Amateur radio operator

Last updated

An amateur radio operator HamRadioGirl.jpg
An amateur radio operator

An amateur radio operator is someone who uses equipment at an amateur radio station to engage in two-way personal communications with other amateur operators on radio frequencies assigned to the amateur radio service. Amateur radio operators have been granted an amateur radio license by a governmental regulatory authority after passing an examination on applicable regulations, electronics, radio theory, and radio operation. As a component of their license, amateur radio operators are assigned a call sign that they use to identify themselves during communication. There are about three million amateur radio operators worldwide. [1]


Amateur radio operators are also known as radio amateurs or hams. The term "ham" as a nickname for amateur radio operators originated in a pejorative usage (like "ham actor") by operators in commercial and professional radio communities, and dates to wired telegraphy. [2] [3] The word was subsequently adopted by amateur radio operators.


CountryNumber of amateur
radio operators
% populationYear of
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 761,3170.2332019 [4]
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan 435,5810.3432015 [5]
Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand 176,2780.2752006 [6]
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 150,0000.0102019 [7]
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 94,4910.112016 [8]
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 69,1830.2012011 [9]
Flag of the Republic of China.svg  Republic of China 68,6920.2961999 [6]
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 58,7000.1271999 [6]
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 58,4260.0942000 [6]
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea 42,6320.0822012 [10]
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 38,0000.0261993 [6]
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 32,0530.0161997 [6]
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 30,0000.0491993 [6]
Flag of Indonesia.svg  Indonesia 27,8150.0111997 [6]
Flag of France.svg  France 14,1600.022013 [6]
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine 17,2650.0372000 [6]
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 16,8890.0421999 [6]
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland 13,6000.0352020 [11]
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 15,3280.0672000 [6]
Flag of India.svg  India 15,6790.0012000 [6]
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 12,5820.072018 [12]
Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia 10,5090.042016 [6]
Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark 8,6680.1562012 [13]
Flag of Slovenia.svg  Slovenia 6,5000.3172000 [6]
Flag of Austria.svg  Austria 6,2280.0702019 [14]
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 6,0000.0121994 [6]
Flag of Norway.svg  Norway 5,3020.1062000 [6]
Flag of Finland.svg  Finland 5,0000.0902016 [15]
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 3,5270.0182017 [16]
Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland 1,8360.0402017 [17]

Few governments maintain detailed demographic statistics of their amateur radio operator populations, aside from recording the total number of licensed operators. The majority of amateur radio operators worldwide reside in the United States, Japan, and the nations of East Asia, North America, and Europe. The top five countries by percentage of the population are Japan, Slovenia, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand. Only the governments of Yemen and North Korea currently prohibit their citizens from becoming amateur radio operators. In some countries, acquiring an amateur radio license is difficult because of the bureaucratic processes or fees that place access to a license out of reach for most citizens. Most nations permit foreign nationals to earn an amateur radio license, but very few amateur radio operators are licensed in multiple countries.


In the vast majority of countries, the population of amateur radio operators is predominantly male. In China, 12% of amateur radio operators are women, [18] while approximately 15% of amateur radio operators in the United States are women. [19] The Young Ladies Radio League is an international organization of female amateur radio operators.

A male amateur radio operator can be referred to as an OM, an abbreviation used in Morse code telegraphy for "old man", regardless of the operator's age. A female amateur radio operator can be referred to as a YL, from the abbreviation used for "young lady", regardless of the operator's age. XYL was once used by amateur radio operators to refer to an unlicensed woman, usually the wife of a male amateur radio operator; today, the term has come to mean any female spouse of an amateur radio operator, licensed or not. Sometimes the wife of a ham operator is called a YF (wife). Although these codes are derived from English language abbreviations, their use is common among amateur radio operators worldwide.


In most countries there is no minimum age requirement to earn an amateur radio license and become an amateur radio operator. Although the number of amateur radio operators in many countries increases from year to year[ citation needed ], the average age of amateur radio operators is quite high. In some countries, the average age is over 80 years old[ citation needed ], with most amateur radio operators earning their license in their 40s or 50s.[ citation needed ]

Some national radio societies have responded to this by developing programs specifically to encourage youth participation in amateur radio, such as the American Radio Relay League's Amateur Radio Education and Technology Program. [20] The World Wide Young Contesters organization promotes youth involvement, particularly amongst Europeans, in competitive radio contesting. A strong tie also exists between the amateur radio community and the Scouting movement to introduce radio technology to youth. WOSM's annual Jamboree On The Air is Scouting's largest activity, with a half million Scouts and Guides speaking with each other using amateur radio each October. [21]

US Amateurs by State


NOTE: [22]
AA..US Armed Forces Americas
AE..US Armed Forces Africa/Canada/Europe/Middle East
AP..US Armed Forces Pacific
AS..American Samoa
MP..Mariana Islands
PR..Puerto Rico
VI..US Virgin Islands

Canadian Amateurs by Province


NOTE: [22]
ZZ..Canadian amateurs outside of Canada

Silent Key

When referring to a person, the phrase Silent Key, and its abbreviation SK, is a euphemism for an amateur radio operator who is deceased. [23] The procedural signal "SK" (or "VA") has historically been used in Morse code as the last signal sent from a station before ending operation, [24] usually just before shutting off the transmitter. Since this was the last signal received by other operators, the code was adopted to refer to any amateur radio operator who is deceased, regardless of whether they were known to have used telegraphy in their communications.

Notable amateur radio operators

See also

Related Research Articles

Morse code Transmission of language with brief pulses

Morse code is a method used in telecommunication to encode text characters as standardized sequences of two different signal durations, called dots and dashes or dits and dahs. Morse code is named for Samuel F. B. Morse, an inventor of the telegraph.

Automatic Link Establishment, commonly known as ALE, is the worldwide de facto standard for digitally initiating and sustaining HF radio communications. ALE is a feature in an HF communications radio transceiver system that enables the radio station to make contact, or initiate a circuit, between itself and another HF radio station or network of stations. The purpose is to provide a reliable rapid method of calling and connecting during constantly changing HF ionospheric propagation, reception interference, and shared spectrum use of busy or congested HF channels.

The Q-code is a standardized collection of three-letter codes all of which start with the letter "Q". It is an operating signal initially developed for commercial radiotelegraph communication and later adopted by other radio services, especially amateur radio. To distinguish the use of a Q-code transmitted as a question from the same Q-code transmitted as a statement, operators either prefixed it with the military network question marker "INT" or suffixed it with the standard Morse question mark UD.

R-S-T system A brevity code for Ham radio signal reports

The R-S-T system is used by amateur radio operators, shortwave listeners, and other radio hobbyists to exchange information about the quality of a radio signal being received. The code is a three digit number, with one digit each for conveying an assessment of the signal's readability, strength, and tone. The code was developed in 1934 by Amateur radio operator Arthur W. Braaten, W2BSR, and was similar to that codified in the ITU Radio Regulations, Cairo, 1938.

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the largest membership association of amateur radio enthusiasts in the USA. ARRL is a non-profit organization, and was co-founded on April 6, 1914 by Hiram Percy Maxim and Clarence D. Tuska of Hartford, Connecticut. The ARRL represents the interests of amateur radio operators before federal regulatory bodies, provides technical advice and assistance to amateur radio enthusiasts, supports a number of educational programs and sponsors emergency communications service throughout the country. The ARRL has approximately 161,000 members. In addition to members in the US, the organization claims over 7,000 members in other countries. The ARRL publishes many books and a monthly membership journal called QST. The ARRL held its Centennial Convention in Hartford, Connecticut in July 2014.

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) is an international confederation of national amateur radio organisations that allows a forum for common matters of concern and collectively represents matters to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Following an informal meeting in 1924 of representatives from France, Great Britain, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Canada, and the United States, a plan was formulated to hold an International Amateur Congress in Paris, France in April 1925. This Congress was held for the purpose of founding an international amateur radio organization. The Congress was attended by representatives of 23 countries in Europe, Americas, and Asia. A constitution for the IARU was adopted on April 17, and the formation of the International Amateur Radio Union was ratified on April 18, 1925. In the current era, this is the date on which the Amateur Radio Day is celebrated.

CQ is a code used by wireless operators, particularly those communicating in Morse code, (— · — · — — · —), but also by voice operators, to make a general call. Transmitting the letters CQ on a particular radio frequency is an invitation for any operators listening on that frequency to respond. It is still widely used in amateur radio.

The 20-meter or 14-MHz amateur radio band is a portion of the shortwave radio spectrum, comprising frequencies stretching from 14.000 MHz to 14.350 MHz. The 20-meter band is widely considered among the best for long-distance communication (DXing), and is one of the most popular—and crowded—during contests. Several factors contribute to this, including the band's large size, the relatively small size of antennas tuned to it and its good potential for daytime DX operation even in unfavorable propagation conditions.

Amateur radio international operation

Amateur radio international reciprocal operating agreements permit amateur radio operators (hams) from one country to operate a station whilst traveling in another without the need to obtain additional licenses or permits.

Amateur radio emergency communications

In times of crisis and natural disasters, amateur radio is often used as a means of emergency communication when wireline, cell phones and other conventional means of communications fail.

Amateur radio licensing in the United States

In the United States, amateur radio licensing is governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under strict federal regulations. Licenses to operate amateur stations for personal use are granted to individuals of any age once they demonstrate an understanding of both pertinent FCC regulations and knowledge of radio station operation and safety considerations. Applicants as young as five years old have passed examinations and were granted licenses.

Trinidad and Tobago Amateur Radio Society organization

The Trinidad and Tobago Amateur Radio Society, Inc. (TTARS) is the national amateur radio organization in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is a member society of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU).

The Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX), later called the Space Amateur Radio Experiment, was a program that promoted and supported the use of amateur ("ham") radio by astronauts in low earth orbit aboard the United States Space Shuttle to communicate with other amateur radio stations around the world. It was superseded by the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. SAREX was sponsored by NASA, AMSAT, and the ARRL.

The WARC bands are three portions of the shortwave radio spectrum used by licensed and/or certified amateur radio operators. They consist of 30 meters (10.100–10.150 MHz), 17 meters (18.068–18.168 MHz) and 12 meters (24.890–24.990 MHz). They were named after the World Administrative Radio Conference, which in 1979 created a worldwide allocation of these bands for amateur use. The bands were opened for use in the early 1980s. Due to their relatively small bandwidth of 100 kHz or less, there is a gentlemen's agreement that the WARC bands may not be used for general contesting. This agreement has been codified in official recommendations, such as the IARU Region 1 HF Manager's Handbook, which states:

The history of amateur radio, dates from the dawn of radio communications, with published instructions for building simple wireless sets appearing at the beginning of the twentieth century. Throughout its history, amateur radio enthusiasts have made significant contributions to science, engineering, industry, and social services. Research by amateur radio operators has founded new industries, built economies, empowered nations, and saved lives in times of emergency.

Amateur radio Use of radio frequency spectra for non-commercial purposes

Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is the use of radio frequency spectrum for purposes of non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, private recreation, radiosport, contesting, and emergency communication. The term "amateur" is used to specify "a duly authorised person interested in radioelectric practice with a purely personal aim and without pecuniary interest;" and to differentiate it from commercial broadcasting, public safety, or professional two-way radio services.

High-speed telegraphy

In amateur radio, high-speed telegraphy (HST) is a form of radiosport that challenges amateur radio operators to accurately receive and copy, and in some competitions to send, Morse code transmissions sent at very high speeds. This event is most popular in Eastern Europe. The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) sponsors most of the international competitions.

Call signs in Korea are unique identifiers for telecommunications and broadcasting on the Korean peninsula. Call signs are regulated internationally by the ITU as well as nationally in South Korea by the Korea Communications Commission in the Ministry of Information and Communication. Not much is known outside of North Korea how amateur radio is regulated, although a foreign amateur was asked to appear before the "Radio Regulation Board" in 2002. Also, North Korea's Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries recently issued an operating permit, which was countermanded by the Ministry of Telecommunications and Posts.

Call signs in Europe are codes consisting of a three letter country code and a series of letters and numbers, used as unique identifiers for broadcasting and telecommunications. These are not designated formally to all broadcast stations in Europe like they are in other parts of the world, but some broadcasters have developed their own makeshift call signs. It is quite common that instead of regular call signs abbreviations of the stations' names are used. In most of Europe, TV and radio stations have unique names, such as ProSieben in Germany, France 2 in France, Nova Television in Bulgaria, Antena 3 in Spain, etc.

Call signs in United Kingdom include a three letter country code, and a series of letters and numbers.


  1. Silver, H Ward (23 April 2004). Ham Radio for Dummies. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing. ISBN   978-0-7645-5987-7. OCLC   55092631.
  2. Hall, L. C. (January 1902). "Telegraph Talk and Talkers". McClure's Magazine . Vol. 18 no. 3. pp. 230–231.
  3. "Word Origins - Ham". United States Early Radio History. Archived from the original on 14 November 2019.
  4. "FCC License Counts". Archived from the original on 22 October 2019. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  5. "JARL News. Amateur radio stations. 2015" . Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 "Status Summary of Radio Amateurs & Amateur Stations of the World". International Amateur Radio Union ( Archived from the original on 28 June 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
  7. "业余电台操作证书核发信息公告(ABC类及香港B类)" [Amateur Radio Operation Certificate Issue Information Announcement (ABC Class and Hong Kong Class B)]. Chinese Radio Amateurs Club. June 2019. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  8. "Amateurfunk". Bundesnetzagentur. 2019.
  9. "Hamdata Callsign Server". Archived from the original on 22 June 2019. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  10. "Triennial Report from KARL". Archived from the original on 2 February 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  11. "UKE Radioamator". Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  12. Agentschap Telecom - Ministerie van Economische Zaken en Klimaat "Staat van de Ether 2018" . Retrieved 23 October 2019.
  13. IT & Telestyrelsen Frekvensregister "IT & Telestyrelsen - Frekvensregister" . Retrieved 11 January 2012.[ permanent dead link ]
  14. "Rufzeichenliste österreichischer Amateurfunkstellen" . Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  15. "Mitä radioamatööritoiminta on?". Archived from the original on 1 June 2004. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  16. "ANCOM Callbook Radioamatori". Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  17. "COMREG Licensing Database". Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  18. Chinese Radio Sports Association (2004). "The Current Status of Amateur Radio in the Mainland of China". Proceedings of the International Amateur Radio Union's Region 3 Twelfth Regional Conference. Document No. 04/XII/057. Archived from the original on 6 March 2006. Retrieved 2 June 2006.
  19. Harker, Kenneth E (15 March 2005). "A Study of Amateur Radio Gender Demographics". Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
  20. "The ARRL Amateur Radio Education & Technology Program". Archived from the original on 25 June 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
  21. "All about JOTA". September 2006. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2008.
  22. 1 2 Amateurs by State
  23. "Reporting a Silent Key". Amateur Radio Relay League. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  24. "CW Operating Aids". AC6V. Archived from the original on 28 February 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2017.