AMATEUR RADIO FAQ
Amateur Radio is the foundation for many of the electronic devices and wireless services we currently enjoy in the 21st Century. Over one million Americans currently hold an Amateur Radio license and exercise their Amateur Radio operating privileges to communicate with other “Hams” via voice, video, and data worldwide.
WHY DO I NEED A LICENSE?
The Communications Act of 1933 established the Amateur Radio Service. This radio service is governed by the Federal Communications Commission in accordance with international treaties and protocols with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Rules governing all aspects of the Amateur Radio Service in the United States are found in CFR 47 – Part 97 of the United States Code. All persons wishing to operate a transmitting device must possess a valid Amateur Radio license.
The Federal Communications Commission regulates and oversees the Amateur Radio Service in the United States. There are currently three license classes for individuals who wish to hold an Amateur Radio Service license.
- The TECHNICIAN class license provides operators with full operating privileges on frequencies above 30 MHz. This includes the 6 meter, 2 meter, 1.25 meter, 70 centimeter, 33 centimeter bands, and a host of frequencies above 1 Gigahertz. In addition, Technician Class license holders also have limited operating privileges on several High Frequency bands below 30 MHz.
- The GENERAL class license expands the operating privileges primarily on frequencies below 30 MHz. These include full voice and data operation on the 10 meter, 12 meter, 15 meter, 20 meter, 30 meter, 40 meter, 60 meter, 75 meter, and 160 meter bands as well as all frequencies above 30 MHz.
- The AMATEUR EXTRA class license provides operating privileges on all bands and all frequencies in the Amateur Radio Service. Many Amateur Extra class licensees also provide an essential service as Volunteer License Examiners (VE). Volunteer Examiners administer the tests that qualify Amateur Radio operators for the license and operating privileges they hold.
- While Morse Code (CW) remains a valid operating mode in the Amateur Radio Service, showing a Morse Code proficiency is no longer a requirement to hold a valid Amateur Radio license.
- All United States Amateur Radio licenses are valid for a period of ten years from the date of issue and renewable upon application to the Federal Communications Commission.
HOW TO EARN YOUR AMATEUR RADIO LICENSE
First, WHO can hold a United States Amateur Radio License? The answer is any United States Citizen, any age, who has not been convicted of a felony.
Amateur Radio Service licensees are required to have a basic knowledge of electronics and electronic theory. This includes Ohm’s Law which defines the several components of electrical circuits and how energy flows in those circuits. It also defines electrical current, electromotive force, power, resistance, and reactance.
Licensees are also required to have a knowledge of the rules and regulations contained in CFR 47 – Part 97 that govern the Amateur Radio Service. These include operating frequencies and modes, Station Identification requirements, transmitter power limitations, and operator responsibilities.
The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and other publish tutorials to help prospective operators obtain their first license as well as upgrade to higher license classes. These books can be obtained at the ARRL’s website, http://www.arrl.org. The full Question Pool for all three Amateur Radio License Exams can also be purchased from the ARRL or downloaded free of charge on the Internet.
Once a prospective licensee feels they are ready to take a license exam, they can take Practice Tests online. For a list of Amateur Radio Practice Test websites, open your Internet browser and search for “Amateur Radio Practice Tests”. When you have achieved a score of ninety percent or higher on these practice tests, you are likely ready to go to a Volunteer Examination Test Session to take a “real” test.
Volunteer Examination Test Sessions are administered by several different organizations. These include the ARRL (www.arrl.org), Laurel VEC (www.laurelvec.com), and W5YI (https://w5yi.org). A listing of VE Testing Sessions in your area can be obtained by visiting each organizations website.
You will need to take the following items with you to take your Amateur Radio License Exam:
- Two forms of legal identification (Driver’s License, Birth Certificate, other Government-issued ID)
- Social Security Number and/or Federal Registration Number (FRN). You can obtain an FRN (now required by the FCC) by going to the FCC CORES website
- Some examiners allow the use of a simple electronic calculator that is not a cell phone app.
- Some VECs have a Testing Fee for administering Amateur Radio License Exams. Make sure you have any required fee, in cash, with you.
VE tests will generally provide scratch paper and the #2 lead pencil required for completing the exam Answer Sheet. However, providing your own #2 lead pencil and a black ink pen (for signing official forms) is recommended.
When you complete your Amateur Radio Exam, you will be issued a Certificate of Successful Examination (CSCE). This will serve as proof you have passed your test. The VE Team will then submit a completed Form 605. Your Amateur Radio callsign will be posted on the FCC website https://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchLicense.jsp once your application has been processed. This can take up to one week but can occur within hours of taking and passing your Amateur Radio Exam. You can (and should) obtain a printed version of your Amateur Radio license by logging into the FCC ULS website with your FRN and the password that was assigned to your account when you completed your FRN registration.
Congratulations! You are now ready to begin operating!
-August 18, 2020