The entry level Foundation Licence continues to be the most popular way of getting into amateur radio. It is attracting those who have had some previous hobby radio communications interest (CB, 4WD, Scanner Listener) and others who are attracted to ham radio for the first time.
It is an interesting and stimulating hobby enjoyed by millions worldwide. The biggest change with this licence is that it no longer takes about six months of study to get a basic licence.
Also removed is the requirement to pass Morse code tests. The decision to make the move and enter amateur radio is really easy - do something different, became an active radio amateur.
Foundation Licence Courses
The Foundation Licence is the entry level for those wishing to engage amateur radio after they gain the Amateur Operator's Certificate of Proficiency (Foundation).
Those wanting to gain this qualification will need to undergo competency-based training, learning and assessment. The knowledge and skills required are set out in the AOCP (F) syllabus.
That document reflects the level of knowledge, skills and experience required to assemble safely and operate without causing interference, an amateur radio station.
The knowledge includes a mix of the rules and operating standards, distress or emergency communications, safety, radio communication theory and electronics.
At first glance the syllabus may appear daunting, but with a little study and the Foundation Licence training session the AOCP (F), the average person should not any real difficulty in getting qualified.
The assessment for the Foundation Licence includes the testing of knowledge through a 25 question written paper covering both theory and regulations, the use of oral questions plus a practical assessment in setting up an amateur radio station.
There is no doubt that at the end of the process the Foundation Licensees will be prepared to venture with confidence on to the amateur airwaves as responsible new radio amateurs.
Those interested in long distance communication (DX) will find the High Frequency bands of interest. The distances achieved using them depends on the time of day, season of the year and an 11-year Sunspot Cycle.
During high and peak cycle conditions the 21MHz and 28MHz will provide international radio contacts. The 10 metre band can also come have some surprise openings due to a phenomena known as sporadic e propagation.
3.5MHz (80 metres) night and local day
7MHz (40 metres) night and local day
21 MHz (15 metres) local and long distance
28 MHz (10 metres) local and long distance
144MHz (2 metres) local and medium distance
432MHz (70cm) local
As to be expected with a beginner's licence there are limitations on the equipment and frequency bands that can be used. These are controlled by the Licence Condition Determinations (LCDs) which form part of the regulations sets by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
What amateur bands am I allowed to use?
3.5MHz (80 metres), 7MHz (40 metres), 21 MHz (15 metres) , 28 MHz (10 metres), 144MHz (2 metres), 432MHz (70cm)
I see there are "Band Plans" that set aside parts of each band for special purposes. Do I have to operate in accordance to those plans?
The WIA Band Plans are known as "gentleman's agreements" and do not in themselves have the status of being regulations. But if you operate outside them, or without regard to normally accepted practices, you are very likely to interfere with other radio amateurs and lessen their enjoyment of their activities.
What power level can I use?
The power limit is 10 watts.
What equipment can I use?
The regulations and conditions of licence is that only commercially made, unmodified transmitting equipment may be used. Holders of either a Standard Licence or Advanced Licence can build or modify the transmitters, while this is not permitted for the Foundation Licence.
What sort of commercial equipment will meet the equipment requirement?
In general terms, any commercially made amateur radio transceiver.
How should I ensure I am transmitting within legal bands?
Most modern transceivers have a digital readout which is acceptable for this purpose.
My transceiver is capable of operating with more than 10 watts, and outside my allowable bands. Can I legally use it?
Yes. All radio amateurs are trusted to use their equipment according to their licence conditions. As a Foundation Licensee you must pay close attention to the power measuring meters in your equipment, so that you do not exceed the power limit. There is nothing stopping you from listening around the amateur bands on which you are not allowed to transmit.
Anyone seeking their first licence, whether it be Foundation, Standard or Advanced, will need to meet the requirements of the Practical Assessment.
This is conducted by an assessor who will require the candidate to demonstrate their operating knowledge and skills by some verbal questions and hands-on activity. The assessment is based primarily on Part 8 of the Foundation syllabus, however it may also address matters included in Parts 2 and 9 of the syllabus – licence conditions and safety.
The Amateur Radio Victoria Foundation Licence training course covers all aspects of the Practical Assessment so candidates are adequately prepared and confident in setting up and operating an amateur station.
The Standard and Advanced syllabi have corresponding and identical practical section.
A summary of the Practical Assessment requirements are:
A- Identification of common transmission lines types.
Using physical examples or photographs or diagrams of common coaxial and parallel transmission lines provided. The candidate need to identify correctly three types of transmission lines as coaxial or parallel line.
B- Identify balanced and unbalanced transmission line
Using physical examples or photographs or diagrams of common coaxial and parallel transmission lines provided to candidate. At least one type of transmission line must be "balanced" and the other "unbalanced". The candidate identifies the types of transmission line as "balanced" or "unbalanced".
C- Identification of common coaxial connectors.
Using physical examples or photographs or diagrams of three types of coaxial connector. The candidate identifies at least two of the three types present. Example PL-259, BNC, N-Type.
D- Demonstrate how to conduct a continuity check on a coaxial cable which is terminated with RF connectors on both ends.
This is a physical skill test using a provided Ohmmeter and terminated coaxial cable. Or Oral questions and response on how the test procedure would be conducted and results interpreted. Using an Ohmmeter. Low loop resistance test with one end short circuited and high resistance open circuit test. Or an oral description of the test and interpretation of results of test.
E- Identify antennas physical examples or supplied (standard) assessors diagram of five antenna types.
Candidates need to identify correctly at least four of the five antennas.
F- Construct an RF choke Oral question.
Physically demonstrate or fully describe how an RF choke is constructed (of a type used for RF interference suppression). Simulated construction using a provided Ferrite toroid or Rod and cable or wire. Candidate will physically simulate construction of a simple RF choke.
G- Identification of electronic symbols.
Candidates need to identify at least five Australian Standard electronic symbols from a supplied sheet, two much be the antenna and earth symbols.
H- Equipment inter-connection.
Demonstrate safely the connection of a transmitter/receiver (transceiver), ready for powering up. Physically connect a transceiver to a power source, an antenna (or dummy load). Connect an external SWR meter and antenna tuner. All interconnecting cables and equipment supplied and in an appropriate uncluttered environment. The candidate must connect up the station in a safe manner with the devices in correct order.
I- Frequency band identification.
Identify amateur radio bands for the Foundation Licence (or Standard or Advanced if the candidate is attempting that assessment). The candidate will be supplied a copy of the appropriate Licence Condition Determination. They need to correctly identify (using the LCD) the band limits of any four bands chosen by the assessor.
J- On-air operating protocols.
Demonstrate the protocol(s) required prior to commencing transmitting. Candidate is provided a tuned, ready to use Amateur Radio station on HF and VHF or UHF. No tuning or adjustments necessary. Candidate needs to demonstrate the requirement to listen on frequency prior to transmission and may include increasing the receiver gain or opening mute for weak signal detection. This task should be repeated up to three times and may be incorporated in other elements of competency.
K- Calling procedures.
Demonstrate making on-air calling procedures for HF and VHF or UHF Candidate is provided with a ready to use Amateur Radio station. Candidate needs to demonstrate preferably the procedure for make a call on HF and VHF or UHF.
L- Signal strength measurement.
Demonstrate how the signal strength meter is used in conjunction with a signal report. Using an amateur radio station on HF and VHF or UHF the candidate demonstrates the use of a Signal Strength meter.
M- Voice repeater operation.
With the material provided demonstrate the correct use of voice repeaters with and without
The candidate must demonstrates the need to identify the station before transmitting DTMF tones.
N- Purpose of breaks in transmissions.
By oral questioning discuss the purpose of and importance of breaks in transmissions on HF and VHF or UHF.
O- Change to another frequency (QSY).
By use of an Amateur Radio station after making a contact with another station, the candidate needs demonstrate the correct protocol for changing to another frequency.
P- Q-Code and the Phonetic Alphabet.
Use of plain language. By oral questioning only the candidate should be asked the purpose of the Q-code and the phonetic alphabet. Including the importance of standardised codes and signals over radio.
Note- while not preventing such use- it is not a requirement for the candidate to use the Q-code or the phonetic alphabet in any part of this assessment.
Q- Transmitter power measurement and adjustment.
Demonstrate the measurement of output power of a transmitter. Adjust the transmitter power to within legal limits. This may be done using an Amateur Radio station connected to a dummy load. Candidate demonstrates the ability to make simple power measurements and adjustment using a wattmeter.
R- Measurement of SWR.
Preferably with the use of an Amateur Radio station connected to an antenna, the candidate should demonstrate the ability to make a simple SWR measurement. Candidate demonstrate the correct technique (including identification of transmission if conducted on-air) for making a simple SWR measurement. Candidate needs to be able to interpret if the reading is within acceptable limits (equal to or less than 1.5:1)
S- Correcting high SWR.
Using oral questioning the candidate is asked on methods available to correct an antenna system that may have a high SWR. Examples, use an antenna tuner or correct an antenna fault or adjust the antenna . Specific adjustments or tuning are not required in this assessment task. Candidate orally describes what remedial action may be taken to rectify a high SWR problem.
T- Electrical safety.
High voltage and currents Oral questions and responses from the candidate to ascertain that the candidate is aware of the dangers of high voltage (electric shock) and current (heat, burning and possibly fire).