** Radio musings **

When I have too much time on my hands I enjoy crunching numbers.  We had some cold, wet weather recently.  I stayed indoors.  That was my invitation to curl up with a good database and extract some numbers. 

My research was focused on the popularity of amateur radio as a hobby around the world and locally in Central Pennsylvania.  My results are represented by the proportion of licensed Amateur Radio Operators among the population as a whole.



The USA has 779,545 licensed amateur radio operators.  In case you wondered, that’s 0.233 percent of the population.  For those of you who broke up with math in the 1980s, and learned that getting back together is awkward, that works out to 23 amateurs per 10,000 people. 

Let’s put those numbers into a real-world context.  The seating capacity of the GIANT Center arena is 10,500.   How about dropping the loose change and call it 10,000.  If you sprinkled 23 ham radio operators among all the event attendees you would have the same proportion of ham radio operators in the arena as there are in the United States, as a whole.


Global Highlights

By comparison, in other locations where amateur radio is a poplar hobby, we found these numbers from 2019.

Japan has 381,899 licensed operators, or 0.304% of the population.

Thailand has 101,763 licensed operators for 0.147% of the population.

Germany has 63,709 licensed operators for 0.0735% of the population.


Locally in Central Pennsylvania

Here are population counts in the 170xx Zip Code area as of 2021

            Cumberland County has 262,919 people.

            Perry County has 45,986 people

            Lebanon County has 143,943 people.

The FCC shows 1,752 licensed amateur radio operators in 170xx.  So, at 0.39%, that Zip Code area has nearly twice as many amateur radio operators as the USA average.  Go 170xx !

Moving to the west, the 155xx Zip Code covers Bedford and Somerset counties.  A database search returned 242 licensed amateur radio operators.  Bedford has a population of 47.461 people and Somerset has 73,627.  The percentage of amateur radio operators in the 155xx Zip Code area is 0.20% of the population, which is less than the national average.


Marketing Analysis

You probably are wondering…. Why do these percentages matter?  Really – Who Cares?

Well, someone cares.  You can be sure of that.   

  • Mr. or Ms / Mrs. Business Person — If you are thinking of opening an Amateur Radio themed Pizza and Cheese Steak Restaurant your business is more likely to succeed in Cumberland County because the pool of potential customers is greater there than if you located your shop in Bedford or Somerset counties. That is why you care.
  • If dating an electronics wizard who wears a plaid shirt and a baseball cap embroidered with his amateur radio call sign is one of your personal objectives you are likely to find a bigger selection of potential candidates in Cumberland County than you might find in Bedford or Somerset counties. That is why you care.
  • What if you needed technical advice on the directional antenna heading for making a long path QSO to Madagascar? If you focused your search on Cumberland County you stand a better chance of getting an answer than if you sent out feelers in Bedford or Somerset counties.  That is why you care.


For more information about radios, setting up your station and another topics, follow the trail to



See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT