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Legality of non-amateur band receivers

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by Braeden Hamson, Sep 20, 2017.

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  1. Braeden Hamson

    Braeden Hamson

    Feb 18, 2016
    I'm really only curious about this, I have no strange plans. Only plans to mess with RF stuff in the future. So I know it's illegal to broadcast without a license. But is it legal to listen to non-amateur radio bands? I ask because I went to some webSDR sites (if you don't know what those are look it up they're really cool) and AFAIK none of them are outside the amatuer band.
  2. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    Jan 21, 2010

    It depends where you are. Do our British colleagues still require a licence to listen to broadcast AM radio?
    Braeden Hamson likes this.
  3. dorke


    Jun 20, 2015
    It is legal to listen to commercial(non-amateur) public radio/television bands.

    I believe it is illegal to listen to private conversations in most places for keeping privacy,that includes phone/cell etc.
    For the same reason it would be illegal to listen to non-public bands.
    Now days it is harder to do since most calls are encrypted.

    legally,even law enforcement /government actually needs a permit from a court to listen to Private calls...
    Braeden Hamson likes this.
  4. Braeden Hamson

    Braeden Hamson

    Feb 18, 2016
    Good to know. What about broadcasting? Am I right in saying you need a license to broadcast? Come to think of it in a sense I'm broadcasting at 2.4 ghz with my wifi? Haha I should find a book about all this, anyone know any good radio books?
  5. dorke


    Jun 20, 2015
    Transmitting is strictly illegal without a license!

    With a license it is allowed only in specific bands.
    The main reason being, it may cause interference with other operating comm equipment.
    One major concern is air traffic control,this may be a life threatening event.

    There are a lot of commercial devices for private uses which are allowed to operate in a specific band like Wifi,Cellphones ,Bluetooth,Cordlessphones etc.
    You are correct,we are all actually transmitting when using these devices but it is allowed.

    Another issue is the cost of permitting a commercial company to operate at a specific band.
    This is a multi-billion $ business for the government,
    i.e. The cell-phone companies pay mucho-dineros for the right to operate at a specific "spectrum in the air".
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
    Braeden Hamson likes this.
  6. kellys_eye


    Jun 25, 2010
    The AM receiving license was abolished in the UK decades ago.

    Here in the UK (YMMV) you can listen to whatever you want - I mean, how can they tell???? The 'legal' stuff states that "you're not allowed to act on information received as part of that listening" - or words to that effect. In other words you can't USE the content of the messages heard i.e. you hear the Fire Brigade saying they're attending a fore at XYZ so you pop along to rubber-neck..... if they discovered you found out about the incident by listening to their broadcasts they 'could' prosecute you.

    Same goes if you hear the Police attending an address you might know and you repeat the information that '...oooo, did you know the cops were at Donald Duck's place last night?' you could get done.

    As stated, not the same everywhere in the world but I reckon this is the gist of it as it's impossible (by all practical means) to monitor WHO is listening and WHAT they are listening to hence their stance on 'acting on information received...' - it's tantamout to admitting you were listening.

    There are certain radio bands that are 'free' for use (transmitting) but these usually require specialist equipment or and if you intend to use them you should already be well aware of what they are there for and what you're allowed to do.

    You can't plead 'ignorance' as an excuse either.

    The best course of action is to actually get involved - find out what the various licence requirements are about and see if there is an area that interests you enough to make you want to learn about it and obtain the licence. No one ever regretted (I think?) passing their ham radio ticket and the older licenced members on here - including myself, a G4*** ticket holder, licensed for all modes on all amateur bands - have used that knowledge in both our professional and private lives to considerable financial advantage......
    Braeden Hamson likes this.
  7. Braeden Hamson

    Braeden Hamson

    Feb 18, 2016
    That's very interesting kellys_eye. I suppose this is why we have lawyers as this stuff could get complicated in a hurry. However I do think there is one way they could tell you're listening:

  8. davenn

    davenn Moderator

    Sep 5, 2009
    wifi is a different case as is radio control toys etc

    there are a bunch of bands worldwide called ISM bands Industrial Scientific Medical
    eg 13.75 MHz, 304 MHz 433 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 5.8 GHz ...
    and are designed for use by low power, unlicensed equip ... RC, cordless phones, WiFi, and a zillion other similar things
    and that are limited in power level, generally ~ 500mW ( give ort take a little depending on a specific country)

    13.25 - 13.75 MHz is one of the exceptions, one of its big uses is for induction stove tops where high power is used
    but in it's context it is very short range 2 - 3 cm

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