What does it take to get into Ham Radio?
How can I learn more about Ham Radio?
How do I get started in Amateur Radio?
Is it really expensive to get into Ham Radio?
(Contributors Martin Brossman KI4CFS, Charles Murry KI4DCR, Chris Cancilla, Randy Hill)
The goal of this document is to answer the basic questions about what is required to get involved with the Hobby of Ham Radio which is also called Amateur Radio.
Amateur Radio or” Ham Radio” is a wonderful hobby about radio communication that requires at least a “Technician” license to communicate on the radio. This is a great thing because we all have earned our way onto the airwaves and all know the basic rules. When people can be anonymous, or there is no barrier to entry, they tend to not be as nice and due to the fact you need to both have a license and self-identify yourself, by giving your call sign (eg. “KI4CFS for ID”), it attracts a more responsible person. The organization for Ham Radio in the US is American Radio Relay League (ARRL). A quote from the ARRL.org website: “Amateur Radio (ham radio) is a popular hobby and service that brings people, electronics, and communication together. People use ham radio to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones. … You can set up a ham radio station anywhere!” learn more from this article on ARRL – What is Ham Radio?” http://www.arrl.org/what-is-ham-radio
The basic steps to be able to talk on an Amateur Radio, transmitting over the airways include:
- Study the Ham Radio Technician License content and test exams. (http://www.arrl.org/getting-licensed and http://www.arrl.org/ham-radio-license-manual ).
- Get an FCC FRU number (this protected your Social Security Number). https://apps.fcc.gov/coresWeb/publicHome.do
- Find a please to take the Amateur Radio testing location and pass the Amateur Radio Technician Exam. ( http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-exam-session )
- Get an Amateur Radio and I recommend starting with a handheld radio for under $100 (or start with http://www.echolink.org/).
- Make sure you get confirmation from the FCC (by email) that you’re in the system and have been granted a call sign. Or you can search here: https://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchAmateur.jsp – Entering your FRU # is the best way to check, leaving all other sections blank).
- Find a local “Ham Radio Repeater” or several near you and program them into your radio. We recommend finding a Ham Radio Club in your area and see if someone can help you (http://www.arrl.org/find-a-club).
- Talk on the radio!
A little more details:
You need to pass the basic amateur radio technician level test before you can transmit on the ham radio frequencies.
The Amateur radio basic technician license testing is offered at specific locations all over the United States, on specific dates and involves special volunteers VE. To administer and grade your test. The cost is generally about $15 to take the test, and in some areas, it can even be free.
Get The Book
All of the questions and answers are available and you need to get a 74 or above on the technician license test to pass. To prepare for this test most people will buy the ARRL amateur radio handbook or a study guide designed to prepare you for the latest level of technician license testing. Make sure if you get a book it is preparing you for the current series of test questions and it should say on the cover that it prepares you for test questions going through a date range. If that date range is passed then that book is of no value for preparing for the current test.
Books you could use to prepare for the Tech exam
(Always make sure that the book is still current by checking the date range)
The main book from ARRL – The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual Spiral Spiral-bound – June 4, 2018 by ARRL Inc
Another book – Technician Class 2018-2022: Pass Your Amateur Radio Technician Class Test – The Easy Way https://www.amazon.com/Technician-Class-2018-2022-EasyWayHamBooks-Book-ebook-dp-B079S3LJ8B/dp/B079S3LJ8B/
2018-2022 Technician Class Perfect Paperback – May 1, 2018 by Gordon West https://www.amazon.com/2018-2022-Technician-Class-Gordon-West/dp/0945053908/
Here is free PDF but I have not tested it https://www.kb6nu.com/study-guides/
If you know of online training that you recommend please post in the comments.
Find a Ham Radio Club
I highly recommend looking up to see if you can find a ham radio or amateur radio club in your area and show up at one of the meetings to find out what local resources are available to help you because it will be very useful to be able to sit down with someone local and get help. Also, it will connect you to the local area of amateur radio groups. They are generally very helpful for new people.
Take the Test and Pass it
Find a place to take the test and follow the instructions to sign up to take the test on the date and time available. Once you pass the test you will be notified by email that you have received a call sign allowing you to speak on the radio and it’s important to use this callsign whenever you transmit. If you fail the test just take it again until you pass.
A place to take a practice exam:
A place to find where you can take your Ham Radio Exam. If you do not find one in your city then try the next larger city near you.
Get a Radio
Then you either need a radio designed to transmit on the legal bands of the amateur radio
Actually you don’t even have to have an Amateur Radio. You can download a program called Echo link if you have a PC or download the EchoLink app and register with your new call sign and be able to start speaking throughout the world over amateur radio with your phone or a microphone connected to your PC. At this time I don’t know of echolink working on a Macbook but it does work on an iPhone.
As far as buying a radio you can spend as little as under $30 for Chinese radio that will transmit on the 2 m and the 400 bands of amateur radio. I’d recommend it if you can afford to buy a lower end brand-name handheld radio like Yasu or ICOM for around $100 dollars. They are better made and easier to set up.
Echolink (best to get a ham club to help you) http://www.echolink.org/
BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio (Black) by BAOFENG
Yaesu FT-4XR 5W VHF/UHF HT
Here is a table on the cost of getting into Ham Radio
Talk on the Radio
Once you have a radio we need to find what are called repeaters in your transmission and reception over up to several hundred miles.
Remember this is a hobby so you’re going to have to fuss with things; you’re gonna have to ask people for help; you might have to watch some YouTube videos, learn the new aspects of the hobby and it has many different avenues and dips to it so don’t let yourself become overwhelmed just take it one step at a time.
Your next challenge is to figure out how to get your radio to transmit and get the courage up to put your call sign out like this, “this is KI4CFS monitoring and want to see if anyone hears me I am a new amateur radio operator”. Then the next step is to see if you can find what is called ham radio nets which are organized discussions at a set time on a certain frequency and they will give you instructions on how to “check-in and talk on the net. Your next goal is to successfully check-in and talk on the net.
Don’t get discouraged if someone corrects you but appreciate it because they’re there to help you. Also, this is why it’s useful to try to find either a local Group to get involved in and meet so they can personally help you get on the airways.
I recommend joining the local club which is only for a few dollars a year and after that. If you can, I recommend joining ARRL with the annual subscription. And you’ll learn a lot from both. There’s a lot of people out there willing to help you if you’re coachable and can handle someone giving you corrections and advice along the way. Online Forums and Group you may find more information
Martin Brossman KI4CFS on the web:
Ham Radio Facebook https://www.facebook.com/KI4CFS/
- Supporting people learning and passing the Ham Radio Exams – https://www.facebook.com/groups/LearningHamRadio/
- To help connect all Ham Radio Operators across NC – https://www.facebook.com/groups/NCHamRadioOperators/
Share resources you recommend in the comments below.