Amateur Radio, also known as Ham Radio, is a unique, fascinating and friendly hobby that captivates the interest of millions of people around the world. It encompasses a huge range of activities, from people communicating with someone down the street, people tinkering with old radio right up to those talking to the International Space Station using the latest digital technology. Many Radio Amateurs are working at the cutting edge of radio communications technology whilst others prefer just to tinker with old radios. In order to operate an amateur radio transmitter you need an Amateur Radio licence issued by OFCOM.
Three different types of Amateur Radio license exist and each is aimed at people with different levels of knowledge and skill. They are structured hierarchically and in such a way as to encourage students to grow their knowledge and skills. Each license can only be obtained by following training and examination in the following sequence: Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced.
The Thornbury and South Gloucestershire Amateur Radio Club (TSGARC) offers courses to help students obtain each of these licence types.
This is the entry level and allows operation on all bands HF to UHF (except the 28MHz band) with a power restriction of 10 Watts. It is designed to introduce you to amateur radio as quickly as possible but ensures that you know a bit about how radio works, basic safety issues, the dangers of interfering with other radio users and the official rules and regulations concerning a radio transmitting licence. To get a license, it is advisable to attend a training course, which is mostly practical with a small amount of radio and electronics theory and takes about 10-12 hours to complete. Whether you attend a course or not, you must undertake a number of assessed exercises and a multiple-choice examination at an approved centre. Passing these allows you to be issued with your own individual M6 series call sign. This moderate level of power, with experience and favorable circumstances, can enable you to communicate with other Radio Amateurs around the world.
This level gives access to additional frequency allocations and the power limits are increased to 50 watts. To obtain the licence it is advisable to take a training course. This builds on the experience gained as a Foundation licence holder and teaches many of the fundamentals of radio by undertaking a number of assessed practical tasks including soldering, and building a small project. On completing the assessments, candidates sit another multiple-choice examination. Once both of these are completed successfully, the licence may be applied for.
To gain an Advanced Licence it is necessary to pass the Advanced Radio Communications Examination This licence allows access to all the amateur allocations with up to 400 Watts of transmitter power. Hence subjects such as Electro Magnetic Compatibility (EMC), antenna designs and safety issues are covered in more depth as well as radio theory and licence conditions. There is no requirement to take a formal training course and it is possible to study at home on your own if you so wish. However, many local amateur radio clubs and societies and technical colleges run courses specifically for the Advanced Radio Communications Examination. Alternatively there are correspondence and Internet courses available.