Number of Ham Radio Licenses to Reach 750,000 by 2017


The number of unexpired amateur radio licenses in the United States was 733,594 in November 2015, an annual growth rate of 1.05% and five year growth rate of 4.52%.

If this growth trend continues, the number of licensed amateur radio operators in the United States will reach 750,000 by 2017.

License Forecast (2016-2017)

Nearly half of all US licensees hold the Technician license (49.4%), followed by General (23.5%), Amateur Extra (19.0%), Advanced (6.6%), and Novice (1.5%). Despite the large number of Technician licensees, the Amateur Extra class license continues to have the fastest growth rate at a average of 2.54% per year since 2011. The number of Amateur Extra licenses increased 10.5% since 2011 to 139,515.

Extra Class Forecast (2016-2017

The FCC’s restructuring of license classes in 2000 continues to affect the number of Advanced and Novice class licenses.

Since 2011, Advanced class licenses dropped 16.7% to 48,272 from 57,989.

Novice class licenses have dropped 25.2% since 2011, down to 10,988 at the end of 2015. If the number of Novice licenses continues to drop at this rate, the number of unexpired Novice licenses will dip below 10,000 for the first time in late 2016 or early 2017.

Novice Class Licenses Annual Growth/(Decline)
2011 14,687
2012 13,850 (5.70 %)
2013 13,116 (5.30 %)
2014 12,112 (7.65 %)
2015 10,988 (9.28 %)
2016 (Predicted) 10,221 (6.98 %)
2017 (Predicted) 9,507 (6.98%)

Growth in amateur radio licenses remains strong since the elimination of the Morse code requirement in February 2007. Coupled with significant changes to the General class question pool that same year, the number of US licenses has increased 11.8% from its post-2000 low of 655,842 at the end of 2006.

An Open Letter to #HamRadio Manufacturers


Dear Ham Radio Manufacturer,

Once upon a time, companies like yours developed equipment for hams entering the hobby as Novice licensees. Your radios were fairly inexpensive, simple to build, easy to use, and treasured by the young men and women who owned them.

Hams of a certain age fondly recall their first QSOs on your gear. They were excited and nervous as they tuned up and tapped out their first CQ in Morse code.

Your rigs were a right of passage for generations who still enjoy the hobby today.

Most importantly, your radios were designed for them.

Novices. On their bands. At their experience level.

In 2000, the FCC eliminated the Novice, making the Technician the new entry level license. But except for a small patch of spectrum in the 10-meter band, the modern Technician isn’t much different from the Novice license they eliminated. It is fundamentally a Morse code license on HF.

When the FCC dropped the Morse code requirement seven years later, they did so without updating Technician operating privileges. Amateurs entering the hobby are restricted above 10-meters to using Morse code without having to know Morse code.

Unable to use most of their HF privileges for the lack of one skill, Technicians purchased your VHF and UHF radios in droves.

Companies like yours responded with Dual-Band, Tri-Band, and even Quad-Band radios.

For this generation of radio amateurs, FM repeaters have been the first (and maybe only) impression of on-the-air activity. Perhaps a few experiment with APRS, EchoLink or IRLP. Some may try Pico-Sats, but fundamentally, Ham Radio as a Technician is nothing more than GMRS with better repeater coverage.

Why haven’t companies like yours developed radios tailored for Technicians?

Why is it all FM when there are many more possibilities in the world above 50 MHz?

Where are the Dual-Mode radios, such as SSB/FM, on VHF and UHF?

Where are the sound card-ready interfaces? USB interfaces?

Why does it all look like Land Mobile Radio on Amateur Service frequencies?

Is there no imagination, innovation, or experimentation left in your Skunk Works?

Do you still have have a Skunk Works?

Please, let me be clear; this is not a call to bring Morse code back to the hobby.

When I look at your website through a Technician’s eyes, though, I see nothing that I couldn’t purchase at Wal-Mart for less money. Perhaps this is why the proliferation of inexpensive Chinese radios are so popular among entry-level licensees. They do the job their license allows them.

Perhaps you can inject new vigor into the hobby by designing something that takes them beyond a repeater.

Like a rig designed for Technicians of this generation.

Sincerely,

Brian McDaniel,
KC4LMD

UPDATE: Chris Wilson of Yeasu left the following comment. It is nice to know at least one of the Big Boys pays attention.  I’ve moved his comment up.  -KC4LMD

Hello Brian, I read your letter, It’s great to see proactive content being published by our valued customers! Yaesu USA is actively developing technology that incorporates exactly what you are saying. Radios such as the FT-991 have a multi-function USB port, integrated sound card, built in tuner and other features that appeal to the new radio operator as an “Shack in a box”. I have forwarded your letter to the Owner of the company, Mr. Jun Hasegawa and our operations director for review. I will be discussing your concerns with them this month, and you will continue to see progression from Yaesu that incorporate the features you are looking for.

Thank you once again for your wonderful letter.