Amateur Radio and the Wireless LAN Professional

I had prepared a nice TEN Talk for #WLPC to talk about the use of Ham radios and Wireless LAN Professionals – but we ran out of speaking slots.

Instead, I’ll include the information here in this blog post.

Ham radio is a nickname for Amateur Radio – and though based on Radio Frequencies, is not the same as Cell Phones, FRS/GMRS Walkie-Talkies, or CB radio.

Amateur Radio is:

  • Not Broadcast
  • Not Commercial
  • Not Official
  • Not Money Making

Amateur Radio has:

  • Greater Range than FRS/GMRS Walkie Talkies
  • Greater Availability than CB Radio
  • More Reliable than Cell Phones in an Emergency

There are three levels or classes of amateur radio licenses one can obtain from the FCC in the US. Each is technically more challenging, and comes with commiserate additional capabilities.

The process to obtain the first level, or Technician License isn’t very difficult and fairly inexpensive. Many locations have classes for free, and the exam itself is around $15.

To locate a nearby course, go to the ARRL ‘Find a Class’ page and enter your Zip code. Amateur radio examinations are also help in many places throughout the country.

In order to pass the Technician class exam, you need to get 26 correct answers out of a total of 35. All the exam questions are available online – the FCC wants you to pass the test and become licensed at no cost. There are lots of study aids available. I’ve found works well for me. The site is free, but please donate if you find it useful.

FCC Logo

Don’t worry – years ago the FCC removed the requirement to know Morse Code as part of the test!

After you pass the exam, you’ll receive a Call Sign from the FCC. You will need to use this whenever you are transmitting on Amateur Radio frequencies. Depending on what class of license you have, there are a variety of frequencies and modes available for you to use.

Here’s a couple of great charts showing all the available bands. The first is from the ARRL and the second from W5YI Group.

There are loads of supporting documentation, training, and materials available online. This community of Hams is quite helpful and wants to bring more into the fold. Just run some searches and you’ll find lots of information easily available online.

Here is a quick lit of items I used to prepare for my exams:

  •             No-Nonsense Technician Study Guide
  •             Class Instruction PPT for Technician Class License
  •             Class Pre-Study Guide for Technician Class
  •             And a great site by my Examiner – Noji

I also spent some time developing my own personal study guide I put together when preparing for my General License exam – I’ve added it here as a Ham Radio – General Exam – Study Notes.


Getting a radio: There are lots of inexpensive radios available today. I’ve tried out a couple, in fact we gave away a bunch of the BaoFeng radios as door prizes at the latest Wireless LAN Professionals Conference – #WLPC to help encourage others to get involved in Amateur Radio.

Here are two options I’ve used personally.

Baofeng UV-5R V2 – only $34 on Amazon

Yaesu FT-60 – a more serious radio but still only $168 on Amazon

Get a hold of the Chirp software and USB programming cable for the radio you choose. This makes it ‘spreadsheet simple’ to program the various memory and features into your new radio. You can also find support for these radios here.

To get started, you can quickly register with the FCC as a New User and get a FRN (You’ll need one of these when you apply for your first FCC license)

There is a LOT of cross-over between Wi-Fi and Amateur Radio – I can highly recommend you taking an opportunity to cross-train and become FCC certified!

Hopefully I’ll meet you on the nets… KE1THP out!

If you are already an Amateur Radio operator, and would like to be included in a list of WLAN Pros and their associated call signs, please send an email with your callsign to keith at wlanpros dot com.