Q1. Who are Amateur Radio operators or ”Hams”?

Anyone you know could be an Amateur Radio operator or "ham" - no matter what age, gender or physical ability. From ages 8 to 80, people in many countries of the world have fun as radio amateurs. If you've had fun with CB radio or trying new things with your computer, wait till you see what you can do with ham radio!

Q2. What can I do with Ham Radio?

You can communicate from the top of a mountain or your home or car. You can take radio wherever you go! In times of disaster, when regular communications channels fail, hams can swing into action assisting emergency communications efforts and working with public service agencies. At other times, you can talk to Shuttle astronauts. You can use telegraphy, voice, digital, even images in communication with other hams. Know any other hobby with so much to offer?


Q3. When did Amateur Radio start?

Nobody knows when Amateur Radio operators were first called "hams", but we know that Amateur Radio is as old as the history of radio itself. In 1912, the U.S. Congress passed the first laws regulating radio transmissions.. By 1914, amateur experimenters were communicating, and setting up a system to relay messages from coast to coast (that's how the American Radio Relay League or ARRL, for short started. In Canada we have Radio Amateurs of Canada www.rac.ca )

Q4. How do radio signals reach around the world?

Radio signals are a form of light waves, just at a different frequency. Like light, radio travels in straight lines. If you can see a place from your station, you will be able to get a signal there. That is one reason why many antennas are very high up; you can “see” more from there. Radio is different from light because it bends more easily and can to a certain extent penetrate solid objects, although it has a harder time with a mountain than a sandpile. This is the reason that you can often talk to places, which fairly close, that you cannot “see”. Since the earth is curved, it doesn’t seem reasonable that a radio wave that starts off from your house in a straight line could reach the other side of the world. The trick is to bounce the radio waves off a layer, thousands of metres above us, called the ionosphere. This is quite possible using certain frequencies, typically below 30 MHz. The signal bounces back down to earth, often thousands of miles away and may then bounce back to the ionosphere and back to earth and so on. This property of the ionosphere is a blessing for Hams who can then talk to people on the other side of the globe. This doesn’t happen with all frequencies and Hams learn that there are particular frequencies as well as particular times of the day, of the year and of the sunspot cycle when we in Canada can easily chat to the Russians, the Australians or Hams in India.


Q5. Why do I need a license?

Although the main purpose of the hobby is fun, it is called the "Amateur Radio Service" because it also has a serious face. Industry Canada created the "Service" to fill the need for a pool of experts who could provide backup emergency communications in times of need. In addition, Industry Canada acknowledged the ability of the hobby to advance communication and technical knowledge, and enhance international goodwill.

Q6. How can I get involved? Where do I start?

Please use our contact list to learn how you can obtain more information or ask a question.

Q7. How do I receive training in Amateur Radio?

Q7.1. What do I need?

The only thing you need is your enthusiasm to learn. We will assist you to get on the right track in learning Amateur Radio. We have training material in large print, Braille, DAISY and computer formats. The course material includes theory, regulations and Morse code if you wish. It does require study but is well within your capabilities.


Q7.2. How much does it cost?

There are no costs for our services in assisting you. A basic new handheld radio can cost about the same as an inexpensive TV. Flea market bargains can cost a lot less. A new tabletop multi-band unit for your home radio shack can cost about the same as the PC you're reading this on. Materials to get you started are free and there is no exam fee that you'll pay when you're ready to test. Accredited examiners in your community may charge a nominal fee to cover expenses but usually do not.

Q7.3. Is there financial assistance available to acquire equipment?

Members who qualify can obtain equipment through our lease and loan program. Please ask the manager for more information.

Q7.4. Where are services offered?

Amateur Radio operators live in every major community in Canada. They are often members of a local club or association. We will assist you in finding a helper near you.


Q7.5. Do I require a helper?

Amateur Radio clubs are located all over Canada and are eager to help the newcomer get started. You can choose to be trained either in a classroom setting for from an individual. We will help you get on the fast track to on-the-air enjoyment.

Q7.6. How do I get tested?

Communities across Canada have accredited examiners that are authorized to offer exams on behalf of the Amateur Radio Service Centre for Industry Canada. We will assist you in finding one near you.

Q7.7. How do I contact you?

Please click on the Contact Us link located on this site.


Q8. Is there a yearly fee to hold a license?

No, there is no longer a yearly licensing fee. It does cost $60.00 to obtain additional callsigns or change yours.

Q9. What is a callsign?

Callsigns are a unique way of identifying your station. They are issued to individual radio amateurs with their licenses. A callsign is a mixture of letters and numbers. An example is VE7UPC. The VE is assigned to Canada and the 7 means that person is from British Columbia. You will learn how this system works during your training.

Q10. What is a repeater?

Repeaters are located across the country, mainly on bands between 50MHz and 23cm. A repeater is an un-manned station that will re-transmit any signal heard on its input frequency. There may also be tone squelch which requires that a subaudible tone be sent so the repeater only retransmits audio that contains this tone. Repeaters are most commonly found on 2 meters (144 - 146 MHz) and 70 cm (432 - 440MHz). The signal heard on the input of the repeater is re-transmitted on a different frequency to avoid interference. This is known as the repeater shift. This is most commonly -600kHz for 2 meters, and +1.6MHz for 70cms.


Q11. I don’t have a lot of time; can I still enjoy the hobby?

You bet! The beauty of amateur radio is it can fit the time, space, and budget that YOU decide is right for you. It's got that low stress, high fun ratio that many busy people seek in their off-hours. It can also be great family fun or a solitary pleasure.

Q12. How do I download manuals?

Over the past few years, we have accumulated radio manuals that are fully accessible. Please click on the link to the left of the screen marked Manuals

Q13. How do I receive your audio newsletters?

The Amateur Radio Program provides “The Canadian Amateur” magazine and other magazines and newsletters in DAISY format. To learn more about DAISY, please select this link .

Contact us to learn how you can be added to the mailing list for the magazines we offer.

Q14. How do I visit the Memorial station VE3AW in Toronto?

The next time you are in Toronto, contact us and we would be pleased to offer you a tour of our shack.


Q15. How do I operate VE3AW on HF from a telephone?

It is possible to remotely control our HF station from a telephone anywhere in the world. It will require that you are a licensed member of our program. Contact us for more details.

Q16. How do I donate to the Program?

Please visit the Giving Opportunities link on this page. We would be very pleased to receive gifts of equipment as well as cash.

Q17. How do I get on the CNIB Cross Canada IRLP net?

The net is held on Sunday nights at 7pm Eastern time. It is on reflector 9013. Contact us to learn more.

Q18. How do I get on the local VE3NIB net in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)?

The Amateur Radio Program Net is held Wednesday nights at 7:30pm on VE3NIB repeater. 443.500 Mhz with a PL tone of 103.5.


Q19. How do I become a volunteer?

We need volunteers from across Canada to help us in many capacities. If you are interested in helping out, please contact us for more information.

Q20. I want to read about Amateur Radio

Some Suggested Amateur Radio Books and Magazines

  • RAC Operating Manual
  • The ARRL Handbook for Radio Amateurs
  • The ARRL Antenna Book
  • The Canadian Amateur Magazine
  • CQ Magazine
  • QST Magazine

Study Guides and Question Banks

  • RAC Study Guide for the Basic Qualification
  • Industry Canada Question Bank for the Amateur Radio Basic Qualification
  • RAC Study Guide for the Advanced Qualification
  • Industry Canada Question Bank for the Amateur Radio Advanced Qualification