This guest post is by Michael C and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .
Since the start of radio, frequencies have been allocated for different purposes. There are over 10 thousand different frequencies for ham radio, starting with HF (high Frequency) and going into VHF (Very High Freq.) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency). Even higher bands in the gigi-Hertz range are open for use by ham operators.
The most common band is 2 meter (144-148 MHz), it is recognized around the world as a common band and radios can be bought for less than $100 (USD). The second most common band is 440 (70 cm) band, a little smaller then 1 meter. It is also common around the world. If you hear of “dual band” the radios will most likely have 2 meter/440 band reception. I should note here the difference of dual band and dual receive.
Dual receivers pick up 2 signals at once (you will have 2 volume controls) and you can transmit on either band, you can only listen to one band, at a time, on a dual band radio. Between just those 2 bands you have over 500 frequencies to transmit on – enough to give you frequency anxiety. Compare that to the 40 channel CB and you have a major incentive to “move up” to ham radio.
At one time the FCC was petitioned to open the 11 meter (CB band) to a hundred channels or more (not including the current 27) but figured that would wipe out ham radio – not very many people are trying get a ham license as it is now. That problem is mitigated (slightly) now by eliminating the Morse code requirement for a ham license.
The other problem is that people have to be responsible for their actions – you will have a call sign and declare it every time you connect with someone. Other ham operators will not tolerate CB’er like talk (or antics) and their calls to the FCC get action.
The FCC takes equipment away from power running CB’ers – they jail someone bothering ham radio operators. Also remember that you represent America – having a general license allows you to “call the world” on your radio – the FCC will be listening (and other ham’ers) so talk nice.
There are levels of class of ham radio operator, right now Technician, General, advanced and Extra. Most people start at Technician but passing the general, advanced and extra tests at the same sitting would get you an Extra license right out the door at day one.
The main difference between the ham classes are the frequencies that you are allowed to transmit. Anyone can buy a ham radio (or scanner) and listen to any frequency, even military or police frequencies. Transmission however is a different matter – you are only allowed to transmit on the frequencies that you are certified.
If military or police are transmitting (during a disaster they may “borrow” civilian equipment) on ham frequencies – they have the “right of way” and you have to find another frequency. Although, if you want to get help, using ham radio will give you an edge over other “needies” since you can talk to the aforementioned folks.
Tech – privileges start at 6 meter and go up to 1.24 gigahertz. There are frequencies above 1.24 GHz available but there are so few operators using or radios made that I won’t bother you with them. I won’t bore you with all the frequency numbers as I provided a chart (old) with a graphic view of each band including numbers. I will point out that there are different uses – even within each band – specified for ham operators. For instance, the 2 meter band has SSB (“no FM”) set aside on some frequencies.
Now, all those counting the 2 meter freq. count are going to say, “there is only about a hundred frequencies available for FM voice”, and I say (FCC agrees) if a frequency is not being used – it is available for use. Very few people are using digital modes so you could use one of those frequencies to talk to someone. Although, there are enough frequencies to go around for the few ham radio operators out there.
General – get all the bands that are available to Tech operators (VHF/UHF) and a lot of HF bands too. In fact going from Tech to General gets you the most bands of any class upgrade. The HF bands can be a door to the world. There are HF only rigs that cost hundreds just for talking to someone in another country. Consider yourself a true ham radio operator if you get your General license.
Advanced – gives you a “few” more HF band spots with the license. If you wanted to talk to your friend (in another state or country) and you both had advanced privileges you could find an almost never used frequency. There are a lot of advanced operators out there, when the code requirement was cut many Generals took Advanced tests and passed. At this class you can transmit on 95% of the ham spectrum.
Extra – anyone having an Extra license is an over achiever. This class is the end of the line, top of the heap, all bands open license. Of course, if you think that Extra’s are hanging around the 5% of the airwaves – they are talking to our neighbors around the globe on every band.
This contest will end on December 16 2012 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive a Go Berkey Kit valued at $150.
- Second Place: $100 Cash.
- Third Place: $50 Cash.