Amateur Radio: Hobby,Technical Investigation and Public Service
Have you seen the movie Terminator Salvation? Machine has destroyed everything, no mobile network, no landlines, no Internet. What was that thing through which John Connor used to communicate with his resistance army? Remember anything?
Yes! that was a small radio set; unlike a common radio set on which we use to tune a broadcast radio stations, it was a two-way communication system. Have you ever thought that you can also communicate around the globe as Connor? Ever imagined that it is possible that you can talk to astronaut on the space mission and ask them how they feel there? Did you ever wanted to converse with the scientist doing research in North Pole, sitting right there in your balcony and asking them what they research for? Have you ever dreamed of using satellite link for personal communication? Do you have any friend in South America, Australia, Greenland or anywhere else in the world? You can talk to them for hours, without the expense of a single penny. No friends there! Don’t feel sad, you can even make one!
I am not referring to the future or any science fiction. All the above mentioned stuff is possible… and most important thing is that any simple person like you and me can do this. Yes! there exist a hobby which give the freedom of communication all over the world and even to the space free of cost. The hobby is called Amateur Radio Service. It’s popularly known as HAM radio service. Amateur radio or Ham radio is the hobby of constructing,experimenting and communicating using radio equipment and radio technologies. It is amateur in the term that this can be practiced only with the personal aim, without any pecuniary interest. An Amateur radio operator or simply a HAM can’t be paid for the communication he make.
HAM is a one of the few hobbies which require a licence to be practiced. To earn this licence we don’t need to have any minimum educational qualification. In our country any one above the age 12 can earn this licence by passing Amateur Station Operator’s Certificate (ASOC) Examination conducted by ministry of communication. Amateur radio station is operated under different national and international rule and regulation.
Why licence is needed?
License is needed for amateur radio service so that no person shall establish,maintain and work an amateur radio station except under the different national and international rules and regulation.
HAM radio is very strong and efficient means of communication. Licence is made necessary to avoid certain condition, e.g. 1.an amateur radio station may not interfere with other radio services like police wireless or other private or government broadcast radio station. 2. to stop terrorists or other anti-social elements to use HAM radio to communicate. We will discuss different rule and regulations and licensing in at the end of article. Let us know first what can we do with HAM radio.
What can we do with HAM radio?
Along with the hobby, amateur radio service is self-training, technical investigation and public service at the same time. HAMs Enjoy free communication with other HAMS all over world.They make personal conversation on-the-air, make friends around the globe, share their experiences and technical detail. Discovering friends on-the-air and sharing experiences and information is full of adventure and excitements. A HAM can communicate to the neighbor, across the city, across the country, around the globe and even to the space! Bouncing radio signal from moon is one of the favorite activity among HAMs. Interesting fact about HAM communication is that they don’t have to pay money to any authority for the communication they make on-the-air. Every thing is free of cost here. Each HAM own his personal radio station or hand-held radio transceiver (a combination of transmitter and receiver) to communicate worldwide. An amateur radio operator or a HAM uses different modes of wireless transmission to communicate, e.g. radio-telephony (just like John Connor!), radiotelegraphy (teletyping), radio facsimile (radio FAX or slow scan television), amateur radio television, digital-computer supported communication. Voice communication or radio-telephony is the most popular mode of transmission among HAM. Digital-communication e.g. VOIP (voice over Internet protocol), accessing Internet through HAM radio are the latest trend among HAMs. A HAM can also use satellite links for communicating. There are many satellite dedicated for amateur radio operators. I am proud to say that on May 5, 2005 India launched its own amateur satellite named HAMSAT (also known as HASAT INDIA and VU2SAT). HAMSAT is providing communication links for Indian and international amateur radio operators.
While some HAM take it only as a hobby and enjoy communicating and discovering new friend or find it a cheap (almost free of cost) way to be to be in contact with their friend, family and loved ones across the globe, other HAM take it as a serious and highly technical advanced hobby and love to do self-training and technical investigation with radio equipments. They build their own equipments (home-made HAM equipments are called home-brew), do experiments, design efficient radio circuits for better communication or improve the old one. Inventor of IC chip and Nobel prize winner Jack S. Kilby credits his achievement to his hobby of HAM radio.
Amateur radio service is a means of public service also.
Amateur radio in emergency communication
Amateur radio is known for its usability in the emergency communication. Unlike mobile phone or land lines HAM radio doesn’t depend on third-party service. Mobile phones or land lines are not reliable means of communication in emergencies. During wars and natural disasters like tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes etc. all the conventional means of communication like mobile phone network, land lines fails due to power outage or destruction of telephone lines and mobile towers. Even if these are in good condition anyone can not be sure if communication will be successful or not, due to network congestion or other network errors.
HAM radio is free from these demerits. Unlike conventional means of communication HAM radio do not have choke point. Each HAM radio used to be an independent unit and a HAM use his skill to establish communication link across the world. HAM radio are very power efficient. It can work on batteries or solar cell. Due to its portability HAM radio station can be established anywhere in any condition. Ham radio can not be barred or censored. During war emergency usually enemy destroy or government bar the cellular service,land-lines and Internet but no one can bar HAM radio. SO there is a saying among HAM that “When all else fails, HAM works” . When ever government and private links of communication fails HAM operator come into play and establish communication channels and pass necessary messages to the public. They make co-ordination between police, medical and other necessary service by interchanging information. So HAM operators are the second line of communication.
HAM have shown their capability during all the major disasters. In 1960, during post & telegraph strike when all the communication link failed HAM operator passed important messages for the public. In 1991, during Gulf war, that was a South Indian HAM operator in Kuwait, who established one and only means of communication between Indians trapped there and Indian Official and their relatives in India. During Orissa cyclone,1999 (known as Cyclone 05B), during Gujarat earthquake in 2001, during Tsunami in 2004 HAM operator were the first who came to rescue. Within hours they linked up all over India to exchange important information to support rescue operations and to provide information about missing or separated families. They transmitted SOS signal and called more and more help from all over the world. Thus in this way HAM radio operator cast their great role in public service during natural disasters and wars.
Amateur radio in digital age
Some people call amateur radio “old day Internet”, as it is being used to communicate across the world as we use Internet today from those days when no one have ever thought of Internet. It was only means of freedom of communication those days. But I don’t agree with this statement. When we think of the reliability of communication HAM radio has no comparison. Now a days HAM operators are using HAM radio to access free Internet. IRLP (Internet Radio Linking Project) is such a project which is aimed to link the amateur radio to the Internet [go to irlp.net].
Echolink is one another well recognised armature radio system which allow HAM to communicate over VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) using Internet [go to echolink.org]. SDR (Software Defined Radio) is the latest technology in the field of radio devices, which is already adopted by the HAM radio community. SDR is really a big revolution in radio equipments, which will replace the components like mixers, filters, amplifiers, modulators/demodulator, detectors to the DSP (Digital signal processor). It means that all the signal detection and filtering work of radio will be done by software’s in PC or laptop itself. In coming days we may have only an analog to digital converter chip connected with an antenna in place of all the numerous component of the radio.
Who can go for HAM?
Are you thinking that HAM is only for those who have very deep technical knowledge? Thinking that what is use of HAM for a common man? HAM is not only for experimented oriented person or Radio enthusiast. Do you think Amitabh Bachhan or Sonia Gandhi have deep technical knowledge? Of-coarse fundamental knowledge in electronics and radio is required but any one can go for it. You will be surprised to know that Inventor of IC chip and Nobel prize winner Jack S. Kilby, Linux kernel developer Ted Ts’o, Former CEO of Apple computer John Sculley, Co-Founder of Hewlett-Packard (HP) David Packard, Rajiv Gandhi,Sonia Gandhi, Amitabh Bachhan and lot of people from different walk of life are amateur radio hobbyist.
interested in HAM? Want to be an amateur radio operator or a HAM? Want to feel joy of the freedom of communication? Let us start with some rule and regulations.
Amateur radio rule and regulation
Amateur radio operators are bound to work under certain national and international rule and regulations. All HAM in India are bound to follow INDIAN WIRELESS TELEGRAPHS (AMATEUR SERVICE) RULES,1987 and its amendments. An amateur radio station has all the capabilities of a government or private broadcast radio station but HAM is forbidden to transmit following type of message:
1. Messages like the reproduction of broadcast programmes or tape recordings or transmissions of entertainment value or music.
2. False or misleading calls, or signals, news, advertisements, communications of business, statements on topics of political or industrial controversy.
3. False or misleading calls, or signals, news, advertisements, communications of business, statements on topics of political or industrial controversy.
4. Messages for pecuniary reward or any messages for, or on behalf of third parties.
However in case of failure of normal telecommunication facilities during earthquake, flood, cyclones, widespread fires or during any other disasters, a HAM can transmit third-party message.
just like we have user ID to send email or telephone numbers each HAM operator also have a unique call sign. A call-sign consists of a set of letters and numbers, assigned by the authority. First two letter of call sign denote the country of the HAM operator. e.g. call sign of Amitabh Bachhan is VU2AMY. Here VU is the code of India, all the call sign of Indian HAM begin with VU.
How to go for HAM?
I have already mentioned that to be a HAM one have to pass ASOC (Amateur Station Operator’s Certificate) exam to earn a HAM licence. This exam is conducted by the Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) wing of the Ministry of Communications, New Delhi at the Wireless Monitoring Stations located throughout the country.There are two grade of license: 1. Restricted Grade and 2. General Grade. Before April 2010 there used to have five grade of licence. From INDIAN WIRELESS TELEGRAPH(AMATEUR SERVICE) AMENDMENTS RULE,2009 now there are only two grade. Restricted grade. Restricted grade is allowed to pump maximum 50 watt of DC power to his transmitter. A General grade licensee can pump maximum 400 watt of DC power to his shake. A general grade licence can use satellite links but a restricted grade can’t. A general grade can use mobile or handhold transceivers to communicate in certain condition but a restricted grade can’t operate a mobile Amateur station.
ASOC Examination have two parts: I.Written test and II. Morse. Second is practical paper. For restricted grade licence one have to appear in only first part, for General grade licence both part is compulsory. First part have two section:
A) Radio theory and propagation.
An engineering/science degree or diploma in Engineering holder is exempted from this part.
B) National and International Telecommunication Union regulation applicable for operation of amateur station and those relating to station generally.
Part II consist of practical exam in which one have to perform Morse code reception and sending at the speed of 8 word per minute. [go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morse_code to know what is Morse code]
Second part of the exam is most difficult,because it’s not a one or two-day work to learn Morse code reception and sending. It require months of practice and patient to learn it. However most of the country e.g. USA, Canada has exempted Morse code from the exam. We are expecting from our country for the same, so that licence process become easy.
Now you have known the syllabus of the exam; want to know how to appear in exam? To appear in the examination apply in written to the office-in-charge of the nearest monitoring station with the following documents:
1. Nationality Certificate/Character Certificate in the prescribed Proforma.
2. 2 copies of recent passport size (3 x 4 cms)photographs duly signed by you on the front side
3. Examination fees in the form of Bank Draft (DD) drawn from a SBI branch.
according to latest amendment examination fees has increased from maximum
Rs. 25 to Rs. 100 for all grade of licence
4. Personal particulars (in quadruplicate) in the prescribed Performa.
5. An attested copy of birth certificate or School Leaving certificate as a proof of your age
Prescribed pro forma for these detail is given in INDIAN WIRELESS TELEGRAPH(AMATEUR SERVICE) act.
If you pass the exam, monitoring station forward your personal detail to WPC wing. WPC wing then inform the ministry of concerned department of Ministry of Home Affair for security clearance. After police verification and getting security clearance, if everything is right, WPC wing will write to you that you will be awarded by the license after paying licence fee. Licence fee for 20 year is Rs. 1000 and you can pay Rs. 2000 for lifetime licence. After paying licence fee and getting licence, finally you become a registered, authorised amateur radio operator. Now you can enjoy all the joy of HAM radio. Best of luck!
Organisation promoting HAM radio
There are many organisation nationally and internationally from where you can get help to be an amateur radio operator:
1. American Radio relay league (ARRL): It’s the world largest organisation promoting HAM radio. It provide training for future ham and support for present day operator.
2.National Institute of Amateur Radio (NIAR): It’s India’s largest institute to promote amateur radio.It provide distance training coarse for ASOC exam.
3.Kerala Amateur Radio league (KARL): It’s the first organisation to start distant education course for ASOC examination
PO Box 335,Kollam
4.Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI): It’s the leading organisation for Amateur radio in India. It represents India at International Amateur Radio Union (IARU).
5.Bangalore Amateur Radio Club: it’s the most active HAM radio club in the India.
I am sorry to tell you that there are only two book available on this very topic in India. However you can find a number of ebooks on the Internet.
1. ABC of Amateur Radio and Citizen Band
Authored by Rajesh Verma, VU2RVM (Note: VU2RM is his call sign)
Publisher: EFY ENTERPRISES PVT LTD
This a complete book on amateur radio. You can really know A B C of amateur radio by reading this book.
You can order this book to
Electronics For You,
303, Dohil Chamber,
46, Nehru Place,
Price: Rs. 75 (Please enquire their availability and latest price prior to ordering)
By Ponnuswamy & Parthiban
Publisher: Karthik Publishers
You can order this book to:
16, Pachaipatti Main Road
I am not sure about its price, please enquire to the publisher for price and availability.
Amateur Radio or HAM radio such a useful hobby. A HAM radio can save your life in natural calamity and wars. By an amateur radio you can feel total freedom to communicate.Communicating across the world using a simple radio set is fascinating. HAM radio operators have made significant contribution to the science, telecommunication,industries and social service. You may not agree with me but I undoubtedly find Amateur Radio Service as the best hobby ever existed. Communication is power these days. Amateur radio gives you the power of communication. If you have even a little interest in electronics and computing you must go for HAM.
I have only introduced Amateur radio. Amateur Radio is very broad area, HAM operator have their own world full of enthusiasm and co-operation.There are lot of things to know. If you want to know more about HAM google and Wikipedia is always there. You can also try http://www.dxportal.com/, it’s a HAM radio Search Engine. To download the copy of INDIAN WIRELESS TELEGRAPH(AMATEUR SERVICE)RULE, its amendments and others important documents go to http://bit.ly/kumarHam (note: url is case-sensitive). If you are still not satisfied, you can mail me or meet me personally to know more about amateur radio.
Did you like or dislike my post Do you still think this hobby is only for person having technical knowledge? please comment. Ask here anything about amateur radio, I will try to answer your question.
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