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Before you can operate Amateur Radio Transmitting Equipment you must obtain an Amateur Radio Transmitting Licence. The present system of Amateur Radio Licensing is intended to provide an inclusive incentive based progression through levels of knowledge obtained practically through the use of radio.

At present it is a requirement that you progress through each of the stages in turn, there are no exceptions and no short cuts irrespective of the amount of theoretical or practical knowledge you may have.

The following sections describe very briefly the privileges granted at each level of licence and the course content. The full Syllabi for the courses can be accessed via the RSGB website.

What To Do Next

If you want more details on the individual courses at clubs supporting Wessex Ham please look at our individual course content pages accessible from the menu. In addition the RSGB maintain a list of on-line resources on their website.

"Official" Training Manuals are available from the RSGB and Amazon amongst other places:

Foundation Licence ManualIntermediate Licence ManualFull Licence Manual

Practical Assessment and Exam Availability

Pre COVID-19

Prior to the societal changes that have been brought about by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic the Foundation and Intermediate Courses included Practical Assessments in addition to a multiple choice exam, which is the only assessment component at the Full Licence level, that had to be taken at a registered exam centre.

The exams were, pre-COVID, available either as a traditional written multiple choice exam or as an on-line computer based exam and had to be sat at a Registered Exam Centre such as the Novers Park Community Centre in Bristol where exams are run by the South Bristol Amateur Radio Club.

During COVID-19

The introduction of restrictions and limitations on the number of people who can gather at communal venues resulting from the spread of the Coronavirus led to a stop in examinations and practical assessments. Very shortly after it became apparent that exams and practical assessments were not going to be possible for a considerable period and that Amateur Radio had the potential to reduce the isolation people were experiencing (see the RSGB/NHS "Get on the Air to Care" campaign) the RSGB altered the requirements for practical assessments and examination availability as follows:

  1. The requirements for Foundation Practical Assessments are temporarily suspended and Remote Invigilated Exams were introduced from 6 April 2020, see this RSGB announcement. There will be no requirement for successful students earning their licence during the lockdown period to retrospectively undertake the Practical Assessments if and when they are reintroduced;
  2. The requirements for Intermediate Practical Assessments were suspended and Remote Invigilated Exams were introduced from 13 July 2020;
  3. The suspension of Practical Assessments for the Intermediate Exam was confirmed as a permanent change to the syllabus with the release of Intermediate Syllabus 1.4;
  4. Remotely Invigilated Full Licence Exams were introduced from 21 October 2020.

Students are now able to book their exam on-line on the RSGB website.

Information to assist with the exam process and the practicalities of an on-line exam can be found at:

Post COVID-19

Watch this space...

Foundation Licence

In simplistic terms this is the "entry level" licence, it is currently the minimum you require to transmit legally on the Amateur Radio bands. The course represents an introduction to radio operation and radio theory and can be completed by anyone with an interest in radio and a desire to learn. There is no requirement to have any prior understanding or use of radio.

The course content is covered in about 10 sessions each lasting around 45 minutes - 1 hour and introduces you very gently to:

  • Content and structure of the licence;
  • Rules and regulations governing use of the Amateur Radio spectrum;
  • Basic electrical theory: application of Ohms Law (V=IxR and P=IxV) to simple circuits;
  • Simple propagation theory - how radio waves travel, why some bands are worldwide and others are 10 miles in range; and
  • An introduction to antennas and feeders (the wire from your transceiver to the antenna).

In addition to the theoretical work there are also a number of simple practical exercises (which are suspended during the Coronavirus pandemic) designed to introduce you to the use of Amateur Radio, the types of contacts you may have and some of the operating practices and procedures to ensure that you are comfortable with operating equipment once you obtain your licence.

Once you have obtained your Foundation Licence you will be able to do the following:

  • Transmit legally on all Amateur Radio Bands from 2200m - 70cm plus the 3cm band from the United Kingdom;
  • Use type approved transmitting equipment with a maximum output of 10W (some bands have additional restrictions);
  • Use FM, AM, SSB, CW and data modes in any of the above Amateur Radio Bands as set out in the UK Band Plans;
  • Operate via Amateur Radio Satellites;
  • Contact other licensed amateurs throughout the world or just around the corner; and
  • Take part in Amateur Radio competitions and contests.

Some limitations are imposed on the operation of the Foundation licence, a few are set out below:

  • Maximum power of 10W out of the transceiver (some bands have additional restrictions);
  • Limited to type approved transmitting equipment, i.e. you may not construct your transmitting equipment although you may construct station accessories, interfaces and receivers;
  • May not operate from a vessel on the seaward side of Low Water although you may contact Full Licence stations and foreign stations who are permitted to operate from vessels;
  • May not operate in countries outside of the UK without an appropriate licence from the local authorities. The Foundation Licence will not automatically qualify you for a foreign licence in any country outside of the UK; and
  • You may not operate a remote station

Intermediate Licence

The next step on the ladder, the Intermediate Licence takes you deeper into the theory of radio and electronics and confers additional bands, power and other privileges compared to the Foundation Licence. In order to sit the Intermediate Exam you must have passed the Foundation Exam.

The Intermediate Course builds on the Foundation and the practical experience you will have gained as a Foundation operator. The course is longer, taking around 30 sessions compared to the 10 sessions required to complete the Foundation and goes deeper into the theories of:

  • A deeper understanding of the Licence Conditions
  • Electronics - introduction of additional components, tuned circuits, AC;
  • Transmitters and receivers - expanded block diagrams for different types of modulation;
  • Propagation - increased description of the Ionosphere;

As a result of passing the Intermediate Exam you will gain the following privileges over and above the Foundation Licence:

  • Access to all Amateur Bands from 2200m - 1.2mm from within the United Kingdom;
  • Maximum output power of 50W on all allocated Amateur Bands (some bands have additional restrictions);
  • Ability to construct and convert transmitting equipment; and
  • Ability to operate a RF wireless controlled remote station;

There are still restrictions imposed upon you an Intermediate Licence holder, some of the main ones are:

  • Limit of 50W maximum power from the transceiver (some bands have additional restrictions);
  • May not operate from a vessel on the seaward side of Low Water although you may contact Full Licence stations and foreign stations who are permitted to operate from vessels; and
  • May not operate in countries outside of the UK without an appropriate licence from the local authorities. The Intermediate Licence will not automatically qualify you for a foreign licence in any country outside of the UK.

Full Licence

The Advanced Exam is the final step on the incentive based licensing system and naturally provides the highest level of privileges and requires the highest level of knowledge. There are no practical exercises involved in the Advanced Exam, the additional knowledge is all related to theory of radio or electronics.

Once you have passed this exam you will have the following additional privileges over and above the Intermediate Licence:

  • Limit of 400W maximum power (some bands have additional restrictions);
  • Ability to operate "Maritime Mobile" from a vessel on the seaward side of Low Water with the permission of the vessels master;
  • Ability to operate an internet linked remote station for personal use; and
  • Reciprocal Licensing Agreements with many other countries allowing operation from foreign countries.