**  So how many active hams are there?  **

 Curious Newcomer (CN) and Experienced Elmer (EE) both started interesting groups.io threads.  One asked for people to tell what they do on the air, and the other has had a lot of fun with FT8 and wondered if …

a.)   With that as background, I have noticed recently that when I watch the JTAlert “All decodes” window, 20-25 percent of those active on the band at a given time are people whom I’ve already worked. That makes me wonder about a couple of things:

 b:)   How popular are the FT modes, anyway, and if you could collect similar stats for CW and phone, would we see something similar?  I’m still a long way from “working the bands out”, but it’s been a little surprising.

 Let’s look at numbers.  A couple years ago ARRL stated that FT8 was 70% of all HF activity.  That is market share a monopolist would love.  70% is a lot, and that is only 1 mode.


The ARRL, as of August 14, 2023, shows 759,159 licensed amateurs in the US and territories.


Class Number Percent


5969 1%


377810 50%


Tech Plus

0 0%


187274 25%
Advanced 33327 4%



155139 20%


Technicians have some HF privileges, but I doubt that more than maybe 10% get on HF. 

And a high number, maybe as high as 50%, of all Technician class licensees are not active in the hobby at all.   It has been over 23 years since anyone received a new Advanced class license.  In 2015 there were over 54,000 Advanced licensees.  While some have upgraded to Extra, too many have become inactive or Silent Keys. 

I have no good way of estimating how many General and Extra class licensees are actually active on the air.  But on any given day there may be as few as 200,000 to 250,000 who actively would use the HF bands in the US. The good news?  In 2016, there were 725,000 US licenses. According to NPR, that was up 60% from 1981.  But according to Wikipedia, in 2021, the US had 779, 545.  or a whopping 0.233% of the  population.  In 2 years the US has lost about 20,000 and by the numbers, most of those came from Advanced licensees going SK.  In percentage of the population licensed, the US has fallen to third.  Japan is in second and Slovenia is in first place.  The US has about twice as many as Japan, but a smaller fraction of the population is licensed. China is in third place in numbers, with 150,000 as of 2019.

Amateur radio is not dead.  But it will always need new people getting involved.


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Frank KB3PQT