Amateur Radio and Innovation in Telecommunications Technology

Kevin McQuiggin, VE7ZD
School of Communication
Simon Fraser University, 2001

Click here to read a PDF version of my M.A. thesis


Throughout its history, amateur radio has made significant contributions to science, industry, and the social services. The economic and social benefit derived from amateur radio research has founded new industries, built economies, empowered nations, and saved lives.

Amateur radio represents a unique research and development (R&D) environment that cannot be duplicated in the labs or research parks of either industry or the government. Existing at the intersection of the social, economic, cultural and scientific spheres, amateur radio leverages this position to invent and innovate from a unique perspective. Many now-commonplace communication technologies have their genesis in amateur radio.

However, the amateur radio service, or more specifically, the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum allocated to the activity, is under extreme pressure from the telecommunications industry. Recent exponential growth in commercial wireless communication systems has taxed existing commercial spectrum allocations, and industry is eager for expansion. Amateur radio spectrum is threatened. Ironically, many of the communication technologies used by these firms were initially developed within the field of amateur radio.

To justify their quest for additional spectrum, industry lobbyists portray amateur radio as an anachronism, and characterize amateur bands, particularly in the UHF and microwave region, as underutilized. On the contrary, innovative communications research within the hobby is alive and well, and many of these new amateur projects utilize the higher-frequency bands sought after by industry. There is commercial interest in some of the new technologies currently under development within amateur radio, and amateur radio continues to contribute to the state of the radio art.

Therefore, amateur radio must be supported by government and the telecommunications industry it helped create, so that it may continue to innovate and serve as a source of creativity for both technological and social change as we move forward into the twenty-first century.

Thesis copyright 2001 by Kevin McQuiggin. National Library of Canada AMICUS No. 27222813.

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