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Operating Practices for using Repeaters

We are sometimes asked what are good practices for operators when using repeaters - and sometimes hear one operator complaining about some aspect of another's operating.

As a group, we cannot dictate how anyone operates through the repeaters, and we all must remember that all repeaters are open for use by all licenced Amateurs, provided that they operate within the terms and conditions of their licences.  It is also worth remembering that getting wound up by someone else causes stress - and sometimes it's best to simply ignore (or change channel for a bit!)

However here are some thoughts which we would recommend that users bear in mind.

  • All repeaters are there for the benefits of many users, and so we should all give others a chance to break in, especially in busy times.  The main function of the timeout is as an incentive to keep overs from going on for too long, and to ensure that a break is left at reasonable intervals.  The one second wait for a K or tone pip provides an opportunity for others to break in, but it is a good idea to occasionally leave a longer break to make sure that there is enough time for someone who needs to jump in to have an opportunity to do so.

  • Repeaters were originally justified to provide mobile coverage, as mobile to mobile range on VHF and UHF can be very limited. Fixed stations are welcome to use the repeaters, and repeaters provide a good means for stations to keep in touch over long distances.   However fixed stations should always be careful to leave breaks to allow mobiles to call in and use the repeaters - it can be easier to lose track of time when sitting in the shack and starting to get into rag chewing mode.  The timeout should act as a reminder, and stations who often hit the timeout should think about talking less and leaving more or longer breaks as part of their normal operating habits.

  • If the stations in a QSO can hear each other on the input channel, then think about getting off the repeater and moving to a simplex channel, leaving the repeater free for other users.  In these days of multiband rigs and antenna, maybe another band would provide a simplex opportunity?

  • If a repeater is busy, remember that there are two others on different bands on site - you might be able to move your QSO to one of the others.  For example, 6m has even better coverage than 70cm, and is generally quieter.  23cm is a lot quieter still.

  • Callsigns should be given with sufficient frequency - and clarity - that listeners can identify you.  This does not mean that it's necessary to give everyone's callsign at the beginning and end of each transmission - this in itself can be a complete waste of airtime.  However if overs are stretching to minutes long, then it is courteous to give your own callsign at the beginning and end of your transmission.  If you are operating break in, then obviously it is much more efficient to only identify every few overs.  As a general rule though, the '15 minute rule' is probably too infrequent for most repeater operation - a mobile operator can drive a fair distance in 15 minutes (if he or she is lucky with the traffic, anyway).  Periodic use of the recognised phonetic alphabet can help as well (although some personalised phonetics don't always help give clarity).  It is also good operating practice for mobile stations to periodically give their location.

  • Finally, please give a thought for group members who have to carry out engineering on the repeaters.  After a trek through rain and mud to reach the site for some engineering activity, we are usually very keen to get on with whatever job is at hand.  It is therefore very helpful if users could put their QSOs on hold if requested by the repeater engineers.  Also remember that we have the off switch to hand...

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Updated 2nd July 2024

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