If I send an SMS message via APRS to a mobile user, is that user able to legally respond to my message without having a HAM license?

Please note that the answer to this question will differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The answer below applies to the United States, and similar rules apply in Canada. Please check your own jurisdiction’s regulations.

Before reviewing the relevant clauses from the Rules of the Amateur Radio Service, it is important to understand the flow of the message originating from SMS (cellular mobile).

  1. The SMS message is passed through the PSTN (public switched telephone network) to the SMSGTE server
  2. The SMSGTE server sends the message into the APRS-IS network to be received by the iGate nearest intended recipient
  3. The iGate transmits the message into RF

Therefore, neither the cellular user nor the SMSGTE server is transmitting in the amateur radio space. The iGate is the transmitter, transmitting a third party message. The clauses below demonstrate that the iGate is permitted to transmit those third party messages.

United States

The relevant clauses are in part 97.115:

(a) An amateur station may transmit messages for a third party to:
(1) Any station within the jurisdiction of the United States.

In the context of APRS with SMSGTE:

An amateur station (the iGate) may transmit messages (the SMS message) for a third party (the mobile user) to: Any station within the jurisdiction of the Unitied States (your RF station).

(c) No station may transmit third party communications while being automatically controlled except a station transmitting a RTTY or data emission.

Technically, an iGate is an automatically controlled station, but since it’s transmitting a data emission, it is in compliance.

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