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No more Morse code for radio operators, technicians

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 08, 2017

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AMATEUR radio operators and technicians will no longer be required to be proficient in Morse code, as a result of changes to the regulations for the two pieces of legislation which govern radio and telegraph control services.Director of Legal Affairs at the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) Ida-Gaye Warburton explained to the Regulations Committee of Parliament that morse code is no longer the primary means of transmitting information to critical agencies such as the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) during national emergencies and disasters.

The amendments will effect changes to the Radio and Telegraph Control (Amateur Radio Service) Regulations of 1974, and the Radio and Telegraph Control (Radio Operations and Technicians) Regulations of 1974.

Warburton explained to reporters after the sitting that “they have more sophisticated equipment now, so the dots and tones that they used to use in 1974 to ensure that they weren't interfering with, for example, the marine operators or airline users, that restriction is no longer necessary... so they can talk to each other without using the coding messages”.

The legal director said this is significant for the Jamaica Radio Amateur Association (JRAA), because of its alliance with ODPEM.

“The hope is that they will be able to increase their membership and give Jamaica and, in particular ODPEM, the support it needs in times of disasters,” she said, noting that the changes are timely given the start of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.

Meanwhile, President of the JRAA Nigel Hoyow explained that many countries have abolished the morse code in favour of more modern methods of communication.

“It's really very old, although a lot of us still practise it, but the younger persons don't have the patience to learn... Morse code is not dead, but we need to get rid of it here,” he said, pointing out that the JRAA needs more members.

“We are short of members to be able to react to ODPEM's request, and the Red Cross, and all the agencies that are involved in emergency communications,” he outlined.

The JRAA has MoUs with ODPEM, RJR and Digicel and has an arrangement with the Government to provide emergency communication for the first 72 hours of a national disaster.

Morse code is a method of transmitting text information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment.

In addition to removing the reference to the Morse code, a provision is also being included to expand the format of the certifying examinations which radio operators and technicians are now required to sit. This is to include the USA administration examination process in the granting of licences to the operators and technicians.

Warburton explained: “Currently the examination requirements and formats follow the UK examination. There is no significant difference between the United States and the UK, so it's the format we are seeking to expand. Many of our users now have a lot of affiliation with the US, and so they would be more familiar with that format. Whatever format we ultimately settle on, it's something that would be known to our local members.”


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