This page aimed at those who have just completed their Foundation course and now have their licence. If you’ve passed your exam, but have not yet got your licence and callsign, see our how to apply for your licence page.
Just passed your Foundation exam? Congratulations!
When you’ve just been awarded your Foundation licence and got your callsign, it can be difficult what to do next – how to get on-air and how to chat to others to get help and advice.
On this page, we try to outline the basics of what you need to know, and how to get on-air with other amateurs.
There are so many aspects to the hobby that it’s impossible to cover all of the things that you can now do with your licence. The following guide is based on my personal observation of what worked for me, and it may not be right for everyone…
Getting started on 2 metres
If you’re interested in talking to other amateurs within a 50 mile radius, then the 2 metre band (144MHz to 146MHz) is where much of the action takes place. Although it’s not hugely busy, this band is a good place to get chatting. Most of the people you can ‘work’ on 2 metres are local, and there’s a good mix of home-based and mobile users that you can chat to. If you’ve attended a local Foundation course, you may find many of the graduates of the course, plus some of the people , on 2 metres, making it a good place for information and advice.
|Essex Tip: If you’re in the Essex area, you might like to give our Monday Night Net a try – it’s designed as a regular meeting place for M6 Foundation licence holders to have a chat and ask questions – it’s generally attended by a mix of people of all licence levels.
See our Essex Ham Monday Night Net page
You’ll need to get yourself a 2 metre radio, of course, and you have the choice of a handheld portable unit (normally 5 watts), or a mobile rig that you can either mount in a car, or use at home with a 12V power supply.
The first 2m radio that many people purchase, is a 2m/70cm handheld, on the grounds that they’re cheap, and can be used out-and-about, in a car, as well as at home. Many people getting started opt to get one of the low-price Baofeng handsets, which cost between £25 and £30 on Amazon – The two most popular models are:
These are not the world’s greatest radios, but for the price, they’re very good value – they give you access to 2m and 70cm, can be used on the local repeaters, and can connect to an external antenna.
2m handheld radios generally come with a short rubber duck aerial, which is only really going to be of use over a short distance. Assuming you want to talk to people over a mile-or-so away, you’ll need to connect the radio to a more suitable aerial – either one on your car roof, or a fixed aerial at home.
Given that many 2m amateurs operate mobile, the ability to take your radio in a car (with a suitable mag-mount aerial for the roof) is a plus. For working at home, you can plug a larger fixed aerial into the handheld’s aerial socket. For a fixed home aerial, you could look at a vertical roof aerial, something in the loft, or at a push, a mag-mount antenna placed on a biscuit tin lid.
|Essex Tip: A portable 2m handheld gives you up to 5 watts of power, but with a £20 magnetic car aerial, or a proper VHF vertical at home, that 5 watts should get you into the Danbury repeater (GB3DA) from most parts of Essex, and using that repeater, you should be able to ‘work’ most of Essex. Make sure the radio you get supports CTCSS tones (required for ‘opening’ the Danbury repeater)|
Essex: The Danbury 2 metre Repeater
If you want to be able to chat to other amateur operators in Essex, you should get familiar with the Danbury 2 metre repeater, known as GB3DA.
This is maintained by the Essex Repeater Group and is available to all licensed hams.
This repeater operates at a power of 25 watts, and has a decent coverage of the majority of Essex. Here’s what you need to know:
- The Output frequency is 145.725MHz (you listen on this frequency)
- The Input frequency is 145.125MHz (you transmit on this frequency)
- To ‘open’ the repeater, you need set your radio to use the CTCSS tone 110.9Hz
- The repeater will “time out” if you talk for too long, so keep each ‘over’ to two minutes or less
- After each transmission, the repeater sends out a Morse “K”. Wait until you hear this before keying up (as this resets the timeout)
We’d encourage you to have a listen to 145.725MHz to get used to the repeater, and how it’s used. Although you’re not required to use your callsign at the start of each ‘over’, that’s the convention used by most operators. To put out a call for a chat, the syntax is generally something like:
“This is M6___ listening through GB3DA for any calls”
More information: Danbury Repeater GB3DA
Join Essex Ham
New to the hobby? We’d love you to consider joining Essex Ham.
Membership is free, and we’ll allow you access to extra sections of this site, use of our forum, and updates about events and training here in Essex.
More information: Join Essex Ham
This is the phone book for amateur radio folk. All operators are encouraged to add their details (name, location, etc), plus perhaps a picture or two, to the directory. You have to be a licensed ham to be able to add or edit information, as well as to access personal details.
You’ll find the directory at: www.qrz.com
Adding your callsign: The process of getting your callsign added to the QRZ database isn’t obvious. Here’s a guide:
- Go to the QRZ.com forum and register for a forum account. You’ll have to wait while QRZ activates your account
- When activated, post a message in the Callsign Database forum asking to have your callsign edited. You’ll have to wait for your post to be moderated, and then for a database helper to add your callsign
Once this is done, you can then log on and edit your profile from the main QRZ site.
Getting Started on HF
With an HF radio and a suitable antenna, you can work the world, even on the 10 watts allowed at Foundation. With radios costing £400+ upwards, the need for a power supply unit, an antenna tuning unit and an SWR meter, the costs add up. Have a read of the following guides:
- Setting up your first station
- Introduction to HF: The HF Bands – A look at what to expect from each of the HF bands
- Introduction to HF: Selecting a Transceiver – What to consider when buying your first rig
- Introduction to HF: Aerials – A look at feeders, HF aerials, and options for what may work for your shack
If you want the ability to talk around the world from a handheld, you might want to look at Digital Voice – There are two systems in use in Essex: DMR and D-Star. You can connect from your handheld to a DV repeater and make contact with others around the world. The repeaters are connected using the Internet, making the long trip possible. DMR seems to be gaining traction, with new repeaters appearing in Essex, and handhelds now only costing around £100.
Echolink is a system that combines RF and the Internet. It can only be used by licensed amateurs, and to use the Internet system, you have to register using your callsign.
You can download Echolink onto your desktop or laptop computer, and an application for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones is also available – Go to www.echolink.org
You can use Echolink to contact other amateurs around the world, and use your computer or phones mic and speaker to talk (think MSN or Skype for Amateurs). It’s great for situations where you can’t use a radio, can’t get an aerial, or want to connect with an amateur who’s outside the range of your radio equipment.
There is a radio transmission component too – there are a number of local repeater nodes, and using the DTMF keypad on your transmitter, you can open a local node and type in a target node.
If the idea of Echolink appeals, have a listen to the Ireland Conference Server, and get a feel for how it works. For more on Echolink, see our Echolink Hands-on Guide.
This is a data service, as opposed to speech. You can connect your radio to a computer, and then communicate by keyboard with amateurs around the world. You will typically need an interface of some kind to connect your computer to your radio, and it seems that most commonly, hams use Ham Radio Deluxe as the software, and then communicate with other amateurs using 80m, 40m and 20m HF.
Anything else we should add to this page? Please let us know, or add a comment below.