Most radio amateurs or aspiring radio amateurs reading this manual are probably new to amateur radio. Up until recently, newcomers were thrown on the bands with very little, if any, help, without clear instructions or teaching on how to behave on the air. Can you imagine being released on the roads, in heavy traffic, without anyone having told you how to drive a car or how to behave on the road? This idea by itself seems frightening to most of us. Appearing on the ham bands without being prepared for this wonderful experience could be equally intimidating, to say the least. Don’t panic though, everybody some day drove a car for the first time, and every ham was a new ham at first.

Welcome to the world of ham radio, welcome to our bands. This document will help you to better enjoy this wonderful hobby, right from the start. Don’t forget, ham radio is a hobby, and a hobby by definition is something you enjoy!

The reader should not let himself be deterred by the many rules in this manual, thinking that these would lessen the pleasure and satisfaction of making radio contacts. These rules are easy to understand and will rapidly become an automatic code of conduct for every ham of good will.

This manual is divided in three parts:

  1. Introduction. Why this manual?
  2. General Operating This section applies to all radio amateurs, whatever kind of operating they do (rag chewing, DX chasing, contesting etc.).
  3. Advanced Operating This section covers subjects mainly linked to DXing: making QSOs in pile- ups, using the DX Cluster, DX nets, being the DX operator in a rare country, conflict situations etc.

Amateur radio code of conduct

Basic principles

Basic principles that should govern our code of conduct on the ham bands are:

  • Social feeling, feeling of brotherhood, brotherly spirit: large numbers of us are all playing radio on the same airwaves (our playing field). We are never alone. All other hams are our colleagues, our brothers and sisters, our friends. Act accordingly. Always be considerate.
  • Tolerance: not all hams necessarily share your opinions, and your opinions may also not be the best ones. Understand there are other people with different opinions on a given subject. Be tolerant. This world is not for you exclusively.
  • Politeness: never use rude language or abusive words on the bands. Such behaviour says nothing about the person it is addressed to, but a lot about the person behaving that way. Keep yourself under control at all times.
  • Comprehension: please understand that not everyone is as smart, as professional or as much an expert as you. If you want to do something about it, act positively (how can I help, how can I correct, how can I teach) rather than negatively (cursing, insulting etc.).

The danger of conflicts

Only one playing field, the ether: all hams want to play their game or want to exercise their sport, but it all has to be done on a single playing field: our amateur bands. Hundreds of thousands of players on a single playing field will sometimes lead to conflicts.


All of a sudden you hear someone calling CQ or talking to someone else on your frequency (the frequency you’ve been using for a while). How is that possible? You were here for more than half an hour on a perfectly clear frequency! Yes, it IS possible; maybe that other station thinks as well that you have intruded on HIS frequency. Maybe the skip or propagation has changed.

How to avoid conflicts?

  • By explaining to all players what the rules are, and by motivating them to apply these rules. Most of the actual conflicts are caused by ignorance: many hams don’t know the rules well enough.
  • In addition, many conflicts are handled in a poor way, once again through ignorance.
  • This manual is intended to do something about this lack of knowledge, mainly aiming at avoiding conflicts of all sorts.

The moral authority

  • In most countries the authorities do not care in detail how hams behave on their bands, providing that they operate according to the rules laid down by the authorities.
  • The radio amateur community is said to be largely self policing, this means self discipline has to be the basis of our conduct. It does NOT mean though that the ham community has its own police services!

The code of conduct

  • What do we mean by code of conduct? The code of conduct is a set of rules based on principles of ethics, as well as operational considerations.
  • Ethics: determine our attitude, our general behaviour as radio amateurs. Ethics have to do with morals. Ethics are the principles of morals.


    Ethics tell us never willingly to interfere with transmissions from other stations. This is a moral rule. Not living by it is immoral, as is cheating in contests.

  • Practical rules: to manage all aspects of our behaviour there is more than just ethics, there are also a number of rules based on operational considerations and on radio amateur practice and habits. To avoid conflicts we also need practical rules to guide our behaviour on the amateur bands, as making contacts on the bands is one of our principal activities. We are talking very practical rules and guidelines, governing aspects that are not related to ethics. Most operating procedures (how to make a QSO, how to call, where to operate, what QRZ means, how to use the Q code etc.) form part of it. Respect for the procedures guarantees optimal performance and effectiveness in our QSOs and will be a key in avoiding conflicts. These procedures came about as a result of daily practice over many years and as a result of ongoing technological developments.

This manual

  • The manual is entirely dedicated to the code of conduct of radio amateurs. For the greatest part this code of conduct consists of operational procedures, topped off with the moral principles which are the foundation for our general behaviour as explained above.
  • Knowledge of the amateur code of conduct is as important for hams as the knowledge of the national rules and regulations and the basics of electricity, electronics, antennas, propagation, safety etc.
  • This manual aims to make all hams familiar with this code of conduct on the bands, whether they are old timers or newcomers or candidate hams.
  • This has never been done so far in such great detail, and the detailed knowledge of this code of conduct has so far not been included in either the study or the exam material for candidate hams. This appears to be one of the reasons why, unfortunately, we hear so many shortcomings and infringements of this code of conduct on our bands.
  • Teaching newcomers and testing their knowledge during the radio amateur exams will hopefully make it less necessary to correct situations on the air, and will make our bands a more attractive place for all of us where cursing, jamming and shouting will soon be only a bad memory.
  • Hams make errors regarding these operating procedures mainly because they have never been taught how to behave correctly. They have hardly been trained on this subject. We should not blame them, we should train them!
  • This manual covers operating procedures regarding the most used transmission modes (SSB, CW, RTTY and PSK).