March 2024

Let’s talk about repeater/reflector etiquette for both analog and digital modes. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules Subpart B covers good practices we should follow when we are operating our stations on the air and on a repeater. If you don’t have a copy of the FCC Part 97 rules and regulations, you should get a copy and have it handy in your station.    

FCC Rules, Subpart B, §97.101(a) states “ In all respects not specifically covered by FCC rules each amateur station must be operated in accordance with good engineering and good amateur practice.”  In other words, we are expected to maintain our station equipment and our operating standards at the highest levels. Get familiar with the complete Subpart B. It’s the start of forming good operating and repeater etiquette.

One of the first things we learned when operating on a repeater is to monitor the repeater to see if another conversation is in progress. Remember we have two ears and one mouth. This means we should listen twice as much as we transmit. Do not interrupt the conversation unless you have something constructive (not an opinion) to add to the conversation.

To initiate a conversation on a repeater simply say, “Is this repeater in use? then give call sign or say, “This is (your call sign) then say monitoring.”

Many times, people think that they are still talking on their cellphones and forget to give their call sign at the end of each transmission or every 10 minutes. Also, remember when using digital modes some countries do not allow digital ID’s. So, if you are talking to someone in a foreign country, give your ID by voice.

Pause between each transmission long enough for the repeaters/reflectors to reset their timers. When operating on a series of analog linked repeaters make that pause twice as long. On the digital repeaters when you unkey you will hear some beeps indicating that the repeaters and reflectors are reset. When continuing a transmission key up the microphone and wait a couple of seconds before beginning to talk. This gives the repeaters and reflectors enough time to key up and transmit what you are saying.

Keep transmissions short. Analog repeaters have a 2-minute time-out-timer to protect the equipment. By default, D-Star repeaters and reflectors time-out-timers are 3-minutes. Although some system administrators have set their D-Star repeaters time-out-timers back to 2-minutes.

The wait between transmissions from one operator to another should be extended another couple of seconds to allow someone with an emergency traffic time to break in and announce they have emergency traffic. Emergency traffic ALWAYS has priority.

When operating on a net always follow the instructions of the net control. On a digital net do not try to quick key between transmissions if you are simply trying to check into the net. The net control will call for more check-ins when he/she is ready to take them. You will most likely end up doubling with someone else. Doubling should be avoided. We used to say key the microphone and say, “This is (unkey and listen for other operators checking in) then key back up and give your call sign.”  But that has been debunked. It only make the nets go longer.

In an analog repeater system when two operators double with each other the repeater will try to repeat the transmission. Ending up in unintelligent noises being transmitted. In D-Star this double is seen as packet crashes and the repeater will not transmit anything. Suddenly everything goes silent for a while until the systems are reset. Do not key your radio while this is happening. It will only prolong the silence. Give the equipment time to reset.

Tailgating is when someone keys up their radio before the repeaters/reflectors have had time to reset their timers. In the analog world the second operator is going to be cut off before they finish their transmissions. In the digital world the operator that didn’t wait for the equipment to reset will have the other person’s call sign showing on the receiver’s display.

If a conversation can be completed on a simplex frequency, then use it. Repeaters are really for mobile radios and handheld radios to extend the distance.

When using a repeater (analog or digital) use the minimum amount of power to complete the conversation. When using high power to close to a repeater could overdrive the front end and could damage the repeaters receiver.  Check out Part §97.313(a)

One last thing not really pertaining to etiquette. When using D-Star to check your signal use the Echo function on the repeater. To do this place the letter E in the eight-character position in the Your Call field. Speak into the microphone then unkey and the repeater will repeat back to you what you said. To use the echo feature on a reflector. Connect your hotspot to the E-module on the reflector (do not try this on modules A-D). The E-module has a 30 second timer so keep the test short. When testing your connection when sending an image select the lowest resolution possible and select an image with little to no color. Then send the image. The reflector will send the image back. You can evaluate the connection without having to have someone else present.

Questions and comments are always welcome and encouraged. Send an email to the address shown below.

Lew Maxwell, KB5HPT

Amateur Radio Emergency Service

DEC, District 6, WTX Section