First Contact

In this tutorial we are going learn how to configure the DM-1801 radio to talk on a repeater, and obtain a basic signal report. This tutorial is a good starting point if you haven't made a radio contact before, used a repeater, or are unfamiliar with the Baofeng DM-1801

It's important to note that this is amateur radio, not professional radio. It's completely ok to make mistakes. If you need help with these instructions reach out in the Pride Radio Group discord server.

Complexity

Requirements

Outcomes

Understanding repeaters

The easiest way to think about repeaters is as if they were two radios duck tapped together (they are little more involved than that in the real world). One radio is the uplink radio (the radio that listens), and another radio is the downlink radio (the one that transmits). When the uplink radio hears something it will tell the downlink radio to start transmitting exactly what it hears.

Repeaters are useful as they can be placed in really high places, like the tops of buildings or hills, to extend the radio coverage

Repeater terms

Term Description
Downlink The radio that is transmitting signals at the repeater
Uplink The radio that is receiving signals at the repeater.
Offset Offset is another way of expressing the uplink frequency. The offset is the difference between the downlink and the uplink. For example, if a repeater downlink frequency is 100MHz, and the offset -10 MHz, when you transmit to talk to the repeater, your radio would shift down 10MHz to 90MHz (the uplink frequency).
CTCSS / tone Continuos Tone Coded Squelch System: a tone that is sent or received by the repeater to un-squelch (eg turn on) the radio
Duplex Repeaters are often called duplex mode as they are using two frequencies

Finding a repeater

If you have someone with local knowledge it's wise to ask them what repeaters are in your area that are active. Pride Radio Group members may be able to answer this question for you. For this task you will need to find a repeater that you are within range of, and other radio amateurs use. In this tutorial we are specifically looking for 2m (VHF ~140MHz) /70cm (UHF ~430MHz) repeaters as that's what our radio supports. You can use the resources linked below to find repeaters in your local area. The important things to ensure is that you have the downlink frequency, tone, and either the uplink frequency or offset.

Repeater Book

Repeater book has a handy mobile app and website that will search for repeaters in your area that the community has submitted to their website.

WIA Repeater List

WIA provides a list of repeaters in PDF form.

Understanding your radio

We chose the DM-1801 due to it's low price and high functionality. The radio supports 2m (140MHz) and 70cm (430MHz) bands, analog FM, a DMR (digital mobile radio) which allows entry into a large number of systems and projects.

Your radio should have come flashed with OpenDM-1801 firmware. This firmware adds some additional functionality that is useful to amateur radio operators. The configuration of the radio can be performed either by programming with a computer, or via the menus on the radio itself, referred to as front panel programming. All instructions provided will be done using the front panel programming method.

The radio is turned on and off by adjusting the volume knob. When the "push to talk" button is pressed the radio will transmit - the status LED will turn red. An optional external speaker and microphone can be on the right hand side of the radio.

The various menu operations will be explained as we configure the radio.

The radio has two configuration modes, VFO (variable frequency oscillator) and MR (memory recall). It's easier to remember these as their functions:

Most of the tutorials here will use VFO mode for configuration. In this mode you should see two frequencies listed like in the example above. You can switch modes by selecting the VFO/MR button (highlighted in red) The top left of the display will display the modulation mode used - in this case FM.

Configuring your radio

  1. Ensure you antenna is securely attached and insert the battery.

    Never operate the radio without an antenna attached
  2. Switch the radio to VFO mode by using the VFO/MR button (highlighted). The radio should be displaying two frequencies like pictured.

    This will allow us to "dial" the frequencies of the repeater.

  3. Switch the radio to FM mode by pressing the "A/B" button (highlighted). The radio should now be displaying "FM" in the top left corner.

    Analog FM repeaters are much easier to configure and use than DMR (digital mobile radio) so we will be using analog FM in this example.

  4. Now we need to set the receive frequency of our radio. This is the downlink frequency of the repeater. If the repeater details only displays a single frequency and an offset then this is the downlink frequency.

    First make sure that receive frequency is selected. This is indicated by a < symbol next to either smaller RA or RB

    To switch between receive (RA) and transmit (TA) use the function key + up (for receive) or down (for transmit).

    The A or B refers to a memory bank, allowing you quickly switch between two configurations. It's fine to use either - if you wish to switch between them you can use the function button + A/B button to change

  5. With receive frequency selected, type in the downlink frequency of the repeater. In this example I'm going to use VK3RCC as an example

    Downlink: 438.02500
    Uplink: 433.02500
    Tone: 91.5

    Type the frequency in with the number pad. The decimal point will be filled in automatically for you. You can either pad the number with 0's or hit menu key confirm if the number isn't long enough to fit.

    The transmit frequency will also adjust. We'll fix that up in the next step

  6. Now select the transmit frequency to adjust by pressing the function button + down

  7. Just like setting the receive frequency, set the transmit frequency. This is the uplink frequency for the repeater.

    If you only have the downlink frequency and an offset, just add the offset to the downlink frequency. For example:

    Downlink: 438.02500 MHz
    Offset: -5 MHz

    438.02500 + (-5) = 433.02500 MHz, so we would enter 433.02500 into the radio

  8. Most repeaters require a tone to operate. This tone tells the repeater that there is a signal worth repeating and without it most repeaters won't activate

    If the repeaters details don't specify a tone set it to 91.5. This is the standard tone used in Australia for repeaters

    Press the menu button and use the up and down keys to select channel details

  9. Press menu again to enter channel details. Use up and down buttons to highlight "Rx CSS". Use left and right keys to select "CSS:None"

    Once "Rx CSS" is set to none, press down to select "CTCSS:(your tone)", usually this is "CTCSS:91.5"

    We are setting our radio to listen for any tone, and when we transmit, we send a 91.5 tone to activate the repeater.

    It's also a good idea to check the "Bandwidth" option in this menu is also set to 25kHz - this is the standard for most repeaters in Australia

    The channel details should look like the picture on the right. Once complete, press the menu button to save the changes

  10. Next we need to set the squelch. Squelch turns off the radios audio based on signal level so you don't constantly hear static.

    Use the left arrow until you start to hear static, then press the right key 2 or 3 times until the static disappears

  11. By default the radio is configured to transmit with 1 watts of power. Use the function + right arrow to adjust the power up to maximum - 5W. This will give us the best chance at a successful contact

Making a contact

  1. Finally. Time to make your first call! It might be worth having a notepad and pen handy in case you want to write down notes.

    First listen. If you hold down the function button the squelch will be disabled. Make sure you can't hear anyone before attempting to transmit.

    Hold down the PTT button. The status indicator should turn red to indicate the radio is transmitting. Wait for a second or two - this is because receiving radios are sometimes slow to detect a signal. Then put out a call.

    There are many ways to put out a call on a repeater, my typical is "Victor Kilo Three Foxtrot Uniform Romeo (my callsign), on VK3RCC (the repeaters callsign)

    Saying the call in phonetics helps people hear who is calling, while saying which repeater your using allows those who might be scanning through repeaters easily identify which repeater to call back on.

  2. The radio will start counting up with the number of seconds you've been transmitting

    When you release the PTT key the status LED should turn green and you should hear the "tail" of the repeater. If the signal is strong the tail will sound perfectly quite, if you have poor signal the tail will sound like static. Some repeaters also have a courtesy tone, a short beep to let other users know that the transmission is over.

    The repeater may also identify itself with morse code or via voice. Usual this occurs at the end of the first transmission, and then every 10 minutes after that, however each repeater is programmed differently.

    If you don't hear the tail of the repeater, or the light doesn't go green, you may be out of range of that repeater, or the settings my not be correct.

  3. Hopefully someone responds! If someone responds make sure to respond with their callsign, followed by your callsign

    For example: VK3CLR, VK3FUR good afternoon

    You may also want to ask for a signal report

    For example: Am I getting into the repeater ok?

    It's worth noting that using a repeater other users won't be able to provide very accurate signal reports, but it should give you an idea of if your audio quality is good, if your talking loud enough, and if your within range of the repeater.

    Users may give you a signal report using the RST (reachability, signal, tone). Usually two or three numbers.

    The first number is readability. (1 being unreadable, 5 being perfect), the second number being signal strength using an S-meter. The signal strength does not matter when using repeaters.

  4. Repeaters are typically equipped with time out timers. That is if the repeater is on for too long they shutdown for a peroid of time before allowing another transmission. To prevent time outs, make sure you limit your transmission time, and wait for the repeater to stop transmitting (green light should go out) before transmitting again.