The General Radiotelephone Operator License (GROL) is a license granted by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The GROL does not convey the authority to operate an amateur radio station, for which the FCC has a separate licensing system, nor is it required for any engineering jobs in radio and television broadcast. However, some services such as aviation, marine and international fixed public stations still require repair and maintenance to be performed by a person holding a GROL.
An FCC GROL is required to adjust, maintain, or internally repair FCC licensed radiotelephone transmitters in the aviation, maritime, and international fixed public radio services. It conveys all of the operating authority of the Marine Radio Operator Permit (MP). It is also required to operate the following: any compulsorily equipped ship radiotelephone station operating with more than 1500 watts of peak envelope power, a voluntarily equipped ship or an aeronautical (including aircraft) stations with more than 1000 watts of peak envelope power. Until 2013, a GROL was required also for international fixed public radiotelegraph and radiotelephone stations, including a HF broadcast station such as the Voice of America, but NOT U.S. based MW stations.
The GROL conveys all of the operating authority of the Marine Radio Operator Permit (MROP). A MROP is required to operate radiotelephone stations aboard vessels of more than 300 gross tons, vessels that carry more than six passengers for hire in the open sea or any coastal/tidewater area of the United States, certain vessels that sail the Great Lakes, and to operate certain aviation radiotelephone stations and certain coast radiotelephone stations.
Because of the wide range of positions it covers, the GROL is the most popular FCC commercial license, accounting for about 80% of those issued by the Commission.
Like all FCC commercial licenses, the GROL is issued for the lifetime of the licensee.
An endorsement that can be added to the GROL (as well as to both the GMDSS Maintainer and Radiotelegraph licenses) is "Ship Radar Endorsement." This allows the holder to install, service, and maintain Radar systems on board vessels.
In the past, the FCC issued the GROL in yellow 8.5 x 11 inch "diploma-like" form. It is now issued in a 5 x 7 certificate and wallet-sized form.
Historically, the first commercial operator licenses were issued by the Department of Commerce and then later by the Federal Radio Commission under the authority of the Radio Act of 1927. When the FCC was created in 1934 it took over this function. The Commission issued First and Second Class Radiotelephone Operator Licenses. In 1953 a Third Class permit was added.
As they developed after World War II, the "First Phone" license was required to be chief engineer at a broadcast station, and to work on television transmitters. The "Second Phone" certificate was often held by radio transmitter repair persons, such as in the aviation and maritime industries. The Third Class permit was required for announcers who had to record meter readings or who operated low power radio broadcast stations. From 1963 to 1978 an additional simple technical written test added a "Broadcast Endorsement" to the "Third Phone". This allowed announcers to be the sole operators at some limited power radio stations.
Obtaining any of the certificates required passing sequential written examinations. To obtain the Second Class license required first passing the test for the Third Class permit, which was an easy exam on broadcast rules and operating procedures. To test for the First one had to have passed the exam for a Second class license. Because it included the entire field of electronics transmission, the examination to earn the Second was generally thought more difficult than the First, which concentrated on broadcast radio and television.
As technology rapidly changed, transmitters required less skill to manage. In the spirit of deregulation and to reduce its own personnel and other associated costs, the FCC yielded progressively more of its control over broadcasters, and eased licensing requirements. In 1980 the name of the Third Phone was changed to the Marine Radio Operator Permit and was subsequently renewed under that name. In 1982 testing stopped for the First. Shortly afterwards all renewing First and Second Class licenses, were issued as GROLs. Like all previous commercial licenses, they were issued with renewable five year terms, but in 1984 certificates began to be granted or renewed as lifetime documents. Today, the GROL examinations cover FCC broadcast regulations and communications electronics; however, a license is no longer legally required for work in a broadcast station.
To qualify for the GROL, one must:
How to obtain a License:
To obtain a GROL License one must submit to the FCC, Form 605 and Form 159 with Proof of Passing Certificates for Elements 1 and 3. (Some Commercial Operator License Examination Managers will submit these forms for you.)
All exam questions are multiple-choice.
Basic radio law and operating practice.
Marine Radio Operator Permit question pool: 144 questions.
To pass one must answer 18 of 24 questions (75%) correctly.
Electronic fundamentals and techniques required to adjust, repair and maintain radio transmitters and receivers.
Element 3 exam will consists of questions in the following categories:
General Radiotelephone Operator License question pool: 600 questions
To pass one must answer 75 out of 100 questions (75%) correctly.
The Ship Radar Endorsement is required to repair, maintain or internally adjust ship radar equipment. It may, as an option, be added to the GROL.
To qualify, one must:
Element 8 - Ship Radar Endorsement
Ship Radar Techniques. Specialized theory and practice applicable to the proper installation, servicing and maintenance of ship radar equipment in general use for marine navigation purposes.
Element 8 exam will consists of questions in the following categories:
Ship Radar Endorsement question pool: 300 questions
To pass one must answer 38 out of 50 questions (76%) correctly.
Popular tools used to prepare for the GROL License are:
A book to study for the GROL License, and or FCC Examination Question Pools Downloads
A non-programmable scientific calculator. Programmable calculators are not allowed to be used during the exams.
Many applicants use a software program to help prepare for the GROL exams.
Preparation software will create practice tests. Some of the GROL preparation software will find questions in which the applicant is weak in, and drill more extensively on them.
All of the following software have practice tests, so the core differences are, how they handle missed questions.
Drills on missed questions, until the program decides the person knows the answers to the missed questions.
Dauntless Five by Five Amateur and Commercial FCC Test Prep:
The more times a question is missed, the more times it will be seen.
Does not drill on missed questions
The actual examinations are given by Commercial Operator License Examination Managers, (COLEMs) and fees typically range around $25-35 per element.
The FCC site has a page; that has links to COLEMs. FCC Cole Examination Managers Links