Advanced operating


Chances are that sooner or later you will be hit by the DX bug, if you have not been yet. In that case you will inevitably be confronted with pileups.

Simplex pileup

  • Both the DX station and the callers are on one and the same frequency.
  • The main merit of this method is that it is space conservative (only one frequency being used).
  • It is an inefficient method of operating when many stations are calling. Depending on the expertise of the DX station, many can mean as few as 5 stations. Under such circumstances the QSO rate will be slow.
  • What starts as a simplex pileup often evolves into a split pileup.

Split (frequency) pileup

  • Most QSOs are made when both stations transmit on exactly the same frequency.
  • When the DX station is confronted by an ever growing simplex pileup, his QSO rate will likely go down for one or more of the following reasons:
    • Interference from stations calling one on top of the other;
    • The callers will have difficulty copying the DX station because some (many) of them call while the DX station is transmitting;
    • More and more stations don’t hear or do not follow the instructions given by the DX station;
  • In order to be heard by the callers, the DX station operator will move the pileup: he will listen on a frequency away from his transmit frequency (often 5 kHz or more). The net result is that the calling stations no longer interfere with the DX station’s transmissions, as they are now on separate frequencies.
  • The problem however remains that the DX station still has to listen to the single frequency pileup in order to pick out stations one by one.
  • To maximize his chances of doing so, he will spread out the pileup, and listen over a certain frequency range, e.g. 5 to 10 up.
  • This method of course uses more frequency spectrum than strictly necessary. The spread should be kept as small as possible, to leav room for other stations.
  • Out of consideration for other spectrum users (other than those wanting to work the DX station) it is recommended only to use the split frequency method if the pileup has grown too large to be handled successfully using the simplex method.

How to behave in a pileup?

  • Never call the DX station if you cannot copy him well enough.
  • Make sure your station is properly adjusted before calling.
  • Do not tune your transmitter on the frequency where the DX station is transmitting.
  • Is the antenna in the right direction?
  • Have you heard the instructions of the DX station? If not, wait and listen for instructions first!
  • Listen.
  • Listen.
  • Listen and get acquainted with the operating rhythm of the DX station.
  • If you hear frustrated hams making comments on the DX station’s frequency: keep quiet and wait until the chaos has subsided.

Only if all these requirements are met, can you call the DX station!

Simplex pileup in phone

How do you break through a simplex pileup?

  • Never call before an ongoing QSO is completely finished. This means: no tail-ending
  • Correct timing is the key to success. Do not start calling immediately, instead, wait until most of the noise on frequency has died down somewhat and chances of getting through are increased. This is not a competition where you need to be the first and fastest caller! What is important is to call at the right moment. Wait a number of seconds until the most excited callers have stopped calling and the QRM has died down somewhat, before giving your call. This may be several seconds (5 to even 7 seconds).

How should you call?

  • Never give the call of the DX station you are calling; the DX station certainly knows his own call. Send your full call just once. Partial calls are bad. Not zulu zulu zulu but golf three zulu zulu zulu. Giving just part of your call creates confusion and lengthens the whole procedure.
  • Yes, you will hear many stations giving only part of their call. It is bad practice and it is also illegal.
  • Do not speak too fast nor too slowly, act normally (don’t shout).
  • For spelling, use only the international spelling alphabet
    • In radio traffic the phonetic alphabet (Alpha through Zulu), prescribed by the ITU, serves to avoid mistakes during exchanges of letters and words. To achieve this goal a unique phonetic word has been attributed to each letter of the alphabet. Note there is only one such series of words, and not one for each language!
    • A DX station listens for these unique words in the pileup cacophony. His ears are tortured by the chaotic presence of all these words (and figures) and fatigue increases. If we use other words than the standard words of the spelling alphabet, the procedure may become very inefficient because we’re using words that the DX station does not expect to hear.
    • Far too often in pileups one can notice that the DX station missed just that letter that deviated from the standard alphabet, and consequently he has to ask for a repeat.


      The spelling word Lima cuts like a razor blade. Often we hear London as an alternative. If your signal is very weak or interfered with, the DX station will probably understand Lima but not London!

    • Not only is the DX station listening for the exact words, he is also expecting certain consonants/sounds in these words and a defined number of syllables. If a syllable gets lost due to static (QRN) or QRM, he can often reconstruct the word by completing the missing consonants and/or number of syllables.
    • Only use the correct English pronunciation for the spelling words. Page International Phonetic Alphabet lists the phonetic pronunciation for each of these words. Of course, when you converse in your native language, which is different from English, you have a little more leeway.
  • The DX station caught only a part of your call and says: 3ZZZ you’re 59, QSL?. This means: the station with the call ending in 3ZZZ, you are 59, copy?
  • In your reply you should now emphasize the missing part of your call: This isgolf three,golf threezulu zulu zulu, 59 QSL?.
  • Normally the DX station should answer G3ZZZ thanks whereby he confirms your call and ends the QSO. If he did not confirm the correction of your callsign, call again and ask: please confirm my call, G3ZZZ over. Keep insisting for a confirmation, to avoid being incorrectly logged. If he does not confirm your call, there is no reason not to call him again, until you have heard the DX station say your call correctly.
  • If the DX station returns with an error in your callsign, repeat a few times the part of your call where the error occurred.


    He says G3ZZW 59. Go back to him with: this is G3ZZZ zulu zulu zulu G3ZZZ 59 over. Normally he will then answer G3ZZZ thanks or something similar. Make sure you have a confirmation of the correction as explained above.

  • If the DX station returns with a partial call which does not resemble your call, or if he comes back to another station, then keep quiet and listen. If you keep calling it’s likely that one of the following scenarios will happen:
    • The DX station notices you are not following his instructions and you end up on his black list, which means you will not be able work him in the next few (many) minutes because of your bad behaviour (the DX station would love to work, but does not appreciate being willingly or unwillingly disturbed by you!).
    • Alternatively the DX station may call you and give you a RS 00 report, by which you have been identified as an offender and displayed as such.
  • If you keep calling out of turn while the DX station is trying to work another station, you are only causing QRM to that station, and you are slowing down the whole process. Not only will that station suffer from it, but eventually you will as well.
  • If the DX station calls 1ABC only, you are 59, over, this means he has a problem with undisciplined stations calling out of turn.
  • Listen carefully to see if the DX station is not calling for particular geographic areas. Japan only means that all stations from other countries but Japan should refrain from calling. Keep quiet, unless you are located in Japan.
  • Perhaps he is calling by numbers (also sometimes called by call areas): listening for sixes only means that only stations having a number 6 in their call are invited to call him. Others: wait, keep quiet.
  • If you are a low power station (QRP), do not call as G3ZZZ stroke QRP. The DX station has problems enough with the pileup, he does not need the extra ballast from the stroke QRP. Don’t forget, in many countries using ‘stroke QRP’ as a call suffix, is illegal.
  • When the DX station comes back to you with a report (G3ZZZ 59), return with a short confirmation and report thanks, 59 also (or 59 thanks), and nothing else. There are many other stations waiting to make a QSO.

Simplex pileup in CW

  • The general rules and procedures as explained above, obviously also apply to contacts on CW.
  • Never call with DE DL9ZZZ. The word DE is superfluous and contains no information. The letters DE could also be the first 2 letters of a German callsign and lead to confusion.
  • Never end your call with a K at the end (K as invitation to send). This can cause confusion. If you send K after your call (maybe after too short a space), the DX station may think that it is the last letter of your callsign. So: no K.
  • Listen to the pileup to determine the sending speed you should use. Does the DX station work the slower or the faster stations? Don’t show off by sending too fast, like we sometimes hear. This is bound to be counter productive.
  • In CW, KN at the end of a transmission means over to you only. When the DX station sends: ...W1Z? KN (or W1Z KN), he wants to hear only the station with the callsign containing the characters W1Z. All others should stand by.
  • If the DX station sends CQ NA or QRZ NA, it means that he is looking for stations from North America only (NA = North America, SA = South America, AF = Africa, AS = Asia, PAC = Oceania/Pacific, EU = Europe, JA = Japan, USA = United States of America). So, follow the instructions.

Split frequency pileup in phone

If too many stations are calling on the DX station’s frequency, the DX station will have to switch to split frequency operating, which will allow him to increase his QSO rate. How is this done? What do you need to know and to do, to be among the first ones to work the DX station in a split frequency pileup?

  • Start by listening. Next, listen more! There are a few things you should know before you start calling:
    • Where is he listening? Is he listening on just one frequency or on a frequency range?
    • Is he listening for stations at random?
    • ... or for certain areas of the world?
    • ... or by numbers (the figure in your callsign)?
    • How does the DX station indicate where he is listening? He says e.g. up, down, up 5, down 10, listening between 200 and 210 etc.
  • The better DX operator will indicate his listening frequency after each QSO; don’t however expect this is always being done. If the pileup is very big, the DX station operator may think he can increase his QSO rate (gain 1 second every contact) by not telling the crowd after each QSO where he is listening. Not good practice though and it makes the people who just arrived on the scene, nervous. They have heard the DX station making a number of contacts without giving its call.
  • Make sure you have well understood the listening range as specified.
  • If he indicated a specific area he is listening for in which you are not located, relax, get yourself a drink, and listen!
  • Maybe he is listening by numbers. If the number he specified does not match the number in your callsign, sit back and keep cool...
  • If he specifies listening 14200 to 14225, it is almost like playing roulette unless you know where exactly he is listening. Therefore, keep listening and try finding out the exact frequency where the stations operate that he works. Most DX stations move slowly up and down in that range. Some just jump around like a kangaroo. In general, you will have the best chance to catch the DX station by calling slightly above or under the frequency where he worked his last station.
  • Try to know as much as you can about the DX station’s way of operating. Is he the kangaroo type or the slow moving type? The more you know about his modus operandi, the better your chances are to catch him quickly.
  • Make sure you get the rhythm and the pattern of the DX station. A good DX station operator uses a fixed QSO pattern. Know the last words he sends before listening (usually either his call or thank you or 5 UP etc.).
  • Before making any transmission, make sure all controls on your radio are set correctly. Is your transceiver set for split frequency work, and is your transmit frequency set correctly? Double check!
  • If you found where he made his last QSO, adapt your strategy to his operating pattern and give your call just once and listen.
  • If he did not come back to you within 1 or 2 seconds, call again on the same frequency. Repeat this procedure until you hear the DX station coming back to someone (hopefully you!).
  • If he comes back to another station, stop calling and start looking where that station is transmitting. It’s a little bit like a cat and mouse game, only there is one big cat, and many little mice of which you are but one...
  • Unfortunately you will always hear stations that keep endlessly throwing in their call even while the DX station is working someone. It often sounds like that’s the way the majority of the stations do it. Reality is that, by doing so, these stations cause QRM and make progress much slower than what it could be with a little discipline.
  • Operators who indulge in such procedures quickly make a non-enviable reputation for themselves. This procedure is the best guarantee for stations to be in there calling for a long time. It is clearly an example of how not to do it.
  • Maybe the DX station operator will identify them as poor operators by replying to these offending perpetual callers and giving them an RS 00 report. Let’s hope they understand what that means.

Split (frequency) pileup in CW

  • In general the rules and procedures as explained for split operation in phone and for CW simplex remain applicable.
  • How does the DX station indicate it is working split? At the end of each contact it will send e.g.: UP, DWN, UP 5 DWN 10, QSX 3515, UP 10/20. A simple UP or DWN usually means that the DX station will listen 1 to 2 kHz up or down from its transmit frequency.
  • It would be ideal to be able to transmit and listen at the same time, which we can approximate by operating full break-in (also called QSK). In full break-in we can listen between the DITs and DAHs of our own transmission. This means that we can hear the DX station the same split second he starts transmitting. Not all transmitters (and amplifiers) however, are equipped for QSK. You can also work semi break-in (slower break-in), in which the equipment switches from transmit to receive and vice versa between words or even letters. The delay time is usually adjustable to suit one’s preference. Full break-in is an unmistakable advantage when calling in a split frequency pileup. It can help you avoid from inadvertently transmitting while the DX station is on the air. After all, we want to hear what the DX station is sending, don’t we?

Tail ending

  • What is tail ending? A tail ender tries to outrun the competition by being faster than his shadow. He is listening to the station being worked by the DX station, and a split second before that station turns it over to the DX station, he throws in his call, usually half on top of that station. He is literally stepping on its tail.
  • Strictly speaking, tail ending is even illegal as you are intentionally transmitting on top of another station, and hence causing interference to that station.
  • In many cases it’s not only the tail they step on, but more or less the entire beast.
  • This operating procedure is not very polite but rather aggressive. The consensus is: don’t do it.

The endless callers

Yes they exist, and there are many, many of them. They just want to work the new rare one, whatever means it takes. They do not have the slightest consideration for other stations. They transmit their call just as a continuous broadcast transmission, and hardly listen at all. Often one can hear the DX station coming back to them, two or three times, but to no avail. They don’t hear the DX station because they (almost) never listen, and maybe because they have a typical ‘alligator’ station. Calling the DX station seems to be their hobby, not working the DX.

All of this would not be so bad and sad if, by this shameful practice, they did not cause a lot of QRM to other stations. What they do is pure and simple jamming.

This endless calling is an ultimate proof of egoistic behavior; shame on those who practice it.


  • Many hams chase DX stations or chase rare countries or entities with hardly any ham population or any population at all.
  • What counts for a country or better an entity, has been established by the DXCC (DX Century Club), the organization which issues the much coveted DXCC award. See in new window.
  • Hams chasing DX try to work (= make a QSO with) a station operating from each one of these entities (almost 340 at present), and preferably on different bands and on different modes. This is the sport called DXing or DX chasing.
  • To make it possible to work the rarest entities, hams organize expeditions to such rare spots. These are called DXpeditions. Larger DXpeditions are organized by groups of hams, sometimes comprising a dozen operators which will make the rare country available day and night and sometimes for weeks on end.
  • The larger DXpeditions manage to make over 100,000 contacts in just one or 2 weeks! In most multi-operator DXpeditions multiple stations are simultaneously active on several of the amateur radio bands and modes.
  • If you want to know about the DXpeditions that are currently active, and about the planned ones and the past ones, check in new window.
  • During DXpeditions it can be very crowded in certain portions of the (HF) ham bands. DXpeditions should always take into account other users of the bands, and not invade major parts of the bands for an activity not all hams are involved in.
  • Contacts with these DXpeditions are usually as short as contacts during a contest: only the call and a quick report are exchanged.
  • Just about all contacts with DXpeditions are made in split mode.
  • The quality and the expertise of DXpedition operators are often judged by the amount of spectrum they require to work a split pileup.
  • When important DXpeditions are active, a number of hams act like if they were called upon to complete a sacred mission to play frequency cop. Don’t be tempted to become a frequency cop, we have too many of them already.
  • Others, mainly frustrated minds, seem to enjoy making deliberate interference to such expeditions. They are simply making deliberate QRM (DQRM). If you witness this, do not react, just ignore it, they will go away if they have no audience to interact with. It is sometimes difficult to keep quiet but making comments only makes the chaos worse (see also § III.11). If you are sure you have identified one of these DQRMers, consider making a formal complaint to your licensing authorities.
  • If you need any information about a DXpedition, do not ask for it on the DXpedition’s frequency. Check the DXpedition’s website or one of the DX bulletins where you can find all details: QSL address, operating frequencies, operators, and if applicable, the calls of possible pilot station(s).
  • Pilot stations are the public relations managers as well as contact persons for a DXpedition. If you need to know something which you cannot find on the DXpedition’s website, send an e-mail to the pilot station. He may be able to help you.
  • Never ask on the DXpedition’s frequency questions like QSL MGR? or PSE SSB or QSY 20M etc. Better yet, don’t ever transmit on their frequency (assuming we’re talking split frequency operation)!

DX nets

  • Before the Internet was introduced to the ham community, a number of DX Information Nets were run on different amateur HF bands. Daily broadcasts gave information about recent as well as planned DX activities. For a number of years now, these nets have been replaced by different information systems, available via packet radio and the Internet.
  • Besides these valuable DX nets, there is another form of DX net, aimed at helping stations to work DX. Working DX on DX nets, is like working DX in the assisted category.
  • Many DX nets exist mainly to boost the ego of the net control operators. Here is how it usually works:
    • A net control station or Master of Ceremony calls for stations wanting to work a DX station who’s waiting on the net’s frequency.
    • In most cases, the MC will request stations to check in with only the last letters of their callsign, which is an illegal way of identifying in most countries.
    • The MC makes a list of those callers. When the list is compiled, he will feed the stations one by one to the DX station. If a QSO is not succeeding immediately, the MC will be glad to assist (from ...SS station, call again... up to giving half of the report: have the readability correct, but the signal strength is better than what you said...). Often the MC is making half of the QSO... Not surprising that we sometimes hear comments like make one more guess....
  • It is obvious that all of this has little to see with the real sport of DXing! Both serious DXers as well as experienced DX stations will stay away from such DX nets if at all possible.
  • Such DX nets are not the place where you will learn the sport of DXing, neither learn how to improve your station nor your operating capabilities.

The use of partial calls

  • We have touched upon this subject before, and as it is such a bad habit and outspoken proof of poor operating practice, we come back to this subject:
    • In most DX-nets the callers are invited by the MC to call with only the last 2 letters of their call. It is ineffective and in addition illegal in most countries (you should always identify with the full callsign as received from the administration).
    • Net control stations use as an argument that they do not want to know the full callsign of the stations calling, so that they would not give it on the air whereby the DX station would copy the call via the control station. Noble thought, but it does not make sense.
    • The MC can ask the calling stations to check in correctly, which means by their full callsign. If the DX station at that time already copies the station checking in, the better for him.
    • If later in the procedure the MC calls the stations that have checked in, he can call them by the last 2 letters of their call, which is quite legal. The rules say how you have to identify yourself, not how you call another station.


The MC says: Stations for ZK1DX, check in please OH9ZZZ gives his (full) call: OH9ZZZ

  • If later in the procedure the MC calls OH9ZZZ, he simply says Station with ZZ at the end of the call, make your call.
  • OH9ZZZ now calls the DX station: This is OH9ZZZ, oscar hotel nine zulu zulu zulu calling ZK1DX, you are 55 over
  • etc. It could not be simpler, and every step in this procedure is legal.
  • Some have even started using this 2-letter procedure off the DX nets, e.g. in DX pileups.
  • In addition to being illegal it is inefficient. Why?
    • Some simple mathematics will tell you: assume your call has 6 characters. If you only send 2 letters, the chance that at least part of your call will be copied is 3 times smaller than if you had given all 6 characters.
    • Your call is unique; two letters from your call are far from unique. This means that this procedure will often lead to confusion (several stations with those 2 letters calling simultaneously).
    • If the DX station copied your two letters (hopefully you’re the only one using those 2 letters to call) he will still have to ask for the rest of your call. It is a pure waste of time. If he could copy two letters, there’s a good chance he could have copied all 6 characters! All of this takes time, creates confusion and increases the chances of QRM.
  • Conclusion: never send just a part of your call. Are you ashamed of your call? Always send your full call, be proud of it! If, under whatever circumstances, someone asks you to identify by 2 letters of your call, identify by your full call and perhaps tell him you cannot do what he asks because it is illegal.

DX clusters

DX Clusters have largely replaced the local and international DX information nets of yesteryear.

Main purpose

Which DX stations are active now and on which frequency?

  • DX Clusters are part of a global (worldwide) network, spreading real time information.
  • It’s a two-way system:
    • Spotting: entering interesting DX information to be used by others.
    • Using spots: you use DX information that’s interesting for you.

Who do you spot?

Rare DX-stations that are of interest to DX chasers. An example: 14025 ZK1DX QSX UP5.

Do not send spots that have no added value. Do not spot common stations, e.g. all stations from countries where there is plenty of activity such as W, F, G, ON etc., unless there is a good reason for it that makes your spot valuable. You can e.g. spot W6RJ on 160m from Europe, as we don’t work W6’s every day from Europe on 160m.

  • Before spotting a DX station, first check if no one else has just spotted that same call.
  • Watch out for typos! Wrong calls can sometimes be found in logs because the operator worked a station without even having heard its callsign, blindly having copied a busted (incorrect) call from the DX Cluster.

Which information is available, how to retrieve it

  • Activity info: the DX spots. The spots come automatically on your screen in chronological order. You can retrieve spots by band (e.g. sh/dx on 20m gives you the last 10 spots on 20m , sh/dx 25 on 20m shows you the last 25 spots on 20m), by call (e.g. sh/dx ZK1DX, or sh/dx ZK1DX 20) or by combination of band and call (e.g. sh/dx ZK1DX 20 on 15m).
  • WWVopen in new window, Solar Flux Index: common commands are sh/wwv and sh/wcy.
  • QSL info: on most DX Clusters you can retrieve QSL info using SH/QSL call If this function does not exist, type SH/DX call 25. Now you get the last 25 spots for that station, and chances are that one of the spots has the QSL info in thecommentary field. A third possibility is to type SH/DX call QSL. This will list the last 10 spots for that station where the word QSL or via appears in the commentary field.
  • Some DX clusters may not have all of these commands, in which case you can find the QSL info via an Internet search engine.
  • It is not good practice to spot the station for which you need the QSL info by typing QSL info please in the commentary field. The purpose of this field is to provide additional useful information regarding the DX station. It is not the place to ask questions.
  • Depending on the DX Cluster’s software, the abovementioned commands may vary somewhat. See your DX Cluster’s help file.

A spot appears: a new country for you. What now?

  • Do not start calling the DX station blindly.
  • Make sure you copy the station well enough, verify if the spotted callsign is correct.
  • Make sure you have heard the DX station’s instructions before calling (his listening frequency, is he working everybody or working by numbers or by geographical areas?).
  • Apply the guidelines as explained in § III.1. (Pileups). Good luck!

Things not to do on a DX Cluster

Self spotting

  • What’s that? It’s a personal advertisement to the whole world, saying: Here I am, on this frequency, please call me.
  • It needs no explanation that this is just not done in Ham Radio. If you want to make QSOs, call CQ or reply to stations calling CQ.
  • Self spotting leads to disqualification in contests.

Disguised self spotting

  • An example: you work a nice DX station that came back to your CQ. When you finish your QSO you spot the call of the DX station, which was there but went off the frequency after finishing the contact. This spot has zero added value for the DX community, as the DX station is gone, but at the same time you attract a bunch of DXers to your frequency, hoping that this will help you work some other DX stations. This practice makes DXers nervous.


  • A spot is not for telling the world how great you are: don’t spot a DX station (that’s been spotted several times anyhow) with a remark: I finally did it... In such a case you are not announcing the DX station, you’re just bragging and telling the world how great you are... Modesty is a nice virtue.

Spotting a friend

  • A good friend of yours is calling CQ repeatedly, without reply. You want to give him a little push and you spot him, though he is not at all a DX station. Don’t do it. Neither your friend nor you will gain respect in the eyes of the ham community by doing so.

Asking a friend to spot you

  • It is self spotting, using a cover up. Self spotting is not done, so do not you ask your buddy to spot you.

Being a cheerleader

  • Those who continuously spot their favorite contest station during a contest. It’s like the supporters pushing bike racers during a race in the mountains. It isn’t fair and it’s unsportsmanlike.

Send a spot which actually is a private message

  • We need to realize that each spot, each message on a DX Cluster is sent to many thousand of hams all around the world. DX Clusters have been connected through the internet for some years and your local DX Cluster is no longer local but part of a global network.
  • Unfortunately, some spots are private messages, like in this example: HA7xx sends a spot: VK3IO on 1827, with as comment QRV???, which obviously is not a spot but a private message (typed in the commentary field).
  • Another example: UA0xxx spots ZL2yyy on 3.505 kHz and adds ur 339, my RST 449? Pse confirm. This guy is making a fool of himself. His reputation amongst DXers is destroyed!

Using the DX Clusters as a worldwide chat channel

  • With the TALK function you can send individual messages to another ham on your local DX Cluster. Some DX Clusters have a similar talk function where you can chat privately to a user on another DX Cluster, of course provided these clusters are linked (by e.g. a radio link or internet).
  • The Announce Full (To All) function is a totally different story. Any message sent using this function will be sent to the users of all world wide linked clusters, and that may be many thousands at any given time. Be very careful when using this function. Most To All announcements are actually intended for one particular person, where 9,999 others are forced to read a message which is of no value to them.
  • Do not ever use the Announce Full function as a chat channel. Also, never use this function to settle an argument or to insult someone. The world is watching you! Only send messages that are of interest to a vast majority of the DXers. Example: you could announce that the DXpedition has just moved band, or frequency, or that they will be on such and such a frequency at such and such a time. Etc. The general rule is: To All messages should indeed be of interest to all. If a message is not of interest to all (or a vast majority of them), don’t send it via the To All function.


A To All message from ON7xxx reads like ON4xx, good morning Frans. Another example, To All de DF0xx: wir warten auf K3714. Whatever that means. And there are, unfortunately, thousands more similar examples.

Using someone else’s callsign on the DX Cluster

  • It appears that some disturbed minds check into a DX Cluster with other people’s callsign, and do totally unacceptable things. This is even worse than anonymous transmissions, as in addition the call of an ignorant ham is being defamed. Never react on the DX Cluster if you are confronted with a similar situation.

DX windows

  • The IARU Band Plan is a worldwide accepted gentlemen’s agreement that 99 % of the radio amateurs adhere to.
  • This Band Plan lists a couple of formal DX windows, where it has been agreed upon to give full priority to long distance work (DX contacts).

DX windows on the HF bands

  • Presently there are four such windows in IARU R1 (Europe, Africa and Middle East):
BandFrequency (kHz)
80m3 500 – 3 510 (CW)
80m3 775 – 3 800 (SSB)
40m7 175 – 7 200 (SSB)
20m14 190 – 14 200 (SSB)
  • In IARU R2 (North and South America) we count 6 windows:
BandFrequency (kHz)
160m1 830 – 1 840 (CW)
160m1 840 – 1 850 (SSB)
80m3 500 – 3 510 (CW)
80m3 775 – 3 800 (SSB)
40m7 000 – 7 025 (CW)
40m7 175 – 7 200 (SSB)
20m14 000 – 14 025 (CW)
  • The DX windows on 80m: in the middle of the day these frequencies can be used for local traffic, as there is no long distance propagation at that time. But we should be aware that even shortly after noon, local contacts in the DX windows of this band can cause problems to stations that are 1000 to 2000 km in the direction of the terminator (the line that separates the dark hemisphere from the lit hemisphere). Example: 13:00 UTC in Belgium in midwinter. It is 3 hours before sunset. At this time it is impossible to work DX from Belgium. But our signals can be heard with quite good strength in Scandinavia, only 1000 to 2000 km away, where sunset is several hours earlier. Although we do not hear DX stations at that time, we can very well cause QRM to other stations that are much closer to sunset. Conclusion: stay out of these windows at all times, unless you are trying to work DX yourself.
  • When DXpeditions are active, these stations have full priority in using the abovementioned 20m DX window. Under those circumstances all other stations should clear these frequencies and do that in the true spirit of the IARU’s gentlemen’s agreement. This 20m DXpedition window was created in 2005, as a result of a continuous problem caused by an IT9-station.
  • In addition to these formal windows, there are a number of de facto DX windows:
BandFrequency (kHz)
160m1 830 – 1 835 (CW)
160m1 845 (SSB)
40m7 045 (SSB)
20m14 020 – 14 030 (CW)
20m± 14 080 (RTTY)
20m14 190 – 14 200 (SSB)
17m18 075 (CW)
17m18 145 (SSB)
15m21 020 – 21 025 (CW)
15m± 21 080 (RTTY)
15m21 290 – 21 300 (SSB)
12m24 895 (CW)
10m28 020 – 28 025 (CW)
10m± 28 080 (RTTY)
10m28 490 – 28 500 (SSB)


First 5 kHz of each band are also unofficially used for CW DX contacts.

  • Avoid making local contacts in those windows. These are the frequency ranges where you can look for interesting DX stations.

DX windows on VHF-UHF

Specific operational procedures for VHF and higher

  • These are based on the same principles that apply to the HF bands.
  • For QSOs via tropospheric propagation (local, or via temperature inversion) on the 50, 144 and 430 MHz bands, the procedures are exactly the same as on HF. The only difference is that often calling frequencies are used to initiate a contact. Once a contact is established, the stations will move to another frequency.
  • QTH-locator. On VHF and higher, station locations are usually specified by using the QTH-locator, also called Maidenhead locator. The QTH-locator is a set of simplified coordinates (e.g. JO11) which allows the user to quickly judge the direction and the distance to the station he is working.
  • There are specific operational procedures applicable to some very specific modes, mostly used on VHF and higher, such as:
    • Contacts via satellite.
    • EME QSOs (reflection via the moon).
    • Meteor scatter QSOs.
    • Aurora QSOs: reflection near the poles during Aurora.
    • ATV (wideband amateur television).
  • It is outside the scope of this manual to enter into detail on these subjects. In all cases, operational behaviour remains based on the principles as explained in § I.2.

Conflict situations

  • As explained in § I.2 , the fact that we all (we’re several hundred thousand hams in the world) play our hobby on one and the same field, the ether, will inevitably sometimes lead to conflicts. How do we handle these, that is the question! Our behaviour on the bands should be based on common sense, good manners and mutual respect.

  • Rule # 1: never do or say what you would not want your best friend nor anyone else in the world to know about.

  • A problem is that radio transmissions can be made anonymously. A person making unidentified transmissions with malicious intentions is not worth being a radio amateur.

  • Never ever contemplate jamming the transmissions from another station. As jamming can be done anonymously, it is the utmost expression of cowardliness.

  • There simply is no excuse for such behavior, even if you think that the station deserves to be jammed.

  • So, maybe there is a situation which in your opinion needs to be corrected? Perhaps rightfully so, but think twice what will be the added value to our hobby, to YOUR hobby, to your reputation, before you start doing or saying anything.

  • Don’t start discussions on the air. Chances are that others will join in and in no time what maybe started as a more or less friendly discussion, may degenerate. Keep personal conflicts off the air. Settle your arguments on the telephone, the Internet or in person.

Cops (frequency police)

  • Cops are self appointed would-be frequency policemen who think they need to correct other hams making an error, on the air and on the spot.
  • Sometimes it is indeed necessary that a continuous offender (e.g. someone keeps calling on the transmit frequency of a DX station working split) gets told that he is causing a problem. But there are ways of telling...
  • Time after time we note that the intervening cops cause a lot more havoc than the station they want to correct.

Types of cops

  • Most cops have good intentions and are not using foul language. They remain polite and are often successful in their attempt to keep the frequency of a DX station clear.
  • Some cops also have good intentions but by using bad language and manners they don't achieve their goal to clear a frequency. These cops create chaos instead of calm.

Do not react if you hear one of those would-be cops in action. Keep your distance and ignore them completely. This is the only way to make them stop.

What makes the cops appear?

  • Cops mostly appear on a rare DX station/DXpedition's frequency, usually when this station is working in split mode.
  • The trigger for their appearance is when an operator forgets to activate the split function on his transceiver and starts calling the DX station on its transmit frequency. This is the time for cops to start shooting/shouting.

The good sinners

  • Quite a number of hams just don’t know the proper way of operating under all possible circumstances. Not that they don’t want to be good operators, but they just don’t know how. They have to learn the trade by falling down and getting up. The reason is they were never taught. These are the good sinners.
  • Errare humanum est (to err is human): even so called experts make mistakes. No single human being is perfect. Everyone has on occasion transmitted on the wrong VFO (which means on the transmit frequency of a DX station working split). Maybe because we did not pay enough attention. Maybe we were tired or distracted; after all, we are only human.
  • The first thing to consider in a situation where someone’s error needs to be corrected is how to pass the message.
  • When one gets called to order by a cop shouting up you idiot, it is sometimes difficult to refrain from answering on the spot have you never made a mistake, you arrogant cop?. Don’t however react in such a case, it will always be counterproductive, This is how chaos usually sets in.

And the bad sinners

  • Some hams however seem to delight in using very poor operating habits. In this case Perseverare diabolicum (to persist is devilish) applies.
  • There appear to be more and more disturbed characters that literally enjoy making life difficult for the well behaved operators. These are the sorts that try to disturb DXers with all means at their disposal. In some cases these are frustrated hams who, due to lack of knowledge and wisdom, are not successful in contacting the DX station, and who vent their frustration on their more successful colleagues.
  • Sometimes we witness the most blatant use of vulgarity and obscenities from these characters.
  • All they want is to make others react so that chaos erupts on the frequency.
  • Some good advice: never react when you witness such an act. If nobody reacts, these characters will go away by lack of an audience (see also § III.11). If you are sure you have positively identified a station making this kind of deliberate QRM, consider making a formal complaint to your licensing authorities.
  • Do not react either via the DX Cluster. Rest assured they are watching the DX Clusters as well.

Do you really want to be another cop?

  • When you hear someone making a big or repetitive mistake, remember that you too have made errors in the past, haven’t you? Be tolerant and forgiving!
  • If you really need to say something (to correct a repetitive error), say it in a friendly and positive way, without insulting or sounding patronizing. If ON9XYZ by error repeatedly transmits on the wrong VFO, say 9xyz up please, not up you idiot. The insult brings no added value to the message. It only tells us something about the person making the insult.
  • Realize that your intervention may cause more interference than the actual error you try to correct!
  • Before playing cop, think twice in which way your act will have a positive added value. If you still think it needs to be done, twist your tongue three times before going ahead.
  • Always be polite and constructive.
  • If you need to tell someone he’s transmitting on the wrong VFO, always add a part of that station’s call. How else can he know that your message is addressed to him? Say 9XYZ up please not just up please nor up up up up.
  • If you happen to be the 9xyz station, do not feel too embarrassed, errare only humanum est, and your apology will just cause more QRM.
  • Don’t forget that every cop, by acting as a cop, is doing something illegal: have you heard many frequency cops identifying as required?
  • Another thought: one good cop can be a blessing, two cops are a crowd.

How to behave in the middle of a cop parade?

Being a DXer you will quickly grasp that you accomplish more by not reacting to cops at all. Try to swing something negative into something positive. Keep on listening (here's the magic word again) through the tumult to the DX station and in many cases you will be able to log the DX station while the cops are having a jolly good time.

Tips for dx stations and dxpedition operators

Maybe sooner or later you will be operating at the other side of a pileup. Maybe you will be operator on a DXpedition, a dream of many hams. For the serious operator there are a number of guidelines and procedures to be applied as well, if he wants to be a successful operator. Here are a few tips:

  • Give your callsign after every QSO. If you have a very long call (e.g. SV9/G3ZZZ/P), give it at least every few QSOs.
  • If you work simplex and you cannot sort out the calls well enough (because too many stations call simultaneously on the same frequency), switch to split frequency mode and spread out the callers. Don’t forget that, especially on the low bands where signals from far away DX stations can be very weak, you will be totally covered by the calling stations which are easily 50 dB stronger than you. For a rare DX station split is the way to operate.
  • Before changing to split mode, check if the frequencies you want to use for listening are clear
  • If you work split, mention it after each QSO. For example in CW: UP 5, UP5/10, QSX 1820 etc. In SSB: listening 5 up, listening 5 to 10 up, listening on 14237, up 5, down 12, etc.
  • Do not give the split indication ‘every now and then’. It may make the pile where you listen a little less dense, but inevitably creates havoc on your transmit frequency and will make the split frequency band much wider than required. This is an unacceptable practice from all point of views.
  • In CW split, listen at least 2 kHz above (or below) your transmit frequency, to avoid interference to your signal from key clicks generated by callers. A split of only 1 kHz, as is done regularly, is not enough.
  • In SSB, this should be at least 5, preferably 10 kHz. Some signals of calling stations can be very wide and cause a lot of splatter on your transmit frequency.
  • If, as a DX station, you operate split in the DX window of 80m (in Region 1: 3.5 – 3.51 MHz on CW or 3.775 – 3.8 MHz on phone), listen for the pileup outside the DX window. If you transmit e.g. on 3.795, listen below 3.775 MHz for the pileup (in CW above 3.51 MHz).
  • Keep your listening window as narrow as possible to avoid interference to other band users.
  • If in SSB you copied only part of a callsign, reply with that partial call plus a report, e.g. yankee oscar 59. Do not say yankee oscar, again please. Guaranteed this will attract a whole range of yankee oscars! If you have added a 59 report, you already made half of the QSO and there will be fewer disorderly callers.
  • In CW, in a similar case, never send a question mark if you copied a partial call (e.g. 3TA). A question mark will trigger half of the pileup to start calling you. Send 3TA 599, and not: ?3TA 599. Never send question marks in a pileup situation.
  • The following applies to all modes: if at first you copied only a partial call, always repeat the full call once you have it, so the station that called you is sure he worked you and can put you in his log.


Assume you first copied a partial: ‘3TA’. Send 3TA 599 (in phone say 3TA 59). He confirms: TU DE OH OH3TA 599 (in phone: oscar hotel, oscar hotel three tango alpha you’re 59 QSL?). If you now confirm with QSL TU (in phone: QSL thank you), there is no way OH3TA can tell you worked him. Therefore, confirm with: OH3TA TU (in phone: OH3TA thanks).

  • Once you returned to a partial call with a report, stick to that station, and do not let him be overpowered by other callers. You’re the boss on the frequency, show it. You decide who gets in the log, no one else. The pileup can be quite undisciplined, but often this is due to a lack of authority from the operator of the DX station. If the crowd notices that you stick to the original partial call, and that their out of turn calling is to no avail, they will eventually give up, and show more discipline.
  • If you give up on the original partial call and just pick up one of the loud undisciplined callers, you admit the wild callers are in charge of the frequency. Now you’re in trouble. In many cases, chaos is a result of the DX operator not showing authority or not living by his own rules.
  • If the partial call you originally came back to disappeared, do not just pick up the call of one of the strong undisciplined callers who’s been giving you a hard time the last several minutes. Just call a CQ again and listen a few kHz higher or lower. Never give the impression you are now calling one of the undisciplined callers. Show them that their undisciplined calling was useless.
  • You have returned for a particular station in the pileup (e.g. JA1ZZZ) and you have put him in the log. However he keeps calling you again, obviously because he did not hear you give him his report. Do not go back to him with JA1ZZ you are in the log (on phone) or JA1ZZZ QSL (CW) but call him again and give his report again. He obviously wants to hear his report!

Always follow a standard pattern in your transmissions

For example, you are ZK1DX:

ZK1DX 5 to 10 up (you hear ON4XYZ calling)

ON4XYZ 59 (you give his report)

QSL ZK1DX 5 to 10 up (you confirm, identify and call again)

  • If you keep following that same pattern, the pileup will know that when you say 5 to 10 up, you are listening again for new callers. Always maintain this same pattern, the same speed, the same rhythm. This way everyone will know exactly when to call. Should be like clockwork.
  • If the pileup remains undisciplined, do not get too excited about it. If the situation does not improve, just move to another mode or band, but let the pileup know.
  • Always stay cool, don’t start insulting the pileup. All you can and must do is to firmly show the pileup that you are in charge, and that you set the rules. It is important that you emanate authority.
  • Do not work so-called two-letter calls. If you hear such stations, tell them you want to hear full calls only.
  • If in split mode it appears that many of the calling stations are not copying you well, it is likely that your transmitting frequency suffers from interference. If this situation persists, in SSB try changing your transmit frequency 5 kHz, and tell the pileup about your move. In CW, moving 0.5 kHz will usually suffice.
  • On CW, 40 WPM is about the maximum speed to be used during a smoothly ongoing pileup. On the lower HF bands (40-160m) it’s better to use a little lower sending speed (20-30 WPM, depending on circumstances).
  • Always keep the pileup abreast of your plans. When you go QRT, tell them. When you need a pit stop, tell them: QRX 5 (QRX 5 minutes, standby). If you move to another band, inform the crowd.
  • If you want to keep the pileup calm and more or less disciplined, and keep your transmit frequency clear, the most effective way of doing so is to keep the callers happy. Let them know what you are doing. Know that they all (with one or two exceptions) want to work you. You are hot!
  • The DX station operator sometimes works by numbers or call areas. This means that he will only reply to stations having the number he specified in their prefix. Statistically the pileup should be 10 times thinner!
  • Avoid as much as possible working by numbers, it’s not a very good system.
  • If you want to apply this method, apply the following rules:
    • Once you started working by numbers, go through all numbers at least once. If you go QRT in the middle of a sequence, or start working random numbers all of a sudden in the middle of a numbering sequence, you are going to create commotion.
    • Never forget, when you work by numbers that 90% of the DXers are idling, biting their fingernails! They keep a close eye on you and carefully count how many stations you work of each number, and you can be sure some operators will lose control if you do not soon reach their number.
    • Always start a sequence with 0, and move up in numbers one by one. No frills. Keep it simple.
    • Do not specify numbers at random: first 0’s, then 5’s, then 8’s, then 1’s etc... It will drive the pileup mad. If you follow a logical sequence, the pileup can more or less predict when it will be their turn. A random system will make them utterly nervous.
    • Work maximum 10 stations of each number. Make sure you work approximately the same total of stations per number. If you manage to work 5 stations a minute, it will still take you 20 minutes to complete the circle. This means some stations will have to wait and sit idle for almost 20 minutes, which is a long time. On average the waiting time is 10 minutes. Don’t forget propagation conditions can change a lot in 20 or even 10 minutes!
    • Always tell the pileup how many stations you will work from each number and repeat that information every time you increment the number in the callsign.
  • The method of calling by numbers is seldom used on CW.
  • A better technique to make the pileup a little thinner is to work by continents or geographical areas. This also gives a better chance to remote regions of the world, where signals are often weak and openings shorter.
  • In this case you will specify a continent, which means you insist that only stations from that area should call you. For example if you want to work only North American stations, call CQ North America ONLY or on CW: CQ NA.
  • Use this technique primarily to reach those areas of the world that have poor propagation or short openings to you.
  • If you use this technique because the pileup is too dense, rotate quickly between the continents or areas. A good rule of thumb is that one should not stay with the same area for longer than 15 to max. 30 minutes.
  • Inform the pileup of your plans, tell them exactly how you will rotate between areas, and follow your planning.
  • Switch back to working all areas/continents as soon as conditions permit.
  • Both abovementioned techniques should be avoided as much as possible, with one exception, where you look for difficult to reach areas.
  • The main problem with these selective methods is that a large majority of hams is sitting idle, and getting nervous. Nervous DXers can easily change into aggressive cops. If you go QRT or change bands just before their number was supposed to come up, rest assured you will be called names on your transmit frequency.
  • We have witnessed some DX operators trying to work by country. This must be avoided at all times for obvious reasons: now you have set 99% of the DXers wanting to work you, on hold. This way of operating guarantees chaos in no time.
  • Watch out when using a preferential treatment for your friends or for stations from your home country. Do it very discretely and make sure it happens invisibly. Better yet, don’t do it.
  • So far we have listed a number of issues, all relating to operating procedures, aiming at making chasing DX more enjoyable for the DX chasers and the DXpeditioners alike. It is evident that by education and training both groups can improve their operating and achieve a win-win situation for both: a better and more enjoyable DXing world.
  • At one time or another almost all of us have been confronted with a situation where deliberate QRMers are out to destroy the fun enjoyed by thousands of DX chasers. They QRM the DX’s transmit frequency either using no call or calls they ‘borrow’ for their unethical behavior. This issue is indeed an ethical issue (see § I.2.5) , an issue of good and bad, and not an issue related to operating procedures. To a large extent this kind of QRM will not be changed by education and training.
  • This D(eliberate)QRM is caused by a small group of social hooligans missing any degree of moral standards. Their acts are merely the expression of a steadily growing degree of selfishness we, unfortunately, seem to find nowadays in many layers of society.
  • If you suffer from such DQRM, move frequency slightly, e.g. 500 Hz in CW, just sending your call followed by a string of DITS while slowly QSYing so the pileup understands what you are doing or, on phone, e.g. 5 kHz up or down after having announced your QSY. Don’t mention the reason.
  • Never acknowledge you are suffering from DQRM. The small numbers of individuals causing DQRM will most frequently stop acting if they have no audience, in other words if no one reacts to their provocation. Always ignore them; never quit.

Legally binding?

Are all the procedures as outlined in this document legally binding? Most of them are not. A few examples: in most countries one should identify every 5 (in some 10) minutes. This rule exists for the monitoring stations and control authorities to be able to identify transmissions. These 5 minutes are a legal minimum, but good practice and sound customs as well as search for efficiency and good manners, in one word ‘correct operating practice’ tells us to also identify at each QSO, especially if these are short contacts as e.g. during a contest or when working a pileup. These operating procedures must make it possible for the entire amateur radio community to be able to enjoy the hobby in best understanding.

A similar example concerns the IARU Band Plan which has no binding legal character in most countries, but clearly serves at making living together on the crowded bands more enjoyable.

Neglecting to apply the operating procedures as outlined in this document will probably not send you to jail, but it will certainly result in inferior operating practice from your side.