Info - Licenses and Licensed Use Of Radio

Licenses & Licensed Use of Radio

This article sets out to define what is actually meant by Licenses and Licensed Use Of Radio.

If you are already fully familar with the subject, feel free to skip the topic.

Spoiler - Painkillers and a bottle of booze may help…

It basically falls into two main sections -

  1. Licenses - What A License is vs what people commonly think it is.
  2. Licensed Use - What Licensed Use means vs what commonly think it is.


Without, hopefully insulting anybodys intelligence and common sense. I’ll simply state the following over what a license is -

  1. A formal document or documentless permit to operate under the terms, schedule of use, and required conduct, of a radio ‘service’

This can come in two forms, as previously stated, a formal issue document which acts as evidence and proof of right to use what is normally restricted from general domestic use, frequency and operating mode wise, and a non-issue kind that’s usually the case for what are referred to generally as ‘license-free’ or ‘license-exempt’ radio services.

Please note, ‘service’ is this context refers to the provision and allocation for a prescribed use or set of uses - it does not refer to a service as in the commercial or government/federal sense of providing a service although technically is a government or federal provision of service you’ll operate on. The nature of this ‘service’ is providing a permission of permitted use of the allocated provision and so your license fee (where applicable) is an issue fee that is charged as part of the central maintenance and administration of providing the radio ‘service’.

What is isn’t - an unnecessary, pointless existence of government intervention pointlessly. Without some kind of structured framework of use, and some reason by which legal denial of access to the service can be acheived, there would simply be anarchy and quite literally, radio communications would be like trying to fight classic set piece wargaming battles in guerilla warfare type environemnts at best case or at worse, a massive collision of noise and ■■■■ near no communication capability except between the gorillas of radio that employ the biggest and baddest setup (if you experienced CB in it’s heyday and as it was in the UK until the late 90’s, you’ll know what i mean by the comparision).

So irrespective of personal beliefs and viewpoint of this government intervention into what you call ‘freedom of speech and communication’, it definately is necessary of you want to retain some illusion or fragment of that ‘freedom of communication’.

The license and it’s rules set out to ensure that all that qualify to use the ‘service’ can do with at least an illusion or a fragment of the illusion of it being open and usable to all but a few categories of individuals (the only people often disbarred are non-nationals, who either cannot hold a license or have a restricted limited version, or those with previous criminal convictions of a higher level and/or have previous (spent or otherwise) criminal convictions in respect of malicious or pre-mediated misuse of radio services).

So, under a license, formal or informal as previously outlined, you operate under a framework of defined limits of use and acceptable usage (know as a ‘Schedule’ in the UK and UK Overseas Territories). It defines, amongst other things, what frequencies or groups of frequencies can be used, the operating modulation mode, power limits where employed relating to both Transmitter output power (what comes out of the antenna socket) and the actual emitted power (ERP/EIRP respectively to different antenna types).

It often incorporates some mandatory and some advisory limitations over where you can and can’t or shouldn’t use radios (either as an extension of greater wireless usage legislation or as part of general insurance of non-use in hazardous environments or what it’s use would constitute a hazard or restrict/limit/block essential serivce users of same or nearby frequenices or (in the case where the service has Secondard or Tertiary status) similar scenarios that prevent/limit/restrict Primary and/or Secondary users from operation).

It may or may not incorporate (but usually does) some defined requirement of the use of certain types of certified equipment (type approved) and may or may not extend to a single defined type of antenna or a limited group of antennas and sometimes even limits a group of antennas to one polarisation type (usually vertical polarisation where mobile use is part of the service mandate).

Licensed Use Of Radio

This refers to the nature of how you use the radio service, what may or may not constitute a breach of license terms, and what definately would be (universally where radio usage is governed by license).

From the outset, there are three major points where if disregarded, you are most definately operating maliciously, or if not understood, incompetently ignorantly operating outside of the license terms of the service.

  1. Use of equipment on controlled frequencies without due authority (aka a license).

  2. Use of equipment on frequencies restricted to civillian usage and/or the prohibited use of frequencies not classified or having been permitted for use under your license and/or general wireless/radio regulations in your national/regional PTT area.

  3. The use of, where certification and subsequent type approval of equipment and/or complete radio systems is mandated, uncertified items in the operational use of on-air radio operation - this also includes unlicensable equipment and items of wireless technology prohibited from import into your region, or the (ab)use of equipment not permitted in terms of ownership or possession or usage by civillians.

In general, none of those are excusable and there is little or no scope for where a deliberate breach is undertaken even for legitamate necessary use (where there are grounds, in the event of emergency and to get assistance in such a situation, you still will have to face some action for your misuse of the equipment and frequencies), in some level carry (if caught in the use of use or due evidence is found to demonstrate such use by yourself or your allowing (where you hold a license) unauthorised usage of) some degree of criminal charges that can lead to the instigation of -

a) Being, under judicial order, banned from use of the radio service for a defined period or life.

b) Being, under judicial order, barred from general usage of the radio service but permitted to operate under a very restricted further still scope of a schedule of use.

c) Being, under judicial order, barred from future use of any wireless technology for the purposes of communication.

d) Being, under judicial order, barred from the use of a broad or narrow group of wireless technology type devices for any purpose other than mandatory tracking/tracing technology mandated by judicial order to assist with monitoring your activities to ensure you are compliant with the restrictions.

e) A fine, but it still will count as a criminal conviction.

Any or all of the above can, in addition or instead of the above, include some judicial sentenced prision time.

The actual extend and framework varies according to your region where you were in breach of your license or for unlicensed use, but the end results approximate to one of the previous responses to what it generally treated as a criminal act.

The fact you may not need to hold a formal license, such as in the license-free or license-exempt services, does not buy you any immunity from consequential judicial penalties and sentencing, since the status refers to not having to formally hold a license for operation, but you still have to use the service under some ‘schedule’ or framework of limitations use.

In Conclusion

To use personal/leisure use of CB (as it happened over here in the UK) as an example, a great deal of users fell into the category of actually having nothing they perceived to lose, and if they suffered - they just got hold of another setup and carried on. There’s a lot of that perception and attitude in the license-free and license-exempt zones too.

However, if you depend on your use of a radio service for a reason where you cannot afford to lose it, or the cost of a criminal conviction goes way further than merely being convicted under radio/wireless operations offences, you may want to consider actually reading your license terms (where applicable) and look at the ‘schedule’ or mandated framework that governs legal licensed operation of it and where you are potentially in breach of the rules, rectify as the cost potentially of not doing so and the consequences plus the cost of restoring your setup again (assuming you dodged being barred) is a high price to pay for ignorance or generally not giving a ■■■■.