Ham Radio Market Analysis

Part
01
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Part
01

Ham Radio Market Analysis: Licenses

Technician (384,509 active licenses), General (176,089), and Amateur Extra (147,560 active licenses) are the three most common types of licenses out of a total of 755,952 active licenses granted to hams. After passing a specific test level known as an element, hams have permanent credit if they keep their license renewed. This system allows hams to progressively get at their pace (these licenses are good for ten years and can get renewed without sitting for an exam).

Technician Class License (Level 1 or Element 2 License)

    Description

    • Nearly all hams (also known as amateur radio operators) begin with a Technician class license, known as a Tech license. The Technician License is a Level 1 License.
    • Approximately 384,509 of a total of 755,952 active licenses granted to hams are Technician licenses. This figure makes the Technician license the most popular among amateur radio operators.
    • Between January 2018 and January 2019, the number of active Technician Class hams increased from 377,807 to 384,509, representing an increase of 6,702,
    • Although knowledge of Morse code is not a requirement to pass the Technician license exam, hams have a fair knowledge of the Morse code because it gets frequently used in amateur operations.
    • The FCC grants a 2-year grace period for Technician Class hams to renew their licenses after they expire. They cannot transmit during this grace period but can renew their old license without sitting for any exams.

    Requirements for Technician License Test

    • Before sitting for the FCC Technician License exam, hams need to have a basic understanding of regulations, electronics theory, and operating practices. They need to understand very high frequency (VHF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF) applications.
    • The test for the Technician license consists of 35 multiple-choice questions relevant to regulations and Technical radio topics. Individuals are required to get the answers to 26 or more of these questions correctly to pass. The questions come from a pool of 400 questions.
    • In the United States, licenses are active for ten years before renewal, and any individual can sit for the exam to hold the license except the representatives of foreign governments.

    Areas of Usage/Limitation

    • A Technician licensee allows operators to access all ham bands of 50 MHz or higher frequencies. One privilege of having a Technician licensee includes the right to operate at maximum legal power limits using all communication systems.
    • Tech licenses allow operators to transmit voice on portions of the 10-meter band. It also gives them the privileges to use all VHF/UHF Amateur bands, including frequencies above 30 MHz.
    • According to ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, the Technician License Test gives operators limited access to certain HF bands.

General Class License (Level 2 or Element 3 License)

    Description

    • Achieving the General class license is a significant milestone. This license grants ham radio operators full rights to almost all amateur frequencies. However, a small portion of some high-frequency (HF) bands are still not accessible to these licensees.
    • About 176,089 of a total of 755,952 active licenses granted to hams are General-Class licenses. This figure makes the General license the second most popular license among hams.
    • After acquiring an entry-level Technician license, a significantly high number of hams start making efforts to upgrade at once to a General class license. Between January 2018 and January 2019, the number of active General Class hams increased from 173,922 to 176,089, representing a difference of 2,167.
    • As applicable with other classes of ham radio licenses, the FCC grants a 2-year grace period for General Class ham license holders to renew their licenses after they expire. They cannot transmit during this grace period. However, they can renew their old licenses without sitting for any exams.

    Requirements for General License Test

    • Before sitting for an exam that upgrades an individual's license to the General Class, candidates need to have already achieved the Technician Class license (or must have recently passed the Technician license exam).
    • Candidates are required to pass a 35 question written examination to qualify for the General License. These questions come from a pool containing 500 questions.
    • Topics covered by the General License test preparation manual include procedures and practices, rules and regulations, components, and circuits. It also covers signals, modes, and equipment, antennas, propagation, electrical & RF safety.

    Areas of Usage/Limitations

    • Upgrading to the General Class license gives individuals extensive HF privileges.
    • A General License allows operators to access all ham bands, including all VHF and UHF amateur bands. It also gives them the privilege to use most HF bands, including all frequencies from 10 through the 160-meter band.
    • This license grants ham radio operators full privilege to almost all amateur frequencies. However, a small portion of some high-frequency (HF) bands are still not accessible to these licensees.

Amateur Extra License

    Description

    • Individuals interested in contesting, contacting unique foreign stations (DXing), or just having access to choice frequencies are those that need the Amateur Extra license. It allows hams to utilize frequencies beneficial to expert Morse code operators known as the prime operating territory.
    • About 147,560 of a total of 755,952 active licenses granted to hams are Amateur Extra licenses. This figure makes the Amateur Extra license the third most popular license among hams.
    • Between January 2018 and January 2019, the number of active Amateur Extra hams increased from 145,012 to 147,560, representing a difference of 2,548.
    • As applicable with all other classes of ham radio licenses, the FCC grants a 2-year grace period for Amateur Extra license holders to renew their licenses after they expire. They cannot transmit during this grace period. However, they can renew their old licenses without sitting for any exams.

    Requirements for Amateur Extra License Test

    • Before taking and passing the Amateur Extra exam, candidates need to cover in-depth topics on rules and regulations relevant to amateur radio operations. They also need to understand several advanced technical issues.
    • Candidates are required to pass a 50 question written examination to qualify for the General License. These questions are from a pool containing 700 questions.
    • Some topics covered by the Amateur Extra License test preparation manual include ECLM introduction, operating practices, rules, and regulations. It also coves electronic principles, components, and building blocks.
    • Other topics covered by the Amateur Extra License test preparation manual include circuits, radio signals, modes and equipment, antennas, feed lines, radio propagation, and safety topics.

    Areas of Usage/Limitations

    • The Amateur Extra License gives licensees full access to every ham frequency, including 'less crowded, advanced and extra" amateur band portions. It also grants hams "some of the best DX is in the Extra segments."
    • The Amateur Extra License gives licensees the ability to use shorter call signs, which constitute tremendous advantages during contests or when working a pileup. It also grants US licensees full reciprocal operating privileges when traveling to CEPT countries like Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and other CEPT countries.
    • Earning the Amateur Extra license allows individuals to administer all exam levels as volunteer examiners.
    • Some broadcast engineers use the Amateur Extra license as a stepping stone when pursuing the Certified Broadcast Technologist certification.

Studying for Ham Radio Licenses

  • Several organizations like the ARRL (the national association for Amateur Radio), MSCG Inc (Michigan Specialized Communications Group Inc.), and Ham Radio School provide online materials, manuals, and training resources to help people prepare for the Technician, General, and Amateur Extra licenses.
  • HamTestOnline provides popular and successful online courses combined with study materials, question drills, and electronic tutorials to help people learn about ham radio and prepare for their ham exams.
  • Ham Class offers both online classes (featuring slide narrations and practice questions) and live video classes (attended through personal computers) for those who intend to study and get ham radio licenses.
  • The 8th Edition of ARRL's Extra Class License manual (study guide) for radio amateurs is available for sale on several platforms (including Amazon). Collectively, ARRL Extra Class License manuals for radio amateurs are rated above 4.5-star rating on a scale of 5 based on over 1000 user reviews.
Part
02
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Part
02

Ham Radio Market Analysis: License Test Study Options

HamStudy.org, HamTestOnline, and AmateurRadio.com are three online study options for the ham license test.

HamStudy.org

  • HamStudy.org offers study tools for technician, general, and amateur extra classes on its website. It also provides apps for download on Google Play, App Store, and Mac App Store for offline study.

Pricing

HamTestOnline

  • HamTestOnline offers online courses for ham radio license exams in the US. It blends study materials with the actual exam questions and answers and guarantees a 100% refund if the user fails the test.

Pricing

  • Technician Class study course (6-month subscription): $29.95 (currently $24.95 at 17% off)
  • General Class study course (6-month subscription): $34.95 (currently $29.95 at 14% off)
  • Extra Class study course (6-month subscription): $39.95 (currently $34.95 at 13% off)
  • Renewal of all previously-purchased courses (6-month subscription extension): $29.95 (currently $4.95 at 83% off)

AmateurRadio.com

  • AmateurRadio.com offers a series of video study guides that cover all possible questions for the Technician license exam. The online course is also available as a book — "The Ham Whisperer’s Technician Class License Course" — on Amazon Kindle.

Pricing

Research Strategy

None of the online study providers mentioned their number of users on their website. We also searched broadly for any mention of their number of users, but could not find any hints, not even in blogs and forums.
Part
03
of three
Part
03

Ham Radio Market Analysis: Trends

Three trends in the ham radio industry are the use of gamification within amateur radio communities, the use of ham radio to socialize during the pandemic, and the use of ham radio in the space industry. These trends are described below.

Gamification

  • Amateur radio operators (hams) are using gamification to entertain themselves. They incentivize other hams by conducting a variety of games that can give them points and rewards.
  • We identified gamification as a trend after analyzing different news outlets and ham radio blogs that talk about how amateur operators are conducting these activities. Although these types of activities have been going on for years, it continues to be a trend.
  • For example, Islands on the Air and Parks on the Air are programs that use gamification to incentivize operators to do outside activities like hunting for other hams in parks.

Connecting with the Outside World during the Pandemic

  • Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, amateur operators are using old technology to connect and socialize. Due to social restrictions, many of these operators are forming social networks to talk through the radio about things they might have in common. Instead of communicating through modern technology like video calls, people are using ham radio to form clubs and talk about topics such as antenna law, radio software, or COVID-19.
  • We identified this trend by analyzing different news outlets that cover different locations in the US in which people are turning to ham radio to communicate as a result of the isolation brought by the current pandemic.
  • Some examples of this trend are ham radio communities in Ohio and North Carolina that are creating social networks to communicate during the pandemic.

Use of Ham Radio in Space

  • Ham radio is being used for different purposes in space, including communication with Earth to fight isolation and sharing of findings, as amateur operators can "collect useful data for space science researchers."
  • We identified this activity as a trend after reviewing various current articles that talk about how the ham radio industry is used to help the space industry.
  • Examples of this trend include the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI), a collective of amateur radio operators and the research community in the space industry, which "holds annual workshops during which ham radio operators and space scientists share findings."


Sources
Sources