The use of radios is governed by the Radio Communications Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. R-2 (the “Act”). This Act regulates the various parties using radio equipment. Like any other area, Radio Communications has a complicated regulatory framework. People often are not fully informed of the restrictions and obligations in place surrounding licensing and use. For example, in our experience, many consumers are unaware of the difference between amateur radio equipment (which is front panel programmable) and commercial land mobile radio equipment (which is not user programmable).
Often customers will come to own an amateur radio without full understanding of the limitations on its use. For example, individuals may ‘inherit’ an amateur radio through purchase of a vehicle or other equipment. Alternatively, they may buy an amateur radio because of the significantly lower cost as compared to commercial radios.
However, this equipment may not be used for commercial land mobile purposes. First, amateur equipment requires an amateur license to operate. Second, much of the equipment is illegally modified to accept commercial land mobile channels and thus is not legal even with a proper amateur license. Finally, frequencies are delineated by Industry Canada as to who may use them, under what license. Therefore, commercial land mobile frequencies may not be installed in front panel programmable equipment regardless of the capability of the equipment.
For those seeking to further understand the requirements and restrictions of certain equipment and licensing, Industry Canada provides numerous documents to assist. These contain important information as to what equipment may be used for what purpose, and whether it must be certified.
RSS-119, section 3.4 sets out the requirement that commercial equipment must be internally preset to operate only on frequencies authorized under the licensing process. Operator selection of other than preset frequencies shall not be permissible.
3.4 Transmitter with External Frequency Selection Controls
In order to prevent radio interference caused by end-user transmissions on unauthorized frequencies, transmitters with external frequency selection controls and/or frequency programming capability shall conform to the following:
(a) Transmitters with external frequency selection controls shall operate only on authorized channels which have been preset by the manufacturer, equipment supplier, or service technician/maintenance personnel.
(b) Transmitters with frequency programming capability must have at least one of the following design characteristics, which prevent the user from altering the preset frequencies:
(1) transmitters with external controls available to the user can only be internally modified to place the equipment in the programmable mode. Furthermore, while in the programmable mode, theequipment is not capable of transmitting. The procedure for making the modification and altering the frequency program is not available to the user of the equipment; or
(2) transmitters are programmed for frequencies through controls inaccessible to the user; or
(3) transmitters are programmed for frequencies through use of external devices or specifically programmed modules made available only to service/maintenance personnel; or
(4) transmitters are programmed through cloning (i.e. copying a program directly from another transmitter) using devices and procedures which are available only to service/maintenance personnel.
If using land mobile equipment, it is strongly suggested you become familiar with RSS-119. Furthermore, it is beneficial to review RSS-Gen, another useful resource for information regarding equipment requirements. RSS-Gen outlines the breakdown of radio types and how the categorizations result in different obligations, including certification. Further information is also available on the Industry Canada website.
Government documents can be confusing to read. Therefore, it is completely understandable how people may be unclear as to rights and obligations. At Walco, we are happy to clear up misconceptions surrounding radio licencing and usage.