Lesson 6.4, Using Repeaters

Here’s your video introduction to Lesson 6.4, Using Repeaters. The lessons themselves may be found in the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual (see here for particulars). Enjoy!

When you have finished with the video, click here to return to the list of lessons. BTW, the scene in the background is taken from Pinion Ridge, near McKenzie Buttes, about ten miles north of Ridgway, Colorado, and looks southeast at the Cimarron Range.

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3 Responses to Lesson 6.4, Using Repeaters

  1. Leelee Hughes says:

    Just want to thank you for these videos. I just cannot tell you how much it has helped me understand how ham works. I have my technician license and am preparing for the General but I know so little how to use it. Thanks again! KJ6KFM

  2. dave says:

    Cory, in general you’ll find voice repeaters on the VHF frequencies and they are used for “local area” communications—a local area can be a metro area such as Albuquerque. Your simplex coverage depends on many factors, primarily the antenna and the location of the antenna. If you’re using a handheld with the “rubber duckie” antenna that comes with it, your range is severely limited. However, route that same signal to a magnetically-mounted antenna on your vehicle rooftop, and your range can be dramatically extended. Whether you can talk all the way across Albuquerque on simplex depends primarily on whether you have a clear path (e.g., from one hilltop to another), the antenna, and the power. With today’s 50-watt mobile rigs, if you’re in your car on a hilltop north of town, you’ll most definitely be able to talk to another ham on a hill south of town using simplex, barring interference, etc.

    Repeaters are in general limited to local (e.g., metro) areas. There is such as thing as linked repeaters which can cover a surprisingly large geographic area, such as the venerable Colorado Connection that covers most of the state. The problem, though, is that the repeater network can be heard by so many people that it really restricts the number of people who can use it, and the folks who run the network tend to urge short contacts and perhaps only emergency contacts. Many years ago when I was in the Los Angeles area, I found a great 220-MHz repeater and enjoyed chatting during my lengthy commute. Then the owner of the repeater decided to tie the repeater into a network. The traffic dropped dramatically, nearly to zero. In our area here in Western Colorado, there is a system of coordinated repeaters that urges users to limit use to emergencies. So…linked wide-area coverage? Not much chatter. Single repeaters can have lots of chatter.

    There are ways for you to use your VHF radio to talk to hams across the country, but nearly all of them involve the Internet somehow. There is no setup whereby you can bring up a set of repeaters to link together especially for a single contact. There are simply too many hams who want to use the repeaters. If you would like to talk across the country using just ham radio, you should look at upgrading to General and using an HF radio. I would point out that Technician class operators can use a portion of the 10-meter HF band, which during daylight is often open and allows conversation with hams all over the world.

    At the risk of increasing the complexity here, I note that packet radio allows the routing of messages over very long distances. But that’s data, not voice.

    Hope that helps! 73 de Dave, KEØOG

  3. Cory Ballew says:

    Hi Dave,
    Another great video and more questions for you…

    1) Are repeaters only necessary to communicate over long distances or past obstacles? For example, would I need to use a repeater to talk from the north side of Albuquerque to the south side of Albuquerque or is Simplex acceptable?

    2) When talking to someone across the country are multiple repeaters used? If so, is it necessary to know those other repeaters in between point A and B?

    Thanks for these videos!!!

    Cory Ballew
    Rio Rancho, NM

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