This article has been moved to Citizen’s Radio Guide
This is the first part of a series intended to take the mystery out of obtaining an Amateur Radio License. We’ll be using the actual test as a guide so hopefully, by the time the series is over, you’ll have a solid grasp on the information needed to pass the first Ham Exam. We’ve tentatively set aside two to three posts per week for this topic. The series will most likely take a few weeks to complete. If you’re in a hurry, most local ham clubs hold events that teach the basics and issue the exam in a single day. If you have a question about any particular post please feel free to ask.
The Amateur Radio Service exists to:
- increase the number of trained radio operators
- provide voluntary, non-commercial and emergency communications,
- advance radio communication and technical skills
- enhance international good will.
Ham radio is a 2-way service and is NOT intended to be used to broadcast music or news.
There are three levels of ham licensing, Technician, General and Extra Class. The Technician Class is the entry level and Morse Code testing is not required. You can begin transmitting as soon as you are issued a call-sign and the license lasts for 10 years. You must keep your mailing address updated at the FCC during those 10 years.There is a 2 year grace period after expiration before you have to take the exam again.
The Technician exam questions are divided into ten sections called “Sub-Elements”. Each sub-element covers a different aspect about Ham Radio. The test has 35 questions pulled from a collection of 396 questions. Each Sub-element has a required number of questions that must be on the test. The test is multiple choice and a score of 76% is required to pass. The test is administered by three Volunteer Examiners. The Volunteer Examiners must hold at least a General Class license in order to give the Technician exam.
So let’s start with the first Sub-element, T1:
T1 has questions pertaining to the FCC’s rules for the Technician Class operator. It covers the purpose of Ham Radio, call signs, penalties for improper or unauthorized operation and operator etiquette and protocol. There will be a total of 4 questions on the test from this subelement.
In regards to radio communications, the world is divided into regions. The regions are managed by an organization called the International Telecommunication Union, ITU, which oversees how the radio frequencies are used. The ITU also coordinates how operators from different countries should handle their communications. For instance, US operators are free to operate in any country that the US has a mutual agreement with.
The Federal Communications Commission, FCC, coordinates radio communications services inside the US, which includes the Amateur Radio Service. Without some sort of management and guidelines, the radio waves would mostly likely be total chaos and would be an unreliable and ineffective form of communication. Kids with walkie talkies would be playing on frequencies needed for fire departments and paramedics. Radio equipment manufacturers would have no idea what frequencies are being used and for what purpose.
The US and it’s territories are divided into 10 regions. These regions are numbered 0 thru 9 and the number is used in the operator’s call sign when the FCC issues it. For example, Indiana is in Region 9 so my call sign is KB9***. Call signs in the US will usually have 6 digits and start with an A K N or W. Vanity call signs are “custom” call signs chosen and purchased by the operator and may have one letter, a number and then 3 letters. Call signs can also be issued to clubs or special purpose radio stations.
This covers the administrative type questions in Subelement T1. Here are a couple typical questions found on the exam:
What agency regulates and enforces the rules for the Amateur Radio Service in the United States?
- A. FEMA
- B. The ITU
- C. The FCC
- D. Homeland Security
What classes of US amateur radio licenses may be acquired thru examination?
- A. Novice, Technician, General, Advanced
- B. Technician, General, Advanced
- C. Technician, General, Extra
- D. Technician, Tech Plus, General
If you read the paragraphs above you should have no trouble answering either one of those questions.
There is some additional content to this portion of the test but I think that content would be best explained in another post.