Ham Radio Rocks at 700K Strong, YO!

According to a report from the ARRL, the number of Amateur Radio operators in the U.S. has grown over the past 12 years. From 677,000 in 1999 to a new all time high of 700,000 operators in 2011 according to ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM. 

Number of licensed Hams for the past 12 years.

A chart showing the number of licensed Hams for the past 12 years. Courtesy of ARRL

“At the end of September, I saw that the number of hams in the US was high,” she said. “When I started comparing that number with other years, I found that it was an all-time high.” Over the past 40 years, the number of Hams has been growing. In December, 1971 there were 285,000 Ham Radio operators, and the numbers increased dramatically. After another decade, in 1981, 443,000 Hams in the US. That’s a little under a 50% increase. And as the decades rolled on, the number of Hams grew still.

In the report, Somma went on to say,

“When looking at the three current license classes — Technician, General and Amateur Extra — these numbers are impressive,” Somma explained. “The number of Technicians peaked in March 2011 at 342,572, while in September 2011, we saw both Generals and Extras peak at 159,861 and 125,661, respectively. As new Technicians earn their Amateur Radio licenses, and current Technician licensees move on to General and Generals upgrade to Extra, this can cause up-and-down fluctuations for these totals.”

The question then turns to how many of these licensed Hams are still active. In a recent ARRL survey of members, more than 80% of the respondents are active. That’s still an impressive number. Somma continued to say these high numbers mean that hams are upgrading and renewing in larger numbers and staying interested in hobby. “As technology changes and advances, it is especially vital to keep up or be at the forefront,” Somma said. “I believe that Amateur Radio has done just that! The measurable results are our indisputable license numbers. It amazes me after all these years how important and relevant Amateur Radio remains. I am proud to be one of the 700,221 licensees and to see this historic and important milestone.”


Rich also writes a Tech blog and posts stories every Tuesday and Thursday on Q103, Albany’s #1 Rock Station website, as well as Amateur Radio stories every Monday thru Friday on AmiZed Studios and hosts a podcast called The Kim & Rich Show with his fiance’ Kim Dunne.


Rich Gattie, KB2MOB, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New York, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

One Response to “Ham Radio Rocks at 700K Strong, YO!”

  • Matt W1MST:

    Well, of course 80% of ARRL members are “active.” Most of these people paid a hefty membership fee in the last year. That’s like inferring that 98 percent of the population is literate because that percentage of newspaper subscribers read daily. I think that being an ARRL member probably represents, in general, a higher level of commitment to the hobby.

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