To use any radio transmitting device in the UK, it will need to either be licensed, or have a specific licence exemption.
Information about applying for licences in the various sectors is available below.
Amateur radio, sometimes known as ham radio, is both a hobby and a service that uses various types of radio equipment, allowing communication with other radio amateurs for the purpose of self-training, recreation and public service.
If you use a radio system for your business, you need a licence from Ofcom. Business radio users range from taxi companies and factories, to hospitals, care homes, industrial sites and transport operators.
Ships’ radio is used for the safe navigation of vessels and for making distress calls in emergency situations. It enables communication with coast stations, port/harbour authorities and with other vessels.
White spaces are gaps in the radio spectrum which can be used to offer wireless applications. TV white space devices (WSDs) are radio equipment which can transmit in the digital terrestrial TV band (470-790MHz) in accordance with powers and frequencies communicated by a white space database (WSDB).
A WSD may be automatically configurable or manually configurable. An automatically configurable WSD must not allow a user to modify the settings of the device and may be operated without a licence, provided that it complies with the terms of the Licence Exemption Regulations for WSDs (The Wireless Telegraphy (White Space Devices)(Exemption) Regulations 2015).
While most WSDs are expected to operate on a licence-exempt basis in the future, many do not currently meet Ofcom’s requirements for licence exemption. Ofcom has therefore authorised the licensing of manually configurable white space devices (MCWSDs) under a transitional arrangement which will bring benefits to citizens and consumers earlier than would otherwise be the case.
MCWSDs are devices which allow a user to modify the settings of the device, such as configuring the device location or the antenna gain in the device before operation. MCWSDs cannot be operated without a Wireless Telegraphy licence issued by Ofcom under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, and only if the device conforms to the requirements of the licence.
MCWSDs will be licensed on a transitional basis and Ofcom intends to review by the end of 2018 whether a licensing regime is still required.
Whether operating on a licence exempt basis or in accordance with a Wireless Telegraphy Licence, devices must only operate in accordance with operational parameters provided by a WSDB which is operated by an organisation listed in Schedule 1 of the Wireless Telegraphy (White Space Devices) (Exemption) Regulations 2015.
The MCWSD licence imposes a number of obligations on the licensee for the purposes of mitigating and dealing with interference. Applicants for MCWSDs licences are strongly advised to first read these guidance documents.
How Ofcom uses information about white space devices PDF, 30.2 KB
This document explains how Ofcom may use information about the use of white space devices and how this may affect you if you are a device user or owner.
Aeronautical radio licensing covers aircraft radio licences, aeronautical ground station licences and navigation aids, including radar. The Civil Aviation Authority is the UK agency responsible for air safety and is also responsible for managing aeronautical radio assignments. The CAA distributes all aeronautical radio licences on behalf of Ofcom.
Fixed Terrestrial Links or Fixed Wireless Systems (FWS) refer to terrestrial based wireless systems, operating between two or more fixed points. Using mainly digital technologies, directional antennas and typically operating at very high levels of propagation availability fixed terrestrial links are used to provide network infrastructure and customer access applications across a wide range of frequency bands, currently ranging from 450MHz to 86GHz.
The 5.8 GHz licence (5725 – 5850 MHz band) can allow point-to-multipoint equipment for WISP solutions, broadband internet access, and IP video surveillance.
The following short range devices require a licence from Ofcom:
A ground probing radar (GPR) is a device that uses radio waves for the purpose of detecting or obtaining images of buried objects, or determining the physical properties beneath the ground. The emissions from a GPR are intentionally directed down into the ground for this purpose, and systems are designed to operate only when in contact with, or within close proximity to the ground.
Equipment for non-contact level measurement. A licence is required for the use of radar level gauge equipment whose emissions fall within the band 10.6 GHz to 10.7 GHz; other equipment is licence-exempt.
Network relay points (NRPs) are used in some networks to connect individual devices together and to connect devices to networks. They aggregate and concentrate data from consumer devices and need to talk and listen to these. The ratio of talk to listen time is referred to as duty cycle. For most NPR devices the duty cycle will likely be below 2.5%, but for higher-duty cycles, a licence is required.
Maritime radio enables ship stations to communicate with each other and with shore stations, primarily for the safety of human life and the protection of vessels. Its main uses include:
Spectrum for mobile phones and wireless broadband is generally awarded via auction.
Non-operational licensing enables the use of radio spectrum to promote the development and trialling of innovative uses of the radio spectrum in the UK.
It does not allow any sort of commercial or operational usage.
Ofcom has, in the past, issued licences to allow the use of mobile technologies on oil rigs and wind farms, in areas not covered under the territorial extent of the network operator licences, by creating bespoke one-off licences. However, with the increasing number of requests for access to spectrum offshore, it has become apparent that a standardised licence product, covering all bands, should be developed. The Spectrum Access Offshore Mobile licence covers all the ‘mobile bands’ (800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz) but only for areas not covered by the rights granted to existing mobile network operators. For most licences this will be outside the 12 nautical mile limit, but for licences issued as part of the 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz award will cover any offshore deployments, subject to coordination with the Ministry of Defence.
This licence product authorises use of spectrum on a strictly non-protection/ non-interference basis, and licensees will have to coordinate between themselves to resolve any problems that arise. There is no restriction on the number of licences that Ofcom will issue, and none of the licences will be technically coordinated by Ofcom. This licence also requires the licensee to meet the transmission levels at the UK coast, as set out in internationally agreed coordination agreements, when deploying systems.
If you are using wireless microphones, talkback (walkie-talkies) and production services for radio and TV, you will need a 'Programme Making and Special Events' (PMSE) licence - these are required by law if directly associated with a performance or event.
This section provides licensing information in relation to satellite earth stations and GNSS repeaters. It also provides information about the grant of Recognised Spectrum Access (RSA) for Receive-only Earth Stations (ROES).