Future proofing amateur radio

Dec 11th '23

Amateur radio enthusiasts will soon enjoy greater operating freedoms under the planned amateur radio licensing changes announced by Ofcom.


Amateur radio, sometimes known as ham radio, has been an important part of wireless communications for over a century. Every amateur radio user in the UK needs a licence from Ofcom, and there are more than 100,000 amateur radio licences on issue in the UK currently.


Ofcom’s June 2023 consultation, which attracted nearly 1,500 responses, set out proposals for changes to their amateur radio licences and policies, to ensure they better meet the needs of current and future users and reflect how the hobby has evolved. Ofcom has decided to move forward with these proposals, including some modifications in light of the responses.


Overview of planned changes

To enable radio amateurs to undertake a wider range of activities they plan to:


  • Update the overall licensing framework. This includes allowing anyone to operate amateur radio equipment under a licensee’s supervision and making the process of getting and using a licence simpler and clearer.
  • Streamline and modernise call sign assignment by updating call sign allocation policies in a number of areas. For example, under Ofcom’s plans they will make it simpler for the amateur radio community to use Special Event call signs and allow licensees to change their call sign after a five-year period. Inclusion of a Regional Secondary Locators (RSLs) will become optional for most licensees. However, licensees would be able to continue to use them if they wish.
  • Adjust technical parameters. This includes increasing maximum power that radio amateurs are allowed to use in most frequency bands; and
  • Provide clearer updated rules, including simplifying conditions to make them easier to understand and removing provisions not needed for spectrum management purposes.


This is all part of a broader effort to streamline, standardise and, where possible, automate elements of Ofcom’s licensing work.


Ofcom is now taking steps to introduce the planned changes. These will not take immediate effect and will be phased in over a two-year period. To implement many of the planned changes, Ofcom will have to vary all existing amateur radio licences. This means that many of the plans are subject to the outcome of the statutory processes for varying existing licences.


Ofcom has published a General Notice which sets out the proposed licence variations. Licensees can provide representations on these proposed changes by 5:00pm on 22 January 2024. Final decision will be publish on the proposed variation in February 2024.


Source: Office of Communications (Ofcom)


About Ofcom 

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