Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
- How far can I reach with a Foundation licence?
Using the HF bands i.e. 1.8 to 30MHz, the distance is governed by the transmit power, the effectiveness of the aerial and the propagation conditions. The foundation licence limits the transmit power to 10 Watts, so with a reasonable aerial you can expect reliable contacts across the UK and Western Europe, and much further with experience.
Distance at the VHF and UHF frequencies is more about line of sight although the use of repeaters will extend the distance. Better antennas can extend the distance slightly but they mainly improve the reliability of the contact.
[Aerials and antennas can be considered the same thing as they do the same job. By convention, the word aerial is used at frequencies less than 30MHz, whilst antennas is used at frequencies above 30MHz.]
- Who can hear me?
Anyone with a suitable receiver can hear you, it’s only other Radio Amateurs that can talk back.
- Can I speak to anywhere in the world?
Yes, with experience, a UK Radio Amateur can talk to others anywhere on the planet.
- Can I interact with other radio services e.g. ships at sea, aircraft etc?
No, only other Radio Amateurs. There is the possibility of a Radio Amateur operating on the amateur frequencies whilst aboard a ship, in which case contact is permitted.
- Is there anything I can’t say?
The licence conditions include the phrase “……… and not for commercial purposes of any kind.” By agreement, conversations should be of interest to both parties and not be inflammatory or offensive.
- Can I broadcast to more than one person?
Messages sent from a Radio Amateur shall only be addressed to other identified Radio Amateurs (as in plural); the exception being the CQ call which by definition is a one-to-many call.
Groups of Radio Amateurs who share a common interest may hold conversations through “nets” where each participant talks to the other identified participants and then hands the microphone over to the next participant in the net, and so on.
Broadcasting for commercial, political and religious reasons is not permitted.
- I am nervous about talking on air, is there texting or closed nets?
All conversations over the air must be in plain language and can therefore be heard by anyone with suitable equipment. The same applies to data contacts. Consequently there are no closed nets.
Most newcomers are nervous about talking on air, it’s known as being microphone shy, but the apprehension will pass as experience grows. One of the issues facing a newcomer is what to talk about beyond “this is me” and a pre-prepared list of topics can help. Also, many contacts are very short, amounting to an exchange of names, locations and signal reports – you don’t actually have to say much more – although it would be nice.
- Can I have an operating buddy when I first qualify to begin transmissions?
The Club is aware of the initial nervousness and can arrange for a buddy to help you through the first few contacts.
- What equipment should I buy starting out?
The Club has organised a list of equipment suitable for Foundation licensees and its associated costs. Please search elsewhere on this website.
- How dangerous is Amateur Radio and are there any health risks or known side effects?
Much electronic equipment, including amateur radios, can generate high voltages and the usual precautions are necessary, so the power available to amateur radio operators increases with their skill and experience. Radio waves themselves are usually innocuous, even so OFCOM guidance and regulation ensures that amateurs protect themselves and those around them.
- What academic qualification standards do I need to start and do I need to be skilled in maths and physics?
You can begin learning the necessary material through books, on-line courses or through Club based training programs and apart from some enthusiasm, no initial qualifications or skills are required. The whole concept of the Foundation licence is to get people who are interested onto the air; it is about enabling and equipping people with the necessary knowledge to get them started.
- How long do I have to study for the exams and how hard are they?
This all depends on initial knowledge and the individual’s ability to learn. Typically, it takes a few months. The Club has a good success rate, about 90% of Foundation candidates pass first time.
- What do I have to do with Ofcom?
Ofcom is the Government Agency that regulates all radio transmissions in the UK, including issuing Amateur Radio licenses and callsigns to people who have passed the appropriate exams i.e. Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced levels.
The Essex Ham website provides the complete route to getting a licence and callsign:
14. What is the minimum costs involved in getting started?
As a member of the Club, training is offered at no cost. You may wish to buy supportive material, particularly the RSGB Foundation Licence Manual, the book that goes with the course, that costs £5.99. Finally there is the exam fee, currently £27.00 paid directly to the RSGB when you make your booking to take the exam.
After that, it is the cost of whatever equipment you choose to buy..