Is any antenna better than no antenna at all?

At first, the statement “any antenna better than no antenna at all” seems to some to be an obvious truth, a truism… but is it?

Let’s first consider the contexts where it is most often used.

It is often used to justify an antenna that would otherwise be seen to be lacking or deficient, or perhaps even unsatisfactory, and provides a comforting reassurance to the owner that “oh well, anything is better than nothing, as it allows me to QSO”.

In more recent times, there has been a stronger focus on ElectroMagnetic Radiation (EMR) safety, and many administrations have introduced regulations for EMR safety. To any responsible amateur, an antenna must observe the applicable EMR safety regulations, “any antenna” is not good enough if it is unsafe..

Another dimension to consider is that of prevention of interference to other electronic devices, especially in neighbour’s premises. An antenna that ignores this risk may well quietly develop neighbourhood problems that will be difficult to overcome at a later time. Just “any antenna” is not good enough if it worsens the risk of interference.

The “anything is better than nothing” approach is often cited by low power stations, but if anything, having a power “handicap” is all the more reason to ensure excellent transmit efficiency. On the low HF bands, as a consequence of the relatively high external noise level, a high loss antenna may well receive most stations with S/N almost as good as a good antenna, but the high loss will degrade transmit performance in a way that cannot be afforded when running low power. Just “any antenna” is not good enough if you don’t have a good chance of being heard.

No, the more I think about it, “any antenna better than no antenna at all” is not a truism (ie an obvious truth), it is a trite statement that denies the importance of an effective antenna to an amateur radio station. It dumbs amateur radio down.

By all means, lets be positive and encourage people to erect an antenna to be active and participate in the hobby, but lets be supportive with information be erect a safe, sound, effective antenna and stimulate interest in antennas rather than devaluing the role of the antenna in an amateur station.

© Copyright: Owen Duffy 1995, 2021. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.