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Non-ham use of VoIP on Mesh?

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N4RT's picture
Non-ham use of VoIP on Mesh?

If I set up a mesh for emcomm and place VoIP phones in EOC and shelters, for example, do the persons answering and making calls using those phones require a ham license?  I know for repeaters, the control operator does not have to be physically present when a user accesses his repeater but must be able to shut down the repeater if unauthorized or illegal operation occurs.  However, in that case, users are operating radios (transmitting RF) to access a repeater which requires each user to have a license.  In the case of a network, a VoIP phone user cannot change frequency or otherwise control or affect any part of the RF link.  So, just wondering if I can use phones in shelters or other nodes that may not have a licensed operator physically present?


Ron N4RT

K6AH's picture
No, they do not...

Using a telephone to covey voice or using a PC to transmit data is no different in this technology.  In either case they do not require a license for this 3rd party traffic.

N4RT's picture
Great news... thanks!

This is great news... I have already run into some naysayers in my neck of the woods who insist otherwise.  I'll do some more research on Part 97 myself so I can counter their arguments.


Ron  N4RT

May try and do a forum search

May try and do a forum search if you haven't already: 

first result for third party traffic seems to have some citations that sound correct:

N8NQH's picture

during any ham radio transmission, there needs be an assigned  'responsible party" ham.  Once that is established, than third party conversations are allowed.

For Mesh, as long as you are including  your call sign in your node name, then the "responsible party" requirement is covered.

ke6bxt's picture
This is similar to using a d

This is similar to using a d-Star radio. The packets that go out have the callsign of the radio owner/operator. That is the "responsible party".  If the owner of the radio remains the control operator and continually monitors and supervises the non-ham (third party) then that is fine.  But you can not issue d-star radios to non-hams to use during an event/exercise and let them use the d-star (or DMR, or Fusion, or PACKET station, or AREDN node) without the control operator present and say that because the radio is transmitting an Amateur Radio callsign that the requirement is met.  That digital callsign identification only eliminates the need to come on the same frequency and id via voice or morse code (like is required on voice repeaters).

The argument that the non-ham is only using the VOIP phone (or computer) and not the AREDN node is like saying the d-star user in only using the push-to-talk microphone and not the radio, or the packet station operator is only using the computer that is attached (through a TNC) to the radio, but not the radio.  If the operator's action cause the radio (node) to transmit RF on the Amateur Radio (part 97) frequency allocation then the operator needs to either hold a valid Amateur Radio license or be a "third party".  If the person operating the VOIP Phone is not an Amateur Radio licensee acting as the control operator then, he/she is third party, and according to §97.115(b)(1) is only allowed when  "The control operator is present at the control  and is continuously monitoring and supervising the third party's participation".


See this thread also:


ke6bxt's picture
The answer to your first


The answer to your first question is, "That depends".  Does using the VOIP phone cause Part 97 RF, then the answer is YES! (see exceptions for "third party" operator) If using the VOIP phone does NOT use Part 97 RF then the answer is NO. But how can you do a VOIP call on an AREDN mesh without using Part 97 RF you ask. Well, if the two nodes are connected through an internet tunnel, then no Part 97 RF is generated and no license is required.

I have a go-kit that has a Kenwood 480 control head (with a push-to-talk microphone and speaker) connected to a RemoteRig that connects through the internet to a RemoteRig that is connected to a Kenwood 480 HF station.  Operating the remote station requires a licensed Amateur Radio "control operator" or a "third party" operator, which requires that a "control operator" (who is a licensed Amateur Radio) be present and continually monitoring and supervising the transmission. The control operator is needed because (or whenever) there is Part 97 RF.

No license (or control operator) is needed to listen to the speaker or tune the radio to another frequency for listening because a listener does not cause any  Part 97 RF. The need for the license does not go away just because the radio is a signal channel radio or the non-ham can not change the channel.

Replace the internet link with two nodes on a mesh network.  If the two nodes are connected together through a tunnel (both nodes are connected to the internet), then nothing changes. No additional Part 97 RF is used.  If the tunnel goes down (or was never there in the first place) and the nodes have an RF path (one or more hops) then there are two (or more) Part 97 RF transmissions, each requiring a control operator or third party operator when the push-to-talk button is pressed.  Relay nodes (those between the node with the go-kit attached and the node with the HF radio) and the node at the HF station do not need a "control operator" at the node because they are being "automatically controlled" by the "control operator" at the go-kit end. 

Now, if I put a dummy load on the HF radio there is no Part 97 RF at the HF radio, but there is still Part 97 RF between the mesh nodes that is caused by pressing the push-to-talk button on the microphone on the remote go-kit. This requires a "control operator" or "third party" operator.

Now replace the go-kit on one end with a VOIP phone and replace the HF radio on the other end with a VOIP phone or IP Paging unit.  Again, if the mesh nodes are connected through a tunnel, then no license is needed. If they are connected by Part 97 RF, then a "control operator" or "third party" operator is needed.

With a repeater, the repeater trustee turns over control to the "control operator" of the HT, mobile, or base station that is going through the repeater to talk to a "second party" operator.  If a repeater trustee detects that his repeater is being used by non-licensed operator(s) (with the exception of "third party" operators), then he/she is required to take steps to prevent or minimize such use.  This may require turning the repeater off.

On a mesh node, the owner turns over control to the "control operator" of the service that is causing the node to receive and transmit packets, provided the packets are going to or from the Part 97 RF link of the node.  If the node owner detects that his/her node is being used by non-licensed operator(s), then the same steps are required.

I don't consider myself a naysayer, just because I have read the applicable portions of Part 97. 
If YOU feel comfortable handing out d-star radios with YOUR callsign on them to non-licenced operators and letting them operate without being monitored or supervised by a licensed "control operator" then you should feel equally comfortable with connecting a VIOP phone to YOUR mesh node and letting non-licensed operators make VOIP calls without being monitored or supervised.

As for me, I am not.

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