Skip Navigation

Federal Communications Commission

English Display Options

Commission Document

Amendment of the Amateur Service Rules to Facilitate Use of Spread Spectrum Communications Technologies

Download Options

Released: March 4, 2011

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 11-22

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of
)
)

Amendment of the Amateur Service Rules
)
WT Docket No. 10-62
to Facilitate Use of Spread Spectrum
)
Communications Technologies
)
RM-11325

REPORT AND ORDER

Adopted: February 22, 2011

Released: March 4, 2011

By the Commission:

I. INTRODUCTION

1. In this Report and Order, we amend the Amateur Service rules to facilitate the use of spread
spectrum (SS) communications technologies.1 Specifically, as proposed in the Notice of Proposed Rule
Making
(NPRM) in this proceeding, 2 we eliminate the requirement that an amateur station use automatic
power control (APC) to reduce transmitter power when the station transmits a SS emission, and we
reduce the maximum allowed transmitter output power for an amateur station transmitting a SS emission.

II. BACKGROUND

2.
In 1985, the Commission authorized amateur radio stations to transmit SS emissions, with a
maximum transmitter output power limit of one hundred watts peak envelope power (PEP).3 To
emphasize the experimental nature of spread spectrum as well as some of the potential benefits
associated with it, the Commission authorized such transmissions on a secondary basis to other amateur
service communications.4 Moreover, to reduce the likelihood that SS transmissions from an amateur
station could be made for the purpose of obscuring the meaning of a message, the Commission permitted


1 Spread spectrum techniques are emissions that use bandwidth-expansion modulation techniques to intentionally
spread the information transmitted over a wide bandwidth. At any frequency in the frequency segment or
bandwidth the SS emission occupies, either the spectral power density of the transmitted signal is reduced to a
comparatively low level or the duration of the transmitted signal is very brief. Consequently, stations in the same
geographic area can transmit SS signals in a frequency segment without causing harmful interference to, or
receiving harmful interference from, other stations transmitting a SS communications or a station transmitting a
non-SS signal. Spread spectrum systems originally were developed for military applications, but have been
adapted for commercial uses, including medical telemetry, Personal Communications Services, remote meter
reading, and position determination.
2 Amendment of the Amateur Service Rules to Facilitate Use of Spread Spectrum Communications Technologies,
Notice of Proposed Rule Making and Order, WT Docket No. 10-62, 25 FCC Rcd 3374, 3376 5 (2010) (NPRM).
3 See Amendment of Parts 2 and 97 of the Commission's Rules and Regulations to authorize spread spectrum
techniques in the Amateur Radio Service, Report and Order, Gen. Docket No. 81-414, 99 F.C.C. 2d 1432 (1985).
The text of the Report and Order was published at 50 Fed. Reg. 23423 (1985).
4 See id. at 23424.

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 11-22

amateur stations to transmit using only certain specified spreading techniques.5
3.
In 1999, the Commission eliminated the restriction on SS techniques.6 The Commission
also required stations transmitting SS communications with a transmitter power greater than one watt to
utilize APC to limit the transmitter power in accordance with a specific formula.7 The purpose of the
APC requirement is to ensure that the output power transmitted is limited to the minimum power
necessary to conduct communications, so that interference with other amateur radio stations and other
users of the frequency bands is minimized.8
4.
Subsequently, ARRL, the National Association for Amateur Radio, also known as the
American Radio Relay League, Inc., filed a petition for rulemaking requesting that the Commission
eliminate the APC requirement.9 ARRL asserted that compliance with the APC provision had proven to
be "virtually impossible" because it requires the operators of transmitting stations to determine the
transmitter power received at distant receivers, and that this requirement has proven to be "something of
a barrier to SS experimentation."10
5.
In the NPRM in this proceeding, we noted that one of the purposes of the amateur service
is to contribute to the advancement of the radio art, and concluded that the APC requirement may be
unnecessarily impeding amateur radio operators from experimenting with SS communications because it
requires knowledge that the control operator of an amateur station transmitting a SS emission does not
ordinarily have, i.e., the transmitter power received at a distant receiver or receivers.11 We also noted
that the APC requirement was intended to limit interference to other stations, including commercial
broadband Internet service providers that share some frequency bands with amateur stations.12
Consequently, instead of proposing simply to eliminate the APC requirement as requested by ARRL, we


5 Id. at 23425.
6 See Amendment of the Amateur Service Rules to Provide For Greater Use of Spread Spectrum Communications
Technologies, Report and Order, WT Docket No. 97-12, 15 FCC Rcd 1481, 1484 9 (1999) (Spread Spectrum
Report and Order
).
7 See 47 C.F.R. 97.311(d) (permissible power is determined by the use of the ratio, measured at the receiver, of
the received energy per user data bit (Eb) to the sum of the received power spectral densities of noise (No) and co-
channel interference (Io); average transmitter power over 1 watt shall be automatically adjusted to maintain an
Eb/(No + Io) ratio of no more than 23 dB at the intended receiver).
8 See Spread Spectrum Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd at 1485-86 11-14.
9 ARRL was then known as the American Radio Relay League, Inc. See RM-11325, American Radio Relay
League, Inc., Petition for Rule Making (filed March 13, 2006).
10 See id. at 5. ARRL further argued that the APC requirement could be eliminated without increasing the risk of
harmful interference because SS communications are secondary to other amateur service communications, and
amateur stations already are obligated to use the minimum power necessary to conduct communications. Id. at 6
(citing 47 C.F.R. 97.311(b), 97.313(a)).
11 See NPRM, 25 FCC Rcd at 3376 5 (citing 47 C.F.R. 97.1(b)).
12 See id. at 3376 6.
2

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 11-22

proposed to eliminate the APC requirement and to reduce the maximum allowed transmitter power when
an amateur station is transmitting a SS emission from one hundred watts to ten watts PEP.13

III. DISCUSSION

6.
All commenters who addressed the proposed rule changes14 support the proposal to
eliminate the APC requirement,15 but are split with respect to reducing the maximum transmitter output
power for amateur stations transmitting SS communications. ARRL concedes that it has not been
demonstrated that the proposed power limit would pose a substantial obstacle to SS experimentation, and
states that "it is willing to accept the restriction presently, subject to revisiting the matter after some
reasonable experience is gained."16 We agree that the proposal in the NPRM to eliminate the APC
requirement and reduce the power limit "is a reasonable accommodation and trade-off that will
encourage amateur radio experimentation with SS technology."17
7.
We disagree with the suggestion that a limit of ten watts PEP "would hamper amateurs
who would try to use [SS] over long distance links."18 Because amateur stations that want to
communicate over long distance links can use other emission types and higher power in frequency bands
where SS emissions are permitted, we conclude that limiting amateur stations transmitting SS
communications to ten watts PEP does not preclude amateur stations from communicating over long
distances.19
8.
Based on the record before us, we conclude that eliminating the APC requirement and
reducing the maximum allowed transmitter power to ten watts PEP when an amateur station is
transmitting a SS emission will afford amateur radio operators greater flexibility to experiment with SS
communications, while limiting the potential for interference to other stations. Accordingly, we amend
Sections 97.311 and 97.313 of the Commission's Rules as proposed.

IV. CONCLUSION

9. In summary, we believe that the public interest will be served by amending the amateur


13 See id.
14 Six comments were received in response to the NPRM. Two commenters did not address the proposed rule
changes, but instead made suggestions regarding SS emissions that are beyond the scope of this proceeding. See
Richard Dowty Comments at 1; Floyd C. Fox Comments at 1.
15 See ARRL Comments at 2 (the APC requirement "has served as an unintended, but effective deterrent to SS
experimentation in the Amateur Service"); Nickolaus E. Leggett Comments at 2; Ben Jackson Comments at 1;
Steve Bunch Comment at 1 (the APC requirement "sets a high minimum bound on the complexity of a compliant
transmitter and receiver system").
16 See ARRL Comments at 7.
17 See Nickolaus E. Leggett Comments at 2; see also Steve Bunch Comment at 2-3 (supporting a ten watt PEP limit
in bands that are shared with non-amateur users; "there are many users of unlicensed wireless digital
communications, such as WiFi, in these bands, accepting some restrictions in order to reduce the potential for
interference is a reasonable tradeoff").
18 See Ben Jackson Comments at 1.
19 See 47 C.F.R. 97.305(c).
3

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 11-22

service rules to eliminate the APC requirement, and reducing the current limit on transmitter output
power for amateur stations transmitting SS emission types to ten watts PEP. We believe that these rule
changes will (1) encourage individuals who can contribute to the advancement of the radio art to more
fully utilize SS technologies in experimentation, and (2) balance the interests of all users in mixed-mode20
and mixed-service frequency bands until sharing protocols are sufficiently developed to avoid interference.
We therefore adopt the proposed rule changes.

V. PROCEDURAL MATTERS

10.
Final Regulatory Flexibility Certification. The Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA)21
requires a final regulatory flexibility analysis to be prepared for notice and comment rulemaking
proceedings, unless the agency certifies that "the rule will not, if promulgated, have a significant
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities."22 The RFA generally defines the term
"small entity" as having the same meaning as the terms "small business," "small organization," and
"small governmental jurisdiction."23 In addition, the term "small business" has the same meaning as the
term "small business concern" under the Small Business Act.24 A "small business concern" is one which:
(1) is independently owned and operated; (2) is not dominant in its field of operation; and (3) satisfies
any additional criteria established by the Small Business Administration (SBA).25
11.
In this Report and Order, we amend the amateur service rules to eliminate the requirement
that an amateur station transmitting a SS emission must use APC to reduce the transmitter power when the
station transmits with a power greater than one watt, and we reduce the transmitter power output that an
amateur station may transmit when the station is transmitting a SS emission from one hundred watts to a
peak of ten watts.26 Because "small entities," as defined in the RFA, do not include persons eligible for
licensing in the amateur service, this rule does not apply to "small entities." Rather, it applies exclusively to
individuals who are the control operators of amateur radio stations. Therefore, we certify that the rules
adopted in this Report and Order will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of
small entities. The Commission will send a copy of this Report and Order, including a copy of this Final


20 Mixed-mode frequency bands are frequency bands where different emission types, such as Morse code
telegraphy (CW), voice, narrow-band direct-printing telegraphy (RTTY), data, and SS are transmitted. All amateur
service frequency bands are mixed-mode frequency bands. See 47 C.F.R. 97.305(c).
21 See 5 U.S.C. 603. The RFA, see 5 U.S.C. 601 612, has been amended by the Small Business Regulatory
Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA), Pub. L. No. 104-121, Title II, 110 Stat. 857 (1996).
22 See 5 U.S.C. 605(b).
23 See 5 U.S.C. 601(6).
24 See 5 U.S.C. 601(3) (incorporating by reference the definition of "small business concern" in the Small
Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632). Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 601(3), the statutory definition of a small business applies
"unless an agency, after consultation with the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration and after
opportunity for public comment, establishes one or more definitions of such term which are appropriate to the
activities of the agency and publishes such definition(s) in the Federal Register."
25 See 15 U.S.C. 632.
26 See 47 C.F.R. 97.311(d).
4

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 11-22

Regulatory Flexibility Certification, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the SBA.27 This certification
will also be published in the Federal Register.28
12.
Paperwork Reduction Analysis. This Report and Order does not contain information
collection(s) subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13. In addition, it does
not contain any new or modified "information collection burden for small business concerns with fewer
than 25 employees," pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107-198,
see 44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(4).
13.
Congressional Review Act. The Commission will send a copy of this Report and Order
to Congress and the Government Accountability Office pursuant to the Congressional Review Act, see 5
U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
14.
Alternative formats. To request materials in alternative formats for people with
disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to <FCC504@fcc.gov> or
call the Consumer and Government Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY). This
Report and Order also may be downloaded from the Commission's web site at <http://www.fcc.gov/>;.
15.
For further information, contact William T. Cross, Mobility Division, Wireless
Telecommunications Bureau, (202) 418-0620 or TTY (202) 418-7233.

VI. ORDERING CLAUSES

16.
IT IS ORDERED, pursuant to Sections 4(i), 303(r), and 403 of the Communications Act
of 1934, 47 U.S.C. 154(i), 303(r), 403, that this Report and Order IS HEREBY ADOPTED.
17.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Part 97 of the Commission's Rules IS AMENDED as
set forth in the Appendix, effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
18.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Commission's Consumer and Governmental
Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, SHALL SEND a copy of this Report and Order,
including the Final Regulatory Flexibility Certification, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small
Business Administration.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Marlene H. Dortch
Secretary


27 See 5 U.S.C. 605(b).
28 See id.
5

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 11-22

Appendix

Final Rules

Chapter 1 of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations is amended as follows:
Part 97 - Amateur Radio Service
The authority citation for part 97 continues to read as follows:

AUTHORITY: 48 Stat. 1066, 1082, as amended; 47 U.S.C. 154, 303. Interpret or apply 48 Stat.
1064-1068, 1081-1105, as amended; 47 U.S.C. 151-155, 301-609, unless otherwise noted.

1. Section 97.311 is amended by removing paragraph (d).
2. Section 97.313 is amended by adding paragraph (j) to read as follows:
97.313 Transmitter power standards.
* * * * *
(j) No station may transmit with a transmitter output exceeding 10 W PEP when the station is
transmitting a SS emission type.
6

Note: We are currently transitioning our documents into web compatible formats for easier reading. We have done our best to supply this content to you in a presentable form, but there may be some formatting issues while we improve the technology. The original version of the document is available as a PDF, Word Document, or as plain text.

close
FCC

You are leaving the FCC website

You are about to leave the FCC website and visit a third-party, non-governmental website that the FCC does not maintain or control. The FCC does not endorse any product or service, and is not responsible for, nor can it guarantee the validity or timeliness of the content on the page you are about to visit. Additionally, the privacy policies of this third-party page may differ from those of the FCC.