It’s official! Morse code requirement ends Friday, February 23.
Circle Friday, February 23, on your calendar. That’s when the
current 5 WPM Morse code requirement will officially disappear from
the Amateur Radio Service Part 97 rules. On or after that date,
applicants for a General or Amateur Extra class Amateur Radio
license no longer will have to demonstrate proficiency in Morse
code. They’ll just have to pass the applicable written examination.
Federal Register publication January 24 of the FCC’s Report and
Order (R&O) in the “Morse code proceeding,” WT Docket 05-235, starts
a 30-day countdown for the new rules to become effective. Deletion
of the Morse requirement - still a matter of controversy within the
amateur community - is a landmark in Amateur Radio history.
“The overall effect of this action is to further the public interest
by encouraging individuals who are interested in communications
technology or who are able to contribute to the advancement of the
radio art, to become Amateur Radio operators; and eliminating a
requirement that is now unnecessary and may discourage Amateur
Service licensees from advancing their skills in the communications
and technical phases of Amateur Radio,” the FCC remarked in the
“Morse code” R&O that settled the matter, at least from a regulatory
The League had asked the FCC to retain the 5 WPM for Amateur Extra
class applicants, but the Commission held to its decision to
eliminate the requirement across the board. The R&O appearing in the
Federal Register constitutes the official version of the new rules.
It is on the web in PDF format.
Until 1991, when a Morse code examination was dropped from the
requirements to obtain a Technician ticket, all prospective radio
amateurs had to pass a Morse code test. With the change the US will
join a growing list of countries that have dropped the need to
demonstrate some level of Morse code proficiency to earn access to
frequencies below 30 MHz.
The new rules also put all Technician licensees on an equal footing,
whether or not they’ve passed a Morse code examination. Starting
February 23, Technicians will gain CW privileges on 80, 40, 15
meters and CW, RTTY, data and SSB privileges on 10 meters.
Once the revised rules are in place, an applicant holding a valid
Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) for
Element 3 (General) or Element 4 (Amateur Extra) may redeem it for
an upgrade. A CSCE is good for 365 days from the date of issuance,
no exceptions. For example, a Technician licensee holding a valid
CSCE for Element 3 may apply at a Volunteer Examiner Coordinator
(VEC) test session, pay the application fee, which most VECs charge,
and receive an instant upgrade.
The FCC R&O includes an Order on Reconsideration in WT Docket 04-140
- the so-called “omnibus” proceeding. It will modify Part 97 in
response to ARRL’s request to accommodate automatically controlled
narrowband digital stations on 80 meters in the wake of other rule
changes that became effective last December 15. The Commission
designated 3585 to 3600 kHz for such operations, although that
segment will remain available for CW, RTTY and data. The ARRL had
requested that the upper limit of the CW/RTTY/data subband be set at
3635 kHz, so that there would be no change in the existing 3620 to
3635 kHz subband.
The ARRL has posted all relevant information on these important Part
97 rule revisions on its “FCC’s Morse Code Report and Order WT
Docket 05-235” Web page.