Unlike home phones, cell phones, CB (citizen band) radios, and other short range, low power devices, amateur radio equipment is capable of sending signals, not only across town but around the world, even into outer space.
All countries require their amateurs to be licensed, including our own. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) was established to administer this process in the United States of America. This dates back to the Radio Act of 1912 which is thought to have been motivated by the Titanic disaster.
The West Palm Beach Amateur Radio Group holds licensing classes for the general public and for licensees wishing to upgrade their license. Our classes are generally free. There is a small FCC exam fee and you may wish to purchase a book.
Tech (Technician) Class License
The Technician Class license is the entry class to amateur radio. It is primarily about rules and regulations with an introduction to the technical aspects and a little math thrown in.
With a “tech” license you have all the privileges available in all the bands from 50 MHz (6-meter band) and up. You also have SSB (Single Side Band) privileges in the 28,300 to 28,500 MHz portion of the 10-meter band. If you can operate CW (Morse code) you have a segment in the CW portion of the 80-meter,40-meter and 15-meter bands. Congratulations: you are off to a great start as a HAM (radio amateur).
General Class License
The general class license is an intermediate level license and allows privileges in all bands and the use of all modes available to amateur radio, with some limitation (in the 80 40 20 and 15-meter bands you do not have full frequency privileges). In the HF (high frequency) bands (3.5 to 30 MHz) you can communicate with the world.
Amateur Extra Class License
I like to think of the extra class as being a prestige class (Hey! I’m at the top). All kidding aside this is a very special class. You should now be able mentor other hams (or want to be hams), teach classes and administer tests as a certified VE (Volunteer Examiner).
Yes, it is the top of a long line of hard work and knowledge. In the bottom portion to the 80, 40, 20 and 15-meter bands you have a little more frequency to play with but is less crowded. You now have all the frequencies and operating privileges that the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has to offer.
Novice and Advanced Class Licenses
These are two classes that are no longer issued but are still viable. They can be renewed, and be modified and at this time are slated to live forever.
The Advanced Class has privileges in all bands, and in the HF bands has more operating frequencies than the General Class has.
The Novice Class has SSB (single side band) privileges in the 10 meter band and CW (code) in the 80, 40 and 15 meter bands.
The FCC authorizes licensed amateur radio operators to be volunteer examiners. These volunteers administer the licensing tests and then file the necessary paperwork with the FCC which then issues the license.