 extra (LOL!) questions.  I'd rate that exam as comparable to the exams that Technican and General applicants had to deal with when I first got into amateur radio.

So what would I recommend for levels of licensing?  Here's the layout:

Novice: Portions of HF, VHF and UHF bands, allowing phone, CW and digital modes with lower power, say along the lines 200W PEP/100W CW-AM.  A Whitman's sampler so to speak so the newcomer can figure out what they want to do in regards to operations.  The power limit is about the max one sees in newer transceivers so going that route obviates the need for close monitoring of output by the OO's, who will know how to tell the difference between the lower power transceivers and those running 1Kw.  Have the test focus on safety, basic FCC rules, on-air practices and the most basic electrical and antenna theory.  Issue WN/KN 2x4 callsigns for Novices.

General: Full privileges including full power except for the current Advanced/ Extra frequency allocations.  Make the test 50 questions with a level of difficulty equivalent to the current Technician/General exams combined.  Issue 2x3 callsigns for Generals.

Extra: Have one year of experience and pass a 50 question test that shows a strong capacity to grasp the technology as well as the operational side of amateur radio.  Add in some of the VE questions to the 50.  In exchange for that the Extra gets all frequencies and certification as a VE.  Issue 2x2 callsigns for Extras.  Given the quality of the Advanced ticket holders, give them Extra privileges if they can pass the VE element or if they are already accredited as VE's.

General and Extra classes would also be eligible for the vanity callsign program.  That's why I ditched my 2x2 for my original WN7SGS updated to reflect my being a Novice no more.  It just took me 40 years to make that one easy step...LOL!

Low.  Medium.  High.  That is just like a 1958 Chevy that could be had as a Biscayne, BelAir or Impala.  Three levels is enough to get the job done but we do need to define the levels better at the low and high end especially I believe.  Easy entry is fine so long as we keep the sandbox small enough to limit the damage...LOL!  The real objective is to get new operators up to speed and then they can upgrade their ticket.

Rick



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