Friday, October 25, 2013

Seven Advantages of Amateur Radio


As I wrote in a related article on Two-Way Radio Communications, various civilian radio options have their pros and cons. Yet disaster after disaster it's amateur radio that ends up carrying the traffic of emergency communications when lines are down, when cell towers run out of juice, and when your modem reports, "no connection."


Personally, I'm convinced that amateur radio is the way to go. Here are seven characteristics of amateur radio that make it my top recommendation:
  1. You'll have to pass tests of your amateur radio knowledge for each class of license you claim. While it's certainly possible to learn about radio communications as a CB or GMRS operator, it's required of a licensed ham. Chances are, you'll end up knowing more about antennas, more about radio wave propagation, more about electronics, and more about alternate power as a ham.
  2. Each year hams hold a "field day," where they set up their equipment in the field and engage in various exhibitions and contests that demonstrate how effective and efficient are their rigs. This goes beyond "book knowledge" to real, practical experience.
  3. Hams are well practiced in extending the range of their communications via repeaters, linked networks of repeaters, and dedicated amateur radio satellites. Hams can gain experience bouncing their signals off various layers in the atmosphere, meteor showers, and even the moon. The International Space Station is equipped with amateur radio equipment, and communicates with hams on Earth.
  4. There are ham groups dedicated to emergency communications using shared protocols. In an emergency, hams in RACES or ARES are ready and able to assist in emergency communications.
  5. Amateur radio operators often participate in local nets, meeting "places" a factor of radio frequency and time. Many of these nets are dedicated to relaying messages around the world.
  6. Unlike other popular radio communications bands, amateur radio incorporates digital modes of communications including packet radio (send e-mail over the radio!) and radio teletype (RTTY).
  7. Heck, hams are even licensed to broadcast television with technology good for 20-60 miles.
Bottom line: compared with typical operators on other civilian radio bands, typical amateur radio operators are likely both more knowledgeable and more practiced and can communicate in more modes over longer distances under a wider variety of conditions. If backup radio communication is important to you, you owe it to yourself to become a ham.

Related articles:
Two-Way Radio Communications
Communication: Plan On It 
Satellite Technology for Emergency Communications 

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