Ham Radio Licensing and Self-Training in Radio & Electronics

Amateur radio license
I still have my original 'Class A' radio licence document. On the front page it states that the licensee is licensed:
(a) to establish in the United Kingdom an amateur sending and receiving station for wireless telegraphy ...
(b) to use the station for the purposes of sending to, and receiving from, other licensed amateur stations as part of the self-training of the licensee in communication by wireless telegraphy.

In the UK the first radio licence for "experimental purposes" was issued in 1905 by the GPO (General Post Office) (source: "World at their fingertips", Clarricoats, 1967). It was recognised then that amateur experimenters were playing an important role in the development of radio technology, which was still in its infancy back then. Although amateur radio enthusiasts have continued to make contributions to the 'state of the art' to this present day, the authorities also recognise the educational value of the hobby. The electromagnetic frequency spectrum is now an extremely valuable resource. Since the early 2000s governments have received staggering amounts of money from the sale of parts of the frequency spectrum to commercial operators, in particular to mobile phone companies (http://theconversation.com/wireless-spectrum-is-for-sale-but-what-is-it-11794). In fact, some commentators blamed the crash of the telecoms market around 2001 on the high prices paid when parts of the spectrum were auctioned-off for the new 3G services. Licensed amateur radio operators in the UK enjoy access to frequency bands from 136kHz to 248GHz, with no annual fee. This privilege is partly justified on the basis of the hobby's value in terms of self-training and public service, e.g. use in national emergencies. To quote OFCOMs current website: 
"Amateur radio, sometimes known as ham radio, is both a hobby and a service that uses various types of radio equipment, allowing communication with other radio amateurs for the purpose of self-training, recreation and public service." (www.ofcom.org.uk, accessed 14th August 2018). 
It would actually be quite difficult for OFCOM to reallocate amateur frequency bands to other users, since these allocations are mostly agreed on an international basis. 

So what is the educational value of amateur radio as a hobby? In fact, amateur radio is a perfect fit for the STEM agenda:
•    SCIENCE – radio propagation, physics, astronomy, metrology.
•    TECHNOLOGY – computers, internet, design, electronics.
•    ENGINEERING – electronics, radio, aerial/mast construction.
•    MATHS – electronic/radio calculations, software development.

To obtain an amateur radio licence one has to study for a simple exam and undertake some practical training - but that is only the start of the learning journey!

Disclaimer: This is my personal blog. Views expressed in my posts are my own and not of my employer. The information provided comes with no warranty. I cannot be held responsible for the content of external websites. Any practical work you undertake is done at your own risk. Please make health and safety your number one priority.