US Amateur Radio Numbers Continue to Soar


Amateur Radio is alive and well! Growth in the US continued in 2015, with a record 735,405 licensees in the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS) database by the end of the year. That’s up 9130 over December 2014, a 1.2 percent rise, continuing a steady increase in the Amateur Radio population in every year since 2007. In 2014, the Amateur Radio ranks grew by a net 8149 licensees. The figures, compiled by Joe Speroni, AH0A, on his FCC Amateur Radio Statistics web pages, exclude expired licenses that are within the 2-year grace period, and club station licenses. Compared with the same month 10 years ago, the Amateur Radio population in the US has expanded by 72,805 licensees — or nearly 11 percent.

As expected, the biggest growth by license class was in Technician licensees, which rose by 6570 in 2015. General ranks increased by 3079, and Amateur Extra numbers went up by 3496. The 2015 overall numbers faltered a little in April before rebounding in July. The introduction of a new General class question pool on July 1 appeared to have only a slight effect on month-to-month numbers in that license class. ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said 2015 was another banner year for ARRL VEC-sponsored test sessions.

“For the second year in a row, we have conducted more than 7000 Amateur Radio exam sessions in a year, an important milestone for the ARRL VEC,” she said. “A total of 7358 ARRL-sponsored exam sessions were administered in 2015, compared to 7216 in 2014. The number of exam applicants was down slightly in 2015, compared to the previous year, and the number of examination elements administered also dipped slightly, she noted.

“Since 2014 was a record-setting year, the numbers of 2015 examinees didn’t drop so much as return to more typical levels,” she explained.

Somma pointed out that the ARRL-VEC also processed and filed nearly 10,100 license renewals and address changes for members in 2015. This is a free service to ARRL members. 

Technician licensees still comprise a little less than one-half of the US Amateur Radio population. As of December 31, some 47,850 Advanced and 10,800 Novice licensees remained in the FCC database. The FCC no longer issues Advanced and Novice licenses, and their numbers continue to decline.

Once again, California far and away was home to the largest number of licensees among the 50 states, with 103,938 at the end of 2015, up from 102,735 at the end of 2014. North Dakota remained the state with the fewest number of Amateur Radio licensees, with 1510, up very slightly over the previous 12 months. Club station licenses in the US number 11,599, according to Speroni’s web pages. — Thanks to Joe Speroni, AH0A; FCC ULS licensing statistics