Amateur radio describes the use of radio apparatus as a hobby, usually to self-training and recreation under the terms, provisions and limitations of a Wireless Telegraphy Act licence granted by Ofcom to individuals qualified by examination. Learn more about amateur radio licensing.
Like other radio users, amateur radio enthusiasts may experience interference to radio reception. This is normally caused by:
Read more about the usual causes below and how to find guidance and assistance.
Part of the reasoning for managing the radio spectrum is to separate users in terms of the frequency, geographical location and time of operation. This is achieved through a system of licensing. Ofcom issues licenses to individuals and creates licence exemption regulations for specific apparatus. In both instances, there are prescribed terms, provisions and limitations for lawful use.
Anyone who uses radio apparatus outside of the terms, provisions and limitations of a licence or licence exemption may be guilty of a spectrum offence.
Electromagnetic disturbances, also referred to as electromagnetic emissions, are normally considered to be unwanted emissions in the radio frequency spectrum. They can occur naturally or be generated artificially.
An electromagnetic disturbance may degrade the performance of or even stop radio communications apparatus from functioning as intended.
Apparatus placed on the market or put into service should be designed to function compatibly within the environment in which it is intended to be used. This is called electromagnetic compatibility.
Apparatus should not emit excessive levels of electromagnetic disturbance and it should be suitably immune from external sources of electromagnetic disturbance.
If your station or apparatus is affected by an electromagnetic disturbance from an external source, then you need to ensure that your apparatus is suitably immune.
To protect against electromagnetic disturbances, radio receivers are reliant on adequate filtering to ensure that only the desired signal is received and unwanted transmissions or electromagnetic disturbance is rejected.
Interference may occur because of inadequate filtering or immunity from an external source of electromagnetic disturbance. In some cases, additional filters may be required to provide adequate immunity or selectivity.
The level of filtering required to reject artificial electromagnetic disturbances will often depend on the proximity of the affected receiver to the source of electromagnetic disturbance. It may not always be possible to eliminate the effect of interference by filtering alone, in which case specialist advice is recommended.
Multiple sources of electromagnetic disturbances may result in a cumulative effect. For example, the level of background levels of electromagnetic disturbance is likely to be higher in industrial areas than urban or rural areas. When planning and installing a radio system, the environment should be considered. Careful siting of the apparatus is essential to minimise the risk of interference.
In the case of artificial electromagnetic disturbances, it is important to determine if the frequency of the disturbance is within the passband of the affected receiver. If it is, physical separation may be the only option. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to relocate the affected station or apparatus to increase the physical separation from the source of electromagnetic disturbances.
Your installation should be engineered so that it complies with the terms and provisions and limitations of your licence or licence exemption.
You should take care with the type and positioning of antenna (if it is not an integral part of the apparatus). The coaxial cable and connectors should be of a suitable type for the installation and frequencies. Where an installation is co-sited with others, you can prevent problems with both the receiver performance and the transmitter spectral purity by using double-screened cable, as well as components like filters and isolators.
Interference to radio communications is considered harmful if:
It is unlikely that Ofcom would investigate a report of interference that is not regarded as ‘harmful’. It is not our policy and we do not have the required powers to do so effectively.
Congestion occurs when multiple people use the same part of the radio spectrum at the same time in the same area. The extent of the problem depends on other factors including landscape, climate, quality of apparatus, or simply too many people using the spectrum simultaneously. Congestion that affects reception is not regarded as harmful interference.
Before contacting Ofcom, we urge radio amateurs to seek advice from the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB). The RSGB website contains detailed guidance on how to mitigate against interference. See the RSGB guide to electromagnetic compatibility (EMC).
If your amateur radio apparatus or station is affected by interference, Ofcom will offer you advice and assistance, either on the phone or by email. We may agree to investigate interference to hobby radio where there are exceptional circumstances and where we are satisfied that the interference is ‘harmful’, outside your control and all reasonable steps have been taken to minimise the effect. In addition, we may send out a spectrum engineering officer. However, you may be liable for the cost of the investigation if Ofcom considers that a source of interference is within your control.
Ofcom will exercise discretion on whether to investigate a report of interference. The regulatory regime does not guarantee that interference will not arise or that enforcement action will be taken to prevent it occurring.
Before reporting interference to Ofcom, and to minimise the risk of incurring costs subject to our terms and conditions of undertaking an investigation, you should:
The RSGB can assist radio amateurs and others who may be affected by problems which occur within the amateur bands, or which develop on other frequencies as a result of amateur transmissions. Email: email@example.com
Report harmful interference or contact us at:
Spectrum Management Centre
Baldock Radio Station
Tel: 020 7981 3131 (option 2)