Differences between US and UK Amateur Radio license rules and restrictions – part 4: New Ofcom license conditions for 2024 for UK licensees

In my previous posts comparing US Amateur Radio licence conditions with UK licences I looked at output power differences (part 1), geographic restrictions (part 2) and callsign formats (part 3). One area I have been particularly interested in over the past few years is packet radio (previous posts), packet BBSes (previous posts) and APRS usage, both topics until license changes in 2024 were significantly more restricted in the UK compared to US.

I don’t think there are any similar restrictions for any license level to run a packet radio node unattended in the US (see Part 97.219 Message Forwarding Systems. Beacon station are also permitted upto 100w in the US for any licence level), but in the UK up until 2024 with the recent license changes only a Full license holder was allowed to run an unattended station of any kind, which would include a repeater, a beacon, a packet radio mailbox, a BBS, or a packet radio node.

For 2024 in the UK, Foundation and Intermediate licensees can now run an unattended station as a new category of ‘Data Station’, which includes packet stations, but only upto 5w ERP. For upto 25w then a Full license is required.

Previously in the UK, a Notice of Variation (NoV) needed to be applied for to run an unattended data station, similar to repeaters, which if approved would grant a new callsign for the unattended station. This has also been relaxed in the 2024 changes where for up to 5w ERP you can run the station under your own personal callsign.

Full details of these changes are in Ofcom’s ‘Statement: Updating the amateur radio licensing framework’ doc here.