FAQ: Amateur Radio

This page is where we’ve collate answers to some of the more common amateur radio questions that have been raised on our Monday Night Net,or submitted to the site by email. If you have a question to ask, please get in touch and we’ll add an entry.

Getting Started

How do I get started in amateur radio?

The best way is to attend a course held by an amateur radio club near you. The “Foundation Licence Manual” is a must, and you can also get a feel for what’s involved in our short “Getting Started in Amateur Radio” video.

Exams & Courses

Where do I get training?

There are a number of clubs in Essex that offer training. See our Amateur Radio Training in Essex section. You can find a list of UK clubs on the RSGB website

Can I study online?

Yes, we now offer an online Foundation course – See “Foundation Online

What can I expect from the exam?

See our video: “The Foundation Exam

I am dyslexic – Can you help?

There are various ways that local clubs can help, and also ways to learn that may help those with dyslexia – See: Amateur Radio & dyslexia

Passed your Foundation?

How do I get my callsign?

Once you have passed, you’ll be posted the Foundation Certificate by the RSGB – this should be around 6 working days after your exam. You can then apply for your licence and callsign on the Ofcom website. See: How to get your licence and callsign

What sort of radio should I buy?

If only it were that easy. You need to think about a number of factors, such as:

  • Do you want VHF/UHF, or HF? You can get a cheap VHF/UHF handheld such as the Baofeng UV-B6 for £30, but HF rigs are in the hundreds
  • Will you be operating from home, in a car, walking about, or on field days?
  • What bands do you want to work? Some of the more basic rigs don’t support VHF/UHF SSB, or don’t offer access to bands such as 6 metres
  • Will you be progressing? Sure, at Foundation, you only get 25 watts, but if you invest in a rig with low power, you may be disappointed when you get 100 watts and 1,000 watts as you move to Intermediate and Full
  • Do you want to work with data at some point? Make sure your rig supports data,has suitable connectors, and that software is available

There are plenty of other things to think about, and your best bet is to chat to an existing amateur or two, to make sure you don’t make a mistake. Stuck for someone to talk to? Consider joining a local club, or ask for some advice in our Amateur Radio Advice Forum.

What sort of antenna should I get?

Another minefield. HF or VHF/UHF? Fixed or mobile? Vertical or horizontal? Budgets, space, partners, neighbours and practicalities all play a part. We’re putting together a Getting Started Guide on the subject at the moment, so keep an eye out for some helpful advice. Again, talking to an experienced amateur is probably the best source of advice there is.

A possible piece of advice worth considering is to get an antenna that will get you into your local repeater. In Essex, this is could well be the GB3DA repeater in Danbury, Chelmsford. With a cheap 2 metre handheld and an antenna costing no more than £20, most newcomers will be able to get into their local repeater, even if it’s mobile with a cheap mag-mount on the car roof. People are very willing to give help and advice, and this site’s Monday Night Net is a great place to start if you’re local to the Danbury repeater.

What do I do next?

If you’ve got your licence, and don’t know what to do next, here are some things to consider:

  • Listening to your local repeater, and when you’re comfy, join in with the chat, call out for a contact, or take part in a net. Before you start talking around the world, try talking to people in your local area
  • Get yourself an entry on QRZ.com – Most amateurs have a listing on there, and when you start using your callsign on-air, people will start looking you up. See our Setting up QRZ Guide
  • Consider setting up an eQSL account, so you can get electronic QSL cards after you make contacts. It’s free – See our eQSL – The Basics guide.
  • Consider joining a local club – you can also join the Essex Ham Community, which is a sort of online virtual meeting place with a forum, chatroom and email service ideal for those new to the hobby and comfy with using the Internet
  • Consider joining the RSGB – You’ll get the monthly Radcom magazine, and other services such as the QSL bureau for sending and receiving QSL cards, plus a discount on RSGB books.
  • Keep an eye our for local get-togethers, such as club nights, field events or local rallies. In Essex, consider going along to the Canvey Rally organised by the South Essex Amateur Radio Society each February. See our Essex Amateur Radio Events Calendar for upcoming gatherings.
  • Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help, either from your local club, one of your trainers, a fellow amateur (or trainee), or members of the Essex Ham site.

I’ve got my first radio, and I can’t hear anything!

Not uncommon – See our guide: Getting Started – Your First Handheld for some guidance

Getting back into the hobby

I’ve not been active for a while. What’s changed, and can you help?

That’s one of the joys of this hobby – you can put it down and pick it up again – and there’s always something new to learn. Here are links to two sections of the site that might help:


Other Questions

Can I operate overseas / In the US?

I need some technical help!

You’re welcome to use our forum to ask your questions or start a discussion. There’s also a discussion group called RSGBTech that may be able to help

More questions?

Got a question we haven’t answered?

Try our Getting Started Guides section, ask in our forum, or add your question in the comments section below.


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