The conventional wisdom in amateur radio is that we should not call CQ when using FM on the VHF and UHF bands, especially on repeaters. The reasoning for this is that during normal VHF/UHF FM operating, radio amateurs are tuned to a specific frequency and will easily hear a call on FM.
Compare this to the HF bands, where the other ham is generally tuning around to find someone to contact and stumbles onto your transmission. In that case, you want to make a long call (CQ CQ CQ Hello CQ This is Kilo Zero November Romeo calling CQ CQ CQ…) so people tuning the band will find you and tune you in. On VHF/UHF FM, the assumption is that the other hams have their radio set on the repeater or simplex channel being used and will immediately hear you. FM communications are often quite clear and noise free, which also helps. The normal calling method is to just say your callsign, perhaps accompanied with another word like “monitoring” or “listening.” For example, I might say “KØNR monitoring.”
Question T2A09 in Technician exam pool reinforces this idea:
What brief statement indicates that you are listening on a repeater and looking for a contact?
A. The words “Hello test” followed by your call sign
B. Your call sign
C. The repeater call sign followed by your call sign
D. The letters “QSY” followed by your call sign
Gary/KN4AQ wrote this tongue-in-cheek article HamRadioNow: Do NOT Call CQ on Repeaters which says that calling CQ on a quiet repeater works well because it is likely that someone will come on and tell you not to call CQ. Gary wrote:
So I trot out my standard advice: make some noise. I even recommend calling CQ, because that’s almost guaranteed to get someone to respond, if only to tell you that you’re not supposed to call CQ on repeaters.
There is also an interesting thread on the topic on reddit: 2 meter calling frequency.
Scanning and Multitasking
Some important things have changed in our use of VHF/UHF FM over past decades. The most important shift is dispersion of activity: while the number of VHF/UHF channels has increased, the total amount of VHF/UHF radio activity has declined. This means that we have tons of channels available that are mostly quiet. Tune the bands above 50 MHz and you’ll hear a lot of dead air. In response to this, some hams routinely scan multiple repeater and simplex frequencies. While getting ready for Summits On The Air (SOTA) activity, I’ve had hams ask me to make a long call on 146.52 MHz so they can be sure to pick me up on scan.
Another factor that comes into play is the multitasking nature of our society. Hams don’t generally sit in front of a 2m radio waiting for activity to occur. More commonly, they are doing something else and listening to the FM rig in the background. VHF FM is the Utility Mode, always available but not necessarily the top priority. A short call (“KØNR listening”) on the frequency can easily be missed.
My conclusion is that the Old School “KØNR Monitoring” style of making a call on VHF is no longer sufficient. First off, it sends the message of “I am here if you want to talk to me.” If that’s your intent, fine. However, if you really want to make a contact, being more explicit and a bit assertive usually helps. Follow Gary’s advice and make some noise.
For example, during a SOTA activation I’ll usually call on 146.52 MHz with a bit of a sales pitch. Something like: “CQ CQ 2 meters, this is Kilo Zero November Romeo on Pikes Peak, Summits On The Air, anyone around?” This is way more effective than “KØNR Monitoring.” I might also include the frequency that I am calling on, to help out those Scanning Hams. Something like “CQ CQ 146.52, this is KØNR on Pikes Peak, Summits On The Air.” Note that these calls are still pretty much short and to the point, only taking about 15 seconds. This is a lot shorter than the typical HF CQ.
If I am driving through another town and want to make contact on the local repeater, I will adjust my approach accordingly. For example, on a relatively quiet repeater, I might say “CQ, anyone around this morning? KØNR mobile I-25 Denver.” Or if I have a specific need, I’ll go ahead and ask for it. “This is KØNR looking for a signal report.”
Keep in mind that VHF/UHF operating tends to be local in nature, so it makes sense to adapt your approach to both local practice and the specific situation.
- It’s OK to call CQ on VHF FM, make some noise on the frequency.
- Give other operators a reason to contact you.
- Don’t make your CQ too long, maybe 15 to 20 seconds.
- The callsign/listening approach is fine too.
Those are my thoughts. What do you think?
73 Bob K0NR