What is Amateur Radio

What is Amateur Radio

Amateur radio is a community of people that use radio transmitters and receivers to communicate with other Amateur radio operators all over the world. If you were to ask a dozen different amateurs what ham radio meant to them chances are you would get 12 different answers. Amateur radio operators are often called ham radio operators or simply “hams” and frequently the public is more familiar with this term than with the legal term Radio Amateur. The source of this nickname is for all practical purposes lost from the beginning.

Amateur (HAM) Radio is truly a hobby but often one that makes a difference especially in emergency or disaster situations. It is an activity of Self Learning, Inter-Communication & Technical Investigation carried on between Amateur Radio Operators. Amateurs talk to local friends over the radio waves using a hand-held transceiver, communicating digitally with packet radio to exchange personal messages or vital information in an emergency, talking to other hams anywhere in the world, or engaging in contests with other Radio Amateurs over the airwaves there is something for everyone.

There are millions people all over the world who pursue this activity in their free time.

What Hams do with Amateur Radio

•QRP – Communicating with “very low power” is a challenge that many hams enjoy. QRP is usually practiced on the HF bands
•HF radio – Hams can talk to other hams in literally any part of the globe using HF radios
•VHF (2 meters) or UHF (70 cm.) transceivers hams enjoy extremely reliable communications within their local community. You can extend your VHF range up to 50 miles or more by transmitting through a local repeater.
•DXing. DX means distance communication and with the right equipment worldwide communication on the HF bands (10 through 160 meters) is a regular possibility.
•Emergency and other volunteer services – Floods, landslides, earthquakes, Cyclones, Accidents (Rail / Road / Air). Whenever “normal” communications go out, hams are ready to use their radios to provide emergency communication services to their communities
•Technical experimenting. Hams come from all walks of life ranging from technicians to engineers, teachers to scientists, and students to retirees. For many of them the attraction to the hobby is to build their own equipment whether it is just a simple antenna, something as complex as a transmitter, or an interface between their radio and a computer.
•Contesting. Contesting is often called the “sport” of ham radio. Almost every all the time there is some form of amateur radio contest. Hams get on the air and compete to see who can make the most contacts in a limited period of time.
•Talk to an astronaut. Yes, it is really possible. Space stations do have ham radio equipment and licenced ham astronauts take the time to make contacts with amateurs on earth. Hams also have satellites where you can bounce a signal to communicate with other hams on earth.
•Use digital communication. Connect a computer to your radio and install some software and you can be communicating digitally over the air. Some of these digital modes can be more effective in marginal transmission conditions and some even sport error free transmission.
•Internet communication. Using some of the latest technologies hams can supplement a modest station with Internet connections. Using features such as URL or IRLP on a local repeater a ham in Toronto can talk to one in Vancouver or even Australia using a simple hand-held transceiver
•Amateur television – It’s just like real television because it is real television.
•Slow Scan TV – Send pictures around the world for little or no cost.
•Contests – You can put your radio operating skills up against other hams and teams of hams.
•Satellite communications – Hams operate using their own satellites for world wide communication using Walkie-Talkies…. They are easy to use too.

How do I get an Amateur / "Ham" Licence?

Q – How do I get an Amateur / “Ham” Licence?

The following information relates to the United Kingdom (UK ONLY)

Amateur Radio Licenses in the UK are controlled by OFCOM and are obtained by passing the relevant RSGB (Radio Society of Great Britain) tests and examinations.

At this time there are three levels of radio licence: the FOUNDATION, the INTERMEDIATE, and the FULL and the tests for each level must be completed before the next level can be attempted. As the Foundation and the Intermediate levels both include some practical assessments they must be undertaken with some form of training or supervision, the Full licence requires only completion of the written examination and can be self-taught.

There are generally no limitation on the Modes available to Amateur Radio operators at any level and Foundation, Intermediate and Full Licence holders can use AM, FM, SSB, CW or Digital Modes such as PSK31 or SSTV. Foundation licenses are limited to HF, plus 2m and 70cm and may not use FSTV, but Intermediate and Full licenses have access to the full amateur radio spectrum.

Each of the three RSGB written examinations comprise multiple choice questions. They must take place in a Registered Location under the Supervision of RSGB Registered Examiners. There is a fee payable for each examination (and again payable if failed and reattempted).

Contrary to popular belief, there is NO requirement for a CW / Morse Test in the UK licenses any more and previous “Class A” and “Class B” licence holders now enjoy exactly the same privileges.

Foundation Licence Training.The Foundation is the entry level amateur radio licence and requires basic knowledge of radios, transmitting and operation, and understanding simple electronics and circuits.Although set at a basic introduction level it does require some learning, understanding and remembering fact and figures in order to pass the written exam. It also requires completion of a number of practical assessments: such as making a VHF contact; making a HF contact; SWRing an aerial; and an “Appreciation of Morse” before the written test can be taken. For this reason it is usually necessary to undertake a training course or session at an Amateur Radio Club or other organisation. Some clubs run the Foundation training on one evening per week, over the course of about six weeks with the written test on the final evening. Other places may offer “Intensive Courses” over one or two weekends.The Appreciation of Morse Practical session is not a test. There is no requirement to send or receive any specific number of Words Per Minute, it is simply to ensure that the Student understands what Morse is, and can send and receive signals in a test environment. The send and receive can be repeated as often as necessary, and taken as slowly as necessary, and the student has a written Morse sheet in front of them at all times.A lot of the old-school “City and Guilds” Amateur Radio Operators now claim that Foundation licenses are “given away on Cornflakes packets”. While the level of the Foundation Training is indeed Basic, it is not a walk-over and does take some concentration and study in order to pass. Anyone walking into the examination with no prior study and under impression “I’ve had a CB for twenty years, what do I need to learn?” is likely to fail.The RSGB publish a book, “Foundation Licence Now” which covers the entire syllabus. If the book has been read and understood, and the salient points remembered, then the written exam will be passed with ease.
Intermediate Licence TrainingAt the Intermediate level there is significantly more detail involved, an understanding of electronic components is required and a much higher level of practical assessments must be completed before the written examination can be attempted.Amongst the practical assessments required for the Intermediate licence is a requirement to build an appropriate electronic “Project” either from published plans or from a commercial kit, so an understanding of components and circuit diagrams is vital, as are some soldering skills. Typically the project might involve building something like an 80m HF Receiver, or a Notch Filter, or a SWR Meter and Matcher perhaps. It is important to check with the Trainer that whatever Project is planned is appropriate and complex enough to qualify as the Passed Assessment. For example, building a simple SWR Meter would be considered too basic. Other elements of the practical assessments involve building a simple circuit to test various components and tuning a VFO.As with the Foundation Level training, some ARC clubs offer Intermediate Training over a period of perhaps ten or thirteen weeks, or possibly over a period of three or four weekends. Again as for the Foundation Level, there is an RSGB Book “Intermediate – Building on the Foundation” that contains all the information required to pass the written test, plus details of the practical elements that need to be completed.
The Full LicenceThe full licence is the highest level of Amateur Radio Licence available in the UK. It involves no practical work, but a very much higher level of knowledge and understanding of electronics, radios, radio theory and aerial theory is required before sitting the written examination.The Full Licence gives the same privileges as the preceding “City and Guilds” examination and provides the Radio Operator with a significant amount of freedom (and therefore also responsibility) in terms of equipment that can be used, the amount of power that is available. Full licence holders are also permitted to operate radio equipment outside the UK.There are less Training opportunities available at the Full Licence level and a significant proportion of students prepare by home-study, perhaps with Revision Sessions organised by Clubs and Organisations. But some ARC do offer the full Advanced Training Course.As for the other two levels, there is an RSGB Book available “Advance, the Full Licence” which contains all that is needed to successfully pass the written examination.
LICENCE Max.
Power
General Limitations
FOUNDATION 10w HF (160m to 10m), VHF (2m) and UHF (70cm)
Commercially made equipment only
UK Only
INTERMEDIATE 50w All UK Amateur Frequencies
Can build / Repair equipment from kits or published plans
UK Only
FULL 400w All UK Amateur Frequencies
Can build / Repair equipment from scratch
Can operate abroad where reciprocal agreements exist
Can operate Maritime Mobile with permission of the Ship’s Master.

At first, Amateur Radio Station Call-signs appear to comprise a semi-random collection of letters and numbers, but there is some logic involved (although they’re not as simple to understand as the generally accepted and used FreeBand call-signs). The first letter (nearly always) identifies the country in which the licence was issued, and the remaining letters and numbers identify the individual that holds the licence, and perhaps some information about the level of licence held.

LICENCE Current Typical Format Meaning / Historical Examples
FOUNDATION M6abc “M” indicates a UK Licence, “6” indicates the licence is Foundation level “abc” are the individual’s unique identification letters
Previous to “M6” Licenses, Foundation holders were issued “M3”. There is no difference in the two, the change to M6 was simply made because the majority of M3 call-signs had been used.
M6MAD, M6ERG, M3CDE, MD4CAT
INTERMEDIATE 2x0abc “2×0” indicates a UK Intermediate Licence), “x” is the Regional Identifier (see below) “abc” are the individual’s unique identification letters 2E0QWE, 2W0DAI, 2M0MCC
FULL M0abc “M” indicates a UK Licence, “0” indicates the licence is Full level “abc” are the individual’s unique identification letters
Previous to “M0” Licenses, all UK Class 1 and Class 2 Licenses were prefixed “G”.
Before the Morse requirement was lifted the last digit usually indicated a Class 1 or Class 2 licence determining whether the licence holder had completed the mandatory Morse Speed Test and could use HF frequencies, or was limited to VHF and above. Now all “G” licenses and “M0” have exactly the same privileges.
M0SDY, M0DAN, MI0MIL

A Summary of UK Callsigns follows:

Call sign Issue dates and details
G2 + 2 letters 1920 – 1939
G3 + 2 letters 1937 – 1938
G4 + 2 letters 1938 – 1939
G5 + 2 letters 1921 – 1939
G6 + 2 letters 1921 – 1939
G8 + 2 letters 1936 – 1937
G1 + 3 letters 1983 – 1988 – originally issued as Class B licence
G2 + 3 letters Originally issued as “Artificial Aerial” licence
G2 + 3 letters Originally issued as “Artificial Aerial” licence
G3 + 3 letters Issued between 1946 and 1971. Originally issued to amateur radio Class A licence holders
G4 + 3 letters Issued between 1971 and 1985. Originally issued to amateur radio class A licence holders.
G5 + 3 letters Originally issued to foreign nationals as a form of reciprocal ham radio licence. They were withdrawn
and either they used existing home calls with additional UK prefix / callsign, or if applicable they could
apply for UK licence.
G6 + 3 letters 1981 – 1983. Originally issued as a class B licence
G7 + 3 letters 1989 – 1996. Originally issued as a class B licence
G8 + 3 letters 1964 – 1981. Originally issued as a class B licence
G0 + 3 letters 1986 – 1996. Originally issued as a class A licence
M1 + 3 letters 1996 – . Originally issued as a class B licence.
M0 + 3 letters 1996 – . Originally issued as a class A licence
M3 + 3 letters Foundation licence.
M6 + 3 letters Foundation licence, from May 2008.

UK Amateur Licenses also include a Mandatory Prefix and an optional (but recommended Best Practice) Suffix when used.

PREFIX SUFFIX
PURPOSE: – The Prefix Letter indicates from which Country within the United Kingdom the Radio is currently being operated. If no Prefix is shown it is assumed to be operating in the Default Country, England. However, for Intermediate licenses (only) the “E” is required (eg 2E0MLN). MEANING: – Inclusion of the Suffix letters used to be Mandatory but is now optional (although Recommended). The letter(s) indicate the type of location from which the station is transmitting.
POSSIBLE PREFIX LETTERS:

  • W – Wales
  • M – Scotland
  • I – Northern Ireland
  • D – Isle of Man
  • J – Jersey
  • G – Guernsey
  • E – England (Intermediate only)
POSSIBLE SUFFIX LETTERS:

  • No Suffix – The Station is being operated from the Registered Address of the Licence Holder.
  • /M – Mobile. On foot, Car/Van/Truck or aboard a boat on an inland waterway.
  • /A – Alternate. A UK Address other than the register station.
  • /P – Portable. Operating from a location that does not have a Postcode (eg, Hilltop or Field).
  • /MM – Maritime Mobile (Full Licence only)
PREFIX EXAMPLES:

  • MW6DSA – MW=Wales/6=Foundation – Foundation Licence in Wales
  • MM3TYU – MM=Scotland/3=Foundation – Foundation Licence in Scotland
  • M0POP – No regional identifier, default is England – Full Licence in England
  • 2D0CAT – “D” identifier=Isle of Man/2×0=Intermediate.
  • MG6TOM – Foundation Licence in Guernsey
  • 2E0CCT – Intermediate Licence in England. (the “E” only shows in the Intermediate Licence)
SUFFIX EXAMPLES:

  • M6NBV/M – Foundation Licence, in England, currently Mobile
  • MM0WEB – No Suffix, Default is at Registered Address, Full Licence at Home in Scotland
  • 2J0RUT/A – Intermediate Licence Currently at Alternative Address in Jersey
  • MW3TRS/P – Foundation Station operating “Portable” in Wales
  • M0TMP/MM – UK Full licence operating from a Ship or Boat on Tidal waters.