Weekly Wrapup: Getting my HAM Radio License and What You Can and Can’t Do on Amateur Radio Bands

So I took my technician test and passed it with only two incorrect answers out of 35. Now I’m waiting for the FCC to process my application and assign me a call sign. I won’t be able to start transmitting on my radio until I show up in the FCC’s database a little later this week or next.

On the Weekly Wrapup this week I talk about a few of the things you can’t do on amateur radio bands:

  1. You can’t encrypt any communications – even when when using digital modes. There is one carve out for sending commands to orbiting amateur radio satellites but that’s it as far as encryption goes.
  2. Anonymous transmissions are prohibited. Amateur operators need to identify themselves with their call signs. And the database of call signs and licenses is public information available to all. I did discover a few good friends of mine locally are licensed operators! I had no idea they were until now.
  3. No swearing or obscene language. This one speaks for itself.
  4. No broadcasting. Amateur radio is typically a 1 to 1 communication between two operators. While you can make more general calls for testing your radio you are prohibited from reporting the news or having a nightly radio show. There are exceptions for emergencies where providing a general broadcast can help save lives and property but that’s the only exception.
  5. Stay in your lane: The FCC has assigned specific radio bands to amateurs where they are allowed to operate. As a holder of a technician license I am limited mostly to local communications. Operating on the longer range high frequency (or HF) bands requires upgrading to the general license. I am allowed to operate in a narrow stretch of bandwidth in the 10 meter space, however.

There will of course be more to come on this topic! Stay tuned!