Just before our trip to the Netherlands I got an e-mail from Deborah of the NCC (the Taiwanese version of the FCC). “Why I hadn’t come in for my my fixed station licence yet?” Good question! The answer: because I was ignoring the matter, hoping that it would go away. But there is no going around it, rules are rules. So on Tuesday I went there and got the papers in order. I needed a copy of my landlady’s ID and house ownership certificate, but luckily she was very cooperative. We share the same Chinese family name, maybe that is why.
In Taiwan – like a number of other East Asian countries – you can’t set up a station right away. First you pass the operators exam and get a licence to operate a station. Then you apply for a station licence, which comes in two forms, a portable and a fixed one. The portable licence is easy because it covers any HT or other equipment below 50 Watts. You bring your transceiver to the NCC office, they test it, you get a laminated card in return. The fixed station licence is more troublesome. Unless you own your house you need permission and signatures from anyone and everyone living around you. That is, unless you put your antenna on the balcony of your apartment, then it is easy. Unless the HOA of your gated community or apartment building objects, then you’re in big trouble. Confused already? Welcome to Taiwan. Whatever situation, once you get it done it will cost you US$50 for a five year licence, but then you can legally transmit from your home.
With this background information the following statistics are now easier to understand. They are fresh from the NCC and go up to June 2012.
Amateur Radio Operator ——-> Number of Licenses
Class 1 —————————–> 871
Class 2 —————————–> 73
Class 3 —————————–> 42,330
First up the number of licensed amateur radio operators. Class 3 operators (VHF/UHF only) are in a large majority. That comes as no surprise as most are ex-CBers (or “ex-sausages”) who now use 2 meters as their Chicken Band together together with the remainder of the sausages who can’t memorize 360 questions and answers – and score 25 of them right – and thus occupy 2 meters illegally.
I am one of the 73 Class 2 operators and there are 871 Class 1 operators. So there are only 944 Taiwanese operators (with either a BU, BV or BX prefix) who you can potentially meet on HF. That is not a lot considering there are 21 million people in Taiwan. But together with the Class 3 operators there are a whopping 43.274 hams in Taiwan and that is a quite considerable number.
But not everyone has set up a station. Here are those statistics:
Fixed Amateur Station ——-> Total Number of Licenses
Class 1 —————————-> 586
Class 2 —————————-> 4
Class 3 —————————-> 1,924
Mobile Amateur Station 23,876
So out of the 43.274 hams in Taiwan, only 26,390 have bothered to set up a station, either fixed or portable, or both. So your chances of running into a Taiwanese ham on HF are actually reduced to a little less than 600 and my estimate is that probably only around 100 of them are active.
If you wonder why so many people with an operating licence haven’t set up a station then there is an easy explanation. At a lot of tech colleges you can score credit points if you take the the Class 3 operators exam. It’s easy enough if you memorise the answers and the Taiwanese are good at this. After five years the licence expires automatically, so one less operator in the statistics. It’s not a bad way to gain new hams, though. While I was at the NCC some time ago there was a group of six students taking the exam. Five were just bored with it and passed with the minimum score. The sixth student had genuinely studied the material and was interested in things like call signs, Q-codes, etc. He passed with flying colours. There is no guarantee, but I do hope he pursued in getting a station on air.