During previous years, a single entity held the monopoly over off-road access to radio licences (for the three off-road specific frequencies) to 4×4 users in South Africa. It was available exclusively to members of clubs recognised by this organisation and, unfortunately, prohibited non-club members from gaining access to off-road frequencies.
Dirk Erasmus, founder of the SA 4×4 Community Forum, says that club members were not the reason for the drive behind the SA 4×4 Community radio licences, but rather individuals who do not belong to clubs.
“Many chose not to join a club, and they enjoy their vehicles within their own circle of friends and like-minded off-roaders. That is their right, and previous regulations prevented these non-club members access to radios,” Erasmus says.
Penalties for non-compliance or the illegal use of a radio or radio frequency could only be determined by a court of law, but could range between confiscating your radio equipment, a hefty fine or even jail time. Or even a combination of all of the above.
According to Erasmus, the process was just a really long wait as ICASA’s hands were tied until the regulations were changed in 2015, allowing clubs access to licences for their members. “Our first application, which was declined, was done in 2012. During 2015, our application was resubmitted and it was approved under the new regulations,” he says.
Erasmus explains that the change in the regulation is definitely a victory, not only for SA 4×4 Community members but for all 4×4 owners in South Africa. “I think it has always been regulated, but perhaps the regulations were a bit too restrictive. With these changes, it means radio communication is now available to many more people,” he says.
Johann ‘Tyres’ Viljoen, owner of 1st Alignment Centre in Stikland Industrial, Western Cape, has been involved with radio licensing for many years. “This is an outright victory for the SA 4×4 Community Forum and other 4×4 clubs in South Africa – they’ve been awarded their own radio licences, approved by ICASA.”
He says that the regulation of VHF frequencies is important to ensure that it doesn’t overlap with emergency or police frequencies. “ICASA is responsible for ensuring that the police have their own frequency and the same goes for ambulance services, security companies and 4×4 clubs and owners,” he explains.
Viljoen continues, “Regulation is very important, otherwise it becomes a free for all. It should all be administrated correctly. But I believe that is what’s happening at the moment.”
“I agree that there are many absolutely great clubs out there, and really recommend to anybody looking for 4×4 outings or trips to join either one of their local clubs, or a national club like the Land Rover Owners Club of Southern Africa (LROC). If you’re not a Landy owner, you can join the Four Wheel Drive Club of South Africa. Both clubs have a national footprint and are well-known and organised,” Erasmus adds.
How it works?
“The process is pretty straightforward. If you’re a member of SA 4×4 Community Forum, visit the dedicated page for 4×4 Community radio licences on www.4x4community.co.za, fill in a short form, attach a clear copy of your ID document and submit. It’s as easy as that.
We then verify your membership and ensure that your ID document matches up, and issue the licence electronically once we have received your payment. “You will receive your licence via e-mail, at the bottom of your licence document is a card that you can cut out and keep on you.”
Erasmus continues, “when your renewal comes up at the end of March, we automatically update your licence on our system to expired for the current year and pending for the upcoming year. All that is required from the user is to submit payment, and wait for the PDF license via e-mail.” He also mentioned that the SA 4×4 Community radio licence is not valid outside the borders of South Africa.
What are the costs involved?
According to Erasmus, anybody can apply directly to ICASA for a licence, but that the cost to obtain a national roving license will prove to be unaffordable at most. “Typically, when you apply directly for a licence you will receive a license that’s only valid for a 50km radius from your registered address, where our licence is for three national VHF frequencies.”
The SA 4×4 Community radio licence only covers VHF radios, should you require a licence for 29mHz, then you can apply via ICASA directly. Erasmus says the cost per person for the radio license is R225 per year and the license year is 1 April – 31 March.
Dirk’s Tips for Radio Etiquette
Break, Break: When transmitting, ensure there are no other discussions going on. However, the more users there are in the convoy, the more congested and ‘chatty’ it becomes. Should you have to break into the conversation, use something like ‘Break Break’. It’s recognised as a clear instruction that you need to talk.
Identify yourself: When calling another user, remember that you are not alone on your channel, other people might not know who is calling; so use something like “John, come in for Peter”, or “John, Peter”, where you say your name second. Then John knows that Peter is calling for him and can respond.
Respectful of event marshals: Sometimes you may attend 4×4 events where the organisers’ and marshals also use radios for communication. Be respectful and do not hog the radio. If they are on the same frequency as you but on a different channel, you might not be able to hear them. However, each time you use your radio, they’ll have to wait for your transmission to be complete.
Mind your tongue: Mind your language! This is really important. A radio is not like your cell phone, where communication is private and only between two people. Anybody on the same channel as you can listen to your conversation. Remember that and do not use foul language or be derogatory towards any individual, company, group or race.