Bandwidth Limits Replace Symbol Rates on the HF Bands, Other Bands Open for Comment
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published new rules adopted last month that replace the symbol rate restrictions on the HF bands with a bandwidth limit of 2.8 kHz. The new rules go into effect January 8, 2024.
The bands and band segments affected by the rules change are those authorized for data transmission between 160 and 10 meters, exclusive of 60 meters (where no change was made).
In adopting a bandwidth limit in place of the baud rate limit the FCC agreed with ARRL that some limitation is necessary because “without a baud rate or bandwidth limit, data stations using a large amount of spectrum for a single emission could do so to the detriment of simultaneous use by other stations using narrowband emission modes.”
ARRL has advocated for this change for a long time. The move opens amateur data communications to faster and more modern modes and restores the incentive for amateurs to experiment with and develop faster and more efficient data methods. Previously, ARRL obtained waivers to the symbol rate rules on a case-by-case basis to facilitate communications during situations like hurricane responses. These delays will now be removed, permitting drills to be conducted with the faster modes and more timely responses when needed.
The FCC also requested comment on removing similar symbol rate restrictions in the rules governing 135.7 – 137.8 kHz (2200-meter band), 472 – 479 kHz (630-meter band), and the very high-frequency (VHF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF) bands.
The VHF bands with baud rates are the 6-meter band, 2-meter band, and the 1.25-meter band. The single UHF band with a baud rate is the 70-centimeter band (420 – 450 MHz). The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) proposes to maintain the existing bandwidth limits in the Commission’s rules for these VHF and UHF bands but seeks comment on whether they should be kept, and if so, whether the bandwidths should be changed. The Commission also sought comment on whether bandwidth limits should be adopted for application to the 2200 and 630-meter bands, and if so, what an appropriate bandwidth limit would be.
Public comments on these additional issues are sought in the FNPRM. The comment period is open until January 8, 2024. Replies to comments are due no later than January 22, 2024. If changes are later adopted, the rules will go into effect in the same manner as they did for the other bands — after notice and publication in the Federal Register.