Digital Radio Etiquette

How to be polite and follow the rules (exciting, I know)


Some posts about proper operating procedure have shown up on the Facebook groups recently so I thought I'd post some helpful information about it here. These are just some general guidelines for operating your station. I go by the FCC rules in the States but most of this should apply worldwide.

  • Make sure the talkgroup is clear before you transmit
  • Identify your station often
  • Leave breaks for other stations
  • Pause at the beginning and end of a transmission

Listen First

It's hard to tell what talkgroup is active on a repeater or even your own hotspot. It's good practice to key up the talkgroup you wish to use, then wait a few seconds to make sure the channel is clear before making a transmission. I often hear people announcing their call sign in the middle of someone else's conversation because they didn't check for other traffic first.

Identify and Leave Breaks

Remember the FCC rules still apply to digital modes. Make sure you identify your station often enough and at the end of transmissions. It's also good practice to leave occasional breaks in the conversation in case there is any emergency traffic or just someone with a comment or wishing to join the conversation. 

§97.119 Station identification. (a) Each amateur station, except a space station or telecommand station, must transmit its assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communication, and at least every 10 minutes during a communication, for the purpose of clearly making the source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions. No station may transmit unidentified communications or signals, or transmit as the station call sign, any call sign not authorized to the station.

UPDATE: There's been a lot of talk lately about when and how to ID your station.

When is easy, at the beginning of a conversation then every 10 minutes and then at the end of the conversation. It's not necessary to say your call on every transmission, only at the end of the conversation.

How is however you are communicating. If you're talking you say your call sign. If your using CW then you send it via CW. If you're using SSTV you send an image of your call. Despite what many think, it is not enough to have your ID programmed in your radio and sent via DMR or any other digital mode. You must announce your call in the same way you are carrying the conversation.

Pause Before and After Transmissions

To make sure your transmissions are getting through clear it's a good idea to key up, then wait a few seconds before you start talking and then keep the radio keyed for a few seconds at the end of your transmission. With all audio being encoded and usually sent over the internet there may be a little lag that needs to be compensated for.