There are many reasons why you might want to get a ham radio license. Perhaps you’re looking for a new hobby, or maybe you need a reliable way to communicate over long distances in an emergency situation.
But, of course, you are supposed to get a license from Uncle Sam before you do that.
Federal govt. requires all individuals wishing to operate amateur radios to get a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
But why? Why do you need to get a ham radio license?
Reasons for having to get a HAM radio license include that it’s mandated by law, for the FCC to keep tabs on who is operating, to prevent interference of other signals or equipment, and to qualify operators for the use of more capable transmission equipment.
Bottom line, the FCC requires that all individuals who wish to operate amateur radios be licensed in order to ensure that they are qualified to do. Ahh, freedom.
No matter the reason, it’s important to understand why licensing is required before transmitting with amateur radio.
In this article, we will explore the reasons why you need a license in order to transmit legally as an amateur radio operator. Stay tuned!
The Government Wants to Know Who is Transmitting, and Why
Most people are familiar with the idea of a radio station, whether it’s a local news station or a music station that they listen to in the car.
But there’s another type of radio station that’s not as well-known: amateur radio stations.
These are operated by hobbyists and enthusiasts who use them to communicate with other amateur radio operators around the world.
In order to do this legally, these amateur “ops” need to have a license from the government. Surprise, surprise, right?
But then again, the government has always been interested in regulating radio traffic, just like everything else they see.
In the early days of radio, there was a lot of static and interference on the air and it grew harder and harder for people to communicate with each other.
The government, naturally, decided that they needed to “solve” the problem by making licensure of non-governmental radio transmissions of a certain power mandatory.
They also wanted to know who was operating these stations so they could keep track of their activity.
Today, the government is still keenly interested in knowing who is operating amateur radio stations and why.
This is because amateur radio operators have the potential to interfere with other radio frequencies such as those used by emergency services or other, privileged institutions.
By requiring them to have a license, the government is certain they can fine or jail non-compliant types into oblivion under the guise of law, further cementing their monopoly on the airwaves.
They also want to be able to “contact” the operators of such stations in case of an emergency.
So if you’re operating an amateur radio station, be sure to get a license from the government. It’s the law!
Licensure Requires Testing
Ham radio is a fairly unique hobby in that it requires passing a test to operate, or rather to transmit. This may seem like a daunting task, but the licensing process itself is actually not too difficult.
There are three levels of licensing: Technician, General, and Extra.
The Technician class license is the entry-level license and requires passing a written exam. The Technician license gives you access to all VHF and UHF frequencies.
The General license is the next level up, and it gives you access to all HF frequencies. The General class license requires passing a written exam.
The General license is the next level up, and it gives you access to all HF frequencies, allowing you to contact station some miles away. Many ham ops are General-class.
The Extra class license is the highest level of licensure and requires passing a written exam.
The Extra license gives you access to all frequencies, including several exclusive ones.
Note that each level of license grants the operator additional privileges, such as access to more frequencies and the ability to use more powerful transmitters.
The licensing process may seem daunting at first, but it’s actually not too difficult once you get serious about radio theory. With a little studying, anyone can become a licensed ham radio operator.
You Don’t Need a License Just to Listen
One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t need a license just to listen in to any radio signal, or at least any civilian accessible radio signal.
You can listen to any amateur radio station as long as you have the proper receiver. In fact, you don’t even need a receiver; you can just use an ordinary AM/FM radio tuned to the right frequency.
It’s only when you start transmitting that you need a license. This is because when you transmit, you’re now pushing signals out on the electromagnetic spectrum, which is a “traffic” limited resource at any one time.
The government wants to make sure that only qualified individuals have access to this resource so they can use it in an appropriate manner.
In fact, listening is a great way to get started in the “hobby” without having to study for a test and without having to get licensed.
You can learn a lot just by listening to experienced ham operators talking over the air, and you can get a feel for the protocols and other techniques they use.
Plus, it’s a great way to figure out if ham radio is something you might be interested in before making the commitment to get licensed. So go ahead and tune in; you might be surprised at what you hear.
Use the Internet as a Workaround
You might not even need a radio if you want to listen to ham radio, and if you are an operator, you could sidestep licensing requirements by using ham radio-to-internet apps and relays.
There are a few apps that allow you to listen in on amateur radio conversations, as well as some that let you connect to repeaters and other stations over the internet from around the world.
This workaround lets you get involved in the hobby without actually having a radio or extending your “range” beyond what is allowed with your license.
These apps and techniques are also a worthwhile addition to the repertoire of even the savviest operator.
A thorough discussion of these apps and techniques is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that they exist and are popular among ham ops in our Information Age!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.