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Certainly there are companies in the US (like Kenwood) that develop HAM products that transmit. For development and QA they would likely need to test the product outside of a Faraday cage.

How can companies test those products in the HAM bands if §97.113 says they can't transmit for commercial purpose?

I didn't see it in the part 97 regs, but are there special exceptions or licenses for developing products to transmit in the Part 97 bands that can be assigned to a corporation?

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Two parts to this answer:

First, most testing would be done against dummy loads, looking at the results on spectrum analyzers. Such tests should not propagate.

Secondly, there's a fine line here. As worded, Part 97 prohibits:

(2) Communications for hire or for material compensation, direct or indirect, paid or promised, except as otherwise provided in these rules;

(3) Communications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest [with a number of excpetions that don't apply here]

This doesn't say you can't transmit while being paid. The classic example here would be if I'm working, but I use my amateur radio to call a coworker and ask them if they want to go to lunch. My employer derives no benefit from this transmission.

Similarly, the paragraphs above don't actually say transmission, they say communication. So, if while testing a radio under field conditions, you might have a conversation with someone over the radio, and this conversation might have nothing to do with testing the radio and derive no benefit to my employer, and thus be perfectly legal, while at the same time you get test results during the transmission.

Another example is emergency communications. Someone asked FCC if emergency responders were allowed to use amateur radio. FCC replied with a memo stating that the responder was being paid to help with the emergency, and using the radio to communicate was not commercial content for that purpose. They later revised the commercial exception list (to what is there now) to explicitly include that case, and expanded on limitations for this exception in the regulation.

The original intent of the non-commercial clauses in amateur radio was to prohibit the amateur spectrum from becoming commercialized, which could leave little room for non-commercial use, and at the same time, allow commercial users to bypass rules that require them to pay for their spectrum use. So communications of a commercial nature are are generally prohibited.

The intent wasn't to make it difficult to build and test amateur radio equipment that would later be sold. There are even provisions in the exceptions to allow amateur operators to talk about selling their own equipment over the radio.

I can see a radio manufacturer giving a prototype radio to a ham for testing, and they could use it, say, over a weekend the same way they would normally have used any radio. The employer doesn't control the content of those transmissions and derives no benefit from that content. The tester could then write a report describing issues while using the prototype radio. Technically, they would be paid for the report. This is certainly a fine line, and ripe for abuse, but infrequent and appropriate use shouldn't be an issue, neither violating the letter nor intent of the regulation.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. Would the company developing the product need a special FCC license for the business, or is it sufficient to just hire someone with a ham license since they are licensed? $\endgroup$
    – KJ7LNW
    Dec 31, 2021 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ A company can't get a license to use amateur frequencies. Only a person can. Even a club ham license is assigned to a person. A company would have no use for one anyway -- commercial communications are prohibited. $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    Dec 31, 2021 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ Right, that brings me back to the original question: How can an employee under the direction of a company field test new products intended for use in the amateur frequencies? Obviously the answer isn't "they cant" because companies do test internally before shipping and you can only get so far feeding the product's RF signal into test equipment. Unless hiring someone with an amateur radio license is the solution, is there really no officially sanctioned way to do this? $\endgroup$
    – KJ7LNW
    Jan 1 at 2:30
  • $\begingroup$ Did you read my answer? It's about all about the content and nature of the communications. And really, field testing isn't about the radio, it's about the user interface and ergonomics anyway. The law is there to protect the usage of the spectrum for amateurs. $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    Jan 1 at 3:10
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    $\begingroup$ Special care must be taken that tests don't pollute the band and interfere with other amateur activity. When practical, you should make attempts to prevent propagation; in other words, use dummy loads, test chambers, faraday cages when possible, but even dummy loads can leak and amateur equipment is optimized for weak signals. If communication does occur, keep it polite and non-work related. Tread this fine line carefully. Make sure your activities benefit the community and are not self serving. $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    Jan 1 at 23:18

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