Often one of the questions we get from new Amateurs is how to talk on and use repeaters. This sometimes will stop a new amateur from using a repeater for a while because they are afraid of doing it wrong.
Our repeaters are there to be used by every Amateur that wants to use them. And while there is no “law” for repeater use beyond the FCC regulations there are some Etiquette around the use of repeaters.
This page will walk through some of common etiquette items and common questions we get.
This is first on the list because it is one of the most annoying things for a repeater operator and people that listen to the repeater a lot.
Just in case you do not what Kerchunking is… Kerchunking is when you press the PTT and then let off without any speaking.
Some people will kerchunk the repeater but never talk. If you kerchunk the repeater to get it to wake up and ID before starting a new net or QSO that is fine because you follow up the kerchunk with your callsign and start a real net or QSO.
Some people think that kerchunking the repeater is a way to test your radio but it really is not a valid test. Read the FAQ on about why a kerchunk is not a valid test.
The FCC rules state that you must ID at the end of a conversation and every 10 minutes. Just a Kerchunk (or many) does not meet the regulations.
Bottom line, do not kerchunk the repeater and not ID.
An amateur radio repeater has to follow all of the same FCC Rules and Regulations you do as a licensed radio operator.
The repeater will ID itself every 10 minutes while it is in use.
You as an FCC licensed amateur radio operator are also required to ID every 10 minutes and at the end of a conversation. This applies to using the repeater also.
Aside from some of the “techno-syncracies” inherent in amateur radio terms, please use plain conversational English.
The kind of English that would be suitable for prime-time television, not R rated movies.
Avoid starting or encouraging conflicts on the air. If a topic of conversation starts to draw strong debate, change the subject.
This is not CB Radio
- Avoid using 10-Codes.
- Avoid “radio-ese” lingo whenever possible. CB has its own language style and so does Amateur Radio, but the two are not the same.
- Amateurs have “Names”, not “Handles”.
- Although many new hams have graduated from the CB ranks, let’s try to keep the CB lingo off the amateur bands.
Politics and Religion
Do not talk about politics or religion on the air. This includes conspiracy theories around politics, health and religion.
Health and Medicine
Do not provide any type of medical advice on the air. Avoid discussions around medicines and treatments. Like Politics and Religion, many people have strong opinions and it is best to not even go there.
When visiting a new repeater, take some time to monitor before jumping in to get a feel for the type of traffic and operating mannerisms of that particular system.
Some repeaters are very free-wheeling in that there are people jumping in and out of conversations constantly. Others primarily have directed calls on them and discourage ragchewing.
Others are member-exclusive repeaters. Listen before you talk and “When in Rome do as the Romans do”.
If there is malicious interference, such as “KERCHUNKING”, touch-tones, rude comments, etc. DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE IT! Continue the QSO in a normal fashion. If the interference gets to the level where it is impossible to carry on the QSO, simply end the QSO as you normally would or move to another frequency.
Use the minimum power necessary to complete a QSO.
However, the minimum power necessary doesn’t just mean you are barely opening the repeater receiver squelch.
If someone says that you are noisy, increase power or relocate or take whatever measures you can to improve your signal.
Continuing to make transmissions after being told your signal is noisy is inconsiderate to those listening.
We love to have our repeater active with people. Some people will not join into a conversation going on the repeater unless prompted.
Occasionally invite others by asking if there is anyone that would like join in. We want to welcome everyone onto the repeater and not have the repeater being “hogged” by a single group or conversation.
Voice and Digital
On our FM voice repeaters do not use digital data modes. Our FM repeaters are for voice only.
On our Digital repeaters, we have a mixture of voice / digital voice auto switch. If you hear noise on one of our repeaters and you are in FM mode it is probably transmitting in digital mode.
When we transmit digital we do not transmit PL tone so you can use Tone Squelch to stop the noise when the repeater is transmitting digital.
Most repeaters have a courtesy tone just before the transmitter stops transmitting. The ones that do not will have a squelch tail that will transmit for a second or so after the input carrier or tone drops.
After the courtesy tone or carrier drops if there is no courtesy tone, you should wait a second or two before keying up the mic.
This provides space for others to break in if needed.
Announcing you are available
When you are looking for someone to have a QSO with on the repeater….
Unlike on HF when you call CQ to find someone to talk to. On a repeater calling CQ is not common and not necessary.
On a repeater you can simply put out your callsign. You can add something like “listening”, “Monitoring”, etc.
If you are mobile you can use something like your callsign and then “Mobile”.
For example, if I was at home and listening I would say: “K3DO Monitoring”. If I was mobile I would say: “K3DO Mobile”.
If anyone is around and available they will respond to you and you can start a QSO.
Putting out a call every few minutes should be more than sufficient, and if someone hasn’t answered after a few tries, it probably means there is nobody around.
If someone is listening and wants to QSO, they will answer back. Avoid things like “is anybody out there” or “is there anybody around on frequency”.
Starting a QSO
There are basically 2 ways to start a QSO:
We talked above about how to find people on the repeater to talk to. But sometimes you want to talk to a specific radio operator.
You can do a Directed Call. In a directed call you put out the persons callsign you are looking for then your callsign.
For example if I wanted to talk to AB3RW I would say “AB3RW, K3DO” or “AB3RW from K3DO”.
During this time, it is not an invitation for other stations to jump in. If you hear someone trying to contact someone, wait until they make contact or the caller clears.
If you are trying to contact another operator and they do not respond, clear the repeater by saying something like: “K3DO Clear”. You can add to the end more details like: “K3DO clear but listening” or “K3DO clear and monitoring”.
The second method may seem a little obvious. It is just monitoring the repeater frequency and listening to those that are looking to make a contact.
People that are looking for a contact will put out their call sign, maybe their callsign with monitoring, listening, mobile etc.
When you hear that, answering the call will start a new QSO.
Joining into a QSO
If there is a conversation taking place on the repeater and you would like to join, simply put out your callsign when there‘s a break between transmissions.
Once you put out your callsign, one of the stations in the QSO, usually the station that was about to begin his/her transmission, will invite you to join in, either before making his own transmission or afterwards.
Don’t interrupt a QSO unless you have something to add to the topic at hand. Interrupting a conversion is no more polite on a repeater than it is in person.
Breaking into a QSO
If there is a QSO going on, break into a conversation with the word “BREAK” or “Break for Priority Traffic“. DO NOT USE THE WORD “BREAK” TO JOIN IN A QSO UNLESS THERE IS AN “EMERGENCY”! All stations should give IMMEDIATE PRIORITY to any station with “Emergency Traffic”.
For non emergency you can simply put out your callsign in the break. If everyone is using proper etiquette you should be able jump in there.
If you hear a break in, make sure you acknowledge them and put them into the roundtable rotation.
If you are unsure how well you are making it into the repeater, please DO NOT “KERCHUNK” the repeater.
Kerchunking is not a valid test if you are making the repeater, see our FAQ about kerchunking and testing the repeater.
Any time you key up the repeater, you should identify, even if you are just testing to see if you are making the machine. “K3DO test” is sufficient for this.
Do not use the repeater as a “target” for tuning or aiming antennas, checking your transmitter power, etc. Use a dummy load where appropriate, or test on a simplex frequency.
If you need someone to verify that you are making the repeater, ask for a signal report such as “K3DO, can someone give me a signal report?”
The term “Radio Check” is most often used on CB. Most Amateurs Operators ask for a “Signal Report“.
Do not use a repeater for events or contests without first getting the permission of the local repeater operator or trustee.
If there is an event going that is using the repeater do not start a QSO while the repeater is being used for the event.
Sometimes there is not much traffic for events and when you first start listening to the repeater you might know it is in use for an event. If you start a QSO, the net control operator should politely let you know the repeater is in use. No harm done.
From time to time, an amateur may want to demonstrate the capabilities of Amateur Radio to another non-amateur.
The typical way to do this is to ask for a “demo” such as “K3DO for a demonstration.” Anyone who is listening to the repeater can answer them back.
Someone doing a demo may ask for stations in a particular area to show the range of radio communications.
Nets and Round Table QSOs
When more than two amateurs are in a QSO, it is often referred to as a “Roundtable” discussion.
Such a QSO’s usually go in order from “Amateur A” to “Amateur B” to “Amateur C” … and eventually back to “Amateur A” again to complete the Roundtable.
To keep everyone on the same page, when any one amateur is done making a transmission, they “Turn it Over” to the next station in sequence.
You do this by sending it to the next person by saying “<your Callsign> over to <their callsign>”.
We have an entire section you can refer to for Net Etiquette for the different type of nets. You can read it here.
Some repeaters are linked together over a large geographic areas. These repeaters are many times setup for emergency communication but are open to everyone to use.
When selecting a repeater to use, consider where you are trying to communicate. If you are wanting to have a QSO with someone on the same repeater you are on, try to find another local repeater.
When you are having a QSO with someone on the same repeater node of a larger linked repeater system you are broadcasting your local conversation throughout the entire network, using up airtime, power and possibly interrupting other people who regular monitor the other repeaters for a QSO that is local to you not them.
Think of the others who might use the linked system and that you may be tying up the entire system for a conversation you could have had on a local repeater.
First, all of the etiquette above also applies to DMR. But DMR has some additional etiquette around it because of how it works.
With DMR there are hundreds of talk groups. The standard etiquette with DMR is that the state specific and other specific talk groups are like “calling” groups.
For long conversations you are supposed to move over to one the TAC talk groups.
This applies more to the DMR-Marc system than the Brandmeister system but is considered the standard.
However, that being put out there. As time goes by this etiquette is falling away and people are having long QSO’s on talk groups like 3124 (Maryland).
It is just important to be aware of this as you are using the DMR repeater because there might be someone out there that is being a stickler.
If you’d like to link the D-STAR repeater to a reflector, at a minimum check the info message to find out if the repeater is already linked. Then if the repeater isn’t linked, change URCALL to CQCQCQ and announce your call sign and your intention on the repeater before linking, for example “This is K3DO linking to reflector fourteen charlie.”
If the repeater is already linked, check to make sure that there is no one already using the repeater and connection but first checking before unlinking or re-linking. For example: “This is K3DO wanting to connect this repeater to reflector fourteen charlie, is anyone using the repeater?”. If there are no objections then go ahead and complete the linking process.
If you’re in another town listening to someone else’s D-STAR repeater and you’d like to link it, most people probably wouldn’t mind, assuming the repeater is idle. But please be as polite as possible; if you can, ask a local operator what the linking policy is. At a minimum, ask on the repeater if anyone minds before linking. Urban D-STAR repeaters with many users probably have stricter policies than rural repeaters with fewer users.