Amateur Radio: Report is in!

This page shows the current health of Amateur Radio as it relates to active licenses. After being out of the hobby for a number of years I wanted to get back into it. I found that there was an overwhelming number of comments leading me to the conclusion that our beloved radio hobby was in trouble. I Scoured the FCC Database and I actually found good news. There are now more members than ever before, the ratio of new members to license cancellations (due to expire dates mostly) was 1.4:1. So you could say for every cancellation, we have almost 1 and a half new licenses to replace that with. Refer to the chart below:

The Green Line is the number of licenses issued, the red line is the number of licenses canceled, and the blue line is a result of how many active licenses there are. Notice how the blue line and red line interact. As long as the blue line is on top, the further away from the red line the better; we’re gaining more ham’s than we’re loosing. We have a problem when the two lines touch or if the blue line is below the red line; we’re losing more hams than we’re replacing. Looks to me like the 2008 crash had a little effect here too. Also, This is just my initial findings. I have plans to better expand on and automate this information so it is always as accurate as possible.

6 thoughts on “Amateur Radio: Report is in!

  • December 3, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    I followed the link from your post on Nice R graph!

    I would remove the “Cancelled” category, because the FCC is not known for being consistent in updating their data and a simple lag() by some time frame may actually misrepresent that category. I like the idea of new versus active visualization, possibly showing that as a ratio. Another idea might be to break things down by license classes and region, and new versus upgrades.

  • December 5, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Excellent chart. So what event occurred in Jan 2012 that drove the net increase in the number of hams in the US? Eg the rate of change of the green line (new licensees) is increasing at a rate greater than those expiring (red line). Also, if the dB goes back into the 1960s, it would be interesting to see if there was a bow-wave of new licensees (then) who are now just becoming SKs (eg., will there be a increase in the rate of the red line in the coming 5 years when the teenage kids-hams of the 1960s turn 75 years old.

  • December 5, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    I think you are missing the point.

    Licenses are valid for 10 years. So, for licenses issued from 1984 through 2008, the cumulative number of licenses issued and the cumulative licenses expired (using 2018 expiry data for 2008 issued licenses) are about the same, 5625500. However if we extrapolate the rate of abandonment from 2009, which seems to have a constant slope, it does seem to suggest that the number of active licenses has increased markedly since them. What reg change in 2008 caused the increase?

    The increased number of new licenses probably results from the increased privileges for newbees, the elimination of the code requirement etc.


  • December 5, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    Hey Rich, Mike, and Sid. One thing I did not count on was all the replies. Thank you! One thing is clear; that there’s a lot of data, and also a lot of ideas on how to slice that data. You’ve all inspired me with your excellent ideas and insights. I’m going to take it all into consideration and see what I can come up with. I wish I could give you all a time frame of when I will come up with something, but that’s rather impossible to do. I am; however, excited about the possibilities of forging ahead. Also, thank you all for not mentioning of my typo on the chart. It will be replaced with something else soon.

    Thanks Again,

  • December 24, 2018 at 6:55 am

    Question. What is it in the data that earns a licensee “active” status and how do you know which licensees are active vs inactive? Maybe I am misinterpreting what I see in the chart, but it would seem to me that getting a new ham into the active status as quickly as possible through “Elmering” and mentoring is key to the health of our hobby. Good motivation for the old hands among us to step up with help for the newbees.


    • December 24, 2018 at 11:16 am

      Simply passing the test is what makes a ham active. I think I see what you are saying though. It’s not just the license that makes one a ham, but also a certain attitude and respect for the hobby. I think a lot of “Elmering” is done over the airwaves these days to those who are willing to take the time to set up their radio. I’ve seen a lot change over the years, and I’m only in my 30’s. It think it would be nice if my ham radio club was more active in the community, but we just don’t have the resources. Most of the members that are still there are the hard-core hams willing to do what they can though. The problem is that society did that thing again; it changed. It’s not that kids have cell phones. It is the fact that the need to communicate was a large motivator for a lot of people joining ham radio, and that need is easily filled with cell phones. Companies like Verizon have packaged our whole hobby and more into a device that is dummy-proofed. Except for a small few, most everyone I’ve met in my life has no desire to learn any of that. They say “Why would I need that; I’ve got my cell phone”. Then they look at me like I’m the dumb one. What I see is that technology has made itself easy. It fills its own gap between difficult and easy because that is what technology is meant to do; it’s conceptual foundation is to make things easier. You don’t need to know how to use a truth table to program most microcontrolers anymore. Most things are manufactured so cheaply that it costs way less to get a new one than fix what you already have; not many are motivated to learn to fix things anymore. Richard; should the question not be “What makes a ham?” but rather “How do we motivate young people to join our hobby”?

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