NEWINGTON, CT, Jan. 24, 2007, – Morse code will no longer be a requirement for earning an Amateur Radio (often called “ham” radio) license. In a ruling published in the January 24 Federal Register, the FCC announced the elimination of testing for Morse code proficiency for all Amateur Radio licenses. The change will take effect February 23. The FCC will also allow new Amateurs to use more frequencies — including those which can talk all over the world.
While many Amateur Radio operators continue to learn and use Morse code, now it is only for their own enjoyment of the skill. Amateur operators have been using newer digital, image, satellite, voice and other modern wireless technologies for years. The elimination of code testing (Report & Order in WT Docket 05-235) signals the end of an era. Within hours following announcement that the code requirement was being dropped, ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, reported that requests for study materials for new or upgrading licensees more than doubled.
Eliminating Morse code testing ends a long tradition for Amateur Radio licensees. The FCC action follows revisions to the international Radio Regulations resulting from the 2003 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference allowing each country to determine whether or not to require Morse code skills for an Amateur Radio license.
Many local Amateur Radio clubs are planning to hold license testing on the night of February 22 for people who wish to take the last Morse code tests before the midnight Eastern Standard Time deadline. Others wish to be among the first to become an Amateur operator or upgrade their license under the new rules.
The FCC also announced that the holders of the entry level, Technician Class, license will gain new privileges previously reserved for Amateurs who had passed a Morse code exam. The new privileges will allow worldwide communication under certain conditions, but the major change is that the other two classes of Amateur licenses — General and Amateur-Extra — no longer require Morse code proficiency. The General license provides full operating privileges except in some frequency bands that are reserved for the Extra class operators. The change means that more Amateur Radio operators will be available to assist during communications emergencies such as Katrina in 2005 when hundreds of Amateurs helped plug a communications gap.
For more information see http://www.arrl.org