[AMRadio] Is the frequency in use?

D. Chester k4kyv at charter.net
Wed Apr 4 15:02:30 EDT 2007

> From: "Todd, KA1KAQ" <ka1kaq at gmail.com>

> The 'dead air' scenario Don describes has happened to me also. As a
> result, I no longer ask if the frequency is in use if I've been
> listening for an extended period and heard nothing. If it's only a few
> minutes, different story, but asking seems to be an invitation for
> them to claim the frequency, even if they aren't using it. It's also a
> good reason to move around a bit, to keep folks from developing
> ownership issues.

Asking if the "frequency is in use" is a SSB operating practice originating 
on 20, 15 and 10m where there is usually a skip zone.  Even a high powered 
station near you, but beyond your ground wave range may be transmitting but 
skipping completely over you, so the frequency sounds totally vacant.  This 
may also happen on 40, and sometimes on 75 when the band goes long.  I have 
never heard it happen on 160.

It's only been in recent years that some operators have got it into their 
heads this is mandatory practice on 75 or 160.  As Todd points out, it is 
simply an invitation for a Dead-Air group to affirm that they are "using" 
the frequency, meaning that they are simply monitoring with their receiver, 
but no-one is actually engaged in a QSO.  Instead of asking the question, if 
I am just coming on and haven't been monitoring a frequency for at least 10 
minutes or so, I simply make a short test transmission and give my callsign. 
If the frequency is engaged and a weak station is transmitting,  someone 
will usually pop up and say they are using frequency.  But after  10 or 15 
minutes of steady monitoring, if there really was a QSO in progress, I would 
have heard something, so I just assume  the frequency is not engaged, and 
call CQ, or call the station I expected to be listening.

Asking "Is this frequency in use?" is defaulting to the assumption that it 
is indeed engaged.  Simply coming on the air and giving one's callsign, or 
making a short test transmission still gives anyone who is actually using 
the frequency the opportunity to say so, but defaults to the assumption is 
that the frequency is available.

I usually just key up the transmitter, give my callsign one time, sometimes 
followed by "testing" or "listening".  I don't even do that if I have been 
monitoring for a prolonged period and haven't heard anyone else transmit.

Don k4kyv 

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