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Stamping on WSPR - an appeal to the ARRL

Apr 8th 2016, 14:11


Joined: Jun 28th 2015, 15:25
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Some folk may be interested in this submission I made to the ARRL regulatory folk this afternoon.

I'd be interested in views, for or against. But mainly, I hope it promotes some further submissions on the problem.

"I wonder if I could advance the following submission in respect of WSPR mode, and the problems faced by it on the bands.

I am sorry my argument is rather long, but that is always necessary when trying to make a clear case, and taking into account conflicting points of view in a fairly balanced manner.

WSPR offers a free, universally-accessible means of assessing
propagation conditions and, perhaps more importantly to some, antenna performance.

As such WSPR is something of a breakthrough in amateur radio, in that it is absent of any human bias or guesswork in assessing signal strengths.

In many ways, WSPR is the modern and perhaps more useful alternative to traditional beacons, even though it is not presently defined as a beacon mode.

My issue, and I know it is shared by many WSPRers, is that the mode is not readily apparent to those with less experience or knowledge of amateur radio. The very narrow transmission bandwidth means that the signals, to the uninitiated, can appear not to be there, or to be some form of spurious signal.

This lack of awareness does lead, more especially during weekends and contests, to RTTY operators, in particular, tending to simply transmit over WSPR transmissions already in progress. This would seem to amount to a simple breach of licence conditions due to interference, wherever the operator may be physically based. Yet, this kind of interference is commonplace and severe. It may last for two days each week as contests are underway.

The counterargument might claim that WSPR is a fairly recent arrival
that has simply tried to fit in at spot frequencies that are in fact
open to other uses. That is entirely true. Opponents to WSPR might also say that due to the beacon-like nature of WSPR, transmissions are effectively continuous, and therefore block those and nearby frequencies where others want to operate. That is also true, but one must also take into account that WSPR also has a 'right' to exist at any legal band frequency allocated to the operator, and that 'stamping' on WSPR transmissions already underway (and that is the key aspect, I think) is inevitably an interference with another transmission.

Recently, deliberate interference has met with severe punishments from the FCC, and I see no real distinction between those cases and those cases where operators stamp on ongoing WSPR transmissions.

I accept that WSPR may have to move on some bands in order to achieve more immunity from interference. But I also think the mode is so useful, widely used, unique and of potential benefit to the wider ham community, that it ought to be granted the equivalent kind of protection afforded to traditional beacons.

In previous years, I have tried to lobby the RSGB here in the UK. But I regret to say knowledge of WSPR was poor, and led to the
universally-derided response that WSPR users should 'QSY' in the case of interference. Quite how - and why - users across the globe should QSY is something of a head-scratcher, but it was one further nail in the coffin of my RSGB membership!

For my part, I would ask the ARRL to consider examining this matter, and perhaps making representations to the relevant bodies in due course. Only through national organisations can the likes of the FCC and IARU be made aware of this and similar issues, and I hope the ARRL can support this universally-useful and informative mode."
Apr 9th 2016, 02:36


Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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I agree that there is a problem. The question is what to do. There are quite a few informal "allocations" for special modes these days, including JT65, PSK31, image modes, digital voice, not to mention QRP and what have you. I doubt that government regulators are going to create exclusive sub-bands for each of these, and it's not clear that we'd really want these things cast in concrete.

I don't see any solution except education -- promoting awareness of special frequencies and encouraging operators to stay away.

Contests are a special problem. You could imagine contest rules excluding certain frequencies, but how could that be enforced? In practice all the CW or voice bands are trashed during contests, except for the WARC bands (mostly). As a non-contester, I don't like it, but it seems to be a lost cause.

The good news is that WSPR and JTxx modes, in particular, are quite resistant to interference -- up to a point. And if you allow yourself to use QRO on these modes (horror!), they would be practically unstoppable. Just saying.

73 Martin AA6E
Apr 13th 2016, 16:18


Joined: Sep 2nd 2003, 12:14
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Total Posts: 0
It seems to me that many (perhaps the majority?) of WSPR transmitters on the air are being operated in unattended mode, 24 hours a day, which means that they may not just be the victims of interference, but also be causing interference in their own right! I enjoy WSPR, having built an Ultimate 3 kit, but I only use it when I can monitor it to ensure that I am not causing any interference.

With the current popularity of reverse beacon networks for CW and other digital QSO modes, I question whether WSPRnet is as important as it once was for assessing propagation.

Mark AI4BJ
May 16th 2017, 10:34


Joined: Feb 21st 2013, 14:38
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Total Posts: 0
I purchased a WSPRLite about one month ago and was looking forward to using it to profile my HF antenna setup at my new QTH.  However, after researching the use of unattended beacons on HF I am disappointed that I can’t use this ingenious device as designed (unattended beacon mode) to further my enjoyment of Amateur Radio.

I have been in communication with Richard Newstead at Sotabeams and discussed that although the WSPRLite may be legal to use in many countries, it can only be used in attended mode by U.S. Amateurs.

In light of this and to protect the interests of Sotabeams and U.S. resellers I recommended that Richard add a disclaimer on his website that WSPRLite must be used “in accordance with 97.203”.  This disclaimer is now posted.

It is frustrating to observe 20th century regulations – in my opinion - negatively impacting Amateur Radio’s use of this and as yet unknown rapidly advancing 21st century technology.

Case in point is the still unresolved bandwidth vs. baud rate in the ARRL’s proposal to the FCC in RM 11708 filed in late 2013!

I will be meeting with representatives of the ARRL at Hamvention with a bold proposal as follows:

As Amateur Radio has always taken pride in our enthusiastic and effective efforts at self-regulation and enforcement I would like to open discussion on the feasibility of the ARRL as the largest organization supporting our Amateur Radio service to assume responsibility for the following within our current FCC-regulated frequency allocations:

-       Modes of operation, bandwidth and attended/unattended operation

Properly vetted, we COULD put this to a vote of the entire Amateur Radio community similar to the VE examination process to ensure fairness to all.
At the very least we could be granted an STA (special temporary authorization) for a set period of time as a test to verify the feasibility of new communications methods and work out any real or imagined interference as a result.  This test period would substantiate the need/value of permanent changes in our rules.  For now we’re just playing an unnecessary waiting game hoping the FCC will act – BUT OVER THREE YEARS FOR RM 11708?  I find this an absurd situation that merits review.

We currently all agree and abide by the frequency restrictions/allocations afforded our respective license classes.  In many cases, these restrictions serve to encourage enhancement of our technical knowledge and ability to enjoy our privileges as Amateur Radio operators.

These modified mode/bandwidth and unattended modes could be authorized to only Extra Class licensees to further encourage deeper knowledge of the communications art.

The sheer enjoyment of Amateur Radio has built many successful careers (mine is one of them) and led to many new technologies that otherwise would have been implemented over a much-longer period of time or not at all.

I know I’m not alone in the knowledge that we have earned this privilege and respectfully propose this for the benefit of all.

I have been in communication with John Johnston, W3BE and Dan Henderson N1ND at the ARRL.

As you may know, John was Chief of the FCC Rules Legal Branch of the Amateur Radio service for many decades. Dan was referred to me at the ARRL as our organization’s authority on our rules and their interpretation.

Both of them concurred, and responded with their authoritative interpretation of the rules. John’s is as follows:

Whoops! Sounds like our amateur service may have going on here an example of Excuse No. 27 Squatters’ Rights as listed in Collection of Excuses for not complying with our amateur service rules BE Informed No. 3.3! Rather, here is the latest and greatest version of the original question that was asked:


Q. Are unattended beacons prohibited on frequencies lower than 10M?

A. Presently, no “unattended” amateur stations are authorized anywhere the FCC is our regulator. “Unattended” means that no one is paying any attention to the station. That would be at odds with the most bedrock requirement codified in Section 97.7: When transmitting, each amateur station must have a control operator.

   Ours is a tradition-bound unstructured old fashioned “hear and be heard” radio service that relies upon the Section 97.105 control operator performing properly certain duties, in particular the general standards codified in Section 97.101: (a) In all respects not specifically covered by FCC Rules each amateur station must be operated in accordance with good engineering and good amateur practice. (b) Each station licensee and each control operator must cooperate in selecting transmitting channels and in making the most effective use of the amateur service frequencies. No frequency will be assigned for the exclusive use of any station. (c) At all times and on all frequencies, each control operator must give priority to stations providing emergency communications, except to stations transmitting communications for training drills and tests in RACES.

   There are, however, special accommodations for beacon stations in Section 97.203. It says: (d) A beacon may be automatically controlled while it is transmitting on the 28.20-28.30 MHz, 50.06-50.08 MHz, 144.275-144.300 MHz, 222.05-222.06 MHz or 432.300-432.400 MHz segments, or on the 33 cm and shorter wavelength bands. “Automatic control” is defined as: The use of devices and procedures for control of a station when it is transmitting so that compliance with the FCC Rules is achieved without the control operator being present at a control point.

Q. I'm not aware of any FCC rules regarding unattended beacons. Section 97.105 only requires that the control operator must "ensure the immediate proper operation of the station."  The control operator is operating in accordance with the rule if he ensures the immediate proper operation of the station through any appropriate means.

A. Some advocates of unattended amateur stations contend that such is already authorized for repeaters. But, if that was the case, however, there would be some mention of it in Part 97 and a record of the rulemaking proceeding that adopted that authorization. As it stands, there are no permissions for any type of unattended amateur station in places where the FCC is our regulator.            

   It looks as though you might be trying to cope with the dilemma described in Excuse No. 13 Inventor’s Prerogative, as listed in Collection of Excuses for not complying with our amateur service rules BE Informed No. 3.3.

   Part 97 was last rewritten in plain language over a generation ago and has been amended as our regulator has accepted as necessary. Now, the promise of smart radios seems to make it thinkable for as many citizens as possible – per our VECs’ agenda - to intercommunicate, presumably as as a social media. Smart radios, moreover, gives cause for our amateur service community to question the effectiveness and need for the traditional Section 97.105 control operator whose role is deeply rooted in mid-19th century telegraphy communications practices.

Q. What rule would be required to authorize “unattended” amateur stations?

A. It would probably have to be codified in a new paragraph Section 97.109(e): When an amateur station is being unattended, the control operator need not be at the control point. Any station may be unattended. If that were ever to come about, there may be no need for Section 97.109(d) automatic control. Rulemaking for amendments to Part 97 in recent years, it must be said, has been very, very lengthy indeed.

   On the other hand, the opportunity may be near for our amateur service community to breakout from tradition and reset for smart ham radios. Read A New Era for Amateur Radio BE Informed No. 10.3 and New Era Q/A Providing a Net Social Benefit BE Informed No. 10.4.




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