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Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

... and other common terms:

How Often Should I Give My Callsign

Best practise for identifying your station is to give your callsign when you initiate your transmission ie when you call CQ or announce your station on a repeater; then regularly during the conversation and again when you end the contact.

But, how often is regularly?

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What to Buy (or not to buy)

Your First Radio - Your first radio will most often be a handheld transceiver (HT). The majority of hams buy one of these first, they are less expensive, require no installation and come complete with a battery, charger and antenna, so you are 'on the air' as soon as you open the box! But what brand/make/model/type to buy. There are a myriad of choices. Our suggestion would be to talk to other hams about what they like and dislike about their HT and ask them about their bias ... do they love the traditional (four or five) manufacturers or do they like the value (ie low cost) of the Chinese manufacturers. Are they frustrated by a particular model that doesn't do the thing they want or that doesn't do it easily?

Features to look for:

  • A tone board to produce CTCSS tones.
  • Dual band - 2m and 70 cm or just 2m band.
  • Good battery capacity say 1700mAh and above, ideally 3100mAh.
  • Something that you can get reasonably priced replacement batteries for.
  • All HTs will have FM analogue but consider a radio with a digital mode like D-STAR, C4FM or DMR.

What not to buy. Our list of things to avoid is fairly short:

  • An old clunky HT with Nickel Cadmium or AA batteries.
  • A UHF only HT. There are not as many repeaters and less traffic on UHF. Buy a dual band 2m and 70 cm radio or a 2m band only.

Signal Report or R-S-T

The signal report is one of the most commonly asked for reports and is made up of two parts for a phone (voice) contact (R-S) and three parts for Morse code or CW (R-S-T). The parts of the report are:

Readability - R - Readability is a qualitative assessment of how easy or difficult it is to correctly copy the information being sent and is graded from 1 to 5 as follows:

1. Unreadable
2. Barely readable, occasional words distinguishable
3. Readable with considerable difficulty
4. Readable with practically no difficulty
5. Perfectly readable

Signal - S - Signal Strength is a numerical assessment of how powerful the received signal is at the receiving location and is read from the radio's S meter or can be estimated if your radio does not have a meter (eg some HTs).

When operating through a repeater, remember that the audio and signal are actually from the repeater to you and are not a reflection of the signal that the other person is transmitting. What you can report is that the other station's transmission is reaching the repeater and that the audio is clear or otherwise. You could also report the quality of the signal is relation to others that are using the repeater.

Tone - T - The T stands for "Tone" and is measured on a scale of 1 to 9.

Tone only pertains to Morse code and other digital transmission modes and is therefore omitted during voice operations.

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Types of Transceiver, Radio or Rig

Handheld Transceiver (HT)
sometimes known as a handie-talkie. Normally battery powered with an attached short antenna.
Mobile radio
Usually designed to be mounted in a vehicle and powered from the vehicle battery but often used in a fixed location too such as a shack with a power supply.
Base station
Often a larger, multi-band radio better suited to being used on a table or desk rather than mounted in a vehicle, but could also be hand carried out to a park table for portable work.
Portable or QRP rig
Usually a low powered multi-band radio sometimes with an internal battery but can be used with a separate battery when operating portable such as in a park or carried to a summit to operate SOTA.

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Standing Wave Ratio (SWR)

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Operating Modes

FM - Frequency Modulation
AM - Amplitude Modulation
SSB (USB and LSB) - Single Side Band (Upper Side Band and Lower Side Band)
CW - Continuous Wave sometimes called Morse Code
DV - Digital Voice such as Digital Mobile Radio (DMR), DStar, C4FM and FreeDV.
Digital Data - Digital Data modes such as PSK, RTTY, Olivia, FT-8 etc.
SSTV - Slow Scan TV is a mode where operators exchange digital images (still pictures rather than video or what we would call TV). There are many modes within SSTV such as Robot36, Scotty 1 and 2, PD120 etc.

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Mobile Installation

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Operating your Amateur Radio Equipment while Driving

Distracted driving regulations have been introduced for very good reason ... distracted driving is the number one cause of collisions. In Ontario there is an exception from the distracted driving regulations for operating amateur radio equipment while driving. You can read about this here: and and the actual regulations are available here:


Exemption for amateur radio operators 13. (1) Drivers who hold a valid radio operator certificate issued under the Radiocommunication Act (Canada) may drive a motor vehicle on a highway while holding or using a two-way radio. O. Reg. 366/09, s.13 (1), O. Reg. 253/12, s. 3 (1). (2) Revoked: O. Reg. 18/20, s. 5.

Note: Para (2) above states that O. Reg. 18/20, s. 5. was revoked, this was the time limit imposed on the temporary exemption while further study was conducted, so it was only that temporary time limit that was revoked, not the actual regulation.

It is recommended that you keep a copy of the regulations in your vehicle and are familiar with the section that gives us an exemption as many Police officers are not aware. You should also keep a copy of your Certificate of Proficiency in Amateur Radio with you.

Each province and indeed country has its own regulations for distracted driving, so make sure to check those before operating your radio equipment outside of Ontario.

Back to top and other scary sources of information (Facebook, etc.)

There are so many sources of information, it will likely be overwhelming! There are numerous websites, Facebook groups, groups on (which has all but replaced Yahoo and Google groups), video bloggers on Youtube etc etc. Here are a few of our suggestions:

We recommend that you cross check information using a number of different sources, so that you have the best likelihood of getting correct information.

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eHam reviews

One of the best sources of real user review is eHam. If you are researching a new piece of kit, it is always worth while browsing the reviews posted by hams on eHam. It is often fastest to put a search term eg "eham icom 7300" directly into your favourite internet search engine. You can also browse to their webpage at:

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Where to buy - Ham Radio stores Canada/US/Amazon/eBay/Kijiji/ONTARS/Clubs

Here's a list of our favourite bricks and mortar and online stores:

There are limited number of amateur radio stores in Canada, all offer shipping:

The US is well served with chains and individual stores, here are a selection:

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Digital Data modes (FT-8, RTTY etc), Winlink global radio email

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Awards for contacts

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Operating Mobile, Portable and/or outside of your home Province/Territory

Hams are able to operate their radio equipment all across Canada however there are some additional requirements that are followed by convention.

When you operate portable or mobile in Canada (ie away from your registered station address) there is no regulation requiring you to add "mobile" or "portable" to your callsign when you identify your station, however it is common practise to do that.

Similarly when you operate in Canada outside of your home callsign Province/Territory it is common practise to add the callsign prefix of the Province/Territory that you are in after your own callsign, for example "This is VE3ABC portable VE2" or "This is VA3XYZ mobile VE9".

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Operating Outside of Canada

There are many countries worldwide that allow Canadian amateurs to operate under a reciprocal licensing arrangements, however the local licensing laws of the location that you are operating from must be followed. The reciprocal arrangements and requirements do change so it is important to use authoritative sources of information. A good place to start would be the RAC web page at:

Top of that list would be the USA where a full reciprocal arrangement is in place such that you can operate in the USA without the need for any additional examination, certificates or license. You must of course abide by US regulations, the two main ones being to identify your station at least every 10 minutes and to follow the US band plan with respect to frequency band, mode and transmit power. Make sure you check out the rules before you operate outside of Canada. When operating from the US and other countries, add the local callsign prefix to your callsign, following the mobile or portable, for example "this is VE3ABC portable K5" or "This is VA3XYZ mobile K2".

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Page last modified on October 21, 2021, at 09:21 PM