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.

Why Preppers Should Have a General Class Ham License


A trend among Preppers and Survivalists is to use amateur radio to communicate during a crisis. Given ham radio’s rich history of service during disasters, it’s a natural place for people to go when they want to prepare for the unexpected.

There are lots of articles encouraging people to get their license. And that is great. I think that the Prepper movement, and the proliferation of inexpensive Chinese hand-held radios, has contributed to the growth of licensees in the United States, especially with the entry-level Technician Class license being the most common.

If you’re studying for your Technician, go on and earn the General Class license.

Here’s why.

When you search for “Prepper Radio Frequency List,” you’ll run into this list that covers GMRS, CB, Ham, and even Marine Maritime and Search and Rescue.  This list is meant to be a standardized “watering hole” for Preppers during a crisis.  (I hope that you have licenses for all these services and can transmit legally, but that is a different topic.)

shtf_frequency_list_2013e_500

The ham radio section includes four HF frequencies used by the American Preparedness Radio Network (TAPRN), a group of preppers who meet on the air regularly to communicate and share information. But there is a problem.

If you don’t have a General Class Ham License, you can’t participate.

TAPRN frequencies are in the voice section of the HF band.  You must have a General Class license or above to transmit there and participate.

  • 3.818 MHz
  • 5.357 MHz
  • 7.242 MHz
  • 14.242 MHz

Also, every state has a state-wide communication net for emergencies. Most are located in the voice section of the 80-meter or 40-meter band. Again, you must have a General Class license to transmit and participate.

If all you want to do is communicate locally, the Technician is fine. You have local repeater coverage until a storm knocks out power. At that point, you’re no better off than if you had a bubble pack FRS radio from Wal-Mart.

With a General Class license, you can communicate locally or across the world. International Relief Agencies, the military, and ships at sea use shortwave to keep in touch. If it’s good enough for them during a disaster, it’s probably good enough for most Prepper scenarios.