Control of Your Transmitter?

Are you really in control of your transmitter? I visited another radio club last night. It was interesting to hear the discussion about two new repeater projects the club is working on, including swapping the RF and control decks out with Yaesu’s Fusion offer. I could write a book on the pros and cons of the Fusion offer…today’s post isn’t about that.

What was interesting to me is that the club wasn’t concerned that they wouldn’t have remote control of their repeater transmitters the way that they do today. They are planning on running the repeaters in analog mode for output, and maybe dual mode for input. The comment that stuck with me is that they didn’t see any need for the repeater controllers they have today. The ability to make remote changes to the configuration, or to be able to shut the system down (and turn it back on) were not of interest to any of the members.

I’ve only run repeaters for a couple of years now. It has been quite the adventure. During that time, I had a cheap controller go belly up in such a way that it held the transmitter keyed down. The transmitter would overheat, shut off, cool off, then key down. Rinse and repeat. Over and over. The controller wouldn’t respond to any commands. It was a week before I could get to the site to replace the defective board. Since then, I’ve got a remote controlled power strip like we use in corporate data centers that allows me to power cycle equipment over the internet.

The thought of putting a repeater on the air without being in positive control is crazy. Sure, it’s very unlikely that the FCC is going to find you and fine you. That’s not the point…is it good practice to throw a system on the air that you can’t control? There are plenty of great solutions here that can be used. Put a second radio with a dtmf decoder on receive side of cans that controls the power. Use the internet and a $50 remote control power strip. Whatever solution you choose, please do something!

In this club’s case, the repeater guys are all retired and have easy walk-in access to the sites. In my case, the three repeaters I work on all required coordinated access, can’t be reached without taking man lifts or elevators, and two can only be accessed during my work day. Remote control – and positive control of the transmitters – is extremely important.

Michael Brown, KG9DW, is a regular contributor to and writes from Illinois, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “Control of Your Transmitter?”

  • Jacek KW4EP:


    I think the key word in your text is “retired”. It’s not about having easy access to the repeater, it’s more about not wanting to adopt (or even fear) technology that did not exist 30-40 years ago. Before I got my license, I used to view Hams as the ones who are always happy to see and use new technologies. Now, after having been exposed to the “old-timers”, I see that the “it did work when I was young, it will work today” way of thinking is quite popular. The best example of such approach are “print, fill out, and fax” order forms. Last time I saw such thing was a mail order catalog 30 years ago. That was until I started to visit online (!) Ham stores. They are still alive and very popular there!. Another example are “all graphics and no links” web pages, also very popular among Hams mentally stuck in the world of paper catalogs.
    What was a novelty in 70s or 80s may not be usable today, but not everybody wants to admit it.

  • Glenn W9IQ:


    There is a very good reason the club does not need to worry about remote control. There is no longer a requirement for remote control of a repeater. It called AUTOMATIC control. It is defined in 97.3(a)6 and the use of it is described in 91.109(d).

    – Glenn W9IQ

  • Glenn W9IQ:

    Sorry, typo on the last reference. It should be 97.109(d).

    – Glenn W9IQ

  • Glenn W9IQ:


    Sorry to dominate the responses but I should also comment on the “need” for remote resetting. I own four different repeaters – none of which ever require a remote reset. Nor does our local ARES repeater that is in a local water tower.

    I think you set the stage for the problem when you installed a “cheap” controller and then applied a bandage. A quality installation will not require remote control for resetting. Unlike a data center that is power cycling MS boxes and flaky routers, a robust repeater control does not have the OS problem nor does it have the complexity seen in a data center.

    Perhaps a remotely controlled HF station should have a shut down capability driven by watch dog timers but this is different scenario than a repeater.

    My premise is that any repeater or repeater controller that has the occasional need of a reset should be repaired or replaced as it is inadequate for the job.

    – Glenn W9IQ

Leave a Comment

Subscribe FREE to's
Amateur Radio Newsletter
News, Opinion, Giveaways & More!

Join over 7,000 subscribers!
We never share your e-mail address.

Also available via RSS feed, Twitter, and Facebook.

Subscribe FREE to's
Amateur Radio Newsletter

We never share your e-mail address.

Please support our generous sponsors who make possible:

Ham Radio Deluxe


Hip Ham Shirts
DMMCheck Plus
R&R SpecialTEES


Ni4L Antennas
R&L Electronics

Do you like to write?
Interesting project to share?
Helpful tips and ideas for other hams?

Submit an article and we will review it for publication on!

Have a ham radio product or service?
Consider advertising on our site.

Are you a reporter covering ham radio?
Find ham radio experts for your story.

How to Set Up a Ham Radio Blog
Get started in less than 15 minutes!

  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor

Sign up for our free
Amateur Radio Newsletter

Enter your e-mail address: