Amateur radio

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 Mrs. Bharathi Prasad using her call sign VU4RBI demonstrates Amateur Radio to local students in Port Blair, Andaman Islands, a few days before the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
Mrs. Bharathi Prasad using her call sign VU4RBI demonstrates Amateur Radio to local students in Port Blair, Andaman Islands, a few days before the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

Amateur radio, often called ham radio, is a hobby enjoyed by many people throughout the world. An amateur radio operator, or ham, uses two-way radio to communicate with other radio amateurs, for recreation or self-edification. The origin of the word "ham" is obscure.

Amateur radio has always been more than just a hobby. In fact, amateur radio's role in public service and international relations is such an integral part of the hobby that the United States Federal Communications Commission has gone so far as to codify some of these items in its amateur radio regulations. From 47 CFR 97.1:

(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.

(b) Continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.

(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art.

(d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.

(e) Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to enhance international goodwill.

Amateur radio is an example of how leisure activities contribute substantially to the improvement of products and services and the standard of living in our many world cultures. Amateur radio operators who are doctors, engineers, educators, lawyers, entertainers, electricians, farmers, bankers, and government employees (to name a few) have frequently found practical on-the-job applicability to ideas learned through the study of electronics and communications in amateur radio. Operators have been on the forefront of significant developments in all the fields described above.

As of 2004 there were about 3 million hams worldwide with about 700,000 in the USA, 600,000 in Japan, 140,000 each in South Korea and Thailand, 57,000 in Canada, 70,000 in Germany, 60,000 in UK, 11,000 in Sweden, and 5,000 in Norway.


Governance and amateur radio societies

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) governs the allocation of communications frequencies world-wide, with participation by each nation by representation from their communications regulation authority. National communications regulators have some liberty to restrict access to these frequencies, or to award additional allocations as long as radio services in other countries do not suffer interference.

In some countries, specific emission types are restricted to certain parts of the radio spectrum, and in most other countries, International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member societies adopt voluntary plans to concentrate modes of transmission in specific frequency allocations within IARU guidelines, to ensure most effective use of available spectrum.

Many countries have their own national (non-government) amateur radio society that coordinates with the communications regulation authority for the benefit of all Amateurs. The oldest of these societies is the Wireless Institute of Australia, formed in 1910; other notable societies are the Radio Society of Great Britain, the American Radio Relay League, and Radio Amateurs of Canada.

How to become a Ham

In most countries, amateur radio operators are required to pass a test in order to be licensed, unlike other personal radio services such as CB radio, General Mobile Radio Service, or Family Radio Service / PMR446. In return, hams are granted operating privileges in allocated segments of the entire radio frequency spectrum using a wide variety of communication techniques.

Once licensed, the radio amateur is issued a callsign by its government. This callsign is unique to the operator and is often a source of pride. The holder of a callsign uses it on the air to legally identify the operator or station during any and all radio communications.

In many countries, amateurs are required to pass an examination to demonstrate technical knowledge, operating competence and awareness of legal and regulatory requirements, in order to avoid interference with other amateurs and other radio services. In the majority of countries, there are a series of exams available, progressively more challenging and granting progressively more privileges in terms of frequency availability, power output, and permitted experimentation.

Amateur licensing in the United States serves as an example of the way some countries award different levels of amateur radio licenses based on knowledge and telegraphy skill. The United States system has evolved into three-levels of license. The entry-level license, known as Technician, is awarded after an applicant successfully completes a 35-question multiple choice written examination. The license grants operating privileges on all bands above 50 MHz. A Technician who passes a 5 word-per-minute Morse code test is further granted privileges in portions of the 10-, 15-, 40-, and 80-meter amateur bands. The next grade, known as General, requires passage of the the Technician test, the 5 word-per-minute telegraphy test, as well as a 35-question multiple-choice General exam. General-class licensees are granted privileges on portions of all amateur HF bands, in addition to the Technician privileges. The top US license class is Amateur Extra. The Extra class license requires the same tests as General plus a third multiple-choice exam. This exam has 50 questions. Those with Amateur Extra licenses are granted privileges on all US amateur bands.

In many countries, amateur licensing is a routine civil administrative matter, with considerable worldwide improvement in the past 15 years. In some countries, however, amateur licensing is either inordinately bureaucratic (e.g. India), or amateurs must undergo difficult security approval (e.g. Iran). A handful of countries, currently only Yemen and North Korea, simply do not permit their citizens to operate amateur radio stations, although in both cases a handful of foreign visitors have been permitted to obtain amateur licenses in the past decade.

A further difficulty occurs in developing countries, where licensing structures are often copied from European countries and annual license fees can be prohibitive in terms of local incomes. This is a particular problem in Africa and to a lesser extent in poorer parts of Asia and Latin America. Small countries or those with weak administrative structures may not have a national licensing scheme and may require amateurs to take the licensing exams of a foreign country in lieu.

Morse Code requirement

Until recently, amateurs operating in the short-, medium-, or longwave bands were required by international regulation to pass a Morse code telegraphy exam. At the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-03)[1][2], held in the Summer of 2003, this requirement was made optional leaving it up to individual nations to decide whether or not Morse testing should be required. As a result, many nations and regions, e.g. Canada, Japan, most of European and Oceanic countries, have dropped the requirement while others still require it (e.g. USA, India, China, most Arab and Caribbean countries).

Privileges of the Amateur

In contrast to most commercial and personal radio services, most radio amateurs are not restricted to using type-approved equipment, allowing them to home-construct or modify equipment in any way so long as they meet national and international standards on spurious emissions.

As noted, radio amateurs have access to frequency allocations throughout the RF spectrum, enabling choice of frequency to enable effective communication whether across a city, a region, a country, a continent or the whole world regardless of season or time day or night. The shortwave bands, or HF, can facilitate worldwide communication, the VHF and UHF bands offer excellent regional communication, and the broad microwave bands have enough space, or bandwidth, for television transmissions and high-speed data networks.

Although permitted power levels are moderate by commercial standards, they are sufficient to enable cross-continental communication even with the least effective antenna systems, and world-wide communications at least occasionally even with moderate antennas. Power limits vary from country to country, for the highest license classes for example, 2 kilowatts in most countries of the former Yugoslavia, 1.5 kilowatts in the United States, 1 kilowatt in Belgium, 750 watts in Germany, 400 watts in the United Kingdom and 150 watts in Oman. Lower license classes are usually restricted to lower power limits; for example the lowest license class in the UK has a limit of just 10 watts.

Some suggest that the amateur portion of the radio spectrum is like a national park: something like the Yosemite of natural phenomenon. Through the licensing requirement, radioamateurs become like trained national park guides and backpackers. While the backpackers know about the beauty of the parks as well as the rules of engagement with wildlife in the park system, radioamateurs learn to appreciate and respect the beauty of the very limited electromagnetic space and the rules of engagement of human interaction within that space. The difference is that an actual national park is tangible - visitors can breathe the clean mountain air and watch the wildlife. In contrast, while all of humanity benefits from the radio spectrum's existence, it can not actually be seen.

What does one do with amateur radio?

An amateur radio operator engaging in two-way communications.
An amateur radio operator engaging in two-way communications.

Amateur radio operators enjoy personal two-way communications with friends, family members, and complete strangers, all of whom must also be licensed. They support the larger public community with emergency and disaster communications. Increasing a person's knowledge of electronics and radio theory as well as radio contesting are also popular aspects of amateur radio.

A good way to get started in amateur radio is to find a club in your area to answer your questions and provide information on getting licensed and then getting on the air. If you are in the U.S., you can find a club near you by going to the American Radio Relay League's Affiliated Club Search page.

Radio amateurs use a variety of modes of transmission to communicate with one another. Voice transmissions are the most common way hams communicate with one another, with some types of emission such as frequency modulation (FM) offering high quality audio for local operation where signals are strong, and others such as single side band (SSB) offering more reliable communications when signals are marginal and using smaller amounts of bandwith.

Radiotelegraphy using Morse code remains surprisingly popular, particularly on the shortwave bands and for experimental work on the microwave bands, with its inherent signal-to-noise ratio advantages. Morse, using internationally agreed code groups, can also facilitate communications between amateurs who do not share a common language. Radiotelegraphy is also popular with home constructors as CW-only transmitters are simple to construct when compared to voice transmitters.

The explosion in personal computing power has led to a boom in digital modes such as radio teletype, which a generation ago required cumbersome and expensive specialist equipment. Hams led in the development of packet radio, which has since been superceded by more specialized modes such as PSK31 which is designed to facilitate real-time, low-power communications on the shortwave bands. Other modes, such as the WSJT suite, are aimed at extremely marginal propagation modes including meteor scatter and moonbounce.

Similarly, amateur television, once considered rather esoteric, has exploded in popularity thanks to cheap camcorders and good quality video cards in home computers. Because of the wide bandwidth and stable signals required, it is limited in range to at most 100 km (about 62 miles) in normal conditions.

Most of the modes noted above rely on the simplex communication mode, that is direct, radio-to-radio communication. On VHF and higher frequencies, automated relay stations, or repeaters, are used to increase range. Repeaters are usually located on the top of a mountain or tall building. A repeater allows the radio amateur to communicate over hundreds of square miles using only a hand-held tranceiver. Repeaters can also be linked together, either by use of other amateur radio bands, by wireline, or, increasingly via the Internet.

While many hams just enjoy talking to friends, others pursue interests such as providing communications for a community emergency response team; antenna theory; communication via amateur satellite ; disaster response; severe weather spotting; DX communication over thousands of miles using the ionosphere to refract radio waves; the Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) which is a composite network of radio and the Internet; Automatic Position Reporting System (APRS), which is a radio network that uses GPS; radiosport; the sport of Amateur Radio Direction Finding; or low-power operation.

Most hams have a room or area in their home which is dedicated to their radio and ancillary test equipment, known as the "shack" in ham slang.

Emergency and public service communications

In times of crisis and natural disasters, ham radio is often the only surviving means of communication. It has been found all too often that both wire and cellular telephone systems either fail or are overloaded in times of crisis and radios dedicated to emergency services fare little better. Recent examples include the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan, the 2003 North America blackout and Hurricane Katrina in September, 2005, where amateur radio was used to coordinate disaster relief activities when other systems failed.

On September 2, 2004, ham radio was used to inform weather forecasters with information on Hurricane Frances live from the Bahamas. On December 26, 2004, an earthquake and resulting tsunami across the Indian Ocean wiped out all communications with the Andaman Islands, except for a DX-pedition that provided a critical link with the Indian mainland to coordinate relief efforts.

Amateur radio emergency activities are possible because, in the context of simplex communications, there is little or no fixed infrastructure that may be destroyed in a disaster.

Hams are also very well-versed in improvising and restoring communications under the primitive conditions following a disaster. The national amateur societies in many countries organize operating events often called Field Day to give hams practice in establishing emergency stations using temporary antennas and emergency power. In some countries, such as the United States, these events are explicitly tied in with emergency preparedness.

In the United States, there are two methods of organizing amateur radio emergency communications. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), sponsored by the ARRL, and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), usually organized by municipal or county governments. RACES authorization comes from Part 97.407 of the FCC regulations.

Typically a local radio club will have information on joining either or both. In areas where known disaster problems exist, amateur radio has a long-standing tradition of cooperation with local emergency services. Los Angeles County and the Disaster Communications Service exists as an example.

In the United Kingdom, RAYNET, the Radio Amateur Emergency Network, and the RSGB, provide the organisational backbone of their amateur radio emergency communications groups.

In New Zealand the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters (NZART) provides the AREC - Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (formerly Amateur Radio Emergency Corps) in the role. They won the New Zealand National Search and Rescue award in 2001 for their long commitment to Search and Rescue in NZ.

Amateurs are often professionally involved in areas which compliment their hobby, such as electronics, emergency services, or aviation. This often sees hams as being at the forefront of the development of 'STSP' (Short Term Special Purpose) repeater systems and other complex radio linking systems able to easily be inserted by trampers or aircraft into a search area. Being able to provide VHF or UHF radio into an emergency or disaster area means that teams on the ground can use relatively common and portable handheld radios to liaise with base, or with other agencies. VHF-based communications supported by crossbanding or STSP repeaters are gradually replacing portable HF systems because of their flexibility, and the relative portability of their antenna and power systems.

Associated with emergency communications are many public service exercises and events to which hams contribute. Motorsports, water sports, cycle races, marathons, and sporting events of all kinds. This gives them an excellent opportunity to drill their skills in message handling amd deploying, configuring and using their various radio technologies. An example is the input that hams have on the World Rally Championships. Radio amateurs deploy their emergency communications equipment across the Rally of New Zealand providing safety operators every 5 km of a special stage, plus liaison with rally headquarters and safety crews. For more information from an ham's perspective, refer here.

Health and welfare contributions

Radio amateurs are often willing to contribute their services to people in need throughout the world. Their work, often behind the scenes, contributes to people in need during times of earthquakes, hurricanes, and other disasters of both small and large proportions. Their work contributes in support of others who are on missions of mercy. As a way to recognize a few who exemplify the good deeds of many, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) sponsors an annual Humanitarian Award. The award was originally designed to have the level of scrutiny and respect as a Nobel Prize, but for those involved in the amateur radio service worldwide. Information about the award may be found on at [3]

DXing, QSL cards and awards

Many amateurs enjoy trying to contact stations in as many different parts of the world as they can on shortwave bands, or over as great a range as possible on the higher bands, a pursuit which is generally known as DXing.

Traditionally radio amateurs exchange QSL cards with other stations, to provide written confirmation of the contact. These are required for many amateur operating awards, and many amateurs also enjoy collecting them simply for the pleasure of doing so. Although often cynically nicknamed "wallpaper", the advent of desktop publishing and low cost color printing means that QSL cards are of higher quality than ever before.

The number of operating awards available is literally in the thousands. The most popular awards are the Worked All States award, usually the first award amateurs in the United States aim for, the Worked All Continents award, also an entry level award on the shortwave bands, and the more challenging Worked All Zones and DX Century Club (DXCC) awards. DXCC is the most popular awards programme, with the entry level requiring amateurs to contact 100 of the (as of 2005) 335 recognized countries and territories in the world, which leads on to a series of operating challenges of increasing difficulty. Many awards are available for contacting amateurs in a particular country, region or city.

Certain parts of the world have very few radio amateurs. As a result, when a station with a rare ID comes on the air, radio amateurs flock to communicate with it. Often amateurs will travel specifically to a country or island, in what is known as a DX-pedition, to activate it. Big DX-peditions can make as many as 100,000 individual contacts in a few weeks.

A group of amateur radio operators during DX-pedition to The Gambia in October 2003.
A group of amateur radio operators during DX-pedition to The Gambia in October 2003.

Many amateurs also enjoy contacting the many special event stations on the air. Set up to commemorate special occurrences, they often issue distinctive QSLs or certificates. Some use unusual prefixes, such as the call signs with "96" that amateurs in the US State of Georgia could use during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, or the OO prefix used by Belgian amateurs in 2005 to commemorate their nation's 175th anniversary. Many amateurs decorate their radio "shacks" with these certificates.

Some hams are fascinated to see how much they can achieve with very low power. Signals on the order of 5 watts or less are heard all over the world by these QRP (low power) operators. Some amateurs never use more than a few watts of transmit power. By setting up efficient antennas and using expert operating techniques, they can make regular international contacts and get immense satisfaction from their achievements.


Main article: Contesting

A compact ham shack in Central London, England
A compact ham shack in Central London, England

Contesting is another activity that has garnered interest in the ham community. During a period of time (normally 24 to 48 hours) a ham tries to successfully communicate with as many other hams as possible. Different contests have different emphases, with some aimed at chasing DX stations, or stations in a particular country or continent. In some the focus is on operating a station powered by emergency generation equipment or running on batteries, and contacting other such stations, to simulate hurricane or other emergency disaster conditions.

In some contests all operating modes are permitted, while others may be limited to single mode such as voice or CW (Continuous Wave, sometimes called Morse Code). Often, hams join together to form contest teams.

Many hams enjoy casually giving away a few points in a contest, other chasing rare stations who are more likely to make an appearance in these events, others try to set the best possible score using a very limited home station. The serious competitors spend a lot of time in training, spend a lot of money in building up a world class station, and will often travel to a rare country or prime geographical location in order to win.

VHF, UHF and microwave weak-signal operation

While many radio amateurs use use VHF or UHF frequencies primarily for local communications, other amateurs build up more sophisticated systems to communicate over as wide a range as possible.

Despite the common misconception of 'line of sight' a VHF signal transmitted from a walkie-talkie (or as hams call it a Handi-talkie or HT for short) will typically travel about 5-10 km depending on terrain, and with a low power home station and a simple antenna to around 50 km. With a large antenna system like a long yagi, and higher power (typically 100 or more watts) contacts of around 1000 km are common. Such operators seek to exploit the limits of the frequencies' usual characteristics looking to learn and experiment with radio technology. They also seek to take advantage of "band openings" where due to various natural occurrences, radio emissions can travel well over their normal characteristics. There are numerous causes for these band openings and many hams listen for hours to take advantage of their rare manifestations, which may be of fleeting duration.

Some openings are caused by intense excitement of the upper atmosphere, known as the ionosphere. Other band openings are caused by a weather phenomenon known as an inversion layer, where cold air traps hot air beneath it, which forces the radio emission to travel over long weather layers. Radio signals can travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometres due to these weather layers.

Others bounce their signals off the moon (see moonbounce). The return signal is heard by other hams who have equipment suitable for EME (earth-moon-earth) operation, as it is known. The antennas normally required can range from parabolic dishes of up to 10 metres in diameter to an array of directional (usually yagi type) antennas.

Digital signal processing has revolutionised weak signal communications by radio amateurs. Using freely available software tools and modern computers, radio amateurs can achieve results they would only have dreamed of only 10 years earlier. For example, reflecting signals off the moon, once the realm of only the very best equipped amateur stations, has become feasible for much more modest stations. Instead of a large dish or an array of 8 antennas, it has become possible for stations with 400 to 1000 watts transmit power and a single well designed antenna to make contacts using moonbounce.

On the higher microwave bands, even professional circuit design techniques may not be well developed, and while few amateurs operate at these frequencies, those who do are at the bleeding edge of research and experimentation. Amateurs have led the way in bridging the gap between expensive, cumbersome, experimental devices and more practical techniques suitable for mass applications at these frequencies. The propagation of radio waves at these frequencies, especially during anomalous conditions, is poorly understood, and amateurs lead the way in learning about these, although high absorption of water and oxygen molecules in this region of the electromagnetic spectrum often limits practical uses to kilometres or tens of kilometres.

Portable operations

Licensed amateurs often take portable equipment with them when travelling, whether in their luggage or fitted into their cruising yachts, caravans or other vehicles. On long-distance expeditions and adventures such equipment allows them to stay in touch with other amateurs, reporting progress, arrival and sometimes exchanging safety messages along the way.

Many hams at fixed locations are pleased to hear directly from such travellers. From in a yacht in mid-ocean or a 4x4 inside the Arctic Circle, a friendly voice and the chance of a kind fellow-enthusiast sending an e-mail home is very well received.

See maritime mobile amateur radio for further details about operation in this way at sea.

Some countries' amateur radio licences allow for phone patching, or the direct connection of amateur transceivers to telephone lines. Thus a traveller may be able to call another amateur station and, via a phone patch, speak directly with someone else by telephone. [4]

Mr Kamal Edirisinghe from Sri Lanka operating portable Amateur Radio station south of Stockholm, Sweden
Mr Kamal Edirisinghe from Sri Lanka operating portable Amateur Radio station south of Stockholm, Sweden

Low power operations

Main article: QRP operation

There is a sub-culture of amateur radio operators who concentrate on building and operating radios that operate at low power. This activity goes by the name QRP which is an international Q code for "reduce power". QRP operators use less than 5 watts output on Morse Code and 10 watts on voice.

Operators can carry small portable QRP tranceivers on their person.

An international organization that promotes this activity is called the QRP Amateur Radio Club International [5] (QRPARCI).

Past, present, and future

Despite all these exciting specialties, many hams enjoy the informal contacts, long discussions or "Rag Chewing", or round table "nets", whether by voice, Morse code, or computer keyboard.

Even with the advent of the Internet, interest in amateur radio has not diminished in countries with an advanced communications infrastructure. This may be because hams enjoy communicating using the simplest hardware possible, as well as finding the most technically advanced way, advancing the art of radio communication at both ends, frequently beyond what professionals are willing to try to risk.

Nonetheless, Voice over IP (VoIP) is also finding its way into amateur radio. Programs like Echolink, the Internet Radio Linking Project and app_rpt/Asterisk use VoIP to tie hams with computers into radio repeaters across the globe. This nascent use is finding applications in emergency services as well, as an alternative to expensive (and sometime fallible) public safety trunking systems.

Some critics point out that in traditional strongholds such as Japan, the United States and Western Europe, amateur populations are aging. Supporters counter that this merely reflects demographic reality in these aging countries, and in any case is an ethnocentric position. In China and Eastern Europe, young amateur populations are growing rapidly despite equally unfavorable demographics, and young people are also flocking to the hobby in rapidly developing regions such as India, Thailand, Malaysia and the Arabian Peninsula.

Amateur radio innovations and technology

Throughout its history, amateur radio has made significant contributions to science, engineering, industry, and the social services. The economic and social benefit derived from amateur radio research has founded new industries, built economies, empowered nations, and saved lives.

Amateur radio represents a unique research and development (R&D) environment that cannot be duplicated in the labs or research parks of either industry or the government. Existing at the intersection of the social, economic, cultural and scientific spheres, amateur radio leverages this position to invent and innovate from a unique perspective. Many now-commonplace communication technologies have their genesis in amateur radio.

However, the amateur radio service, or more specifically, the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum allocated to the activity, is under extreme pressure from the telecommunications industry.

Recent exponential growth in commercial wireless communication systems has taxed existing commercial spectrum allocations, and industry is eager for expansion. Amateur radio allocations in the UHF and microwave frequency spectrum are threatened in many countries. Historically, amateur radio operators, sometimes employees of large communications firms, are involved in the development of new communication technologies in underutilized portions of the radio spectrum. Amateur radio operators were the among the first, for example, to explore the microwave spectrum. Ironically, many of the communication technologies developed by the non-profit amateurs, become targets of business, once their viability is proven by the hobbiests.

A current, (year 2005) problem includes proposals by some companies to transmit internet data over powerlines. Known as BPL, this technology can create significant radio frequency interference to a wide variety of other spectrum users. While the U.S. Federal Communications Commission appears to be sympathetic to the industry, many European regulators have demonstrated mixed views and Japanese regulators have rejected an application in that country. Amateurs have been responding to the threat by conducting substantial research, and by gathering evidence of the BPL system's non-compatibility with many services including amateur and other commercial users of the medium wave, shortwave and lower VHF spectrum. As of 2005, field trials in the U.S., where the situation looks most problematic for hams, have generally been unsuccessful in meeting generally accepted radio pollution standards, and are often discontinued after brief attempts to attract customers.

Amateur Radio lobbyists argue that industry lobbyists overlook the many current-day contributions amateur radio operators make to our modern life, and portray the hobby as an anachronism while characterizing amateur bands, particularly in the UHF and microwave region, as "underutilized." Ironically, the move of commercial stations away from other parts of the radio spectrum have seen amateurs granted additional allocations in some countries, for example at 136 kHz, 500 kHz, 60 meters, 6 meters and 4 meters.

International operation

When traveling abroad, the visitor must hold a reciprocal license with the country in which she or he wishes to operate. Reciprocal licensing requirements vary from country to country. Some countries have bilateral or multilateral reciprocal operating agreements allowing Hams to operate within their borders with a single set of requirements.


Member Nations of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) all have the same radio-amateur reciprocal licensing requirements. This allows Amateurs to travel to and operate from most European countries without obtaining an additional licensee or permit for each country visited.


The International Amateur Radio Permit (IARP) allows For operation in certain countries of the Americas. The IARP allows hams to operate without the need to obtain a license or permit to operate from a country. To operate a station in an Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) member nation an IARP must be obtained. The CITEL agreement allows an IARP to be issued by a member-society of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). The permit describes its authority in four different languages.

Other parts of the world

In other parts of the world where neither CEPT nor IARP apply and where the country being visited has not entered into a reciprocal operating agreement with an amateur's licensing government, the amateur must follow that country's guidelines to obtain a reciprocal license. For most countries, an application must be filed several months (or more) before the planned operating date. Along with the application and possible fee, a copy of the amateur's original license and passport, as well as an travel itinerary may also be required. In some cases, it may be necessary for the visiting amateur to obtain a full amateur radio license and callsign from the foreign country.

Band plans and frequency allocations

Main article: Amateur radio frequency allocations

Through ITU agreement, frequencies have been set aside for amateur radio. From there, national telecommunication agencies decide which of the international allocations can be used within their borders. National amateur radio societies often have band plans to further divided those allocations, often by specific mode.

Amateurs use a variety of transmission modes, including Morse code, radio teletype, data, and voice. Specific frequency allocations are a matter of record and vary from country to country and between ITU regions.

The ARRL has a detailed band plan for US hams on their website. For ITU region 1, RSGB's band plan (PDF) will be more definitive. RAC has a chart showing the frequencies available to amateurs in Canada. The Wireless Institute of Australia has charts for Amateur frequencies for Australia.

Amateur radio in popular culture

Main article: Amateur radio in popular culture

Amateur radio can be found throughout popular culture as a plot device. An example from Hollywood is the 2000 film Frequency. In it, the two main characters, a father and son (played by Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel respectively), communicate via amateur radio after the father has died. This is, of course, technically impossible as far as is known, but makes a fine plot device. A wealth of additional information may be found at the main article link shown above.

See also



Modulation and signalling formats


External links

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