Amateur radio in India

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Amateur radio or ham radio is practised by more than 16,000 licensed users in India.[1] The first amateur radio operator was licensed in 1921, and by the mid-1930s, there were around 20 amateur radio operators in India. Amateur radio operators played an important part in the Indian independence movement with the establishment of illegal pro-independence radio stations in the 1940s. The three decades after India's independence saw only slow growth in the numbers of operators until the then Prime Minister of India and amateur radio operator, Rajiv Gandhi (VU2RG), waived the import duty on wireless equipment in 1984. Since then, numbers have picked up, and as of 2007, there were more than 16,000 operators in the country. Amateur radio operators have played a vital role during disasters and national emergencies such as earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, floods, and bomb blasts, by providing voluntary emergency communications in the affected areas.

The Wireless and Planning and Coordination Wing (WPC)—a division of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology—regulates amateur radio in India. The WPC assigns call signs, issues amateur radio licences, conducts exams, allots frequency spectrum, and monitors the radio waves. In India, the Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI) represents amateur radio interests at various forums, and represents India at the International Amateur Radio Union. Popular amateur radio events include daily ham nets, the annual Hamfest India, and regular DX contests.

Public figures in India who are licensed ham operators include Indian National Congress president Sonia Gandhi (VU2SON), Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan (VU2AMY), Kamal Hassan (VU2HAS), and former Minister for Information Technology Dayanidhi Maran (VU2DMK).[2][3][4]


The first amateur radio operator in India was Amarendra Chandra Gooptu (callsign 2JK), licensed in 1921.[5][6] Later that year, Mukul Bose (2HQ) became the second ham operator, thereby introducing the first two-way ham radio communication in the country.[5] By 1923, there were twenty British hams operating in India. In 1929, the call sign prefix VU came into effect in India,[citation needed] replacing three-letter call signs. The first short-wave entertainment and public broadcasting station, "VU6AH", was set up in 1935 by E P Metcalfe, vice-chancellor of Mysore University.[5][6] However, there were fewer than fifty licence holders in the mid-1930s, most of them British officers in the Indian army.[citation needed]

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the British cancelled the issue of new licences.[7] All amateur radio operators were sent written orders to surrender their transmitting equipment to the police, both for possible use in the war effort and to prevent the clandestine use of the stations by Axis collaborators and spies. With the gaining momentum of the Indian independence movement, ham operator Nariman Abarbad Printer (VU2FU) set up the Azad Hind Radio to broadcast Gandhian protest music and uncensored news; he was immediately arrested and his equipment seized. In August 1942, after Mahatma Gandhi launched the Quit India Movement, the British began clamping down on the activities of Indian independence activists and censoring the media. To circumvent media restrictions, Indian National Congress activists, led by Usha Mehta, contacted Mumbai-based amateur radio operators, "Bob" Tanna (VU2LK) and Nariman Printer to help broadcast messages to grass-roots party workers across the country.[citation needed] The radio service was called the "Congress Radio", and began broadcasting from 2 September 1942 on 7.12 MHz. The station could be received as far as Japanese-occupied Myanmar. By November 1942, Tanna was betrayed by an unknown radio officer and was forced to shut down the station.[7]

Temporary amateur radio licences were issued from 1946, after the end of World War II. By 1948, there were 50 amateur radio operators in India, although only a dozen were active.[5] Following India's independence in 1947, the first amateur radio organization, the Amateur Radio Club of India was inaugurated on 15 May 1948 at the School of Signals at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh.[5] The club headquarters was later moved to New Delhi, where it was renamed the Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI) on 15 May 1954.[5] As India's oldest amateur radio organization,[citation needed] ARSI became its representative at the International Amateur Radio Union.[8]

Partly due to low awareness among the general population and prohibitive equipment costs, the number of licensed amateur radio operators did not increase significantly over the next two decades, numbering fewer than a thousand by 1970.[9] CW (Morse code) and AM were the predominant modes at that time. The electronic equipment was mostly valve-based, obtained from Indian army surpluses.[9] During the mid-1960s, the modes of operation saw a change from Amplitude Modulation to Single Side Band (SSB) as the preferred communication mode. By 1980, the number of amateur radio operators had risen to 1,500. In 1984, then Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, waived the import duty for wireless equipment. After this, the number of operators rose steadily, and by 2000 there were 10,000 licensed ham operators.[9] As of 2007, there are more than 16,000 ham radio operators in India.[1]

Amateur radio operators have played a significant part in disaster management and emergencies. In 1991, during the Gulf War, a lone Indian ham operator in Kuwait, provided the only means of communication between stranded Indian nationals in that country and their relatives in India.[10] Amateur radio operators have also played a helpful part in disaster management. Shortly after the 1993 Latur and 2001 Gujarat earthquakes,[citation needed] the central government rushed teams of ham radio operators to the epicentre to provide vital communication links. In December 2004, a group of amateur radio operators on DX-pedition on the Andaman Islands witnessed the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. With communication lines between the islands severed, the group provided the only way of relaying live updates and messages to stations across the world.[3]

In 2005, India became one of few countries to launch an amateur radio satellite, the HAMSAT. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the microsatellite as an auxiliary payload on the PSLV-6.[11]


The Indian Wireless Telegraph (Amateur Service) Rules, 2009 lists two licence categories:[12]

  1. Amateur Wireless Telegraph Station Licence (General)
  2. Amateur Wireless Telegraph Station Licence (Restricted)

To obtain a licence, candidates must pass the Amateur Station Operator's Certificate examination.[13] This examination is held monthly in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, every two months in Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Hyderabad, and every four months in some smaller cities.[14] The examination consists of two 50-mark written sections: Radio theory and practice, Regulations; and a practical test consisting of a demonstration of Morse code proficiency in both sending and receiving.[15] After passing the examination, the candidate must then clear a police interview. After clearance, the WPC grants the licence along with the user-chosen call sign.[16] This procedure can take up to 12 months.[16]

Licence category Age[12] Power[17] Examination.[18][19] Privileges
Amateur Wireless Telegraph Station Licence (Restricted Grade) (Formerly Grade II]] 12 10 W on VHF and UHF

50 W on HF

Minimum score of 40% in each section of the written examination, and 50% overall. Terrestrial radiotelephony transmission in VHF and UHF frequency bands and 12 HF Bands.
Amateur Wireless Telegraph Station Licence (General Grade) (Formerly Grade I and Advanced) 12 25 W on VHF and UHF

400 W on HF

Minimum score of 50% in each section of the written examination, and 55% overall. In addition, a demonstration of proficiency in sending and receiving Morse code at eight words a minute. Radiotelegraphy and radiotelephony transmission VHF and UHF frequency bands and 12 HF Bands.

Reciprocal licensing and operational restrictions[edit]

Indian amateur radio exams can only be taken by Indian citizens. Foreign passport holders can apply for reciprocal Indian licences based upon a valid amateur radio call-sign from their country of residence.[20]

Indian amateur radio licences always bear mention of location of transmitting equipment. Portable and mobile amateur radio stations require explicit permission from WPC.[21]

Amateur radio operators from United States of America do not have automatic reciprocity in India. The use of US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) call-signs is prohibited under Indian law.[22]


The generic QSL card created by ARSI for amateur radio operators in India

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has divided all countries into three regions; India is located in ITU Region 3. These regions are further divided into two competing zones, the ITU and the CQ. Mainland India and the Lakshadweep Islands come under ITU Zone 41 and CQ Zone 22, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands under ITU Zone 49 and CQ Zone 26. The ITU has assigned to India call-sign blocks 8TA to 8YZ, VUA to VWZ, and ATA to AWZ.[23][24]

The WPC allots individual call-signs. Indian amateur radio operators are allotted only the VU call-sign prefix. The V or Viceroy, series prefix was allotted to British colonies.[25] at the 1912 London International Radiotelegraphic Convention.[26]

VU call-signs are listed according to licence grade: for General (formerly the Advanced Grade and Grade–I) licence holders, the call-sign prefix is VU2; for Restricted (formerly Grade–II and Grade–II Restricted) licence holders, the prefix is VU3. The VU3 prefix has also been granted to foreigners operating in India. As of 2011, call-signs consist of only letters, not numerals, and can be either two or three characters long. Examples of Indian amateur radio call-signs are "VU2XY" and "VU2XYZ".[citation needed]

In addition to individual and club call-signs, the WPC allots temporary call-signs for contests and special events. For example, in November 2007, the WPC temporarily allotted the prefixes AT and AU to selected ham operators to mark the anniversary of the birth of radio scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose.[27] The Indian Union territory (UT) of Andaman and Nicobar Islands are assigned the prefix VU4 and the UT of Lakshadweep is assigned VU7.

Defunct call-signs include CR8 (for Portuguese India), FN8 (for French India), and AC3 (for the former kingdom of Sikkim, which merged with India in 1975).[28]


The WPC is the only authorised body responsible for regulating amateur radio in India. The WPC has its headquarters in New Delhi with Regional HQs (RHQ)and monitoring stations in Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta), and Chennai (Madras). It also has monitoring stations in Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Ajmer, Bangalore, Darjeeling, Gorakhpur, Jalandhar, Goa (Betim), Mangalore, Shillong, Ranchi, Srinagar, Dibrugarh, Visakhapatnam, and Thiruvananthapuram.[14] Set up in 1952, the organization is responsible for conducting exams, issuing licences, allotting frequency spectrum, and monitoring the airwaves. It is also responsible for maintaining the rules and regulations on amateur radio.

The Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI), based in Bangalore, is the national association for amateur radio operators in India. ARSI is India's representative at the International Amateur Radio Union.[8] Founded in 1954, it represents the interests of amateur radio operators before the Indian government, provides technical advice and assistance to amateur radio enthusiasts, and supports a number of educational programs throughout the country.[citation needed]

A quasi national organisation is the non-governmental, National Institute of Amateur Radio (NIAR), based in Hyderabad.

In India, amateur radio is governed by the Indian Wireless Telegraphs (Amateur Service) Rules, 1978, the Indian Wireless Telegraph Rules, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Information Technology Act, 2000. The WPC is also responsible for coordinating with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Intelligence Bureau in running background checks before issuing amateur radio licences.[29]

Allotted spectrum[edit]

Antennas at the location of ham operator VU2GMN in Chennai.

The following frequency bands are permitted by the WPC for use by amateur radio operators in India.[17]

Band Frequency in MHz Wavelength
6 1.820–1.860 160 m
7 3.500–3.700 80 m
7 3.890–3.900 80 m
7 7.000–7.200 40 m
7 10.100–10.150 30 m
7 14.000–14.350 20 m
7 18.068–18.168 17 m
7 21.000–21.450 15 m
7 24.890–24.990 12 m
7 28.000–29.700 10 m
8 50–54 6 m
8 144–146 2 m
9 434–438 70 cm
9 1260–1300 23 cm
10 3300–3400 9 cm
10 5725–5840 5 cm

Awareness drives[edit]

Indian amateur radio operators number approximately 20,000. Amateur radio clubs across the country offer training courses for the Amateur Station Operator's Certificate. People interested in the hobby would be advised to get in touch with a local radio club or a local amateur radio operator who can direct them to a club that organises training programmes.

Activities and events[edit]

Popular events and activities include Amateur Radio Direction Finding, DX-peditions, hamfests, JOTA, QRP operations, Contesting, DX communications, Light House operation, and Islands on Air. One of the most popular activities is Amateur Radio Direction Finding commonly known as a "foxhunt".[16] Several clubs across India regularly organize foxhunts in which participants search for a hidden transmitter around the city.[30] A foxhunt carried out in Matheran near Mumbai in 2005 by the Mumbai Amateur Radio Society was listed in the 2006 Limca Book of Records under the entry "most ham operators on horseback on a foxhunt."[31] Despite being a popular recreational activity among hams, no organization has yet participated in an international event.[32]

Live satellite images such as this are decoded by amateur radio operators to provide accurate weather reports during heavy rains in cities prone to flooding such as Mumbai.

Hamfest India is an annual event that serves for social gathering and comparison and sales of radio equipment. Most hamfests feature a flea market, where the attendees buy and sell equipment, generally from and for their personal stations. The event also seeks to raise amateur radio awareness in the host city. In 2008, Gandhinagar hosted the annual hamfest. Bangalore hosted the hamfest in November 2009. The 2011 hamfest was held at Kochi, Kerala.[33]

Ham nets, where amateur radio operators "check into" are regularly conducted across India. Airnet India, Charminar Net, Belgaum Net, and Nite Owl's Net are some of the well-known ham nets in India.[citation needed] Some amateur radio operators have also provided a service of downloading and decoding satellite signals of the weather over India and publishing them on the internet as a public service.[34] Amateur Radio Light House operations in India was started with AT8LH [1] followed with [2] and we are on ILLW there onwards. World Flora and Fauna operations in India was activated with special event station AT8WFF [3] at Bannerghatta National Park near Bangalore. Special Pictorial Cancellation with WFF logo on permanent basis highlighting the Butterfly park is one of the collectors item. In Mumbai, ham operators also help in disaster management during the monsoon season when heavy rain disrupts general life there. In 2008, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, for the first time, formally included ham operators as part of the disaster management plan.[35] Hams in Mumbai also help out at the annual Ganpati Visarjan by providing emergency radio services to civic organizations at the immersion points.[36] The "Island on the Air" is another activity where ham enthusiasts visit remote islands and report on the conditions there, similar to DX-peditions.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ramchandran, Ramesh (2005-03-03). "Government to promote amateur radio". The Tribune. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  2. ^ Press Trust of India (2005-10-15). "Bachchan, Gandhi style!". Indian Express. Express Group. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  3. ^ a b Susarla, Ramesh (2007-12-15). "Licence to yak". The Hindu. N. Ram. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  4. ^ Ramchandran, Ramesh (2005-01-04). "Sonia helps bridge communication gap". The Tribune. The Tribune Trust. Archived from the original on 26 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Missra, Avinash (1996). Brief History of Amateur Radio in Calcutta. Hamfest India '96 Souvenir. Kolkata. 
  6. ^ a b Regal, Brian (2005-09-30). Radio: The Life Story of a Technology. Greenwood Press. pp. 77/152. ISBN 0-313-33167-7. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  7. ^ a b Williamson, Owen. "The Mahatma's Hams". WorldRadio. Archived from the original on 2008-06-28. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  8. ^ a b "Member Societies". International Amateur Radio Union. Archived from the original on 22 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  9. ^ a b c Missra, Avinash (1996). Brief History of Amateur Radio in Calcutta. Hamfest India '96 Souvenir. Kolkata. 
  10. ^ Verma, Rajesh (1999). "1". ABC of Amateur Radio and Citizen Band (2 ed.). New Delhi: EFY Enterprises Pvt. Ltd. p. 11. 
  11. ^ "AMSAT - VO52 (HAMSAT) Information". AMSAT. 2005-05-12. Archived from the original on 31 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  12. ^ a b Section 5 "The Indian Wireless Telegraphs (Amateur Radio) Rules, 1978" (PDF). Ministry of Communications, Government of India. Controller of Publications, Civil Lines, New Delhi. 1979. p. 34. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  13. ^ Section 7 "The Indian Wireless Telegraphs (Amateur Radio) Rules, 1978" (PDF). Ministry of Communications, Government of India. Controller of Publications, Civil Lines, New Delhi. 1979. p. 34. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  14. ^ a b Appendix II "The Indian Wireless Telegraphs (Amateur Radio) Rules, 1978" (PDF). Ministry of Communications, Government of India. Controller of Publications, Civil Lines, New Delhi. 1979. p. 34. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  15. ^ Annexure III, Appendix I, Section 2.3 "The Indian Wireless Telegraphs (Amateur Radio) Rules, 1978" (PDF). Ministry of Communications, Government of India. Controller of Publications, Civil Lines, New Delhi. 1979. p. 34. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  16. ^ a b c d "Ham operators are a cut above the rest". Times of India. Times Group. 2007-05-21. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  17. ^ a b Annexure V "The Indian Wireless Telegraphs (Amateur Radio) Rules, 1978" (PDF). Ministry of Communications, Government of India. Controller of Publications, Civil Lines, New Delhi. 1979. p. 34. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  18. ^ Annexure III, Appendix I "The Indian Wireless Telegraphs (Amateur Radio) Rules, 1978" (PDF). Ministry of Communications, Government of India. Controller of Publications, Civil Lines, New Delhi. 1979. p. 34. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  19. ^ "Indian Wireless Telegraphs (Amateur Service) Amendment Rules, 2005" (doc). Wireless and Planning and Coordination Wing, Government of India. 2005-06-09. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ ITU Zone 41 Map (Map). International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  24. ^ CQ Zone 22 Map (Map). International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  25. ^ "Govt yet to free Indian aircraft from colonial past". Indian Express. Express Group. 2003-08-04. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  26. ^ "Radio Call Letters: May 9, 1913". Bureau of Navigation, Department of Commerce, United States. 1913-05-09. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  27. ^ "Special callsigns for Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose anniversary". Government of India letter "L-14011/640/ 2007-AMT" dated 2007-09-19". Southmate Amateur Radio Club. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  28. ^ "Amateur Radio Old Prefixes & Deleted Entities". ARRL. 2004-01-07. Archived from the original on 4 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  29. ^ "WPC Home". Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  30. ^ "HAM club organising 'Fox Hunt'". The Hindu. N. Ram. 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  31. ^ editor, Vijaya Ghose.; Limca Team (2006). Limca Book of Records 2006. Limca Books. ISBN 81-902837-3-1. Archived from the original on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-05. 
  32. ^ "Participation of Societies". IARU Region I ARDF Working Group. 2003. Archived from the original on 2008-06-19. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  33. ^ "Lifeline Systems in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India) after the December 2004 Great Sumatra Earthquake and Indian Ocean Tsunami" (PDF). Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  34. ^ Rasquinha, Gavin Reagan (2007-07-03). "Hum hai na, say Hams!". Times of India. Times Group. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  35. ^ "Malabar Hill gets HAM station to combat rains". Times of India. Times Group. 2008-06-03. p. 4. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  36. ^ Express News Service (2007-09-26). "Lakhs throng beaches on immersion day". Indian Express. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Verma, Rajesh (1988), ABC of Amateur Radio and Citizen Band, EFY Publications
  • Ali, Saad (1985), Guide To Amateur Radio In India, E.M.J. Monteiro

External links[edit]