So, I key up on a repeater to see if it works, or to see what cool courtesy tone they are using. I don't do anything else. Is it illegal or bad ham radio etiquette to just key up for a second, key down, and not do anything else?


  • $\begingroup$ LOL, look at me and my embarrassing questions from high school back in 2014 getting popular in 2019. $\endgroup$ – Skyler 440 Oct 23 '19 at 1:48

Bad etiquette and illegal. Bad etiquette because anyone else scanning the repeater will hear your useless silence, and illegal by §97.119:

§97.119 Station identification.

(a) Each amateur station, except a space station or telecommand station, must transmit its assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communication, and at least every 10 minutes during a communication, for the purpose of clearly making the source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions. No station may transmit unidentified communications or signals, or transmit as the station call sign, any call sign not authorized to the station.

  • $\begingroup$ Just playing Devil's Advocate for a bit. I brief dead key to check the repeater is not a communication. It is just a transmission. The cite above regards communication. So by a strict reading of part 97, kerchunking may not be a violation. $\endgroup$ – Lance Oct 2 '19 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Lance That's an interesting argument, but I'm inclined to disagree. Part 97 doesn't provide a definition of "communication," but it says that one-way communications are allowed for testing, so you don't necessarily need to be in a conversation for your transmission to count as a communication. I would say that a communication is the content of any transmission, whether it's meant to be received by anyone or not. When you kerchunk, you're transmitting an empty communication, but it's still a communication. Just like sending a blank postcard in the mail is still sending a postcard. $\endgroup$ – mrog Oct 2 '19 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ I should have said, "one-way communications are allowed for station adjustment," not for "testing." But, the same logic still applies. $\endgroup$ – mrog Oct 2 '19 at 16:19
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Lance The quoted section reads, "No station may transmit unidentified communications or signals". Is a kerchunk a singal? I think unambiguously yes. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Oct 2 '19 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ @PhilFrost-W8II That's a much better argument than the one I made. Nicely done! $\endgroup$ – mrog Oct 2 '19 at 20:20

Yes, because you have transmitted but not identified. Whether there is a repeater listening to your transmission is irrelevant.

  • $\begingroup$ OK. thanks. Its not like they can track a 1 second signal anyway, but yeah, I usually key, let the Morse code go, then say my callsign, so I am not talking over the morse. $\endgroup$ – Skyler 440 Jun 1 '14 at 22:23
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ "Its not like they can track a 1 second signal anyway" Reducing the probability of getting caught does not make the behavior less illegal. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jun 2 '14 at 9:31

As per the etiquette part of the question, the general consensus is to not simply key up for a second.

If you don’t want to engage in conversation, but simply want to see if you can access a certain repeater, simply say your call and 'testing'.

If you want a signal report from another amateur, state that in plain English. Example: 'This is [your callsign], can someone give me a signal report?'

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I find "heeeey, just testing!" at least as annoying, if not more so than kerchunking. Why were you testing? Did you want to see if you could hit the repeater? Did you want to hit the repeater because you had something to say? Then just say it! Don't have anything to say? Then why do you need a repeater? Try testing with a dummy load, or on an unused frequency. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Jun 2 '14 at 1:13
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @PhilFrost Announcing "test" is annoying, yes, but also the legal way to do this. Happens all the time on our local repeaters someone keys up, announces callsign & just says "testing" then disappears. Because of the terrain in my area we have many repeaters some can reach several hundred kilometers south, but only maybe 50 km east/west due to terrain features and elevation. People frequently test just to hear the courtesy tone on a repeater to know if they can hit it from they are and don't want to waste time with a verbose explanation of their test particularly if it is likely to fail. $\endgroup$ – BenSwayne Jun 2 '14 at 15:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BenSwayne is it too much to ask that people not be jerks, and make no useless transmissions on repeaters of any kind, legal or not? If we are looking for the most legal way to tie up a shared resource with things of no interest to anyone, we are probably on the wrong track... $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Jun 2 '14 at 16:46
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I have a friend that collects courtesy tones $\endgroup$ – Skyler 440 Jun 10 '14 at 1:27
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @PhilFrost Well I'd have to disagree. I wouldn't kerchunk a repeater, but if I'm in a new town for a couple of days, I might look up the list of local repeaters and try to establish which ones I can access from various locations. At that point, I don't have anything to say really, but I transmit with my call sign to see if I can hit the repeater. A dummy load or unused frequency is no help in that circumstance. Seems perfectly reasonable to me. $\endgroup$ – N4MOX Jun 15 '14 at 1:56

Transmitting without identifying is illegal in nearly all circumstances.

One exception to this is when you make a transmission of type TEST on a band that allows such. TEST is defined as an unmodulated CW signal (since it is unmodulated, it can't include an ID). TEST is only allowed on HF bands (and a few other areas) where you might use SSB or CW.

In other words, it is legal to tune up on HF without identifying. But repeater bands (which use FM) do not allow TEST, so you must identify there, and if you key up on FM, it is modulated, even if you don't speak.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "...it is legal to tune up on HF without identifying..." Are you sure about that? $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Oct 4 '19 at 1:00
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Read the section of part 97 about TEST. TEST by definition, can't include an identification. $\endgroup$ – user10489 Oct 4 '19 at 1:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I suggest that you edit your answer and insert a link and quote, as Phil Frost nicely did here. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Oct 4 '19 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ Whoops, I just noticed that the question was not referring to HF at all. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Oct 4 '19 at 1:54
  • $\begingroup$ Ya, I'd quote the test section, but it's not relevant to this question beyond being a counterexample. $\endgroup$ – user10489 Oct 4 '19 at 4:12

Keying up is keying up -to a repeater- not to any individual. If you key up and do not speak then you are merely checking to verify a connection to the -repeater-. It actually -is- proper etiquette to merely key-up. You would speak when you want a conversation. Lets not confuse wanting a conversation with verifying your system is connecting with the repeater system. Proper etiquette is to keep conversation to a minimum in an emergency. The statute is not intended to clarify keying up or establishing a connection between a radio operator and a repeater. the law pertains to when people communicate generally speaking. There is nothing rude about keying up. It is not a personal assault on anyone else. When someone keys up they -should- be merely establishing a connection. They are allowed to listen & not communicate. That is part of the allowance permitted by our licenses; being a good -listener. Please don't confuse the above reference statute. Please enjoy the hobby. KM4FZQ

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Listening & not communicating is done with the receiver portion of your transceiver, not the transmitter portion. If you key up, you're transmitting, and must abide by the regulations that govern transmission. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Oct 2 '19 at 17:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.