The larger the amateur radio market which means the greater number of people who have amateur radio licenses the more new amateur radio equipment will be sold. The more new equipment that is sold the greater incentive it is for radio amateur manufacturers to come out with newer and better equipment.
The amateur radio market is tiny compared to most other "consumer electronics" markets. It's not just that there are relatively few hams but that the equipment tends to last a very long time and be sold and resold.
Perhaps it is no wonder the country with the most radio amateurs in the world at least on paper is Japan with well over one million two hundred thousand radio amateurs. Most of them are not active and at least for the initial license it must have been very easy for the Japanese to obtain this license.
Nope. You don't understand how Japanese amateur radio works.
In Japan, there is a clear distinction between the operator license and the station license. Operator licenses are free and do not expire. Station licenses cost a nominal fee and must be renewed. In addition, a Japanese ham can hold as many as 4 different operator licenses (because there are 4 license classes), all of which will never expire.
Japan began issuing amateur licenses under those rules in 1952, which means that operator license totals include every operator license issued in the past 59 years. Imagine if FCC kept records the same way!
The number of station licenses in Japan is far less - fewer than half a million.
But Japan also is the country that today has more manufacturers of amateur radio equipment than any other country in the world.
How do you know?
The country with the second largest radio amateur population,now just over 700000 is the USA. We are the country with the second most number of radio amateur equipment manufacturers after Japan. We used to be the number one country in the world in the number of amateur radio manufacturers until the early 1970's when Japanese amateur radio equipment started coming to the USA in large amounts. . As the number of radio amateurs remained stagnant or our growth was very slow because our growth did not increase very rapidly it did not pay companies like Collins, Hallicrafters, Heathkit Hammurlund, Drake, National etc,etc etc to remain in business.
But that's not what happened. The number of US hams grew dramatically all through the 1970s and 1980s.
There were certainly many other causes for the demise of these companies such as they could not compete economically with the Japanese in producing amateur radio equipment . However if the market was large enough I don't think all of them would have gone out of business when they did.
What really happened to the US amateur radio manufacturers is the same as what happened to a lot of other US manufacturing.
The amateur radio market unlike other markets is a regulated market. It depends on the number of government licensees. The more licensees the larger the market. Practically all of these companies with the exception of Heath and Drake went out of business before the VEC program was initiated in the USA.
What about TenTec? It was founded in 1968, and by the late 1970s was doing a booming business. By 1983-84, when the VEC system was put in place, TT was a major supplier of ham rigs right here in the USA..
US amateur radio manufacturers like National and Hallicrafters went out of the amateur radio manufacturing business for reasons that had nothing to do with license requirements. Nothing at all.
Consider what happened to US manufacturing of TV sets. Once upon a time, the USA led the world in TV manufacture, but in the 1970s-1980s that lead was lost. I don't know if there is any manufacturing of TV sets left in the USA at all today. Not only is there no license required for a TV set but there is increased demand for them.
Today one of the fastest growing countries with new radio amateurs is China. Up until a few years ago there were hardly any radio amateurs in China. Today there are over 20000. Most of these new Chinese radio amateurs are equivalent to the Technician class licensees in the USA as are the vast majority of Japanese radio amateurs who are limited to VHF -UHF frequencies. They are not permitted hf operation.
All classes of Japanese amateur radio license are permitted some HF operation. Been that way since the beginning. I don't know about China. Where do you get your statistics?
I doubt if their was not a substantial market out there for the buying and selling of hf equipment Elecraft would never have started. Unlike a lot of other radio amateur radio manufacturing companies elecraft only limits their sales to HF radios and do not manufacture radios also for commercial or military uses as do most of the other manufacturers of amateur radios .
Elecraft started because they saw a market niche that wasn't being addressed. Many Elecraft models do CW only. They also make transverters for VHF/UHF and some models are capable of 6 meters right out of the box, so they do not limit their sales to "HF radios" only.
What holds back the number of US hams isn't the license requirements. They have been reduced to the point that "Technician in a day" classes are available, and have a very high success rate.
What limits our growth are the following:
1) There are only so many people who are interested in "radio for its own sake", which is what amateur radio is really all about. You could give away licenses and equipment, and the vast majority of people would say "no thank you, I've got a cell phone/internet/etc."
2) Lack of publicity
3) Antenna restrictions
4) Lack of know-how. Simply making the license easy to get doesn't mean a new ham will know what to do with it.
Making the licenses easier to get is not the answer.
73 de Jim, N2EY