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Two-Way Radio Basics 101. I Got My License, Now What?! How the pieces fit together. How to communicate effectively. How to program your radio. Presented by the Saratoga Amateur Radio Association. Presentation Topics. Why amateur radio Radio equipment choices Repeaters

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Two way radio basics 101
Two-Way Radio Basics 101

I Got My License, Now What?!

  • How the pieces fit together.

  • How to communicate effectively.

  • How to program your radio.

    Presented by the

    Saratoga Amateur Radio Association

Presentation topics
Presentation Topics

  • Why amateur radio

  • Radio equipment choices

  • Repeaters

  • Communication tips

  • Nets

  • Problems & solutions

  • HT overview

  • Programming the HT

Why amateur radio
Why Amateur Radio?

  • More capability than FRS, GMRS, MURS or CB

    • Many more frequencies and operating modes available.

    • Better antennas are possible.

    • Higher power is possible.

    • High-quality equipment.

    • Disciplined/professional operators (usually).

    • Repeaters in place to provide improved coverage.

Radio equipment choices
Radio Equipment Choices

  • Fixed or mobile units

    • Intended for home or car installation

    • High power output – to 50 watts or more

    • Efficient antenna (can be)

    • Not suited for carrying around

  • Handheld transceiver (HT)

    • Designed to be carried around

    • Low power output – to 5 watts

    • Relatively inefficient antenna

  • Many models and choices

    • All compatible with each other


  • Most of our VHF (2-meter) & UHF (70 cm) communication is via repeaters.

  • Repeaters are owned and maintained by clubs or individuals.

  • Repeaters are licensed, have their own call letters, comply with FCC regulations, and are the responsibility of a designated trustee.

Repeater basics
Repeater Basics

  • A Repeater is a special type of transceiver.

  • “Repeats” signals to extend the range of handheld and mobile units.

    • Receives on one frequency while simultaneously re-transmitting on another.

  • Usually located in favorable locations with efficient antennas.

  • Transmits at many (10-100) times the power of a handheld radio.

  • Coverage depends upon the local “radio horizon,” perhaps 10 to 60 miles operating radius.

Fm repeater line of sight
FM Repeater (Line of Sight)

Repeater surprises
Repeater Surprises

  • The repeater might spontaneously identify (it has its own call letters).

    • Some use voice, some use Morse code.

    • Some announce the time on the hour.

  • Most repeaters have a timeout timer.

    • Turns off the transmitter after three minutes (typical) continuous transmission – an FCC requirement.

      • Longwinded talkers

      • Stuck microphone switches

      • Microphones dropped down between the car seats

    • The courtesy tone (beep) indicates that the timer has reset and the transmitter is back in service.

Repeater etiquette
Repeater Etiquette

  • Listen on the frequency before transmitting.

    • Avoid interfering with a communication already taking place.

  • To make it known that you are available for a contact, say “(your call), monitoring”.

    • e.g., AE6PM …. monitoring.

  • Identify yourself when experimenting with the repeater.

    • Unidentified transmissions are illegal (and annoying).

  • During a casual contact, pause occasionally to give someone else a chance to join in.

  • To join a conversation, simply say your call letters during a pause.

Communication tips

How to sound like a professional.

Communication tips1
Communication Tips

  • Speak in plain language and use common terminology.

    • Don’t use “10 codes” or “Q Signals” during emergencies.

    • “Q Signals” are ok in normal communication.

    • Avoid “10 codes” and TV show lingo.

  • Speak in a normal tone of voice.

    • Shouting only distorts the sound of your voice, it does nothing to increase the range.

    • If consistently overmodulating, back away from the microphone.

  • Only one person speaks at a time.

Communication tips2
Communication Tips

  • Use predetermined tactical call signs (emergency comm only).

    • Amateur radio operators must identify with their FCC assigned call sign at the end of a transmission or series of transmissions and at least once every 10 minutes during a transmission.

    • No need to say “for ID.” Why else would you identify yourself?

  • If someone seems to be in charge (a net control station, for example) listen to them and do what they say.

Communication tips3
Communication Tips

  • Use common procedural words:

    • THIS IS - Identifies who is calling.

      • Say the other persons call sign first, and then your call sign.

    • OVER - Means “I have finished speaking and it’s now your turn.”

    • GO AHEAD - Means “I’m ready to copy.”

    • COPY or ROGER - Means “I received and understand your communication.”

    • OUT or CLEAR - Means “I am finished and expect no reply.”

  • Always end with your callsign.

Communication tips4
Communication Tips

  • Do not speak immediately upon pressing the push-to-talk switch, because the first syllable will probably get “clipped.”

    • Hesitate for a fraction of a second before speaking.

    • System may need a fraction of a second to wake up.

  • When transmitting a formal (i.e., written) message, say five words at a time and ask for an acknowledgement after each five-word group.

Communication tips5
Communication Tips

  • Test your radio before separating from your group or partner.

  • Never say “we” when you mean “I”or “me.” Some hams do this, for whatever reason.

    • Gives an incorrect impression of the number of people involved in an incident.

    • Potential waste of rescue resources.

  • Use universally accepted (ITU) phonetics whenever possible.

    • When in doubt, use whatever phonetics come to mind.

NETS Phonetics

  • Organizing a group of communicators.

  • Maintaining order in the face of chaos.

Nets Phonetics

  • Nets are a way of organizing a group of radio communicators.

    • One station acts as Net Control.

    • Other stations report or respond in turn as requested by Net Control.

  • Nets are usually scheduled to occur on certain dates at certain times.

  • Nets may occur spontaneously just because several people have converged on a frequency.

  • Net Control could be anyone – even you!

Net etiquette
Net Etiquette Phonetics

  • The Net Control station maintains control of the communication situation at all times, until the net is closed and the frequency is returned to normal use.

  • The Net Control station assumes that all who have “checked into” the net are available.

    • Do not check someone into the net in their absence unless you have them in sight and they are ready to respond with their radios.

Net etiquette1
Net Etiquette Phonetics

  • Respond only to Net Control.

    • Get permission before contacting anyone else on the same frequency.

  • Answer promptly.

    • Monitor the radio continuously.

    • Answer immediately if you are called.

  • Don’t leave the net without notifying Net Control, or else until the net is closed.

Problems and solutions

“Stuff” happens.

  • Interference

  • Weak signals

  • Desense

  • Repeater failure

Interference Phonetics

  • All radio communication is susceptible to interference from various sources, natural or man made.

    • Interference may be accidental or intentional.

    • You can be the recipient or the interferor.

  • It’s probably possible to avoid an interferor by changing frequency.

  • Try moving to a slightly different location.

  • Try “body shielding”.

Interference Phonetics

  • Wait for the interferor to “go away.”

    • Listening to the conversation may give a clue as to how long the contact will last.

  • Contact the interferor and ask to use the frequency for a moment.

    • Most likely they are using CTCSS or DCS and therefore can’t hear your audio.

  • Using CTCSS or DCS does not eliminate interference between units on the same frequency.

    • It simply masks it and creates the illusion of non-interference.

Weak signal
Weak Signal Phonetics

  • Move to a slightly different location (a few feet).

  • Raise the antenna (and you).

  • Make sure the antenna is vertical (assuming repeater and other antennas are vertical).

  • Turn around – your body may be in the signal path.

  • Replace the “rubber ducky” antenna with something better.

  • Move to a completely different location.

Desense Phonetics

Shorthand for “De-sensitize”.

Your radio, in the presence of a strong signal on a nearby frequency, may seem to go deaf.

Even though you don’t hear the other signal, it overloads some of the circuitry in your radio, such that it can’t properly process the desired signal.

The solution is to move away (physically) from the other signal source.


Repeater failure
Repeater Failure Phonetics

  • If the repeater fails, then communication can only be in simplex mode directly from HT-to-HT.

    • Change from duplex (repeater) to simplex (no repeater) operation

      • Level 1: Leave HT on 146.655, 114.8 Hz PL, NO OFFSET.

      • Level 2: Change frequency to 146.505 MHz, no PL tone, no offset.

      • Level 3: Change frequency to 146.595 MHz, no PL tone, no offset.

Ht overview

What are all the knobs and buttons are for?

How do you program it?

Ht user interface
HT User Interface Phonetics

  • DIFFERENT MAKES and models of radios vary, so…


  • BECOME FAMILIAR with the controls on YOUR radio!

Ht user interface1
HT User Interface Phonetics

  • Power On-Off Switch

  • Combined with the volume control on some models

  • Separate push-button on some models

Ht user interface2
HT User Interface Phonetics

Volume Control

  • Adjust the volume control until you can hear the other users.

Ht user interface3
HT User Interface Phonetics

Squelch Control

  • Either a concentric ring

    • under the Volume control

  • Or a separate knob of its own

    • “Open” until you hear hissing noise

    • “Close” just until noise just disappears

Ht user interface4
HT User Interface Phonetics

Frequency or Channel Selector

  • Select desired receiver frequency

    • “Up-Down” arrows

    • Or a rotating “knob”

    • Or keypad

Ht user interface5
HT User Interface Phonetics

Push-To-Talk (PTT) Switch

  • Push or press to talk

  • Release to listen (normal


Ht user interface6
HT User Interface Phonetics

Speaker & Microphone

Unlike most FRS radios, the speaker and microphone on the HT are two separate units.

  • Both face forward

  • Speaker is behind the large grill

  • Microphone is behind small hole

    • It doesn’t work if it’s covered up by your hand

Ht user interface7
HT User Interface Phonetics


  • Keep it vertical, never horizontal

  • Usually flexible (to avoid injury)

  • Can be removed and replaced

    with better performing units

    It’s NOT a handle!!

Ht user interface8
HT User Interface Phonetics


  • The HT comes with a rechargeable battery pack

    • Keep it charged

  • Use individual batteries (e.g., AA) in a special holder as a backup

    ALWAYS carry spare batteries!

Ht accessories optional
HT Accessories (Optional) Phonetics

  • Batteries

    • Spare rechargeable battery pack

    • AA battery holder

  • Speaker/microphone

    • Clips on to lapel or collar

  • Power sources

    • Car charger

    • Cigarette lighter adapter

  • Antennas

    • Replacement for “rubber ducky”

Programming the ht

  • Many buttons, many functions, many menu items.

  • Intimidating User’s Manual.

Programming the ht1
Programming the HT Phonetics

  • The three basic steps:

    • Enter the receive frequency

    • Check the offset

    • Enter the PL tone

      Only step 1 is required to just listen.

Programming the ht2
Programming the HT Phonetics

  • The complete procedure:

    • Unlock the keypad

      • Enter the receive frequency

      • Check the frequency offset

        • For repeater operation (duplex) only

          • Most HTs take care of this automatically

      • Enter the PL tone

      • Check the transmit power level (optional)

        • Lower power for longer battery life

      • Disable the YAESU WIRES function (Yaesu users only)

      • Store the settings into memory (optional)

    • Lock the keypad

      That’s as complicated as it gets!

Cheat sheets
Cheat Sheets Phonetics

  • Programming instructions for your HT that you can stick in your pocket or Go-Kit.

  • “We” all use them.

    • Not a reflection on your ability.

    • Enhances your capability to react in a stress situation.

  • Make your own or use one that’s available.

    • Readily shared among users.

      • There are several available for this class.

    • Some are commercially available (Nifty Mini-Manuals).

Tone squelch pl tone
Tone Squelch (PL Tone) Phonetics

  • CTCSS – Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System

    • The transmitter superimposes (encodes) a low-frequency (subaudible) tone along with the voice or data.

    • The receiver squelches the audio of any signal that does not include the tone (decode).

  • When in doubt …..

    • Transmit the encoded tone.

      • Any receiver or repeater that expects the tone will hear you, as will any receiver or repeater not expecting the tone.

    • Receive without expecting the tone.

      • You will hear anyone that is transmitting on the frequency whether or not they have encoded the tone on their signal.

WIRES ™ Phonetics

  • The Yaesu WIRES (Wide-coverage Internet Repeater Enhancement System) proprietary internet connection feature operates by transmitting a short (~ 0.1 second) DTMF (Dual Tone Multi Frequency) tone burst each time the Push-to-Talk button is pressed.

    • Our repeaters are set up to mute DTMF tones. Each time the WIRES DTMF tone is transmitted, the repeater mutes for several seconds and the first few words of the user’s transmission are lost.

  • Ref:

  • Bottom Line … turn it off or disable it. Or, wait a couple of seconds before you speak after pressing PTT.

Definitions Phonetics

CTCSS – Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System

Superimposes a very low frequency audio tone on the transmitted signal. This audio tone is frequently referred to as the PL Tone or the PL. There are 39 CTCSS tone frequencies.

DCS – Digital Code Squelch

Superimposes a stream of digital data on the transmitted signal. There are 104 DCS codes.

CTCSS and DCS are two different methods of accomplishing the same thing. They make it possible for the receiver to remain muted until the “right” audio tone (for CTCSS) or digital data (for DCS) is present on the received signal.

Think of it like a password to get into the system.


Definitions Phonetics

DTMF – Dual Tone Multi-Frequency

A system that uses eight different audio tones to create 16 tone-pairs representing the characters 0 thru 9, A thru D , * and #. Used for touchtone telephone dialing and other control functions.

PL – Private Line

PL is a Motorola trademark. CTCSS is a generic name for the same (or similar) implementation.

PTT – Push to talk or Press to talk.

The name of a switch on the HT that that changes the mode from receive to transmit.

VFO – Variable Frequency Oscillator

The circuitry that controls the frequency on which the radio receives and transmits (e.g., 146.655 MHz).


Definitions Phonetics

Duplex – An operating mode where a station receives and transmits simultaneously.

Simplex – An operating mode where only one station transmits at a time.

Doubling – A term used to describe the abnormal situation where two or more stations are transmitting at the same time. Usually, none are heard clearly.


Frequencies to try
Frequencies to Try Phonetics

  • K6SA Repeater (SARA)

    146.655 MHz, - offset, PL 114.8 Hz

    • Net Sunday night at 9:00 p.m.

  • W6UU Repeater (SCCARA)

    146.985 MHz, - offset, PL 114.8 Hz

    • Net Monday night at 7:30 p.m.

  • N6NFI Repeater (Palo Alto)

    145.230 MHz, - offset, PL 100.0 Hz

    • Talk-net every weekday morning

  • AA6BT Repeater (SVECS)

    146.115 MHz, + offset, PL100.0 Hz

    • Net Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m.

Things to do
Things To Do Phonetics

  • Check into the SARA 2-meter net Sunday night at 9:00 p.m.

    • 146.655 MHz, minus offset, PL of 114.8 Hz

    • 443.150 MHz, positive offset, PL of 100.00 Hz

  • Attend a SARA club meeting

    • Here, in this room

    • First Wednesday of the month (except July and August)

    • 7:30 p.m.

Links Phonetics

  • (Saratoga Amateur Radio Association)

    • Great “Resources” page

  • (Silicon Valley Emergency Communications System)

    • Major source of emergency communication information


    • Santa Clara County emergency frequencies


    • Instructions for disabling YAESU WIRES


    • Assorted cheat sheets

References credits
References & Credits Phonetics

  • ARRL ARES Field Resources Manual

  • Saratoga CERT Radio Communications Plan

  • Virginia RACES, Inc.

    • Slides 4, 5, 21 and 29 were originally from “Portable Radio Fundamentals Part 1 of 2” and “2-Way Radio Fundamentals Part II”.

      • Most were modified in some way.

Programming exercise
Programming Exercise Phonetics

  • Saratoga Command (K6SA Repeater)

    • 146.655 MHz, minus offset, PL 114.8 Hz

  • Saratoga Command Alternate (K6SA Repeater dead)

    • 146.655 MHz, no offset (simplex), no PL

  • Saratoga Tactical Alternate (Simplex)

    • 146.505 MHz, no offset, no PL

  • Saratoga Tactical Alternate 2 (Simplex)

    • 146.595 MHz, no offset, no PL