What is a Ham Radio and How Does It Work

While most of us choose not to acquaint ourselves with traditional technology since the dawn of innovation, it can furnish us with services, even when cellular technology fails. However, these services are being undermined. How often do you see people carrying good old radio instead of smartphones?

Cell phones have become such an integral part of our lives that we fail to fathom the utility of radio technology, which has survived revolutions. Nonetheless, radios are still in full force and are being utilized by various people with government occupations such as law enforcement agents, pilots, armed troops, and even travelers, hikers, etc.  

While radios, which are generally used for communication, can be classified under various particulars. We are going to discuss one specific type that is widely used for non-commercial and recreational purposes. This specialized radio is ham radio.

how does a ham radio work

What is Ham Radio?

Amateur radio, or more widely known as Ham radio, is a device that utilizes radio frequency spectrum in order to exchange messages or communicate for non-commercial purposes. 

While most communication devices using radiofrequency amateur radio allow anyone with a basic qualification in the concerned field to own and operate it. 

The word “Ham” itself means amateur and unprofessional as the operation does not require any special skill or occupation set. It allows you to communicate with people across towns, cities, countries, continents, or even space! 

You may have to follow a code of conduct and also possess a license to operate a ham radio, but on the fundamental level, these are completely non-professional devices that can be used for a personal exchange of messages. 

Ham Radio facilitates communication, but it can also render you with other services such as entertainment, weather, sports updates, and National and International use. They are generally used by hikers, campers, travelers, etc. 

How Does Ham Radio Work?

Ham Radio uses the spectrum of radio frequencies in order to communicate.The two-way communication on any device takes place by one device transmitting signals and the other one receiving them. This is the fundamental difference between regular or non-ham radios and Ham radios.

In regular radios, all you can do is receive signals and not transmit them. This is the precise reason why you do not need a license to operate a non-ham radio. We will discuss the criterion of owning a Ham radio later in brief. 

When you own a Ham Radio, you are allotted a frequency band along the radio frequency spectrum. Only the frequencies within this band can be used by you and not anything beyond it. 

The frequency band is allotted to you by FCC, which will give you approval as a Ham Radio operator after you clear a series of exams. Ham can operate mostly from the AM frequency band to the citizen band, which is from 1.6 MHz to 27 MHz. This is apt for both short and long-distance communication. Ham Radios can make use of either Morse codes or the voices of transmission and reception of signals. 

The signals of the Morse codes are more likely to reach the intended destination than the voice. The communication between two parties may be hindered by a multitude of factors, including the topography, buildings, substantial obstacles, weather conditions, etc. Nevertheless, the free exchange of messages is efficacious most times. 

Now, most frequency bands have been reserved because most official bodies, such as police officers, armed troops, pilots, astronauts, communicate via radio frequencies. Meaning, civilians cannot access these frequencies and, in doing so, would be an infringement of law.

This is the reason why one has to become a licensed Ham before operation a Ham Radio. You are expected to give a series of exams that will assess your aptitude for radio communication. As I mentioned, you will be allotted with a frequency band that you can use without any interruptions. 

Ham Radio also receives AM and FM signals and signals from NOAA channels, which will give you minute-to-minute weather updates. Some Ham Radios come with a warning system that will alert you if any natural calamity has set its course on your way. Apart from this, you can also hear National and International news. 


A highly versatile object like Ham Radio that can function for a long time without replenishment offers a myriad of features and is more reliable than cell phones. While most cell phones would fail on elevated terrain, the same cannot be said for Ham Radios. Thus, these are one of the best traditional devices that are still widely in use by many. 

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About the Author


I am Tim, a weather enthusiast who loves to watch hurricanes and all other harsh weather conditions. I studied B.Sc(Meteorology) at the University of Miami. With excellent knowledge of Weather Forecasting, Meteorology, and Environmental Science, I am currently working in San Francisco as a Meteorologist. Also, I am a member of The Weather Channel and AccuWeather. In this blog, I will write a detailed review of Weather instruments that you need for survival and other activities.