Just passed your Foundation course? Congratulations!
This page is for those that have passed their Foundation course and have their licence. Passed your exam, but not yet got your licence and callsign? See our licence process section.
When you’ve just been awarded your Foundation licence and got your callsign, it can be difficult what to do next – how to get on-air and how to chat to others to get help and advice.
On this page, we try to outline the basics of what you need to know, and how to get you in touch, on-air, with other amateurs.
There are so many aspects to the hobby that it’s impossible to cover all of the things that you can now do with your licence. The following guide is based on my personal observation of what worked for me, and may not be right for everyone…
Getting a 2 Metre Rig
If you’re interested in talking to other amateurs in the Essex area, then the 2 metre band (144MHz to 146MHz) is where most of the action takes place. Although it’s not hugely busy, this band is a good place to get chatting. Most of the people you can ‘work’ on 2 metres are local, and there’s a good mix of home-based and mobile users that you can chat to. If you’ve attended a Foundation course in Danbury, you’ll find many of the graduates of the course, plus many of those who run the course, on 2 metres, making it a good place for information and advice.
You’ll need to get yourself a 2 metre radio, of course, and you have the choice of a handheld portable unit (normally 5 watts), or a mobile rig that you can either mount in a car, or use at home with a 12V PSU).
The first 2m radio I purchased was a handheld, on the grounds that I could use it out-and-about, as well as at home.
2m handheld radios generally come with a short rubber duck aerial, which is only really going to be of use over a short distance. Assuming you want to talk to people over a mile-or-so away, you’ll need to connect the radio to a more suitable aerial – either one on your car roof, or a fixed aerial at home.
Given that many 2m hams operate mobile, the ability to take your radio in a car (with a suitable mag-mount aerial for the roof) is a plus. For working at home, you can plug a larger fixed aerial into the handheld’s aerial socket. For a fixed home aerial, you could look at a vertical roof aerial, something in the loft, or at a push, a mag-mount antenna placed on a biscuit tin lid.
A portable 2m handheld gives you up to 5 watts of power, but with a £20 magnetic car aerial, or a proper VHF vertical at home, that 5 watts should get you into the Danbury repeater, from where you can ‘work’ most of Essex. Make sure the radio you get supports CTCSS tones (required for ‘opening’ the Danbury repeater)
If you’re looking for a 2m radio, there are some bargains to be had on eBay, or for a new radio, there’s Waters and Stanton in Hockley. At the time of writing, there’s a basic transceiver available at Maplin, the Moonraker FT-90E. This is available for less than £70. It’s a basic 5 watt 2 metre rig with an SMA aerial connector, and is ideal for the beginner. We’ve got one. See our review of the Moonraker HT-90E
The Danbury 2 Metre Repeater
If you want to be able to chat to other amateur operators in Essex, you should get familiar with the Danbury 2 metre repeater, known as GB3DA.
This is maintained by the Essex Repeater Group and is available to all licensed hams.
This repeater operates at a power of 25 watts, and has a decent coverage of a good party of Essex. Here’s what you need to know:
- The Input frequency is 145.125MHz (you transmit on this frequency)
- The Output frequency is 145.725MHz (you listen on this frequency)
- To ‘open’ the repeater, you either need to send a toneburst, or more commonly, set your radio to use the CTCSS tone 110.9Hz
- The repeater will “time out” if you talk for too long, so keep each ‘over’ to 90 seconds or less
- After each transmission, the repeater sends out a morse “K”. Wait until you hear this before keying up (as this resets the timeout)
We’d encourage you to have a listen to 145.725MHz to get used to the repeater, and how it’s used. Although you’re not required to use your callsign at the start of each ‘over’, that’s the convention used by most operators. To put out a call for a chat, the syntax is generally something like:
“This is M6___ listening through GB3DA for any calls”
More Info: Danbury Repeater GB3DA
Echolink is a system that combines RF and the Internet. It can only be used by licensed amateurs, and to use the Internet system, you have to register using your callsign.
You can download Echolink onto your desktop or laptop computer, and an application for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones is also available – Go to www.echolink.org
You can use Echolink to contact other amateurs around the world, and use your computer or phones mic and speaker to talk (think MSN or Skype for Amateurs). It’s great for situations where you can’t use a radio, can’t get an aerial, or want to connect with an amateur who’s outside the range of your radio equipment.
There is a radio transmission component too – there are a number of local repeater nodes, and using the DTMF keypad on your transmitter, you can open a local node and type in a target node.
If the idea of Echolink appeals, have a listen to the Ireland Conference Server, and get a feel for how it works. For more on Echolink, see our Echolink Hands-on Guide.
If you plan to use the Chelmsford Echolink repeater, the details are as follows:
- Chelmsford Echolink ID: MB7IDA-L
- Chelmsford Echolink Node: 265297
- Chelmsford Echolink Frequency: 144.8375MHz
- To use MB7IDA-L, you need to set your radio to use the CTCSS Tone 110.9Hz
This is the phone book for amateur radio folk. All operators are encouraged to add their details (name, location, etc), plus perhaps a picture or two, to the directory. You have to be a licensed ham to be able to add or edit information, as well as to access personal details.
You’ll find the directory at: www.qrz.com
Adding your callsign: The process of getting your callsign added to the QRZ database isn’t obvious. Here’s a guide:
- Go to the QRZ.com forum and register for a forum account. You’ll have to wait while QRZ activates your account
- When activated, post a message in the Callsign Database forum asking to have your callsign edited. You’ll have to wait for your post to be moderated, and then for a database helper to add your callsign
Once this is done, you can then log on and edit your profile from the main QRZ site.
This is a data service, as opposed to speech. You can connect your radio to a computer, and then communicate by keyboard with amateurs around the world. You will typically need an interface of some kind to connect your computer to your radio, and it seems that most commonly, hams use Ham Radio Deluxe as the software, and then communicate with other amateurs using 80m, 40m and 20m HF.
Anything else we should add to this page? Please let us know, or add a comment below.