How to Make First Contact on Ham Radio

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The first step in communication on ham radio is learning how to identify yourself. The International Amateur Radio Union(IARU) has established protocols for how communications should be initiated and carried out.

The first time that you search through the different frequencies, you should expect to hear something like “CQ CQCQ, this is Foxtrot Sierra Three Whiskey.” This is the globally accepted way of initiating contact.

CQ is a simple way to let people know that you are available for communication. “Foxtrot Sierra Three Whiskey” is a unique identifier that is also known as a call sign.

Make First Contact on Ham Radio

The NATO Phonetic Alphabet

Communication via radio frequencies can be very difficult due to poor quality, especially over long distances. This has caused many problems for intelligence gathering and military officials in western countries. This is why many countries in the early 20th century developed their own alphabets to represent letters that were misinterpreted over the radio. An internationally recognized alphabet was eventually developed and is now used by all ham radio communicators. This is its structure:

  • A is Alpha • B is Bravo • C is Charlie   • D is Delta
  • E is Echo • F is Foxtrot • G is Golf    • H is Hotel
  • I is India • J is Juliet • K is Kilo      • L is Lima
  • M is Mike • N is November • O is Oscar  • P is Papa
  • Q is Quebec • R is Romeo • S is Sierra    • T is Tango
  • U is Uniform •V is Victor •W is Whiskey • X is X Ray
  • Y is Yankee • Z is Zulu

When responding to a person calling you, start by acknowledging him/her and repeating their call sign before stating your own. The standard operating procedure is to state your own call sign three times. However, if the signal is clear then twice will suffice. This is referred to as the 1 by 3 rule. When this is accomplished, you will have successfully started communicating on Ham radio.

Can Morse Code be Used on Ham Radio?

The answer here is a definitive yes. Communication using Morse code over ham radio is relatively simple. The only difference is that Morse code is being used instead of speech. Morse code on ham radio is referred to as CW. To tune in, follow the following protocols:

  • Tune into CW mode and adjust the HF band to 20-30kHz.
  • Adjust to a wide filter since a narrow filter blocks out signals.
  • Adjust tuning control, until you find something suitable.
  • Narrow the filter, if it sounds crowded.

Why You May Fail to Get A Response

The first time you send a shout out, you may fail to get a response. If this happens, do not despair because there could be many reasons why this happens. The most common reason is that the person you are trying to contact is not listening at the same time you are broadcasting. The easiest solution is to have predetermined times of communication. Another problem could be that your broadcasting strength is too weak to be carried over long distances. This could also be why the other person was not able to hear you.

Advantages of Ham Radio

There are places on earth where ham radio is the only viable means of communication. This is because radio signals can travel over vast distances. This can be very useful in places without cell towers and therefore mobile phones.

Some people may use ham radios for professional reason for example truckers or spies but most people will use it for fun casual reasons. The portability of ham radios also means it is easy to stay in touch with friends regardless of where you are. Some people link their ham radio communications to anonymous dark-net channels for even greater anonymity. This guarantees 100% secrecy and privacy for your communications.

How To Strengthen Your Signal

Anyone new to the ham radio community needs to learn the importance of repeaters and the vital role they play in the ecosystem. A repeater listens in for radio signals and then re-sends the signals on another frequency. The objective is to help weak signals to reach even further locations.

Repeaters often work best from tall buildings because it is possible to capture weak signals from handheld radios. Repeaters are often done professionally due to the cost of maintaining the equipment. Therefore, it would be wise to join a local radio club to support their activities and to gain access to the amazing benefits they provide.

Unfortunately, even repeaters can sometimes be affected by interference from nearby electrical equipment. This is why “tone access” is so important. It effectively blocks out all other signals, except specified frequencies that a repeater wishes to receive and transmit. It accomplishes this task by looking for a specific tone. If it is lacking, the repeater will simply ignore the radio signal. You should get a repeater directory in order to get the correct tones for the area you are transmitting from.

Advantages Of A Simplex Call

Some operators prefer direct communication instead of going through repeaters. There are a few reasons for this. The first is the privacy of direct communication because only the two of you are talking. Simple operations are less crowded and, therefore, communication is clear and easy. If you wish to use direct communication, then it is advised that you buy a strong antenna. Otherwise, you may experience signal weakness.


When you are new to the ham radio community, it can be very challenging due to the complex terminologies. Don`t let these things scare you. Within a week, it is possible to get completely comfortable in the community. Just keep the following things in mind:

  • Learn the phonetic NATO alphabet.
  • Initiate contact using proper protocol.
  • Learn to switch between simplex and repeater operations.
  • Learn to set the code you wish.

If you are a casual ham radio user, then it is sometimes fun to just keep your radio open for anyone out there who is lonely and wants to chat. Many lifelong friendships have started this way. Unfortunately, many new ham users give up too quickly because they don’t immediately get a response to their calls. If you learn to be patient and you will eventually be as good as everyone else.

Also Read:

1. How To Get Ham Radio License Without Hassle – Complete Checklist
2. How to Build a Ham Radio from Scratch – Ultimate Guide
3. Amateur Radio Contests: What Exactly Are They

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