This is a glossary of common amateur radio terms. If you can't find the term your looking for, try the search bar above; terms for which we have complete articles are not listed here.


A band is a contiguous segment of the radio frequency spectrum. For example, the 2 meter band, the most widely used VHF amateur radio band, extends from 144 to 148 MHz (megahertz). (Megahertz are a measurement of frequency.) Bands can overlap; for example, VHF itself is the band of frequencies from 30 to 300 MHz.


Bandwidth is the width of the band occupied by a particular signal. It varies significantly with the mode in use; an FT8 signal has a bandwidth of about 50 Hz, while an SSB signal is typically about 3,000 Hz (3 kHz). A WiFi signal has a bandwidth of at least 20,000,000 Hz (20 MHz), far too wide for use on HF or VHF bands, but suitable for some microwave bands in High-Speed Multimedia networks. All else being equal, a signal with a narrower bandwidth will be received more strongly than a wider signal, but will not convey as much information in a given period of time. Another benefit of a narrower bandwidth is that it leaves more "room" for other operators.

Call Sign

Call signs are issued to all amateur radio operators and many clubs by the FCC (in the US) or the equivalent government agency in other countries. They are used as identifiers on the air, and must be transmitted at least every ten minutes in conversation and at the end of the conversation. Some examples of call signs are "K7AGE" and "W1AW." PBARC's call sign is W7BKG, hence the address of this site.

The FCC assigns a "sequential" call sign such as "KJ7RRV" upon passing an exam to obtain an amateur radio license, but a custom "vanity" call sign can be obtained afterwards as long as it meets the FCC's requirements and is not already assigned. In addition to the $35 fee to obtain a license, another $35 must be paid for a vanity call sign.

You may be more familiar with broadcast call signs such as KURY, KPOD-FM, or KDRV-DT; these are also issued by the FCC (or its equivalent) for the purpose of identifying a station.




A designator is a suffix (or sometimes prefix) added to a call sign and separated with a "/" character (spoken as "slash" or "slant" on phone modes). Common designators include "slant portable" ("/P" on digital and CW), used to indicate an operation away from one's home station, "slant mobile" ("/M"), used for operation from moving land vehicles (parked vehicles are considered portable, not mobile), "slant marine mobile" ("/MM") used from boats and ships in the ocean (boats in inland waters are considered mobile, like land vehicles, not marine mobile), and "slant aeronautical mobile" ("/AM") used from aircraft in flight. (Do not operate an amateur radio station on a boat, ship, or aircraft without permission from the captain or pilot in command.)


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the telecommunications regulator for the United States. One of its many purposes is to issue amateur radio licenses. However, it does not conduct license exams; volunteer examiners give the exams and send the results to the FCC, which issues the license and call sign.

High-Speed Multimedia

A High-Speed Multimedia (HSMM) network is a digital computer network using WiFi protocols running on amateur radio microwave frequencies. Most networks use off-the-shelf consumer WiFi routers with modified software and external antennas. HSMM networks allow basically any software that works over the Internet to be used over amateur radio, although there are restrictions based on FCC regulations. There is currently no HSMM network in the Brookings area, but there are some plans to build one in Crescent City which would likely include at least part of Brookings.


A Baofeng UV-5RA, a popular model of HT

An HT (handheld transceiver) is a handheld, battery-operated amateur radio transceiver. Virtually all HTs are low-power (typically 8 watts or less) VHF and/or UHF radios.

Packet Radio

Packet radio is a digital system that creates computer networks using radio links. APRS is a popular use of packet radio.


Phone refers to any means of sending voice signals over radio, including analog modes such as SSB, FM, AM and digital modes such as DMR and FreeDV.

Of course, it can also refer to a regular telephone; Android phones and iPhones can both be used for amateur-radio-related purposes.


A QSO, also known as a contact, is any communication in which two amateur radio stations exchange their call signs and at least one other piece of information, such as locations or signal reports. The term "QSO" originates from the Q code, a system of abbreviations originally used to shorten Morse code communications.

S meter

An S-meter from an ICOM IC-732 transceiver

An S meter shows the strength of a radio signal on a scale of 1 to 9; often, it indicates signals stronger than S9 with labels such as "+20dB", which indicates 20 dB above S9. One S-unit typically equals 6 dB. S meters are named after the strength component of an R-S signal report.

Sound Card

A sound card is a computer peripheral device that encodes and decodes audio signals. They can be built into the computer or connected externally by USB. The SignaLink is a special sound card designed to connect to ham radio transceivers for digital modes such as FT8 and the Fldigi modes.


A transceiver is a radio device that can both transmit and receive signals. Most ham radios are transceivers.