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Ham Radio is not free. How much does it cost?

There are 2 basic areas of ham radio to be concerned about.
HF bands are operated very differently from VHF/UHF.
You probably know the cost of getting into HF. And you can talk all over the world direct ham to ham.

This discussion will be limited to the VHF/UHF world due to the many new hams joining the hobby as techs.

Yes you can get on the radio essentially for free by using your computer, tablet or smart phone.
And you can buy a radio for under $50 to talk to other hams.
VHF/UHF radios do not transmit over long distances.
Therefore for you to be able to talk to other hams in other areas,
you need to use a repeater or the Internet or programs like Echolink.

So how much does what cost? There are a number of costs involved in providing VHF/UHF amateur radio to the general ham world.

First consider a repeater that allows you to talk over longer distances.
Repeaters are commercial radios that someone bought. Maybe an old commercial discard & maybe a new state of the art one but someone paid for it. Then there are antennas, connectors and coax. All things we are all familiar with but frequently better quality for a repeater and therefore more costly. Then there are ancillary costs associated. The location may have a cost. The electricity has to be provided. If there is an Internet connection, that too has a price. Sometimes just making a trip to the site is costly.

Then consider the methods for connecting multiple systems together. Many repeaters are connected via IRLP or Allstar or other means to the rest of the world. One example is connecting a repeater to Echolink. Echolink charges $40/year for each connection. In the case of the Western Reflector, there are 40 such connections. Look at WWW.NARRI.ORG to see the extent of the system.

Then there are other systems out there. Some are just a system of connected repeaters like the Win system. Check their info at www.winsystems.org.

Some of these systems use Echolink, some do not. But most connected systems use the Internet today and that is not cheap.

Look at the many conferences on Echolink like Handihams, Michigan, Alaska Morning Net (on WL7LP-R).
Every one of these has someone or a group paying the way.

So is my hobby free? Not really. Without these generous hams all over providing the equipment and services we use, we would basically just have walky talkies. Next time you key up your radio and converse with someone, stop and thank the folks behind the connections.

Another way to thank them is by donating to the system. Some of the systems ask for membership. NARRI and WIN both offer an annual membership for $100.

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