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The August 1994 issue of Six News
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working pile-ups and CQing on .110!
Chris Gare, G3WOS


I would like to thank Roger, G3SXW, for allowing me to adapt some of his advice given at this years’ HF convention to our 6M needs. We could all learn something new about how to get yourself heard in a pileup. However, let's start with a small but obvious caveat and that is that 6M is not like HF. It therefore follows that in aspects 6M pileups are very different from pileups. For example:

  • Many DX openings are very short and fleeting. signals can be S9+ for only a few minutes e.g. the two openings to ZAIZLZ in October only lasted 5 minutes each in the UK. This means that there is often tremendous pressure to work the DX before it disappears, maybe for ever. 

  • Many operators have come down from the VHF bands (I include myself in this group) and are basically unfamiliar and lack the experience in the handling big pileups so well known on HF.

  • A recent comment from Bob, CU3/K6EDX was that his principal observation of his few weeks spent in the Azores was that "There may be more U.K. stations on 50MHz, per grid square, than anywhere else in the world". My view is that they all live in 1O91! This, combined with high gain antennas, means that local QRM in a pileup is usually S9+40dB and it only takes one station calling co-channel over the top of the DX and the QSO rate can completely grind to a halt.

What do we need to achieve in a 'working a pileup? I think there are only two principal goals to aim at that will help you work the DX quickly and effectively while not upsetting the other co-callers. These are:



OK let's take a look at how we can meet these two goals while achieving the object of getting the DX into your 6M log.

  • Remember, we are all in this for fun, don't take it too seriously!

  • Make your calls crisp and concise. Only send your callsign ONCE quickly and clearly. Just as quickly go back to receive mode to make sure you have not doubled and to listen for the DX station to come back to you. DX will only go back to the strongest station or to a station in the clear, hence...

  • Don't necessarily call straight away. Calls spread in time stand a good chance of being heard. but, PLEASE PLEASE, callsign ONCE and then LISTEN. If you think the DX is going back to someone else, or you are not sure what's happening, STOP and LISTEN don't keep calling ad nauseam (in my dictionary that means "to a disgusting extent'!).

  • Make sure you know what station is the cause of the pile-up and that You know its complete callsign - asking for a call clarification in the middle of a pile-up is a no-no. If you really are unsure, work him and listen for as long it takes after your QSO to get the call.

  • BEFORE calling, ALWAYS listen to the general pattern of the pileup and to the style of the DX operator. Only give the information he needs or requests. If he only wants RST, ONLY GIVE HIM THE RST. If he wants locator codes and names, fine, give them to him quickly and promptly. If it is just a short opening and he only wants to hear your report, responding with "my name is Norman, Norman is my name, I will spell it for you N - O - R - M - A - N, that is Norway - Oscar - Radio Mike - Alpha - Norway and I am located 15km west of London in a little town called... Please give me your callsign again" is not going to make you any friends! (sorry to any Norman who is a member!).

  • Although it's rare on 6M, if the DX station announces 'QSX’ or 'UP’ or 'DOWN’ NEVER CALL on the DX station's frequency. If operating split, try to find where the station he is currently in contact with is and call him on that frequency, this will dramatically improve your chances of letting him to hear you. The more you can work out the DX station's tuning patterns the easier it will be in the long run to work him.

  • In a co-channel pile-up moving slightly off the DX stations frequency will help, but be careful! HF is OK, but moving LF will only mean that intelligibility is lost when using USB.

  • This is an interesting point and I must admit I agree with it whole heartedly. DO NOT SEND YOUR CALLSIGN IN PARTIAL FORM! This wastes everybody's time, yours and the DX stations. Remember though, only send it only once and LISTEN.

I have concentrated here on co-channel SSB pileups as these cause the most problems on 6M. CW pileups do exist but they are more easily managed. Remember, be quick and concise as there are possibly hundreds of other 6M enthusiasts tearing their hair out with frustration calling! Remember them! I also have no idea what is the best way to handle pileups such as that with XX9JN, where he was having great difficulties picking callsigns out and taking what seemed an eternity to come back to anybody.

CQing on .110 - a Controversial Subject

Now for a more difficult subject. There has been more problems, raised voices, and strong letters on this subject than any other I think over the last couple of years. So, what is the problem here, indeed, is there a problem at all?

The old thorn in the side was more a question of band planning. 110 was, and is, allocated as the intercontinental call frequency and it has always been questionable to work European stuff on, or near this frequency. However, I'm a pragmatist, not a policeman, and when there is NO intercontinental DX to be seen I have often worked European stuff on this frequency - come on haven’t we all - often? This in itself is not the major cause of concern though. If there is no intercontinental DX then calling is probably OK and nobody bothers or gets upset. As we have all learnt to our irritation, 6M is a tremendously selective band from a propagation point of view. One station can be hearing DX while another station a few miles away may not be hearing a thing. For example there may be African DX into the south coast of the UK but nothing 50 miles to the north. This has nothing to do with being well equipped with stacked aerials at 100 feet - they don’t help if propagation is not reaching you. What it does mean is that just because you are not hearing anything you cannot assume there is no DX on 110 for somebody. What makes the situation worse is that most stations do not call CQ unless they think there is a chance of DX contacts and this is precisely the time when there probably is for someone else nearby or in another part of the country. If this is the situation there are many stations probably listening to short bursts from possibly South America, Africa or Australia just waiting for signals to improve in strength to allow identification of the DX station and create an opportunity to call. Calling CQ at this point is surely tempting fate!

But this scenario is occurring more and more. It is not a question of the better equipped stations hearing more than a more modestly equipped station (although it sometimes is) is it much more to do with selective propagation. So the question to ask yourself is - how do I know when is the right time to call CQ on 110 if at all?' I have no pat answers to this, I can only tell you how I try and handle it..

  • In six years of operating 6M I cannot think of ONE instance where calling CQ on .110 has elicited a new country for me (This has not always been the case for other amateurs, before you all start shouting!). Therefore I do NOT call CQ on .110, or if I do it is very rarely (setting myself up to be knocked down I suppose!).

  • I certainly NEVER EVER call CQ on .110 if I think that someone else is hearing DX, even if I can't hear it. As I discussed in the last issue, LISTENING is key to working DX. LISTEN rather than call, that is the way of picking up those rare stations in other continents.

  • None of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes, but if you have been intensely listening to weak exotica for hours on 110 (4J for example?) and up pops a CQ caller, rather than ask him clear off, ask him (or her) politely to QSY and TELL HIM WHY OR WHAT YOU ARE HEARING OR LISTENING FOR, and please GIVE YOUR CALLSIGN. Be polite, we do have to co-exist. Don't let the band deteriorate to the level of many other allocations.

  • If the desire to call CQ is just too overwhelming (I know the feeling only too well) move AT LEAST 5kHz HF or LF of 110 and give a call - don't splatter 110. Make all calls SHORT. We are all familiar with the short burst QSOs on 6M, if you give a long five minute CO then you will have probably missed a marvellous QSO possibility.

  • If you really must call CQ on 110, think twice, listen for five minutes, cross your legs, count to 100, and if the overwhelming desire is still there go ahead and CALL! At the end of the day the choice is yours and yours alone. You might even find 3D2 coming back to you to make 6M history!

I'm sure that you all have views on the controversial matters discussed in this short article, why not write to SIX NEWS and let know what they are?


UKSMG Six News issue 32, January 1992


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