September 16, 2015 UPDATE: The FCC appears to be content with grants in the 465-490 kHz range at up to 10w ERP at this time. Always research current, existing grants before filing applications to ensure that you are getting the best deal. This thing is very fluid at the moment and what is allowed can change pretty rapidly. GOOD LUCK!
January 4, 2017 UPDATE: There have recently been a couple of application filings where the operator filed multiple DUPLICATE applications. I can only guess that this is being done due to an omission in the original application. DO NOT FILE MULTIPLE APPLICATIONS! If you have an error that needs to be corrected, EDIT the application that was submitted. This will require you to have both your confirmation number and file number. If you don’t write those two numbers down when you submit your initial application, you need to contact OET! DO NOT FILE AN ADDITIONAL APPLICATION! This will slow your grant down or it may never be acted upon by OET and ultimately be dismissed! The FCC does not have a sense of humor about this and continuing to not follow their rules for filing will ultimately hurt all of us!
April 2, 2017 UPDATE: With the release of the R&O just a few days ago, I recommend that any prospective applicants stand down until it is determined what will happen with existing applications. A number of applications remain in limbo. Save your $65 for now and check back in a month or two.
There have been a LOT of inquiries recently about how to apply for a Part 5 experimental license on 630-meters. Below are the steps that I typically send to interested parties. This was originally an email and the formatting is atrocious so just bare with me. The process is mostly researching existing grants and gathering personal information. My recommendation is to read through this material and lets see what questions you might have and ask those questions. I DO NOT recommend that you try to go through this alone unless you have experience filing applications with the FCC. Its far too easy to make mistakes that can delay your application or your ability to legally operate.
First and foremost, the amount of time it will take to get a Part 5 license will absolutely be faster than waiting for the NPRM and changes to the federal register to be made for the creation of a ham band. When I embarked on the station building process, I did so thinking it would take 6 months to get the ham band and we would have the band. I’ve worked with the government before so I should have known better. I have K4LCD / WF2XXQ to thank for convincing me to apply rather than waiting and I am very thankful for his guidance. I had built a shack full of equipment and it would otherwise be sitting idle and not getting used.
After going through the application process, the time to grant can depend on a lot of things. I took me just over 3 weeks to grant. On the other hand, XJM Eric and XKA John, and XXM Ken took right at 6 weeks. On the very long end of the scale, XSV Neil and XPJ Brian took 3+ months but in the interest of full disclosure, their applications fell in the middle of the shut down and sequester period and the FCC and NTIA were not doing much work at all. They did grant, however. So the short answer is that it will take at least a month. All that said, they don’t even have to issue you a grant at all, but if you pay your money and submit the required info, answering all of their questions, they have historically issued grants to applicants. My guess is that you are not ready to transmit today so that would give you some time to get ready for day 1. The process is really pretty simple in spite of the governments attempts to create a convoluted process with the FCC’s Office of Engineering Technology (OET) website. Truthfully, it has gotten a LOT better.
There are two parts to the application, both are web forms. The first section is simple administrative info – name, address, is there anything confidential in this application, etc. The second part is the technical info and as long as you know what you want going into the process, the repetitive aspect of the data entry won’t be too bad. You have to enter each mode, with an emission designator with a specific line item. You will duplicate a lot of information in the process but its just their process. As far as where you should start, I recommend looking at existing applications. You will most likely copy technical data from existing applications since emission designators won’t change and the bands will generally be aligned. If you want to use some exotic mode, you will need to come up with technical specs and be prepared to enter that info on your application. Otherwise you are just copying info.
So start by going to https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/els/reports/CallsignSearch.cfm and enter my call sign, WG2XIQ, and click ok.
You should see a record returned with “View Form”, “View Exhibits”, etc. This is the application that I filed. Its all public info so you can see everything I did. Look at the “Current version” under “view forms”… You will notice that the only difference between the initial version and the current version is the license period. I asked for 60-months, and everyone does, but they max out at 24-months unless you can make a good case in your statement of intent. Save yourself some time and don’t ask for more than 24 months unless you want to spend time arguing the point. You can always ask for a longer timeframe on your renewal.
NOTE: Since the development of this document, the frequencies adjacent to 500khz have become generally off limits to new grants. Individuals who ask for these frequencies usually sit for a very long time waiting for action. Apparently a new maritime digital system is going in at 500 khz. Stay below 490 Khz.
NOTE: OET seems content to allow grants at 10-20W ERP so there is no reason to simply ask for 1W ERP. Even if you don’t think you will need it, it does no hurt to ask for the extra power.
Next look at my exhibits. The application process requires two exhibits. The first is a statement about what you hope to learn from your experimental license. It just needs to be a paragraph or two regarding what you are going to do. Keep it to a technical nature – you want to examine antennas/receivers/transmitters, you want to study some aspect of propagation. My experience is that they don’t read this part too carefully but keep the content pertinent to radio and be honest. Some guys go into long descriptions but this does not need to be a doctoral dissertation. The second exhibit is for the FAA. Its basically a drawing of your antenna and they are really focused on the height. When I applied, I was using an inverted L that was an existing antenna but I have since changed to a 80 foot T-top vertical. Its originally a ham antenna and its not higher than surrounding objects. If you have water towers, trees, buildings that are tall, be sure to note that. They want to insure that your structure will not impede air travel. If you live near an airport or military base, that is something to consider and it can slow the process down. XSV Neil originally lived adjacent to an Air Force base and I believe that contributed to the slower process for him. Keep that in mind. Its not a show-stopper but it can add complications. If you have some model or tech data for whatever antenna you are going to put up, include that. If its an existing structure, do what XXM Ken did and just take a picture and upload it. I laughed when he did that, but they did not seem to mind and it was an existing structure so who can argue?
NOTE: Don’t mention amateur radio in your statement of intent. This is “big boy radio” and they don’t care. Be professional and instill confidence that you know what you are doing – even if you don’t have a clue.
Once you have completed those two parts – application and exhibits – you need to pay by credit card. Read carefully as they direct you to a general accounting office website that allows you to pay by Credit Card. If you don’t pay, they will delete your app after 30 days.
You will need your FRN number to complete the process but you can look that up on wireless.FCC.gov. You can also register your PIN number there. You will need that info anyway for starting your part 5 application. FRN is also listed on your ham license.
You will be issued a file number and a confirmation number. WRITE THIS DOWN! You will only be shown this information once and will need it to correspond with OET should the need arise before a call sign has been issued. If you fail to note this information, you will have to call OET and grovel in order for them to look up that information for you. it will slow the process down.
Once you have paid, you should see a call sign issued in a week or two. Any clarifications or comments will be in the “View Correspondences” section. Check that regularly because if they need more info, they wont proceed until you respond. The FCC then passes your application to the NTIA who is the real spectrum owner and they will review
the info. They can take as long as they want and there is nothing you can do. If you happen to be an FCC attorney, you may have contacts that can move this through the system. Most of us don’t have access to that high-priced resource but my guess is that a good attorney familiar FCC issues can move an app through the system pretty quickly.
At this point, you just have to wait. Work on getting the station ready, check the app status, etc. Its like watching paint dry if you let it..keep busy working on getting ready to be on the air when your grant comes down. When it does come down, it will typically be waiting for you in the morning. A batch job seems to run at midnight each night to generate new grants. Print out and display a copy at your stations. The FCC will send you a copy in 2-3 weeks. Also, you need to have a print copy of Part 2 and Part 5 on site. Its the law if the FCC were to show up for some reason. eCFR will have the parts for you to view and print out: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=e1a1a6daf306e89ac68a67b81dcb0a5a&c=ecfr&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title47/47cfrv1_02.tpl
So that’s the process. I recommend you carefully review my app and the apps of other active stations including WG2XJM, WG2XKA, WG2XSV, WG2XXM, WH2XGP, WH2XND.
Gather your FRN number and pin number. You will need to know your NAD coordinates for the FAA. These are available online – you will see it on our apps…The bottom line is that since you have access to our apps, you know what info you will need going into your application process.
Application process starts here: https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/els/forms/442Entry.cfm Once you have applied, before a call sign is issued, check here: https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/els/forms/ReturnTo159.cfm?isSubmitted=True
This should get you started..