Monday, April 12, 2010

APRS absurdity

Following a posting and subsequent clarification on the APRS UK Yahoo Group I have discovered that in order to legally operate an APRS digipeater or Internet Gateway it is necessary to apply for a Notice of Variation (NoV) to my license that must include the nomination of at least three people who can close down the station within 30 minutes, even if the station will only be operated when I myself am present.

The reason for needing an NoV is because all authorization to transmit third party traffic (i.e. traffic not from you, nor for you) was removed from the new Lifetime License that was introduced in 2004. I don't actually have any problem with needing an NoV, though I'm sure I am not the only person who used packet radio back in the '80s without any special dispensation and didn't realise that this was no longer possible. However, the requirement for the NoV application to nominate three closedown operators even if the gateway or digipeater will only be operated when the licensee is present is simply ludicrous, as well as being a major obstacle for anyone who does not have three people who can meet that requirement. If the rules are silly, I won't play the game.

As I understand it, it is legal to transmit position reports on RF (because they are from you), it is legal to transmit APRS messages (because they are from you) and it is legal to run a receive-only Internet Gateway (because you are not retransmitting what you receive.) But digipeating or transmitting packets received from the Internet for other stations heard by you is carrying third party traffic and therefore illegal without an NoV. I think many people such as myself who are not dedicated APRS operators but see it as just another mode to use from time to time will take the easier option of operating without an NoV even though in the opinion of Rob Compton M0ZPU receive-only gateways "cause problems to the network in terms of it's capability to carry messaging ... by causing "dead-ends" to intelligent routing (where software utilises the reverse route for a message)."

It's hardly surprising that the RF APRS network in the UK is so poor compared to the USA and other parts of the world.


Steve Bunting said...

I agree that the situation is crazy! I applied for an NoV *without* the three close down ops and got it through stating that it would be used in attended mode only.... Although I did put my wife down as a second one just in case. The close down op doesn't need to be licensed, only know where the off switch is! Perhaps that is worth a try?

The irony is that lots of stations are running 24/7 digis under their own calls if you look on Maybe they never leave the house :)

Theodore said...

When bureaucrats get too numerous this is a typical scenario.
They churn out so many ridiculous limitations to normal life and commonsense that the rules are ignored.
Thus, the bureaucrats lose authority and the society becomes one accustomed to flouting laws without respect for public officeholders.
Just like money, which only has value because we pretend it has, bureaucrats only have authority because we pretend they do.

Amateur radio has always been a hobby by enthusiasts who develop new ideas just for the joy of experimentation.
Unfortunately radio societies in the developed countries are not immune to the bureaucratic disease, so we see the ARRL trying to turn ham radio into a division of the department of homeland security and the RSGB becoming a U.K. version of the FCC.
Tomorrow, I am going to Jay-walk just to show them who is in charge!

Steve GW7AAV said...

I wonder how many stations can find three people who they would trust to a/ shut down their station and b/ to give access to their property. I am perhaps fortunate that my wife and two of my five children are licenced. Not that I will be applying for that NoV at the moment as I am still a little in the dark as to what APRS is. I have had one or two people try to explain it to me and I always end up asking "why would I want that?"

Unknown said...

Steve, I agree with your first sentence entirely. I am one of the people who would find that a problem.

As a SOTA enthusiast I'm surprised that you don't think APRS would be useful though. I think it would be very useful to be able to see where activators are, not just from a safety angle but to judge when they are likely to reach a summit. APRS messages could be useful for communication between SOTA/WOTA chasers, e.g. to ask them to turn their 2m beam in my direction so we can make a contact. I wish more activators would carry APRS but due to the poor amateur RF coverage it is really only useful when using the cellular network.