On the UK Band Plan there are frequencies stating “QRS (slow telegraphy) Centre of Activity”. For example, 14,055 kHz on 20m and 3,555 kHz on 80m.

  1. What is considered slow? (<15 wpm?)

  2. How close should you stay to the stated frequencies?

  • $\begingroup$ This question makes me ponder what kind of slow speeds they have to use for LF and maybe VLF to talk to submarines. $\endgroup$
    – SDsolar
    Jun 21, 2018 at 7:27

3 Answers 3


QRS actually means "Please slow down" and is not really defined as a specific speed. So basically what they are trying to do is be as inclusive as possible.

When I earned my Novice license in 1971 the speed required was 5 wpm.

Then when I earned Advanced in 1977 it was 13 wpm.

I am studying now for the Amateur Extra, and am amazed that there is no Morse requirement. When I get serious I am sure I'll get it. I'll probably make a single letter change in my callsign. I am AL7** right now, but I want KL7**.

Local lore had it that most people had a "plateau" of about 10 wpm as they progressed in speed. It was said that was the speed where instead of writing down letters you could hear whole words like "the" and "ES" which meant "and" and so on.

My experience was different. My plateau is about 18 wpm. At that point you don't even write it down; you just listen to the conversation.

It helps that a lot of it is preformatted, like "QTH IS FAIRBANKS FAIRBANKS" and "RST 999" and all that. But when you get on with a conversation it takes time to learn to do that reliably.

So, to answer your question #1 - I would say slow is considered to be just slow enough that the other operator can copy - they'll send "RRR" or "QSL" to let you know. If I had to put a number on it, it would be much less than 15 - more like 5 or so.

Answer #2 is pretty clear. You simply stay on your assigned frequency. Unless the other operator (maybe has QRM or QRN) and requests a QSY (change frequency).

The UK band plan assigns 14.0-14.060 for this type of operation so clearly there is some flexibility.

Here is the relevant document in terms of frequencies, which I think you referenced: UK Band Plan

I am not familiar with the foundation level, but here is where it talks to power level: Reference data for the Foundation Level Examination

In the USA we can transmit as fast or as slow as we want, and our only concern is interference with others.

OK, those are the answers, now let me tell a quick story.

When US Navy radio operators used to get trained in Morse, years back, they would all have typewriters. (In all my exams we had a pencil and paper). But the kicker is that their typewriter keys were all just flat black.

The instructor would pull down a chart at the front of the room showing the layout of the keys, and they would start transcribing what they heard. So far, so good. They could get up into the 20s that way, with glances up at the chart.

Then at some point (early on - just a couple of days) the instructor would not pull down the chart. From then on they were expected to develop muscle memory that would cause them to hit the right keys as they heard the code.

I have heard wild stories about the speeds they could achieve.

Then they would start giving them high-speed code without typing. Wearing earphones, they heard two signals - one for each ear, and different audio frequencies. Then they would take a quiz on what they heard.

Now those were the guys who could really do the job. They could sit and monitor code and get the gist.

The single most important thing I learned in my Morse training was to not fret about missing a letter - because fretting will make you miss even more. You need to just go on.

My favorite frequencies for Morse are about 14.170-14.180, plus 80 meters. And for SSB nothing beats 14.205. I wonder how it is over there.

Anyway, I hope you have an enjoyable experience if you do this.

Thank you for an interesting question. Upvote.


  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the very informative response! I've got my intermediate licence here in the UK, but due to problems at the time I didn't get much air time and have just picked the radio back up. I tried CW when I first got my foundation, but tried learning by memorising a chart, which didn't work. What you have said will help a lot this time. I'm determined to stick with it! 73 DE 2E0CWT $\endgroup$
    – Phil_12d3
    Mar 2, 2017 at 9:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Phil_12d3 About learning CW. I think the best method is to use some automated software system (available somewhere on-line) and learn the alphabet as best as you can. Then, get on the air and start listening. Go for stations sending about 15 to 20 wpm and get as much as you can. Just fine to get only a single letter out of a word at the start. Listen for at least one hour per day. I know adults who have done this and went from knowing nothing to operating on the air within two or three months. Doing it consistently for an hour a day though is the key to this method. $\endgroup$
    – K7PEH
    Mar 2, 2017 at 15:32

On the west coast USA there is a slow CW traffic net that meets each night on the 80 meter band. The rules for this net is nothing faster than 10 wpm. It is a dual purpose net, teaching traffic handling skills and available for those who are not up to the CW speeds for a regular net. The regular CW traffic nets are about 20 wpm on average.

So, that is one definition of slow CW. I operate almost 100 percent CW and have a pretty good feel of CW ops. Most slower CW is around 15 wpm on average. Once and a while I will hear someone who is below 10 wpm but not often.

As the previous answer stated, the formal definition of QRS is a request for someone to slow down their CW. And, QRQ means to speed up. But, it also is used informally by ham operators to define either slow or fast CW as the OP used the term. I know of a QRQ operators club that operates only at 40+ wpm. I know of a QRQ club or group that operates at 60+ wpm. But, most people say QRQ speeds are anything above 30 wpm.

So, QRS in my opinion is 15 wpm or less -- QRQ is 30 wpm or more.

About band plans for CW speed -- in the US as far as I know, there is no formal band plan for CW operating speed. However, most QRS is found around the 050 to 060 segment of the bands. On 20m this is 14050 to 14060 KHz, on 40m it would be 7050 to 7060 KHz and so on. But, you can hear QRS stations all over but the most are found in these segments I mentioned.

I learned CW when I was 9 (and 10) years old back in the latter part of the 1950s. I kept putting off the task of taking my Novice test so by the time I took the Novice 5 wpm test I was easily copying 18 to 20 wpm. Today I am still comfortable at about 20 wpm but during a contest I can play at 30 to 35 wpm without too much of a problem. Learning CW when you are really young is the best. I am still trying to convince my grandkids to learn CW just to have a different and unique skill among their peers.

  • $\begingroup$ Gads, is the QRQ being done by machines? $\endgroup$
    – SDsolar
    Mar 2, 2017 at 20:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I know guys who can do 60 wpm and they do not use machines. Personally, I think sending is harder than receiving. I can copy call signs at 40 wpm but I can't send at 40 wpm even with my keyer speed set to 40 wpm. $\endgroup$
    – K7PEH
    Mar 3, 2017 at 6:25

This may be a hold-over from when amateur licenses required Morse code.

In the US, the entry level license (Novice) required 5 words per minute, and the next two levels required 13 wpm and 20 wpm.

Novices were restricted to a few small sub-bands on HF, so it was common to hear and use Morse at slower speeds there.

I can't find the details of Morse requirements in the UK, only that they were dropped in 2003. The RSGB offers Morse competency certificates starting at 5 wpm, so that might have been the lowest requirement.


  • $\begingroup$ Alas, gone are the days of making a workable receiver from a match, razor blade and some wire. $\endgroup$
    – SDsolar
    Mar 3, 2017 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ @SDsolar, I made a radio for my intermediate licence. I'm no sure if that was required or just part of the tutoring I got. $\endgroup$
    – Phil_12d3
    Mar 6, 2017 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ When I took the Morse test for my UK Class A licence in 1993, the requirement was for 12wpm. When they introduced the Novice licence in the UK, the requirement was for a 5wpm test. $\endgroup$
    – Scott Earle
    Jul 3, 2017 at 7:25

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