Ham Radio FAQ

Information for new hams

You have your new amateur radio license. What can you do with it? You can build stuff, repair stuff, participate in emergency communications exercises, teach/administer amateur radio licensing exams, join a local club, operate Field Day, build antennas and participate in contests, among MANY other things. Below is a list of common questions and answers for those who wish to operate. If you have a question not on this page, please contact the webmaster and we’ll get it answered and put on this page.

I have my license and callsign, what do I do next?
These are just recommendations. Here’s the list:
1. Setup your page on QRZ. This includes your station information, including pictures. I would NOT include personal information on ANY site. I would also suggest setting up a separate page for mobile (/M) and portable (/P) as well, if you plan to operate that way. Your HOA restrictions may not permit antennas, so you may be restricted to mobile and/or portable operations.
2. Setup your account on eQSL. This would include accounts for fixed, mobile and portable operations under your callsign.
3. Setup your account on Logbook of the World. This takes some time as you are sent a postcard by mail from LoTW (ARRL). You should download TQSL and install it. Once you have it installed, go ahead and apply for callsign certificate for your callsign, callsign/M and callsign/P. That way, once they arrive in your email, you will be setup to log those contacts immediately.

With all of these methods, you can apply for Worked All States (WAS), Worked All Zones (WAZ), DXCC (DX Century Club – confirm 100 countries), Worked All Continents (WAC), among others. Each net you join (3905, HHHNET, OMISS, YLSystem, SKCC, etc.) will have its own membership requirements and awards for which you can work, if you choose.
Those who do not “chase paper” can get awards on QRZ, LoTW, eQSL and others and it shows up as an electronic award. That way you have “proof” of your accomplishment without the need to print the award.

Once you have these online electronic logging accounts setup, and you are waiting on your card from LoTW, you can setup your ham shack. This could be a bedroom, a shed, a garage, your car, etc. As with anything, organization and layout is key. Make sure to ask yourself:

  1. Do I want to operate, build antennas, repair equipment, administer licensing exams, assist local groups, join a local club, build repeaters, work on repeaters, maintain repeaters, contesting, chase awards, etc?
  2. Based on your answer to #1, you can setup your shack. Keep in mind the need for expansion (in regards to test equipment or radios, antennas, etc).
  3. Things in a shack include operating position, workbench, chairs, place for manuals, place for QSL cards, somewhere to fill out and get cards ready for mailing, test gear and a place to store parts, coax, wire, baluns, center insulators, etc.

What do I need in order to operate? 
For all licensees who wish to operate, you will need a radio, antenna and power supply at the minimum, including all necessary cables for power, coax and accessories.
For HF, you may also choose to purchase a tuner, either manual or automatic, depending on your preference.
Later, as funds allow, you can add things like an amplifier, SWR/Watt meter, antenna tuner control box, mixer, Signalink USB (for digital modes), an external speaker, a foot switch, a headset, boom mic and a computer for rig control and logging for specific enhancements as you prefer.

What radios are available? 
For all licensees, some of the more popular radios are Alinco Icom Kenwood Yaesu. Others include Baofeng, Elecraft, Flex Radio, TYT and Xiegu. Some older equipment manufacturers include Collins, Gonset, Hallicrafters, Hammarlund, Heathkit, Motorola and National. You can find these links on our Links page.
Technicians do have privileges on HF, VHF, UHF including working stations via amateur satellites, DMR, D-Star, Fusion, the International Space Station and Echolink. Technician class operators have privileges on 1.2GHz, 900MHz, 440MHz, 220MHz, 2m, 6m and some HF frequencies/modes. Those are outlined in the ARRL Band Plan (PDF). With any amateur radio license, you can assist with events like Field Day, Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, Rush Springs Watermelon Festival, Edmond Siren Test, Edmond Liberty Fest and other similar events. Those links are on our Links page.

What type of radio should I purchase? 
This depends on your operating preference. A handheld radio has 5w of power at high power. A mobile radio has 50-75w of power at high power. HF radios have up to 400w, but most have up to 100w of power. You can operate low power (QRP) using a radio like a .Yaesu FT-817ND though this is not the ONLY radio that runs low power.

Where can I purchase the radio? 
Some popular places to buy new radios include Associated RadioDX EngineeringGigapartsHam Radio OutletMain Trading Company and Universal Radio. You can also purchase used equipment at these places, as well as eBayQTHQRZ and Amazon.

What antenna do I need? 
Examples of antennas for mobile, base and portable include the following:
Mobile: Magmount antennas, NMO mount antennas
Base: Dipoles, verticals, beams, inverted vee
Portable: Verticals
Satellite Antennas: Arrow Satellite Antenna

What feedline (coax) should I use? 
There are many types of amateur radio coax. You should use 50-ohm coax if at all possible for your mobile and base radios. The handheld radios do not require coax unless you plan to use the radio to connect to a mobile or base antenna. The more popular coax is RG-8x, RG-213, LMR-400. You can visit Mike Lapuzza in Mustang and he will have what you need in the way of coax, connectors, baluns, rope and other antenna hardware.

OK, now you have a station setup and are ready to make contacts.

On what bands and frequencies can I operate? ARRL Band Plan (PDF)

Where would I find stations to contact? 
There are several places you can find stations to contact including nets, special event stationsDX Summit and the DXMaps. If you are using a tuner on HF, you will need to find a clear frequency and tune your radio/tuner. This should not be done on a busy frequency or within 3KHz of that busy frequency.
Once you are tuned for that band, you can find a clear frequency by listening to a particular frequency (as well as 3KHz above and below it), give your callsign and say “Is the frequency in use?” a few times. If you get no response, then you may give your callsign and say CQ CQ CQ this is ______ calling CQ and standing by. Then you wait for a station to give his/her callsign and you exchange signal reports and log the contact when you’re finished with each station. You may have to repeat that several times before a station comes back to you. Be sure to check band openings on DXMaps website.
Contests will offer lots of stations to contact, but you need to know the format of the exchange (what you say to the station and what they say back to you). N3FJP offers software for a lot of the more popular contests. You are limited to 30 contacts on the software before you must purchase it. If you make 30 contacts on the software, it will shut down the program after each contact after 30. Then, you must restart the program after each contact, which will slow you down. Most of his software is $8.99 each. You will receive the code via email from Scott Davis, N3FJP.

How do I keep track of stations that I contact?
 There are many logging programs you can use including Ham Radio DeluxeNetloggerN1MMN3FJPCQR LogMicroLog and many others. Refer to ARRL’s website for information on logging. You can also use online logging sites like QRZLogbook of the WorldHRDLogClubLogeQSL and QRZCQ. Some of these are free to use. Others require a paid subscription.
You can also log manually on paper.

How do I confirm contacts I have made for awards? 
You can use QSL cards, which are made by several individuals and companies OR you can just do online logging OR both. That is up to you!

Have fun!

DISCLAIMER: The Aeronautical Center Amateur Radio Club does not have any financial relationship with any of the companies or individuals mentioned above. This page is merely a starting point for new hams or hams who have questions about what they can do with their new license.