Repeater Best Practices

Starting a QSO

Using the term "CQ" when looking for a radio contact is commonly used in just about every Ham radio band and mode of transmission except for FM repeaters.  VHF and UHF repeaters are always ON and almost always monitored by someone so calling "CQ" on these bands is not the accepted practice.  Mind you it is not illegal to call "CQ" on local repeaters, however, most seasoned Hams would equate this procedure to calling "Breaker Breaker 19" on the 11 meter Citizen Band, and most likely would not answer your call. 

The accepted method when looking for a contact on FM repeaters is to:

  • Listen for at least 15 seconds to see if the repeater is in use
  • If the repeater is quiet, key your MIC and say "This is AF9W listening", or "AF9W monitoring", or "AF9W standing by" or just “AF9W”.
  • If there are others using the repeater and you wish to join the conversation, wait for a pause between the other station's transmissions, and quickly announce your call sign "AF9W", then un-key.  Assuming the others heard your call they will invite you into the conversation.  If you do not get a response, repeat the process until you do.

During the QSO

While operating on a repeater you will notice a "Beep" signal after each station un-keys their MIC.  This is called a courtesy beep and it has two purposes:

1.The "Beep" is there to let everyone know that the current transmitting station has finished talking.

2.The "Beep" indicates that the 2-minute timer on each repeater has reset, and it is OK for the next station to begin transmitting.  The 2-minute timer is there to prevent damage to the repeater transmitter from extended "ON" time caused by station operators that don't know when to take a break.  It is also necessary to comply with FCC rules governing interference.

Unfortunately, some folks forget about the timers, talk over the limit, and then time-out the repeaters which causes them all to shut down until the received station stops transmitting.  Since all four OVARC repeaters are linked for simulcast via the Internet, inherent ISP latency combined with the individual repeater timers creates chaos when someone times out a repeater.  It takes a long time for everyone and everything to reset and get back to normal.  Operators should be cognizant of these problems and avoid timing out the repeaters. 

Remember to leave a pause between transmissions so that other stations may break in to join the conversation.  Without this pause it is frustrating for an operator trying to join the conversation and not being able because the other stations are "Too fast on the Key".  Please leave a 5 second pause after a station stops transmitting and before you start transmitting.

Another point of proper operation when using linked simulcast repeaters is handling of the transmission delay caused by both RF and the Internet.  If operators don’t consider this delay it is most likely that the first few syllables of their transmissions will be lost and not heard on the linked repeaters.  This could equate to the first two or three letters of an operators call sign, or the entire message if the reply was for example "OK".  For general "Rag Chew" communications, missing these first few seconds of a transmission is annoying to everyone because they have to ask, "What did you say"?  However, in emergency or Priority situations repeats required by missing information can cost valuable time. 

Proper operation on linked repeaters means waiting a few seconds between the time the PPT button is pressed and when the operator starts speaking.  During a QSO on the OVARC system:

  • Press your PTT button to key your transmitter
  • Wait at least 2 seconds before speaking your message

This should prevent messages from being garbled by the linking delays.

Final thoughts

Remember that when you are using a repeater system there are many people listening to your conversation.  Maintain the proper social graces while operating.  Also, don’t monopolize the repeater.  If you want to have a long private conversation with someone think about whether you can make contact via a simplex frequency.  If so, move off of the repeater.  If you don’t mind others joining the conversation then stay on the repeater.  If another operator needs to use the repeater for another short conversation then please be courteous and relinquish the repeater to them.  Conversely, don’t break into another conversation only to start a long-winded conversation of your own. 

 

The OVARC repeater system is a shared resource for the use and enjoyment of any amateur operator that can access the system.  If we all operate in a proper and courteous fashion it will make the system more enjoyable for everyone. 

Additional information