This discussion is regarding terms of the UK Amateur Radio Licence. Unfortunately this document is rather unclear and difficult to interpret on some issues. I was motivated to write this because I have been challenged on my use of the mobile suffix while on a summit and I have been confused by a station reporting to be portable when walking. In this article I try to make sense of determining whether one is operating mobile or portable.
There seem to be two approaches to defining the correct suffix to use. One is based on tradition and guessing what the other station might think you mean. The other is to use the definition in the licence and its notes. The problem with the first approach should be clear: you do not know how the remote operator will interpret you. All UK radio amateurs have a document which defines these suffixes. This is the only common standard and the only one therefore that should be used, even if it is not a very good one or you personally dislike it. You may think a traditional interpretation is more easily understood but that is not the case in general. It may be by people who gained their licence at the same time as you but new operators who have read their licence will not know what you mean.
I hope I have persuaded you that the correct approach is to follow the usage defined in the licence. The first thing we must do then is to read it! It is amazing how many radio amateurs seem not to have read the document that defines their hobby, or alternatively chose to ignore all updates since their licence was first issued. Reading it will not solve all problems but it is a good start.
Let us then look at the licence to see how it defines the situations in which you should use /M and /P. Section identifiers refer to the licence.In "Notes to the licence":
We see that the choice of suffix depends only on the "location" of the equipment. Another important point is that these suffixes are only "recommended". You "may use" them, or not.(d) When operating at locations other than the Main Station Address, it is recommended that the following suffixes be used: I. If the Licensee operates the Radio Equipment at an Alternative Address, the Licensee may use the suffix “/A” with the Callsign; II. If the Licensee operates the Radio Equipment at a Temporary Location, the Licensee may use the suffix “/P” with the Callsign; III. If the Licensee operates the Radio Equipment from a Mobile location, the Licensee may use the suffix “/M” with the Callsign;
Unfortunately "fixed location" is not defined. Some interpretations I have come across are:(jj) “Temporary Location” means a fixed location in the United Kingdom which is not the Main Station Address or an Alternative Address;
I cannot tell you which of these, if any, is officially correct, but I make some recommendations below.
This seems clear enough.17(1)(x) “Mobile” means the Radio Equipment is located in the United Kingdom: I. in or on any vehicle or conveyance; II. on the person of the Licensee where the Licensee is a pedestrian; or III. on any Vessel on Inland Waters;
The suffixes are optional. I suggest using them if you think they will be useful. I think this is almost always the case, so suggest you use them by default.
We have seen that within the licence terms there is some room for interpretation. It makes sense to chose the interpretation that best communicates the situation of the station.
|On summit, using handheld radio on trig point||/M||In this situation, you have your hands full: logging is difficult and the antenna will be flapping around. You may be delayed in responding to an over because you need to stand up to get the aerial high enough and sit down to write or get a Mars bar out your rucksac.|
|Walking around a summit||/M||As above and your signal may vary with position.|
|Sitting in car, antenna pegged to ground.||/P||You are physically fixed, so certainly qualify for /P. You don't need to worry about effects of moving, e.g. changing signal, distraction, so /M not helpful.|
|Sitting in car, not fixed to ground (antenna on car only). Intention to remain at same location for some time.||/P||You can get comfortable, get log book out and generally forget about moving.|
|Sitting in car, not fixed to ground (antenna on car only). Likely to need to move at short notice||/M||May be affected by mobile issues and can't get too comfortable.|
|Unicycling on the deck of a vessel at sea, which is holding station.||/M/MM/P||It's far too good to stick to my one suffix suggestion.|
Read the licence and follow it. The remaining ambiguity is chiefly that of defining what is meant by fixed location. Do this such as to provide the most useful information about your circumstances as they may affect the QSO.
Do not do something because everyone else does it. Do it because it is correct.
Way back in the days before BR68, the standard licence did not permit operation from a motor vehicle. You needed to obtain (and pay for) a separate licence for that (just as you once needed a separate licence to have a broadcast radio in a car). That licence specified the /M suffix, which wasn't mentioned at all in the ordinary licence. Self-contained equipment that could be carried was much less common in those days, but such operation was possible, and legal under an ordinary licence, but could only be under a /P suffix. BR68 changed all that several decades ago, but the myth that /M means motor vehicle (only) has persisted to this day.Brian, G8ADD says (sota):
I have my first licence issued in 1964 put away so safely that I can't find it! This is from a re-issue in 1977:Geoff, G6MZX replies with:9.(1)(b) at the temporary premises the suffix "/A" shall be added to the callsign. 9.(1)(c) at the temporary location or as a pedestrian the suffix "/P" shall be added to the callsign. 9.(1)(d) in or on a vehicle or vessel the suffix "/M" shall be added to the callsign. 9.(4) When the station is used at the temporary premises or location, the address of the temporary premises or location shall be sent at the beginning and end of the establishment of communication with each separate amateur station, or at intervals of 15 minutes, whichever is more frequent.That is how it used to be, and I can add that we puzzled long and hard about exactly what 9.(4) meant!
And that is rightly or wrongly the way that I interprit it nowSo there you have another idea. Ignore your licence and just do what the 1977 one says instead.