Ham Radio Market Analysis

Part
01
of one
Part
01

Ham Radio Market Analysis

Ham Radio Prep, Ham Test Online, and AmateurRadio.com are three online study options for the ham radio license test.

Overview

  • The FCC started making changes to ham radio licensing in the US in the year 2000 to usher the Amateur Radio service into the digital age.
  • In April 2000, the FCC reduced the number of license classes from six to three, and in 2007, discontinued Morse code proficiency tests.
  • The existing ham license classes in the US include the Technician, General, and Amateur Extra license classes. Since there are only three class categories, licensees can quickly move from the beginner to expert levels.

Technician Class (Element 2)

  • This class is the entry-level license chosen by most new hams.
  • Obtaining this license typically requires potential licensees to know "radio theory, regulations, and operating practices." Hams would need to write and pass a 35-question examination covering these topics to be licensed.
  • Hams need to score 74% and above (26 or more correct answers) to pass this exam.
  • The Technician license allows hams to communicate locally and, in most cases, within the North American region. Hams gain access to "all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 megahertz (MHz)."
  • They also have access to some high-frequency (HF) bands. However, this access is limited.

General Class (Element 3)

  • The General Class is the second tier in the ham radio license class.
  • Hams must have a Technician Class license or have recently taken and passed the Technician Class license exam to pass this exam.
  • The General Class license exam follows the same 35-question pattern as the Technician Class. However, passing this written exam provides operating access to all operating modes and Amateur radio bands, including those at frequencies below 30 MHz.
  • They also gain access to global communications. Hams need a 74% average or should answer 26 questions correctly to pass this exam.
  • "The FCC grants exam Element 3 credit to individuals that previously held certain older types of licenses."

Amateur Extra Class

  • This class is the highest level of ham radio licensing in the US.
  • Hams must have passed examinations at all previous class levels to upgrade to the Amateur Extra Class. They also need to pass a 50-question exam (Element 4) covering "specialized operating practices, advanced electronics theory, and radio equipment design."
  • Hams need to score 74% and above (37 or more correct answers) to pass this exam.
  • Amateur Extra Class licensees have access to all bands and operating modes on the Amateur Service. It provides room for hams with access to HF bands, as they can often get crowded quickly.
  • As earlier mentioned, hams are no longer required to take a Morse code proficiency test.
  • "The FCC grants exam Element 3 credit to individuals that previously held certain older types of licenses."

Ham Radio Prep

  • Ham Radio Prep provides online classes for hams preparing for a ham radio license test in the US. Its products include Technician, General, and Amateur Extra license courses. It also offers a Baofeng basics course.
  • The tool provides video teachings and study tests, keeping students on track by highlighting the correct answers.
  • Ham Radio Prep offers a free 5-minute lesson, after which users will need to pay for their courses.
  • It offers three price plans, including the Technician License Course ($35), Technician + General License Course ($49, previously $70), and General License Course ($35).
  • Each plan provides lifetime access, meaning users make a one-time payment.
  • Ham Radio Prep has over 30,000 users. It also provides a 100% money-back guarantee if a students fail an exam.

Ham Test Online

  • Ham Test Online provides online test courses to help hams prepare for ham license exams in the US. The tool prepares students with actual exam questions and offers online study tests to allow hams to track their progress.
  • The first 50 questions using Ham Test Online are free. However, it uses a 6-month subscription model that costs $29.95 regularly. Ham Test online is currently offering its 6-month subscription at $24.95.
  • The company offers a 100% money-back guarantee if students fail an exam.
  • Using this tool, students would generally need to commit ten hours of study to pass the Technician Class license exam, 20 hours for the General Class, and 30 study hours for the Amateur Extra.
  • The latest available data for the number of people using Ham Test Online is 64,000 users as of 2016. However, this value might be higher now due to increased registrations during COVID-19.
  • Ham Test Online received a 5/5 star rating from 97% of its reviewers.

AmateurRadio.com

  • AmateurRadio.com is an online learning service for hams looking to obtain a ham radio license. It provides 35 video lessons covering critical areas from essential topics such as Amateur radio services to more advanced points like installations and hazards.
  • AmateurRadio.com only offers educational courses for the Technician Class license exam.
  • It has a user-friendly website with clearly labeled lessons. The company describes its teaching model as similar to having an instructor taking students over the curriculum.
  • There was no way to determine the number of users, as the service is entirely free, and there is hardly any way to track the people using its online learning service. However, AmateurRadio.com has 7,000 newsletter subscribers globally and 19,400 followers on Twitter.

Remote & Internet-Assisted Radio Operation

  • The ham radio industry is seeing increased leveraging of remote and internet-assisted radio operation.
  • Hams no longer need HF radios with large antennas to communicate over long distances. Instead, they only need to have "a simple, inexpensive handheld walkie-talkie through the repeater systems connected to the internet."
  • For an industry battling to attract younger populations, this trend has been described to be critical for youth engagement.
  • While many hams see emerging digital technologies as the future of the ham radio industry, others say the traditional systems are more enjoyable.
  • Companies such as RemoteHamRadio and Remote Hams operate remote online stations.
  • Remote Hams offers free service, while RemoteHamRadio allows free remote operations through its youth program for hams 25 years or younger who are AARL members, have a general class license or higher, and have some interest or experience in DXing/Contesting.
  • MFJ released a control system called the RigPi Station Server that facilitates remote radio operation through the internet and on iPhones.

Recent Surge in Licensing

  • Reports have revealed that licensing is on the rise, with a 1% increase over the past few years since 2018. The US has seen a rapid uptick in new ham licenses since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • "Amateur ham radio operators assisted the authorities by building DIY medical equipment throughout the crisis and providing reliable emergency communications."
  • Online prep companies for ham radio tests also recorded a significant increase in interest following the news of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Data from the FCC revealed a 7.1% rise in the number of applications for a new ham radio license. Ham Radio Prep also reported a 706% surge in the number of hams registering for audio prep courses.
  • Top ham radio retailers in the US, such as Walcott Radio, saw a rapid increase in ham radio sales.
Sources
Sources