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Last updated August 26th 2019, mike@g4kfk.co.uk

A Brief History of Amateur Radio in the UK

January 2015

146-147MHz released to UK amateurs, subject to a Notice of Variation.

December 2014

2300-2302MHz released to UK amateurs, subject to a Notice of Variation.

2350-2390MHz withdrawn.

February 2013

New bandplans published in RadCom, February 2013.

January 2013

600m (472-479kHz) released to full licensees, subject to a Notice of Variation.

60m band expanded, and made available to full licensees, subject to a Notice of Variation. The band limits became: 5258.5-5264kHz, 5276-5284kHz, 5288.5-5292kHz, 5298-5307kHz, 5313-5323kHz, 5333-5338kHz, 5354-5358kHz, 5362-5374.5kHz, 5378-5382kHz, 5395-5401.5kHz and 5403.5-5406.5kHz.

March 2009

NoVs for 501-504kHz extended until 28th February 2010. Power limit increased to 10W.

January 2007

New bandplans published in RadCom, January 2007.

December 2006

The new “lifetime” licence was introduced, along with some significant changes including the requirement for log-keeping being dropped, simplified rules on remote control of the station, and /P /M and /A suffixes became optional.

October 2004

40m band extended with effect from October 31st, to 7.0-7.2MHz (previously 7.0-7.1MHz).

July 2003

Effective July 25th, the former “Amateur Licence A” and “Amateur Licence B” were reclassified as “Full” licences with full HF privileges. The former “Intermediate Licence A” and  “Intermediate Licence B” were reclassified as “Intermediate” licences with limited HF privileges.

June 2003

Article 25.5 of the World Administrative Radio Conference 2003 removed the requirement for amateur licensees to demonstrate a knowledge of Morse code in order to access the HF bands.

The 73kHz band was withdrawn on June 30th, 2003.

July 2002

The Ministry of Defence granted permission for the RSGB to issue Notices of Variation allowing holders of Amateur Licence A to use five spot frequencies as follows: 5260kHz, 5280kHz, 5290kHz, 5400kHz and 5405kHz, upper sideband. The first NoVs were issued in early August.

January 2002

The Foundation licence was launched, permitting 10W on HF and VHF/UHF bands. The first callsigns were in the M3+3 series. The former Novice licences were reclassified as Intermediate licences.

January 1998

The Department for Trade and Industry released 135.7-137.8kHz to holders of Amateur Licence A. Unlike the 73kHz band, a Notice of Variation was not required, and the band was available to other CEPT countries. The band was later made available Worldwide at the 2007 World Radiocommunications Conference.

April 1996

The Radiocommunications Agency released 71.6-74.4kHz to holders of Amateur Licence A, with a maximum EiRP of 1W, subject to a Notice of Variation. The band was eventually withdrawn in June 2003.

The Radiocommunications Agency agreed to issue short (single-letter suffix callsigns) to clubs for use in contests.

July 1991

The first Novice licences were issued on July 25th. Two types were available: Novice licence B permitted 3W RF on 70cm (432-440MHz), 23cm (1240-1325MHz) and 3cm (10.0-10.5GHz), with callsigns in the 2x1+3 series. Novice licence A permitted all the above, plus 3W on 160m (1.95-2.0MHz), 80m (3.56-3.585MHz), 30m (10.13-10.14MHz), 15m (21.1-21.149MHz), 10m (28.06-28.19MHz and 28.225-28.5MHz) and 6m (50-52MHz).

April 1991

Various changes to licence conditions effective April 5th, including increased power for CW on all bands, permission to use vertical polarisation on 6m, and mobile operation on 6m.

June 1987

6m band limits revised to 50.0-52MHz, and made available to holders of amateur licence B (previously 50.0-50.5, and only available to holders of amateur licence A).

4m band limits revised to 70.0-70.5MHz, and made available to holders of amateur licence B (previously 70.025-70.5, and only available to holders of amateur licence A).

January 1987

The Department for Trade and Industry revised their policy regarding the re-issue of lapsed amateur radio licences. Applicants need only provide evidence of the lapsed licence and of their identity. Previously, applicants had to re-submit pass certificates for the RAE and to re-sit the Morse test.

April 1986

The radio Society of Great Britain assumed responsibility for Morse tests for radio amateurs.

February 1986

6m (50.0-50.5MHz) released to holders of amateur licence A. Antenna polarisation was horizontal only, and mobile operation was not allowed.

June 1984

All UK licences varied to permit the use of the station with, and by, the UK emergency services during disaster relief operations.

April 1984

The number of 6m permits was increased to 100.

February 1983

Permits for 6m (50-52MHz) were awarded to 40 UK licensees, as Band 1 VHF television was phased out across Europe.

October 1982

17m (18.068-18.168MHz) and 12m (24.89-24.9MHz) released to UK amateurs, on a non-interference basis, and with power limits of 10W CW only, and with horizontally-polarised antennas only.

23cm band limits revised to 2310-2450MHz (previously 2300-2450MHz).

WARC 1979 microwave bands at 47-47.2GHz, 75.5-76GHz, 142-144GHz and 248-250GHz were released to UK licensees.

January 1982

30m (10.1-10.15MHz) released to UK amateurs.

4m band reduced to 70.025-70.5MHz (previously 70.025-70.7MHz).

September 1979

The World Administrative Radio Conference 1979 allocated three new HF amateur bands: 30m (10.1-10.15MHz), 17m (18.068-18.168MHz) and 12m (24.89-24.99MHz). However, it was some time before those bands were vacated by their previous owners and made available to UK amateurs. The conference also reduced the frequency below which amateur licensees were required to demonstrate a knowledge of Morse code, from 144MHz to 30MHz.

August 1972

The first repeater in the UK licensed and operational. GB3PI in Barkway, Hertfordshire, was allocated 145.750MHz transmit, with its input 600kHz lower. Access was by means of a 1750Hz toneburst at the beginning of each transmission. GB3PI is still active at the time of writing, on the original frequencies, although the toneburst access has been superseded by 77.0Hz CTCSS.

1 November 1968

4m band limits extended to 70.025-70.7MHz (previously 70.1-70.7MHz)

70cm band limits reduced to 425-429MHz and 432-450MHz (previously 427-450MHz).

March 1968

2m was made available to holders of amateur licence B. Previously, G8+3 licensees were restricted to 70cm and above.

June 1964

The introduction of the Amateur Licence B was announced, with callsigns in the G8+3 series. Operation was initially limited to 70cm and above.

G6+3 callsign series was introduced for amateur television licences.

More details can be found in the “Current Comment” page from the RSGB Bulletin, June 1964.

March 1965

The first reciprocal licensing agreements with other countries were negotiated.

The first satellite carrying amateur radio - OSCAR - was launched on March 9th.

May 1961

A new schedule to the amateur licence was published in the April 1961 issue of the RSGB Bulletin, coming into force with effect from May 1st.

Radio Amateur’s Examination paper.

November 1956

4m (70.2-70.4MHz) released to UK amateurs, with a power limit of 50W DC input. The allocation was initially intended to be temporary, the band being due to be withdrawn on December 31st 1958. However, the band was never withdrawn; it was later extended to 70.0-70.5MHz).

November 1955

The “Class A” licence was effectively abolished on November 11th, with the Postmaster General’s decision that new licensees’ restriction to CW only for their first year was no longer necessary. All UK licences now had the same mode and power limits.

1st May 1953

80m band expanded to 3500-3800kHz (previously 3500-3635kHz and 3685-3800kHz).

1st May 1953

160m band reduced to 1800-2000kHz (previously 1715-2000kHz).

30th January 1953

F1 (FSK) now permitted on 160m (1715-2000kHz), 80m (3500-3635kHz and 3685-3800kHz), 40m (7000-7300kHz), 20m (14000-14350kHz) and 15m (21000-21450kHz). This enabled amateurs to use RTTY for the first time.

14th November 1952

A3 and A3A phone operation now permitted for Class B licensees on 15m, 21.0-21.45MHz (previously only CW was permitted).

31st October 1952

The power limit for 70cm (420-460MHz) was increased to 150W DC input for Class B licensees only. Class A licensees remained limited to 10W DC input, CW only.

10th October 1952

15m expanded to 21.0-21.45MHz (previously 21.0-21.2MHz)

1st July 1952

20m band reduced to 14.0-14.35MHz (previously 14.0-14.4MHz).

15m (initially 21.0-21.2MHz, later expanded to 21.45MHz) released to UK amateurs. CW only, with a power limit of 150W DC input for Class B licensees, and 10W DC input for Class A licensees.

16th October 1951

NBFM phone operation now allowed on 2m, 144.5-145.5MHz (previously only AM phone was permitted).

September 1951

Amateur television licensees were given additional bandwidth on 70cm (425-455MHz).

June 1951

The first amateur television licences were issued, allowing vision transmission on the 23cm, 13cm, 6cm and 3cm bands. Holders of amateur television licences were required to also hold an amateur radio licence.

18th October 1949

Power limits increased to 150W DC input on 2m (144-146MHz), 23cm (1215-1300MHz), 13cm (2300-2450MHz), 6cm (5650-5850MHz) and 3cm (10.0-10.5GHz) for Class B licensees only. Class A licensees remained limited to 10W DC input, CW only.

1st April 1949

5m (58.5-60.0MHz) withdrawn.

More information on the 5m band may be found in the following series of articles: The 5 Metre Story, Practical Wireless, Part 1 February 1978 Part 2 March 1978 and Part 3 April 1978

31st December 1948

2m band limits revised to 144-146MHz.

23cm (1215-1300MHz), 6cm (5650-5850MHz) and 3cm (10.0-10.5GHz) released to UK amateurs, AM and CW only, limited to 25W DC input for Class B licensees and 10W DC input CW only for Class A licensees.

The power limit for 70cm (420-460MHz) was increased to 25W DC input for Class B licensees only. Class A licensees remained limited to 10W DC input, CW only.

1st October 1948

70cm (420-460MHz) released to UK amateurs, with a power limit of 10W DC input, AM and CW for Class B licensees, and CW only for Class A licensees.

1st September 1948

2m (145-146MHz) released to UK amateurs, with a power limit of 25W DC input, AM and CW only.

May 1948

Radio Amateur’s Examination paper.

December 1947

A limited number of temporary permits for 6m (50-54MHz) were issued to some UK amateurs. These were cancelled in December 1949 as BBC television was rolled-out on Band 1 VHF, though a number of transatlantic QSOs were achieved during 1948/49. It would be another 36 years before 6m was again available to UK amateurs.

October 1947

The conclusions of the ITU Radio Conference were published in the RSGB Bulletin, October 1947.

May 1947

The ITU Radio Conference commenced in Atlantic City, NJ. This eventually resulted in harmonisation of amateur frequency allocations, with the following eventually becoming available to UK amateurs: 160m (1.8-2.0MHz), 80m (3.5-3.8MHz), 40m (7.0-7.15MHz), 20m (14.0-14.35MHz) 15m (21.0-21.45MHz), 10m (28.0-29.7MHz), 2m (144-146MHz), 70cm (420-460MHz), 23cm (1215-1300MHz), 13cm (2.3-2.45GHz), 6cm (5.65-5.85GHz) and 3cm (10.0-10.5GHz).

Radio Amateur’s Examination paper.

April 1947

UK amateur bands listing from Short Wave Magazine, April 1947.

January 1947

40m band limits revised to 7.0-7.3MHz (previously 7.15-7.3MHz).

The first proposals for HF bandplans were published in Short Wave Magazine, which suggested CW at the LF end of each band, and phone at the HF end.

December 1946

UK amateur bands listing from Short Wave Magazine, December 1946.

November 1946

Radio Amateur’s Examination paper.

October 1946

13cm (2.3-2.45GHz) released to UK amateurs. 25W DC input power for both Class A and Class B licensees.

September 1946

80m (3.5-3.635MHz and 3.685-3.8MHz) released to UK amateurs. 25W DC input, CW only, for Class A licensees. 150W DC input, CW and phone, for Class B licensees.

160m band limits revised, 1.715-2.0MHz.

UK amateur bands listing from Short Wave Magazine, September 1946.

July 1946

UK amateur bands listing from Short Wave Magazine, July 1946.

June 1946

40m (7.15-7.3MHz) and 20m (14.1-14.3MHz) released to UK amateurs. 25W DC input, CW only, for Class A licensees. 100W DC input, CW or phone, for Class B licensees.

May 1946

The first post-war radio amateur’s examination was held on May 8th. The paper may be found here. Communications and radar personnel from the military were exempt, and could request a licence without having passed the RAE. Some more senior ranks qualified for an immediate “Class B” licence.

March 1946

160m (1.8-2.0MHz) released to UK amateurs, with 10W DC input power limit.

December 1945

Amateur radio licences re-issued following the end of World War 2. Only two bands were available, 10m (28.0-30.0MHz, 100W DC input) and 5, (58.5-60.0MHz, 25W DC input). Licences issued before the war were referred to as “Class B” and were allowed to use CW and Phone (generally AM, though NBFM was also allowed on 10m and 6m). New licensees were referred to as “Class A”, and were limited to CW for the first year of operation, after which logs were inspected and, if satisfactory, “Class B” privileges were given.

21:00, August 31st 1939

It was announced on the BBC 9 O’Clock news that all amateur radio licences were suspended with immediate effect. Bands available to UK amateurs immediately prior to the war were those allocated at the November 1927 International radio Conference: 160m, 80m, 40m, 20m, 10m and 5m.

More information on the 5m band may be found in the following series of articles: The 5 Metre Story, Practical Wireless, Part 1 February 1978 Part 2 March 1978 and Part 3 April 1978

November 1927

Article 5 of the Radiotelegraph Regulations, Washington 1927. The origins of the 160m, 80, 40, 20m and 10m band are evident, along with long- and medium-wave AM broadcasting, and the short-wave broadcast bands at 49m, 31m, 25m, 19m, 16m and 13m.

November 1927

The International Radio Conference in Washington allocated 1.715-2.0MHz, 3.5-4.0MHz, 7.0-7.3MHz, 14.0-14.4MHz, 28.0-30.0MHz and 56.0-60.0MHz. A full list of allocations may be seen here (from Wireless World, December 21st 1927).

ca. 1922

440m, and 150-200m allocated by British Post Office to amateur radio operators. These wavelengths equate to 682kHz, and 1.5-2.0MHz. However, articles in the radio press from that time suggest that these band limits were extremely flexible!

Wavelengths used by the BBC broadcast transmitters included 353m (5WA Cardiff), 363m (2LO London), 370m (2ZY Manchester), 385m (6BM Bournemouth), 400m (5NO Newcastle) and 415m (5SC Glasgow).

Wavelengths of other UK broadcast  stations included 297m (6LV Liverpool), 400m (2MT Chelmsford), 423m (5IT Birmingham), 495m (2BD Aberdeen) and 900m (GED Croydon).