Repeater 101

What is a Repeater?

Ham radio operators routinely use repeaters. A repeater is simply another radio system located as high as possible, like atop a tall building or a radio tower. The height is a real advantage for extending the reach of radio signals. The repeater's job is to listen for a radio signal on one frequency (the input frequency), then repeat that signal out an a different frequency, the output frequency. Radio Amateurs can communicate up to 80km away using only a 5-watt hand held radio! Without the use of a repeater, that same hand held radio might only travel a few kilometers directly, radio-to-radio.

Can any Ham use a Repeater?

Yes. Repeaters are available for use by all licensed hams. Most repeaters are provided and maintained by local Amateur Radio clubs. Supporting your local ham club goes a long way to ensuring repeaters continue to be enjoyed the Amateur Radio community. Some repeaters require you to configure special tones (Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System or CTCSS) in order for the repeater to accept your transmission. Our Moose Jaw Repeater, VE5CI, does not require the use of CTCSS tones.

Your First Repeater Contact

Best practice with a repeater is to:

  1. Listen for 15 seconds to make sure nobody else is actively using it and
  2. Give your callsign and declare that you are listening. For example "VE5ABC monitoring" or "VE5ABC listening, is anyone around?" This is likely to get another ham to respond if they are monitoring the repeater traffic.
Introduce yourself and let them know you're a new ham or visiting in the area. You'll likely receive warm welcome!

Are Repeaters Busy?

It depends. They can be busy with lots of people at certain times and they can also be empty. It is common to host "nets" on the repeater. These are check-ins by members of the ham radio community. At these times they will be busy with traffic.