Amateur Radio Data

This page presents a variety of data about United States amateur radio operators. The data include historical totals and trends, demographics including name and gender, and distributions by state.  The data are derived from a variety of sources, with the major source being the Federal Communications Commissions. Topics include the following:
  • Year-end license totals
  • Historical license totals at six-month intervals
  • License expirations in future years
  • First-names of license-holders
  • Gender of license-holders
  • Geographic distributions of license-holders
  • Geographic distributions of recent licensees

-- The Amateur Radio Service

Amateur Radio is a public service that encourages people to learn more about wireless communication via radio, television, computer, satellite, and other experimental means.  Operators must pass a test and become licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). They operate under regulations published in Part 97 of the U. S. Code of Federal Regulations.  There are five classes of licenses.  Listed from the beginner-level to the most advanced, the classes are; Novice, Technician, General, Advanced, and Amateur Extra.  The service has been part of the American culture since 1915, and is often referred to as "ham" radio.  Practitioners have contributed substantially to public safety, international goodwill, and the growth of advanced technology.  Modern cell-phone technology, for example, was first created by amateur radio operators.  For information on how to become a licensed amateur radio operator, visit this link.    


Cell values and totals for the tabulations shown on this site will vary depending on the selection criteria for the table. All tabulations are limited to active operators, which means they have an “A” in the field reserved for active status.  All tabulations are limited to an expiration date that is after the date of the file downloaded for analysis.  The FCC files contain some records that are listed as active but have an expiration date that is prior to the date of the download. Those are excluded.  Tabulations for license class, expiration date, and state of residence are limited to valid entries in the appropriate field.  


In 2019 I re-evaluated the criteria for selecting and tabulating data in the FCC files and arrived at the results shown here.  The current selection criteria are believed to reflect the most accurate count possible of licensees who are active on the date on which the file was downloaded from the FCC site.  Other tabulations with other criteria will undoubtedly arrive at different totals.  These, numbers, however, are believed to be the most accurate possible. 



-- 2015 and 2018 Year-End Licensees (Updated January 7, 2020)

This and other tables in this document are best viewed in a laptop or desktop browser. On mobile devices you might not see all columns on the right.

Amateur Radio Licenses by License Grade

 

 

 

 

December, 2015 and December, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

License Class

December, 2015

December, 2019

Change

 Percent Change

 Extra

 139,817 

 150,111 

 10,294 

7.36%

 Advanced

 48,146 

 38,442 

 (9,704)

-20.16%

 General

 172,473 

 179,607 

 7,134 

4.14%

 Technician

 363,517 

 387,230 

 23,713 

6.52%

 Novice

 10,937 

 7,870 

 (3,067)

-28.04%

No License Grade

 11,797 

11777

 (20)

-0.17%

Total License Grades Only

 734,890 

 763,260 

 28,370 

3.86%

Total All Categories

 746,687 

 775,037 

 28,350 

3.80%

 


In an August 2016 USPS mailing to 238 licensed operators listed as active on the FCC files, 62 were returned with bad addresses, indicating they were no longer ham operators.  An examination of names suggested most were likely to be deceased.  The 62 are 26.05% of the total list.  If that list can be projected to the entire FCC data file, we can expect that the total number of amateur radio operators may be closer to 558,000. Additional research is necessary on this topic that is essential to the understanding of the present and future of amateur radio.


-- Historical Amateur Radio Licenses



This graph was created from data reported by AH0A.org.   Amateur radio operators have been licensed since the 1930s, and unfortunately there has been no consistent tracking of the number of operators that goes back to that time.  Inquiries to the FCC regarding historical data have been referred to the ARRL.  However, the ARRL does not have data that extends back to the beginning of the service.  Data tracking of the historical number of operators should be a function of the FCC because it is essential to policy development and administration.  

-- Iowa Amateur Radio Data

        Follow this link to amateur radio data for Iowa (Updated January 22, 2020)


-- Expirations by Future Year



-- Demographics and State Distributions



-- Sampled Distribution of Active Amateur Radio Stations -- 2015
This image shows the distribution of active amateur radio operators in July 2015, based on a sample of about 900 addresses.  The sample is used to reveal cluster patterns and avoid an over-dense image.  The Google map is not interactive. 

-- Sampled Distribution of New Ham Radio Addresses -- 2016
This image shows the distribution of newly found addresses when the December, 2016 FCC license file was compared to the December, 2015 file.  The comparison shows where the growth is occurring.  The sample of 800 was used to reveal cluster patterns and avoid an over-dense image.  The Google Earth map is not interactive.


-- Changes in the Number of Licenses Over Time


Changes in Selected License Classes from July 6, 2014 to June 29, 2015
Licenses with same call before and after upgrade
There were 2,139 upgrades found in the analysis, which is 0.516% of all selected having individual, active licenses. That is 0.657% excluding Extra class licenses that cannot be upgraded further.  Files were matched on call signs.  Therefore, the table includes only those upgrades where the call sign was the same before and after the upgrade.  Many license-holders change their call signs when they upgrade.  However, the FCC does not publish a data-field that adequately tracks an individual across changes in call signs. I am exploring options that might do a better job of tracking upgrades where the call sign changes.  


-- Sources

Sources include the following:



-- Related Sites



(c) Keith Greiner 2019



Key Words:
U. S. Amateur Radio Operators
Federal Communications Commission
FCC
Amateur Extra Class
Advanced Class
General Class
Technician Class
Novice Class
History of Amateur Radio Data
Amateur Radio License Data
Amateur Radio Service License Data
Ham Radio Data
Universal Licensing System (ULS)
Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)