What is Amateur Radio?

From Wikipedia, in a nutshell:

Amateur radio, often called ham radio, is both a hobby and a service that uses various types of radio communications equipment to communicate with other radio amateurs for public service, recreation and self-training. A participant is called an amateur radio operator, or a ham.

Amateur radio is all about two-way communication between stations. In fact, there are rules that we must follow to avoid behaving too much like traditional broadcasters. For one, we’re not allowed to transmit music. But we can do so much more that your average radio station could never dream of. Have you ever wanted to talk to an astronaut in orbit? Amateur radio can make it happen. How about sending wireless data to someone in Australia using less power than it takes to illuminate a light bulb? Amateur radio has got that covered. Interested in public service? Amateur radio operators regularly volunteer their time to provide communication at civic events like parades and races, or in the event of a natural disaster.

To become an amateur radio operator in the United Kingdom, you must obtain a license from Ofcom. There are three license classes in the U.K., each offering incrementally more privileges.


The entry-level Foundation license allows you to transmit voice, video, morse, and data on frequencies from hundreds of kilohertz all the way up to 10 GHz with up to 10 Watts of power. That’s enough to reach local UHF and VHF voice repeaters with coverage all over the Bristol Channel or to talk around the world using the HF frequencies.


The Intermediate class license increases the power limit to 50 Watts and opens up more spectrum for use, extending the upper limit to 248 GHz! The extra power helps to carry your signals farther, even all the way to the moon and back.


The Full license gives you access to every square inch of spectrum that is allocated by Ofcom for amateur use. The allowable power is raised to 400 Watts and you can use your license internationally.

To obtain any of these licenses, you must first pass a multiple-choice exam. These exams are administered by teams of volunteers, including the society here at Cardiff University. There is a small fee to cover the cost of the exam, but the license itself is free and can be renewed for life at no cost once it is granted. Check our Licensing page for details.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact us! We usually offer exams on campus two or three times each semester. For more information and study resources, visit the Radio Society of Great Britain, which is the national association for amateur radio in the United Kingdom.