Hucknall Rolls-Royce Amateur Radio Club
G3RR / G5RR / G7HRR
Nottingham NG15 6EU
© 2015 Hucknall Rolls-Royce Amateur Radio Club
How do I become a radio amateur?
Easy. Start by listening to other amateurs on any of the “amateur bands”. (Frequencies reserved for use by radio amateurs. Try 3.5MHz upwards, or 7MHz upwards for starters. For a full list of amateur frequencies in the UK see the Band Plans and Information pages on the RSGB web site.) Listen to what’s being said; listen to how it’s done; and imagine yourself in that place. Join the RSGB (Radio Society of Great Britain) as a listener, and receive the monthly magazine RadCom, full of ideas, tips and useful information, keeping you abreast of what’s happening in the world of amateur radio.
You will need a receiver which will tune in to them (and a suitable “antenna”, or “aerial”, which can be as simple as a long piece of wire.). If you haven’t already got any equipment of your own, you can always either listen to one of the internet websites which allow you to listen to amateur radio frequencies, or go along to your local amateur radio club and ask to listen in using their equipment. Club members are usually very helpful towards newcomers — and also a very useful source of information for the complete beginner on where second-hand equipment may be found; which are the best “rigs” to get hold of; how to build your own receiver even; etc.
The RSGB can help you find your nearest club. (Use the Find a Trainer search form.) Club meetings are usually held once or twice a month (rarely once a week), in the evenings. Club talks are a very good source of information on what amateur radio is all about. If you have decided you want to become a radio amateur, your local club should be your first port of call. You will also meet like-minded people who will help you learn “the ropes”.
Don’t despair. It is possible to learn from the very fine publications produced by the RSGB — a society which anyone aspiring to become a radio amateur should join for the many benefits it provides the learner. (Note that you don’t need to be licensed to join the RSGB — in fact most members first join as listeners.)
Much information can also be gleaned by listening in to conversations on the air. By listening in to local “nets” you may even be able to find a friendly local amateur who will help you on your way. And, if you’re simply not the type of person who can learn from a book, but who needs or prefers a tutored approach, there are also distance courses now available via the internet which allow a degree of live interaction with a tutor.
And if you have no joy in finding a club near you, then contact the RSGB Training & Education Chair (mailto:tec.chair @ rsgb.org.uk).
All of which will help you prepare for your first licence — the Foundation Licence — which has been purposely designed as an easy-to-achieve goal to help the newcomer to amateur radio get on the air. Some ten hours tuiton is all that is normally required to gain sufficient knowledge to get a pass in the RCF (Radio Communication Foundation)’s written examination — 26 multiple choice questions to be answered in 45 minutes, requiring at least 19 to be answered correctly. The RSGB produces a very good booklet detailing all the information needed to take the Foundation Licence examination. Note that, wherever you take the examination, a fee of £27.50 will be incurred. But note also that if you’re a member of the Air Cadets, preparing for your Communicator’s badge, and have passed the ACO Foundation examination, this is accepted by Ofcom (the amateur radio license issuing authority) as the exact equivalent of the RCF examination, and no fee is incurred. Note that there is no age limit for taking the examination either; although candidates must be able to handle fractions and decimals with ease.
Demonstrating simple practical construction and assembly skills is also part of acquiring the Foundation Licence, and should be carried out and assessed by an RSGB registered assessor before taking the written examination. Again, your local club, school or college should be able to help you here.
Another requirement is to show competence in transmitting and decoding a simple short message in Morse code. The exercise for this is not time-dependent, and is accomplished using a “crib” sheet detailing the 26 letters of the alphabet and the 10 numerals. This too is assessed by an RSGB registered assessor.
Your construction skills and competency in Morse will be assessed prior to your taking the examination; and your completed paper will be marked on the spot wherever you take it (club, school, college, etc.). You will know very soon after handing it in whether you have achieved a pass or not.
Armed with your pass slip go to the Ofcom website, create a new account for yourself, and either fill in online, or download the form to apply for an Amateur Radio licence (Form Of346).
Note that applying for a licence online is free; whereas if you send in a paper application to Ofcom, a processing fee will be incurred.
All you have to do now is wait for a few days for your licence to drop through the letter-box….
….and there you are. You’re now a Radio Amateur. With your own internationally recognised station callsign; able to transmit and communicate at 10 watts of power on a variety of frequencies, to any other licensed amateur anywhere on the globe. Or even on the International Space Station. The world of low-power international communications is yours to command.
Thanks goes to the RSGB for the above article.
Show your support for the RSGB and join today.