The first Amateur Radio (aka “HAM”) licenses were issued in 1912. The Amateur Radio Service is regulated by Title 47 Code of Federal Regulations Part 97.
Over the years a number of different classes of licenses were issued, each with different requirements to obtain and each gave the operator different privileges on frequency bands allocated to the Amateur Radio Service. In February 2007 the FCC eliminated the requirement for morse code.
There are currently 3 classes of licensed that are now issued:
- Amateur Extra (often just called Extra)
A license is issued for 10 years and there is no fee to the FCC.
As of July 2020 there are over 760,104 licensed operators:
- Technician – 385,013
- General – 179,051
- Amateur Extra – 150,696
- Novice (no longer issued) – 7,567
- Advanced (no longer issued) – 37,777
Band Plans and Frequencies
Testing is conducted by other hams. There are 14 Volunteer Exam Coordinators (VECs) and local teams operate under one of these VECs to conduct local exams. The teams can charge up to $15 for an exam, with the exception of those under the Laurel VEC, who do not charge.
Since COVID a group of people have been developing the Hamstudy.org computer testing program to enable remote testing. Several teams have been authorized by their VEC to pilot test this capability as it is being developed.
For a complete list of resources for learning and to locate a test see this page.
Why Do I Need to Get a Radio?
With the technology we have today to video call anyone, anywhere, with a device you can carry in your hand why would you want a radio?
Well, I’m sure you have experienced areas where a cell phone doesn’t work – such as stretches of interstate in the middle of nowhere, or camping in the mountains. But severe events such as tornadoes and hurricanes can also knock out the power or the infrastructure. In a disaster what little service capability that might be left will be severely overloaded. Remember, your device needs power and the infrastructure that makes it work requires power and phone/internet lines to connect it. Ham radio does not need anything but power, and usually a battery that can be readily charger or even a car battery will power a radio for many hours.
For information on studying for your license see How to Obtain Your Amateur Radio License.
This section will be expanded to include articles on:
- determining what radio to buy
- different types of radio technology; analog, DMR, D-STAR, Fusion
- developing a communications plan for your family