What Is Amateur Radio

What is Amateur Radio


Amateur Radio is a hobby that allows participants to listen and transmit to other amateur operators talking to each other ‘over the air’ by radio.  Anybody can listen, but to transmit a licence is required.  Once a licence has been granted an individual may transmit on the many frequency bands allocated to amateur use by the home office.  It is open and free to anyone to join in, and participants may, subject to their license grade, construct their own radio equipment to use on the air.

Communications can take place direct or via repeater, satellite, the International Space Station, meteor scatter, aurora and moon bounce. There are also Internet access points linked to VHF transceivers.

There are many national and international competitions available for entry by both listeners and licensed transmitters.

There are many local radio clubs and the national society in the UK is the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) whose website is here.

Available bands giving many types of communications include:

  • Long wave (low frequency or LF) bands
  • Short wave (high frequency or HF) bands where intercontinental communications take place
  • Very/Ultra high frequency/Microwave (VHF/UHF) bands which are primarily limited to line of site distances unless conditions are unusually good when communications paths can reach or exceed 2000Km on some of these bands. Moon bounce and satellite communications are also possible.


2. In the UK there are three grades of transmitting license - Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced, with terms and conditions defined in the license document. Each grade requires attendance on a training course (provided by most radio clubs) which includes learning the appropriate technical and operating details, completing a series of practical exercises and taking and passing an examination. The entire process is managed by the RSGB on behalf of Ofcom.

  • Foundation is the entry grade with restrictions on transmitter power (10 watts maximum) and access to most but not all bands
  • Intermediate has less restrictions and a higher maximum power of 50 watts
  • Advanced licence holders may use the full allowed transmitter power on each band (mostly 400 watts) and have full access to all of the available UK amateur radio bands.


        Modes of operation include:

  • Speech: Frequency Modulation (FM), Amplitude Modulation (AM), Single Sideband (SSB)
  • Morse: Manual, or computer based sending and receiving
  • Data: There are a variety of data modes available on most bands using your Personal Computer (PC) plus a suitable modem including Teletype, Packet and some specialised data modes on bespoke transceiving equipment.
  • Television: Full speed scan on the UHF bands and slow scan on most other bands including the short waves.


3. There is a wide range of new and second hand radio equipment available to suit most budgets.

This is an exciting and challenging hobby that can also lead to a career in electronics.