Is 10 watts enough or am I wasting my time?

Amateur radio is a delicate balance (especially in suburbia) of installing what you need and want, whilst at the same time, making sure your neighbours are not affected by interference (EMI) or aesthetics (Antennas/Masts).

As you have found, the foundation licence has a limit of 10W across all allowable modes.

Which is not a lot when you compare it to Standard and Advanced with an SSB wattage of 100W and 400W respectively.

The power limits and frequency limits are set with good reason and commensurate with the amount of knowledge that you have, the amount of experience that you have and in a certain way limit the amount of impact should something not be set right. Put it this way, would you be more comfortable dealing with a single neighbour with an EMI problem (which you can work through amicably) or whole neighbourhood (with inspector in tow) baying for blood.

Lets look at HF (which is usually one of the areas that Foundation members get into). First of all, 10W is enough to get to most countries, but it will depend on some of the following : –

  • Quality and Design of your Transceiver
  • Experience with your transceiver (Filters / RF Controls etc.)
  • Band / Frequency
  • Sunspot Activity
  • Antenna construction / Height / SWR / 
  • Choice of Voice / CW / Digital 
  • Propagation / Grey Line
  • Time of Day
  • Location
  • Height
  • Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)

Now this list is not exhaustive, but that is a lot of variables, variables you have control over (to a certain extent). That’s part of the enjoyment of Amateur Radio. It is multi-discipline hobby, with multiple facets. No matter how much you learn, there is still a lot more to learn. It is not a hobby with a finite end. It is not a hobby where you go out and splash money down for to the best rig and best antenna and you will get any contact you want, as you will be affected by the above variables.

What you do is take the 10W as a challenge. How much can you achieve on 10W?, by reducing the EMI, improving or changing your Antenna design, selecting the right mode, waiting for a few more months or a year so that you can use 10m and 15m which support DX during the peak of the Sunspot cycle. And then you have SOTA, taking your equipment out into the field (and miles away from EMI).

Think of it another way. There are a very large contingent out there who only work QRP, which is generally regarded as 5W or less on CW/Digital Modes and 10W or less on voice modes (SSB/etc). There are clubs, websites, nets that are centred around QRP, and guess what your Foundation licence (and your equipment) lends itself to being part of this very large group. These people focus their efforts on getting the most out of their 10W, and this is by learning the impacts and benefits each of those variables have on your radio hobby.

The amateur radio operator of today is a fortunate one. There are vast range or physical tools, software applications, allow you to almost get instant feedback on your changes, whereas go back 30-40 years (or less), your testing was limited to anecdotal reports from other hams. Now you have tools like FT8 (amongst others) and WSPR to confirm where you are reaching and strength of signal, to confirm that change you made your antenna or indeed the change of antenna is making a real difference. You also have the advantage of the Internet, being able to contact people just like yourself, discussing and sharing ideas.

Now we have mainly talked about HF bands, but Amateur Radio is not just about HF Bands. The Foundation licence permits you to use the VHF and UHF bands as well. This opens up to another range of skills and knowledge, and in many cases, the equipment is lower cost, and in the case of antennas, easy to build. 10W with a good antenna (which can be built for less than $AU10) will get you to a few close repeaters, and your learn how to use a repeater, signal transmission paths, simplex mode and how tropospheric ducting works plus add in APRS for something different, and to really throw it open, lets look at DMR, DSTAR and C4FM, and they open a brand new learning curve.

So, is 10W enough? Yes it is. Take the time to take it as a challenge, to learn and hone skills, to learn better Antenna design, to understand the tools available to you. When you do make the move to the Standard Licence, just think how much more you are going to get out of 100W (HF) with the skills that you picked up as a Foundation licence holder.


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