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Ham Radio

Welcome to the
Rockford Area Ham Radio Page 

There are a lot of ham radio operators in the Rockford and surrounding areas.
It is pretty simple to get a license, scroll down for more information.

Testing is temporarily suspended in the Rockford area.
But there are a few testing sessions that are held nearby.


 Ham Radio License TESTING

The RARA website has a pretty informative website
with the upcoming testing sessions.

Amateur Radio operators come from all walks of life — doctors, students, kids, politicians, truck drivers, movie stars, missionaries and even your average neighbor next door. They are of all ages, sexes, income levels and nationalities. Whether through Morse Code on an old brass telegraph key, voice communication on a hand-held radio or computerized messages transmitted via satellite, all hams use radio to reach out to the world.

You can communicate from the top of a mountain, your home or behind the wheel of your car, all without relying on the Internet or a cell phone network You can take radio wherever you go! In times of disaster, when regular communications channels fail, hams can swing into action assisting emergency communications efforts and working with public service agencies. For instance, the Amateur Radio Service kept New York City agencies in touch with each other after their command center was destroyed during the 9/11 tragedy. Ham radio also came to the rescue during Hurricane Katrina, where all other communications failed, and the devastating flooding in Colorado in 2013.

You can even talk to astronauts aboard the International Space Station, talk to other hams through one of several satellites in space, or bounce signals off the moon and back to Earth!

Becoming a Ham

 Now that the FCC has dropped the morse code proficiency requirements from all license classes, it’s easier than ever to get your “ticket” and get on the air!

To get your ham radio license, you must pass a 35-question multiple-choice examination covering FCC rules, good radio operating practice, entry-level license privileges, and basic radio and electrical theory. Once your license is issued by the FCC, you’re ready to go on the air and begin talking to other hams around town and around the world!

Getting Started

The entry-level amateur radio license is the Technician Class license, which, in general, allows transmission on frequencies above 28 MHz, including the VHF and UHF frequencies in the 144 MHz (2 meter) and 440 MHz (70 centimeter) bands used for most SKYWARN operations.

How you prepare for the Technician Class license examination is completely up to you. Most people purchase a study guide from either the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) or from Gordon West WB6NOA via the W5YI Group. There are a number of printed study guides available for purchase. May we recommend one of the following:



If you want to study online, we recommend HamTestOnline, an interactive online training system for all three of the amateur radio license classes– Technician, General, and Extra.

Taking the Test

Once you’ve worked your way through the material, take some time to go through a few practice tests. If you’re taking a licensing class through a local club, you’ll probably have an opportunity to do this toward the end of your class. Online training courses such as HamTestOnline have practice tests built in. If you want to try your hand at a few tests, try this:



Earning some passing grades? Great job! Now it’s time to take the real thing!

The amateur radio license tests are administered by teams called Volunteer Examiners (VE’s). Each VE Team is accredited to administer exams by either the American Radio Relay League Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (ARRL-VEC). There is a cost associated with taking a test, and most VE Teams will accept cash only. The cost is currently around $15, but when you register for a class your VE Team will let you know how and how much to pay.

Admittedly, you may have to do a little searching to find a VE Exam Session in your area. The good news is that you can take your exam anywhere in the United States, so if you have do so some traveling, that’s completely okay! Your VE Team will appreciate that you’ve made the trip.

The ARRL web site has an Exam Finder that might be helpful. We’ve found that a lot of testing sessions somehow don’t get listed on their web site, so you may want to check with a local ham or your SKYWARN Area Manager for help finding an exam. In most areas you should be able to find a session within a 30-minute drive at least once every two months. Like we said earlier, you may have to drive a bit to get to an exam when you’re ready to take one.

Get on the Air

Once you pass your exam you’re ready to get on the air! There are a multitude of vendors selling amateur radio equipment online and in retail stores. The closest major full-line retail vendor is Ham Radio Outlet (HRO). In addition to radios and antennas, HRO sells a full assortment of reference materials and all the various odds and ends you will need to get your first station up and running. Other popular mail-order vendors include Amateur Electronics Supply (AES)Universal RadioR&LGigapartsHamCity, and Texas Towers.

NOTE: The links above are for convenience only. 

Another great source of new and used radio equipment (and just about everything else under the sun) are hamfests. There are other major regional and national events that take place throughout the year, and the ARRL web site has a Hamfest Locator you might find useful. Most hamfests feature local and national vendors, private sellers, educational forums, and manufacturer representatives ready to show off their cool new toys. You’ll probably also find VE Exam sessions and various community service organizations such as ARES/RACES and SKYWARN.

Many new hams start off with a simple 2-meter handheld transceiver (HT). This is an inexpensive way to get on the air– two of the major manufacturers, Icom and Yaesu, both offer HT’s in the under-$150 price range. However, keep in mind the limitations of low output power and small battery packs. At a minimum, an inexpensive magnet-mount antenna for your vehicle, a plug-in hand microphone, cigarette lighter power cord, and an alkaline battery shell should compliment your HT purchase if it’s going to be your only radio for a while. The additional investment in a few accessories will pay off in the convenience of operating safely and efficiently from home and on the road.

For significantly greater operating distance, a mobile radio can be used in the car or at home. While HT’s transmit with between 0.2 and 5 watts (some as high as 7 watts), inexpensive mobile radios can be found operating with up to 75 watts of power, which will considerably enhance your ability to get a signal out to the other station or a distant repeater.

Before investing in any new equipment, take a moment to think about your requirements. Where will you primarily use the radio? What bands do you want to be able to use (SKYWARN uses the 2-meter). Do you just want FM capabilities, or would you prefer to also have single-sideband (SSB) or morse code (CW)?

When it comes to the “new vs. used” question, bear in mind that for most entry-level equipment there is usually no significant savings in buying used equipment from eBay, Craigslist, or other sources. Since there are so many things one can do to a radio to adversely affect its operating condition, do yourself a favor and make your first purchase a new radio from a reputable vendor with a warranty attached. The warranty won’t cover your silly mistakes, but it will ensure you’re not buying a $200 boat anchor!

You may want to stop by your local ham radio club’s monthly meeting and ask for advice (you’ll get plenty of it!) and many hams are more than willing to let you play with their radio, or maybe even borrow one of their old clunkers until you get a station of your own on the air!

You can check out the Rockford Amateur Radio Association website at

Whatever you end up buying, have fun with it, and never stop exploring. Ham radio is a fascinating hobby and the possibilities are endless. Whatever you’re interested in, there are others out there in our hobby that share the same interests and perhaps years of experience you can benefit from every time you turn on the radio.



 Monitor the 146.520 simplex frequency!
(National 2 meter calling)

  • 147.195 with a 114.8 PL and a + offset
  • 146.610 repeater   with a 114.8 PL tone and a   – offset
  • 147.375 repeater   with a 100.0 PL tone and a   + offset
  • 147.000 repeater  with a 114.8 PL tone and a + offset
  • 147.3900 repeater with a 114.8 PL tone and a + offset

Local Ham Radio Groups: 

Purpose of Northern Illinois Skywarn: 

What we’ve done

If you have not recently attended an in person Skywarn training event.
You can take the course online, for free at

Local Nets:

  • RARA Weekly Net: Monday at 7 pm on 146.610
  • SKYWARN: Thursday at 7 pm on 147.195
  • Friday Night Fun Net: Friday at 8 pm on 146.610

Listen to Illinois Ham Radio Online:


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