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FCC Grants Temporary Waiver Permitting Use of PACTOR 4 for Hurricane Response and Relief


The FCC has granted ARRL’s emergency request for a temporary waiver to permit only those radio amateurs active and involved in Hurricane Dorian response and relief efforts to use the PACTOR 4 digital protocol on HF. The waiver is valid through 2100 UTC on Friday, September 6. The waiver request was necessary because Section 97.307(f) of the FCC’s Amateur Radio Service rules limits digital data emissions of Amateur stations operating below 28 MHz to a symbol rate not to exceed 300 baud, and in the 10-meter band (28.0 – 28.3 MHz) to a symbol rate not to exceed 1200 baud, which precludes PACTOR 4 emissions.


“PACTOR 4 is a data protocol that permits relatively high-speed data transmission in the HF bands, and many amateur stations active in emergency communications preparedness are capable of using this protocol,” ARRL told the FCC. The FCC granted a waiver for the use of PACTOR 4 during the 2017 Hurricane Maria relief effort, and more recently in preparing for typhoon relief communications in Hawaii. ARRL told the FCC that the higher-data rates offered by PACTOR 4 are “critical to sending hurricane relief communications, including lists of needed and distributed supplies.”


The PACTOR 4 waiver only applies to radio amateurs directly engaged in hurricane relief efforts involving the US mainland. It does not extend to non-emergency communications.



ARRL pointed out that stations involved in Hurricane Dorian response and relief efforts must be able to communicate with one another as well as with federal stations on the five-channels on the 5 MHz band involved with the SHARES network and other interoperability partners on those frequencies, ARRL told the FCC.


FEMA has announced Channel 2 (5348 kHz channel center) of the 60 meter band will be made available, as necessary for digital interoperability between federal government stations and US Amateur Radio stations involved in Hurricane Dorian emergency communications. (Channel 1 will be available for SSB interoperability.)


ARRL noted that its PACTOR 4 waiver request to the FCC was “without prejudice to the resolution of Docket 16-239 which is presently pending and addresses the rule section discussed herein.”


ARRL had requested a 30-day waiver, but the FCC said it would entertain requests for an extension of the waiver on an as-needed basis.




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