What is Amateur Radio?
Amateur Radio is a technical, social and rewarding hobby.
The purpose of Amateur Radio is largely self-education and technical experimentation, and through the medium of radio communications, many operators around the world form long-term friendships fostering international good will.
Amateur Radio offers:
- self-education in electronics and radio theory
- construction of equipment & antennas
- radio sport: contesting and awards
- digital modes
- world-wide (DX) contacts
- satellite communication
- send & receive pictures & video via radio
- outdoor activities – radio contacts from mountain summits and parks
- connecting radios to the internet
… and much more…
There has been a resurgence in Amateur Radio participation due to simplified licencing conditions, the availability of low-cost radio equipment and no minimum age requirement.
This has provided a new opportunity for primary school students, even as young as nine, who have successfully obtained their own Amateur Radio Foundation Licence.
Amateur Radio is an interesting and rewarding hobby for all age groups.
Joe Walsh, guitarist from The Eagles, is an amateur radio operator
Do I need a licence?
Yes, you need to obtain a licence from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
There are three classes of Amateur Radio licence in Australia:
Foundation Licence: the entry level licence to Amateur Radio. This licence offers an entry level to the hobby, allowing licencees to operate on a selection of radio frequencies. Almost anyone can obtain this licence by attending a short weekend course.
Standard Licence: the mid-level level licence. This licence offers additional privileges, allowing licencees to operate with more power and on extra bands. This class of licence requires a little more study and knowledge.
Advanced Licence: the complete licence to all that Amateur Radio has to offer. This licence offers access to all bands, modes, and higher power. It requires a greater understanding of radio & electronics.
To obtain a licence you need to sit an exam covering radio & electronics, radio regulations and a practical test. Each class of licence has its own exam and, depending on your background, the effort required to study and pass the exams will vary.
Some radio clubs offer courses, and there are two large training organisations:
- Hamcollege in Perth
- Radio & Electronics School (online).
Once you have completed your study you sit the tests which are administered by the Australian Maritime College.
On successfully passing your exams you apply for a licence and callsign with the Australian Maritime College.
Your licence and callsign will be issued by the ACMA.
Is it expensive to get my licence?
Like so many hobbies and activities, there are some costs associated with getting started.
Attending most courses is free. Certainly, Ham College and the Radio & Electronics School offer free courses.
The recommended textbooks cost about $30
Sitting the exams costs $180 (AMC)
Obtaining your licence costs from $105 (ACMA)
So, about $315.
What equipment do I need and is it expensive?
Setting a budget for Amateur Radio is like many other hobbies and sporting activities. How long is a piece of string? You can get by with basic equipment, build your own antennas and experiment with home-built equipment.
At the other end of the scale, some radio amateurs spend many thousands of dollars on the latest commercial transceivers, big towers, and antennas.
Depending on your interests, as a start you will need:
- a basic HF radio
- feedline and an HF antenna
- a basic VHF/UHF handheld
- a digital radio
Equipment costs will depend on what interests you most. But, as a guide, you can get started with a simple low-cost hand-held radio (to access local repeaters and even satellites) for as little as $50. A basic second-hand HF transceiver can be obtained for about $500. New HF radios start at about $900.
You can build a kit-radio from as little as $100.
You can integrate your existing computer into your radio station for radio control, logging, research, and digital modes.
Simple antennas can be built at home with equipment readily available from hardware stores.
If you are new to Amateur Radio and plan to start with a Foundation Licence and want to use HF and VHF/UHF, you should be able to get started with between $800-1500 (this is a rough guide).