As I wrote in this Post, I took my Foundation Amateur Radio Licence in June 2020 and having done so I've been playing about with radio ever since.
- many thanks to Pete and the team at Essex Ham for their Foundation Online course
Over the past few months I've probably spoken to around a 100 different Amateurs around the UK actually by Radio plus some international contacts via the magic of blending Radio and t'Interwebs whether via Echolink, Peanut, Hubnet (although currently to get on hubnet via the magic of the internet you tend to go through Echolink if you can't access it via radio - using a gateway or repeater that is connected to Hubnet) or using DStar... not yet had a Play with Amateur DMR or Yaesu System Fusion
So how do you play radio then?
Obviously first thing to say is that for any radios other than PMR446 and CB an appropriate licence for equipment and/or operator is needed.
For Amateur radio it's the operator that is licenced rather than the equipment, Amateurs also have access to a lot of different frequencies, most of which are protected by International agreements, although some aren't all that interesting to commercial users of the radio spectrum
Whereas if you are using radios for work you'll have an equipment/system licence (UK Business Radio) and it's the responsibility of the employer to train people how to use the radios...
The exception to this is Marine Radio where there are both Ship's radio Licences administered by Ofcom and Operator Certificate of Competence administered by the RYA.
If you want to play with radios as part of something else such as Airsoft, PMR 446 which is licence free or UK Simple Light Business radio which is a simple equipment licence is probably most suitable, as if you want to use Amateur Radio equipment (and, yes, there are some very low priced sets available from China) - every user has to be licenced, they have to use their Ofcom allocated callsign and encryption cannot be used.
If you want to play radio for the fun of it you have a number of options within the law;
1. PMR446 is Licence free and the current version of the regulations means there is the chance to get reasonable distances if you can get yourself into a good location... but a lot of the people claiming to do PMR446DX (distance) working are using licenced (business radio) PMR kit out of band or using amateur equipment on PMR frequencies, both of the latter are outside the law
2. CB - legal CB is somewhat hobbled by the requirements of a 'legal' set up. 'Free Banding' on 11m is outside the terms of acceptable use for CB radio.
3. Take the plunge and do your Foundation Licence and get access to the vast majority of Amateur radio frequency Bands albeit with a power restriction and a requirement to use equipment produced commercially or with documented compliance to the standards for spurious emissions.
2000+ plus can't be wrong since the RSGB introduced online exams with remote invigilation for Foundation, plus the 260 + people who have upgraded from Foundation to Intermediate via this route