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Australian (VK) Amateur Radio License Numbers

21 March, 2024 - Reading time: 7 minutes

For the past few years I have periodically analyzed and researched the amount of amateur radio licensees in Australia. This is of particular interest to me - to see if we're "going in the right direction" - that being positively increasing amateur radio operators in Australia. 

Some have commented to me that "quality over quantity" is better... somehow thinking that there is a "perfect model ham radio operator" out there. Well there isn't - but this article is not focused on that today.

Firstly the recent changes by the ACMA and the Class License means that a new callsign registry was implemented. This meant that obtaining the data is much more difficult than before. ACMA provide a downloadable version of their RRL which is filterable - allowing duplicates and the like to be removed. Since the changes to the callsign registry & class license - it is impossible now to determine who owns what callsign, or in fact, how many callsigns they have - unless you look it up through QRZ.   

Nevertheless, we can get some sort of indication of the data and that is presented below.

Key Points:

  • Under the class license, license numbers will continue to increase. Due to the abolishment of annual fees - and with that license renewals - amateur operators are only required to renew their callsign every 5 years. If someone becomes a SK in that time - their callsign could potentially sit there for years until it either:a). expires or b). the estate of the SK remembers to surrender the callsign
  • The numbers below are not "individual operators" as you can have more than one callsign. However they do exclude beacons, repeaters & contest callsigns
  • This data was extracted on 21/03/2024, roughly a month after the class license has commenced.
  • "Unknown" had no license tier assigned to it - presumably a new license that had not yet been processed

Click to enlarge image

Key Takeaways:

  • 15,370 "callsigns" are currently allocated
  • VK2 has the most hams, followed closely by VK3
  • In every state/territory apart from VK8, Foundation exceeds Standard, sometimes almost double.
  • The % increase over 2023 is all positive - but that will be due to 2023's numbers removing duplicate callsigns in the data
  • VK1 has the most hams to general population 1 ham for every 920 people. This is followed very closed by VK7 - 1 ham for every 925 people. 
  • The national ham to population is: 1 ham per 1745 people    

Compared to some other countries:

  • USA - 1 ham for every 448 people - 757,000 hams (pop. 341 million)
  • Canada - 1 ham for every 555 people (2023) - 73,000 hams (pop. 39 million)
  • UK - 1 ham for every 670 people - 101,000 hams (pop. 68 million)
  • New Zealand - 1 ham for every 782 people - 6,700 hams (pop. 5.25 million)
  • Japan -  1 ham for every 326 people - 382,000 hams (pop. 125 million)

As you can see, Australia lags behind quite considerably.

This explains why the Australian ham market is so small - and "lack of activity on the bands".

So how do we improve on this? I believe the ACMA taking on Amateur Radio license services is a step in the right direction. First of all, exams are completely free - you only pay if you pass. No annual fees either. Invite your family, friends, coworkers - anyone you know to take the test and become a ham. There are great benefits to do so. Let's catch up to the rest of the world.

For more information on how to obtain your Amateur Radio license in Australia, see the below links:

WIA Foundation Manual: https://www.wia.org.au/licenses/foundation/foundationmanual/

ACMA Amateur Radio: https://www.acma.gov.au/amateur-radio

ACMA Callsign Register: https://www.acma.gov.au/call-signs

REAST Foundation Training Videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsnsP_zjw831mdC6sY4XqavRUY-53ZWUn

WIA Online Practice Test: https://www.wia.org.au/licenses/foundation/onlineexams/foundation.php