Amateur Radio - Licensing


In all countries that license citizens to use amateur radio, operators are required to display knowledge and understanding of key concepts. This is usually done by passing an exam; however some authorities also recognize certain educational or professional qualifications (such as a degree in electrical engineering) in lieu. In response, hams are granted operating privileges in larger segments of the radio frequency spectrum using a wide variety of communication techniques with higher power levels permitted compared to unlicensed personal radio services such as CB radio, Family Radio Service or PMR446 that require type-approved equipment restricted in frequency range and power.

In many countries, amateur licensing is a routine civil administrative matter. Amateurs are required to pass an examination to demonstrate technical knowledge, operating competence and awareness of legal and regulatory requirements in order to avoid interference with other amateurs and other radio services. There are often a series of exams available, each progressively more challenging and granting more privileges in terms of frequency availability, power output, permitted experimentation, and in some countries, distinctive call signs. Some countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia have begun requiring a practical training course in addition to the written exams in order to obtain a beginner's license, called a Foundation License.

Amateur radio licensing in the United States serves as an example of the way some countries award different levels of amateur radio licenses based on technical knowledge. Three sequential levels of licensing exams (Technician Class, General Class and Amateur Extra Class) are currently offered, which allow operators who pass them access to larger portions of the Amateur Radio spectrum and more desirable call signs.

In some countries, an amateur radio license is necessary in order to purchase or possess amateur radio equipment. An amateur radio license is only valid in the country in which it is issued, or in another country that has a reciprocal licensing agreement with the issuing country.

Both the requirements for and privileges granted to a licensee vary from country to country, but generally follow the international regulations and standards established by the International Telecommunication Union and World Radio Conferences. In most countries, an individual will be assigned a call sign with their license. In some countries, a separate "station license" is required for any station used by an amateur radio operator. Amateur radio licenses may also be granted to organizations or clubs. Some countries only allow ham radio operators to operate club stations. Others, such as Syria and Cuba restrict all operation by foreigners to club stations only. Radio transmission permits are closely controlled by nations' governments because clandestine uses of radio can be made, and, because radio waves propagate beyond national boundaries, radio is an international matter.

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