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 on.
So the first time you peruse through different frequencies you should expect to hear something like “CQ CQ CQ 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. The “Foxtrot Sierra Three Whiskey” is a unique identifier also known as a call sign.
The NATO Phonetic Alphabet
Communication via radio frequencies can be very difficult due to poor quality especially over long distances. This caused a lot of problems for spies and military officials in western countries. This is why different countries in the early 20th century developed their own alphabets to represent letters that were mis-heard over radio. Eventually an internationally recognized alphabet came into being and it is 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 but if the signal is clear then twice will suffice. This is referred to as the 1 by 3 rule. With this accomplished you will have successfully started communicating on Ham radio.
Can Morse Code Be Used Over Ham Radio?
The answer here is a definitive yes. Communication using morse code over ham radio is actually quite simple with the only difference being the use of morse code 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 because a narrow filter blocks out signals.
- Adjust tuning control until you find something suitable to you.
- Narrow the filter if sounds are 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 is happens, do not despair because there could be a number of good reasons why this was the case. The most common reason is that the person you are trying to contact is not listening in at the same time you are broadcasting. The easiest solution here is to have predetermined times of communication. Another problem is that your own broadcasting strength is too weak to be carried over long distances which is 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 these signal on another frequency. The objective of this is to help weak signals to reach even further locations.
Repeaters often work best from tall buildings because from here it is possible to capture weak signals from hand held radios. Repeaters are often done professionally due to the cost of maintaining the equipment and so it would be wise to join a local radio club to support the endeavour and 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 out for a specific tone and if it lacking then the repeater will simply ignore a 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 as opposed to 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 quite daunting due to the complex terminologies. Don`t let these things scare you, the truth is that 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. So learn to be patient and in time you will be just as good as everyone else.