REPEATER ETTIQUETTE & OPERATING PROCEDURES

 

 

 

The Repeaters are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and the users of our repeaters MUST comply with ALL FCC mandated rules and regulations. Repeaters are part of amateur radio, and ham radio is a hobby and should be FUN, however, common sense requires that some basic guidelines be followed.

 

Remember, repeaters are not a direct line. They are a “party line” over which your words are heard from the Vermont border to Long Island Sound, and from Pittsfield to Worcester. Other hams, governmental and local agencies, as well as TV and radio stations monitor our frequencies. Your comments are a reflection of you as a person and of ham radio in general.

 

IN ADDITION to the FCC Regulations, there are basic operating procedures that help to optimize the use of the repeaters and to promote a positive experience for all users.

 

While not all-inclusive, the following procedures establish a baseline for all repeater users to follow. If you follow these few guidelines, you will be acting as a responsible member of the amateur community, and you will have a pleasant D-STAR experience!!

 

Program your radio correctly:

To use the repeaters sponsored by the Pioneer Valley Repeater Association or the CT. DSTAR Users Group (AA1HD, W1HDN, N1GAU, KD1STR, and KB1UHS) you MUST have your call sign in the YOURCALL field. Also be sure that you have the repeater call sign in both the RPT1 and RPT2 fields.

 

In the RPT1 field the call sign MUST be followed by the repeater module designator (A=1.2GHz, B=440 or C=2m) in the 8th position of the field.

 

In the RPT2 field you MUST follow the repeater call sign with the letter “G” in the 8th  position of the field.

 

Not programming your radio as indicated above violates our rules for using the repeaters and you may be asked not use our repeaters.

 

Please turn on the “Busy Lockout” feature in your radio. This will prevent you from doubling with someone else.

 

Leave Pauses:

D-STAR is a different animal than analog. DO NOT Quick key!! It is a good practice to count to 5 between transmissions. This give others a chance to join in or announce there presence. There is no such thing as double-keying and hearing some indication that a double-key has occurred. If you double-key with someone else chances are good that one of you won’t be heard and nobody will know you transmitted.

 

Your transmissions are turned into digital data streams and then transmitted. Additional data is also transmitted each time you key your PPT, like your callsign, message and location (if GPS is turned on). This takes time to clear through the repeater(s) and gateway especially if several are linked together. So please leave a pause between your transmissions.

 

IRCDDB requirement:

Our local repeaters feed information to the Ircddb system in order to enhance the routing capabilities of D-STAR. One of the features is a webpage where all transmissions can be seen in real-time, know as the Ircddb.live page. .

 

This system was created overseas and there were privacy concerns voice by the Europeans. The developers decided that individuals would need to opt-in to be visible. If you look at the page you will see ********** for those who have not opted-in.

 

In order to have your call sign visible you would need to make ONE transmission, on one of our systems, with the words VIS***ON (* = spaces) in the URCALL field. The "ON" needs to be in characters 7 & 8. 

 

Please be sure to do this as we use this information to monitor or systems usage. Failure to do this could lead to being uninvited from using our systems. if you have a REAL privacy concern please contact, via email, W1FJM at W1FJM dot com or KB1AEV at COX dot net.

 

Listen Before You Talk:

When preparing to use the repeater, be sure to listen before you press the PTT. Please remember to key your microphone and pause for a second or two to insure that ALL the links come up and your transmission is not cut off at the beginning. When you turn on your rig, check your volume setting to be sure you can hear any activity on the repeater. It is also good practice to ask if the repeater is in use, there may be a net in progress or someone may be waiting for another party to respond or return to the air shortly. Simply ask, “Is the repeater in use? This is <your callsign>”.

 

With the proliferation of dual band/dual display radios, be sure you are set up to transmit on the desired band and/or frequency.

 

Admit to Your Mistakes!

Accidents are bound to happen – you may inadvertently transmit into an ongoing conversation because you forgot one of the points above. The best way to handle this is to apologize for your error! Be a responsible adult- you will gain more respect through your regret, in spite of your mistake!

 

Station Identification:

All stations should identify themselves using their FCC assigned callsign upon:

Initially transmitting on the repeater (strongly suggested);

Every ten minutes thereafter (not required as your radio identifies you but it is still a good habit);

When they end their conversation or “sign off” (required).

 

In addition, when operating in a net or “roundtable” your callsign should be announced more frequently if needed to facilitate efficient communication.

 

Any transmission on the repeater which is not either indicating you are listening, or calling another station or stations before communication is established is considered “Broadcasting” and is not allowed on Amateur Radio and on the repeater.

 

When initially coming on a repeater, (which is not previously in use verified by LISTENING for a reasonable time or, if you’re not sure ask, “Is the repeater in use?” PRIOR to transmitting), it is only necessary to announce your call. If you would like to solicit a conversation, you can announce your presence on the repeater by stating, “<your callsign> listening”.

 

Testing:

To test repeater access, DON’T just kerchunk the repeater without identifying!  Instead, use the term “testing”. Example: "<your callsign> testing".

 

If you want a signal report from another amateur, state that in plain English. Example: “This is <your callsign>, can someone give me a signal report?”

 

 

Do not use the repeater frequency to check antenna SWR or to do other equipment checks. Move to simplex if possible and use a dummy load.

 

Demonstrations:

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, "<Your Call sign> for a demonstration." Anyone who is listening to the repeater can answer them back. If you answer such a call, give the calling party your name, callsign, and location, not a lengthy conversation. Someone doing a demo may ask for stations in a particular area to show the range of amateur radio communications, such as, if the calling station is in Torrington, CT, they may ask for any stations in the Hartford area, which is more interesting than demonstrating that they can talk to someone in the same town as they are in.

 

Making a Call:

If you are trying to contact a specific station, you should announce, … "<Callsign of station being called> - this is - <your callsign>". Your callsign is stated AFTER the station you want to call.  If you do not get an answer after a couple calls, announce “<your callsign> - clear”. This lets everyone else listening know that you have released the repeater for others to use.

 

If the repeater is already in use, please wait for a pause between transmissions to announce your call. If you want to contact another station not in the current conversation, ask if you can make a call in plain English. Simply announce Call Please or state, “<your callsign> for a call”.

 

Make your call when the parties using the repeater turn the repeater over to you. If you contact the party you are seeking, turn the repeater back to the person who turned it over to you, thank them for letting you in, and move to another frequency to hold your conversation no matter how short you think it might take.

 

If you do not get a response from the party you are seeking, turn the repeater back to the person who turned it over to you, and thank them for letting you in.

 

When a new station enters the roundtable, those stations using the repeater, and the next station in rotation should acknowledge the new station AND turn it over to them, or let them know what their place is in the rotation. Also indicate who they should turn it over to in order to keep the rotation intact. Remember to give your name as a matter of introduction so everyone becomes familiar with you!

 

When in a roundtable discussion make it a practice to turn the repeater over to the next party in the conversation. Don’t assume everyone will remember when it is their turn. Not turning it over can cause confusion and instigates double-keying which does not play well in the D-STAR world.

 

When Callsign Routing:

You will not know if there is a conversation taking place on a remote repeater so you may have to make your call several times before you are heard.

 

It is important that you let stations on the repeater you are routing to know what repeater/gateway and module you are transmitting from. This gives the users of the other repeater enough information so they can react to your call. With D-STAR, a call from a remote repeater, that is not linked to the one you are on, does not let you respond automatically. The users of the remote system need to take some action in order for their response to get back to you. Usually they will hit their “one touch” button, but they won’t know to do that is you don’t tell them you are coming in from a different repeater. It is a good practice to make your call in the following manner;

Announce yourself with your callsign followed by “via the” “your repeater callsign and module”, like this: W1ABC via the AA1HD module C in Vernon, CT.

Repeat this several times without un-keying so the remote station has time to push their one-touch button while you are transmitting.

 

Give enough time between attempts to allow the remote station to reply. Remember, they can’t just put their PTT. They need to find the one-touch button, push it while you were transmitting.

 

D-PRS Procedures(thanks to the Northern Ohio Digital Interconect Group for these procedures): 

Many D-Star users may want to connect a GPS to their radio for tracking purposes similar to the APRS (Automated Position Reporting System) mode in use on 144.39 MHz.  In the digital world, this feature is referred to as DPRS, with the letter "D" referring to the fact that the data is passed over the air using D-Star's Digital Modulation rather than AFSK modulation as used in APRS. 

 

There is another important difference to consider.  APRS is operated on a data-only frequency (144.39 MHz), so there are no voice users to worry about.  Therefore, it is very common for APRS users to configure their equipment to automatically beacon their GPS information every few minutes. 

 

With DPRS, your GPS data is transmitted on the main repeater channel, which is primarily dedicated to voice users.  When you set your D-Star radio to automatically beacon your GPS data, each automatic beacon keys the repeater momentarily, causing any voice users to hear the typical D-Star "beep" when the repeater unkeys.  Now, think how annoying it would be for voice users to hear a "beep" after every automatic beacon. 

  

Now, let's picture five DPRS users, each with their radio set to automatically beacon every five minutes.  That would be 60 "beeps" per hour.  There is also the possibility of beacons colliding with voice users.  The DPRS users would become pretty unpopular, pretty quickly! 

 

The solution to this problem is for DPRS users to set their radios to transmit GPS data on PTT only.  That way, your GPS data is transmitted each time you manually key up to talk and we eliminate the aforementioned problems.

 

Again, the CTDSTAR system is a shared system with voice users having priority.  With that in mind, CTDSTAR requires that DPRS users set their radios to transmit GPS data during "PTT Only" while operating on the CTDSTAR system.  We consider this stipulation both common sense and good amateur practice.

 

Likewise, there may be situations that DPRS automatic beaconing may be desirable, such as during a public service event where our served agencies may want accurate and up-to-date position info, fox hunts, special scheduled activities for DPRS users, etc.  These situations would typically occur during a Directed Net or similar coordinated activity.  DO NOT use DPRS automatic beaconing on a repeater connected to a reflector. 

 

     Thanks in advance for your cooperation!

 

Being a courteous ‘guest’:

Whenever you use a repeater that belongs to a group to which you are not a member, or belongs to an individual and you do not support the repeater (especially when you are traveling in an area not frequented), it is always common courtesy to thank the group for allowing you to use the system, similar to what you would do if you borrowed someone’s cell phone to make a call. Simply state, “This is <your callsign> clear – Thank you for the use of the repeater” when signing off. It is likely that no one will say “your welcome”, but rest assured that someone heard you, and accepted your gratitude.

 

If you frequently use a repeater, it is courteous to join the organization that is responsible for maintaining the system, or in the case of a system under single party ownership, asking the owner if he accepts donations towards the upkeep of the system. Repeaters are expensive to maintain, and keeping them on the air and running efficiently takes a lot of time and capital. Even if a repeater is considered “open”, that does not make it a public utility- your support is important.

 

A guest is considered to be someone who uses a system on an infrequent basis. The term guest has its limits however…. If your mother in law asked you if she could stay at your house for a while, and proceeded to stay for several months, at what point would the term ‘guest’ no longer apply? The same rationale applies to the use of a repeater!

 

Emergency Calls:

ONLY USE THE TERM "BREAK" OR "BREAK BREAK" in an emergency or life-threatening situation.

 

All stations using the repeater should pause after the previous station drops the carrier (releases the PTT) to minimize inadvertent "doubling" (simultaneous transmission) and to allow time for new stations to identify.

 

If an incoming station announces an emergency with a single or double "break", the repeater is to be given to them IMMEDIATELY for their traffic.

 

Jargon and Techno-speak:

Communication should be in plain language, as if you were communicating over the telephone. Although you may hear many others using them, "Q" codes are not required and their use should be minimized (“Q” codes were established for CW communications then extended to HF voice to facilitate quick and easy intelligibility- on VHF or UHF this is not necessary).

 

"10" codes should not be used, and avoid using CB "handles" in place of your name! Many hams can trace their radio roots to CB, but if you are a current or former CB’er, please leave your CB lingo behind. Ham radio is a whole different country from CB. Using your CB ways on the repeater is the fastest way to be labeled a LID (a bad operator).

 

Similarly, phonetics should be reserved for those instances when they are required or where ambiguity should be avoided (minimal signal / emergency traffic for example).

 

Interjecting a Comment:

If listening to a conversation and you want to make a “comment” you should come into the conversation between transmissions by first identifying with your call sign and then state your intention. Example: “<your callsign> with a comment”. If you are not able to join in the conversation due to time or other constraints, make your comment when the participants turn it over to you, sign out, and turn the repeater back to the individual who turned it over to you or to the next person in the rotation, depending upon circumstance. Remember to thank the participants for letting you in, and remember to clear with your callsign.

 

 

Extraneous Tones and Identifiers:

Except when required for control or identification purposes, extraneous audible content should NOT be transmitted before, during or at the completion of a transmission. This includes DTMF tones, your background TV or music on the car stereo.

 

 

Proper and legal operating etiquette is 95% common sense. While the above limits on content are not all inclusive, they should make clear the type of communication that is NOT appropriate.

 

The FCC requires the Control Operators to monitor the repeaters to insure compliance with the rules. We would not like to hear illegal or sloppy operating habits on our repeaters, because such problems could cause FCC actions against us. We should all be mindful of our operating procedures- Newer users of the repeater will copy our poor practices, purely out of the ignorance of proper procedures, and likely will add their own errant ways into the mix. Let’s avoid this downward spiral!

 

The repeater Trustee and Control Operators have the right and the duty to shut the repeater down should a warning of an FCC rule violation go unheeded. Remember that they have the responsibility of preserving the trustee’s license and any activity on the repeater results in the de-facto involvement of the trustee.