Best Amateur Practice and Hotspots

Pi-Star hotspots are becoming more common place with the lowering price of digital radios. They provide a great convenience to ham radio operators as they allow for 1) access to a mode that may not be available in a given area, 2) give freedom in for individual operators to access various digital talk rooms without tying up a repeaters, 3) allow for access to home repeaters when away, and 4) give technician class license holders world-wide DX ability from their home. While there are some operators who don’t view Pi-Star hotspots or digital radio in general as “doing radio,” the benefits are undeniable, especially for those wishing to expand their amateur radio tool kit. We must not forget, however, that a Pi-Star hotspot is still amateur radio and best practice should be utilized.


The ARRL hasn’t yet outlined which frequencies should be used for hotspots. Local repeater councils have started to address the issue. In Indiana, the Indiana Repeater Council has allocated 438.000-439.000 for use with Pi-Star based hotspots. This is to prevent interference with satellite communications, which we all know that I love dearly. Since most satellite operators use headphones to better hear signals, we do appreciate not having a digital tone come through our radios when working birds. The IRC has not addressed the 2 m band since most hotspots are designed for 70 cm. There are some, like the DVMega models, that are dual band. If you wish to set your hotspot up for 2 m, check with your local repeater council or local club for the appropriate frequency. Also, verify that the frequency isn’t in use before setting up your radio. Tune a base station radio to the desired frequency and listen. If it is clear, it is probably good to use.

Here is a link to the Indiana Repeater Council article over hotspots. It is a good read for any repeater council looking to address the issue. Remember, these are tools to be used, not feared. Just because they exist doesn’t give you the privilege to blast a digital signal how you please. Be courteous. Work with your local repeater council and come up with a solution that works.


Pi-Star hotspots are not designed to run really high power. There are some local clubs are installing them as an option for DMR or D-Star repeaters. While this is a low cost option, clubs should be doing this, not individual operators. In your own home, limit the power to 500 mW or less. This will prevent blasting out a massive digital signal and possible cause interference with another hotspot or radio. Program your radio to the lowest power. There is no need to run 5 W on a handheld or 25 W on a mobile/base radio. Set your power to the lowest setting. On the FT3DR, I have it at 1 W, and on the FT-991A, I have it set to 5 W as that is the lowest power setting. This can help save battery on handhelds, but also reduce wear and tear through heat in your devices. Be smart. Amateur best practice is the key word.


Not all antennas are created the same. This will be a sensitive subject as hams get sensitive over antennas. They know what the best is and there is no convincing them otherwise. The antennas that come with these hotspots may be a little questionable. Rugged Spot makes good hotspots, but they sell the counterfeit Diamond SRH805S. While spending a lot of money on an antenna for a hotspot is not ideal, purchasing a false antenna may compromise the life of your MMDVM hat. A Rugged Spot hotspot is $249.95. Is it that much to spend an extra $35 to get an authentic Diamond SRH805S? Be careful. DO NOT plug in the power without an antenna. This is the same as keying up a radio without an antenna. Power should be the last thing your plug in for your hotspot. If you change antennas, unplug the power, swap out your antenna, then plug the power back in.


Tailgating is the practice of immediately keying up as soon as another operator lets off his signal. With FM repeaters, this is okay, but not ideal. This is not good practice on a digital repeater or hotspot. I will use WIRES-X as an example. Pressing the WIRES-X button on my FT-991A, FT3DR, or my wife’s FT-70D sends a signal to the hotspot. The hotspot responds by sending a digital signal back to the radio that allows us to connect to the internet through the hotspot and do anything from check messages, news, or images to change our current room. The hotspot will always give priority to voice traffic. Another user talking will delay or deny our ability to access all of the WIRES-X features. If users tailgate, it stops any user from changing rooms to leave the conversation.

What is best practice? Best practice is to leave a small gap between transmissions. Give it around three to five seconds. Digital signals are fast so it doesn’t take much time for the connections to happen. Digital hotspots do not allow someone to just change the channel by switching their VFO. It involves sending and receiving a digital signal. Provide a small gap so others can use the their hotspot. In a busy room like America Link, there can be over 300 users at any time. I have been stuck listening to a conversation because of tailgating. Be courteous to your fellow users.

Note: I don’t comment on D-Star or DMR in this section as I don’t have any experience in those modes. More information can be found online or by asking local ham operators who use those modes.


It is okay to have a QSO, but there may be others in line. Some rooms, like America Link, have a lot users, sometimes over 300. If you want to have a lengthy QSO, you could move to another empty room. This website has a list of all reflectors (YSF chat rooms) that can be searched and sorted. You can use one of the many empty rooms. There is a guy from Japan that regulars America Link. It is okay to talk. It isn’t a satellite where basics are traded. You can talk but be aware that others may want to use the room too. If you want to cut into a conversation, just put in your callsign between the gaps. Remember to provide gaps as outlined above. Nets, round tables, and rag chew should use appropriate rooms. One last thing. Digital radios take a second to establish their signal. Unlike with analog FM, if a digital signal is weak, it won’t connect rather than provide a weak signal. Key the mic, count one-one-thousand, and talk. This will ensure you have established your connection. Below, I will talk about parrot rooms where you will be able to hear this for yourself.

Radio Checks

All modes have a parrot talk group. A parrot talk group is a room that you can hear yourself. It is easy to use and to setup your hotspot. With your admin page of your hotspot pulled up, join the parrot room. You want to admin page pulled up so you can see your bit error rate (BER) and easily make changes. Next, you key up the mic and give your callsign followed by radio check. Wait for a few seconds and your message will be repeated to you. Use this for a radio check. Don’t go into America Link or another busy room and ask for a radio check. Do a radio check, adjust your RXOffset to get your BER under 1%, and THEN move to a room. If you need help with this, ask for help. You can email myself, and I can guide you through the process. I would rather have you ask for help than to fumble through.

Away From Home

Pi-Star hotspots can be great when away from home. You can connect to a hotspot and communicate with your local repeater, if it is setup for digital. This means that I could be in another state and connect to my home location repeaters. This also means that you can do the same, just be aware of how many repeaters you may be switching on with a state talkgroup. If you leave home and there will be no operator at home, you can unplug your hotspot. This won’t delete any setting. This does two things. First, it will reduce power use, which will reduce the load on your hotspot and save money on your electric bill, though not much. Second, it prevents the hotspot from transmitting any unwanted signals. A Pi-Star hotspot is not a repeater, and therefore, does not get the same privileges allotted to a repeater operator. This means that there should be a control operator with the Pi-Star. Will the FCC come knocking at your door? No, probably not. But remember the key words, amateur best practice. We want these devices to circulation. We want to be able to use them. For us to do this, we have to follow all recommendations, even if they seem trivial.

Going Forward

Follow amateur best practice. Digital hotspots are amazing and provide many benefits, but we need to follow simple recommendations for everyone to enjoy those benefits. Remember your fellow hams. We are all out here to enjoy the hobby. To do that, everyone needs to participate. Thank you all for reading. If you have any questions or comments, leave them below, send me an email, or talk to me on the net. I usually hang out with WIRES-X since I have all Yaesu radios. Follow on Twitter and Instagram for updates. YouTube is coming. I promise. I have two videos in the works. I will post on here when they go live. Thank you for reading.

73, KD9NRT.

Blog Goals

Before I went into any topics, I wanted to outline some of the goals I have for this blog. This is mostly to assist you in navigating through everything, but also to give readers a heads up as to what you will see here in the future. This is important since not all blogs are the same or offer the same focus.

My Focus

I want the focus of this blog to be education. More specifically, learning radio techniques or information that I learned through trial and error. This will be education through product reviews, tutorials, successes/failure reports, etc. I want to leave it a little open ended as this will allow for a diversity of material. At the end of the day, the blog should be to inform the reader of my experiences and allow for learning through that experience to allow for an informed decision on the part of the reader. Meaningful failure is a powerful learning tool. If I can give you my current thought process, you may be able to find a way to expand on this to make an improvement. The only thing I ask is that you stay in the conversation. Leave a comment or send me an email. This way, we can both learn.

What This Is Not

This is a place for others to learn. Learning is not promoted through condescending comments or personal attacks. There are products which I’ve purchased and enjoyed that others do not like, and vise versa. This doesn’t mean that your opinion is invalid. It just may not fit my use case. For example, I think the technology in the Icom IC-7851 are amazing. It is an example of what companies should strive for with high-end radios. I would never purchase one myself, because it isn’t a portable radio that I could use with SOTA activations. Compare the Yaesu FT3DR and VX-6R. For at home or around town use, the FT3DR is the Rolls-Royce of HTs, yet I would not take it to Michigan to do research in the dunes. The VX-6R is a more robust radio for that situation. I like to think of it as tools in a tool belt. Just because I say that I wouldn’t purchase a radio doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. It also doesn’t mean that you can hide behind the anonymity of the internet to attack myself or anyone choosing to read/comment. We are all people. This is about learning. If this blog doesn’t fit what you need, move on. There are a lot of amateur radio websites and one of them has to have information you need. I’ve never read a nasty comment and thought, “You know what? The guy who said I look like ET when he is dying is right. I should take an IC-7800 on a SOTA activation. Why didn’t I ever think of that?” Disrespectful and nasty comments do not help move the conversation forward.

How to Participate

I’m not here to sell you a product. If I own a product, I’m giving you my personal experience. Leave a comment about your experience if you own the same product. It may provide some insight that will inform a reader to make a decision. If you see me doing something wrong, leave a comment or send me an email. I can always go back and edit a post. I can always make a new post that follows up. I have a post planned for APRS. When I first started with APRS, I used the 9600 baud rate. After some trial and error, I found out that APRS uses 1200 and not 9600. After I changed one setting, APRS worked for me. If I would have had this blog, it would have been easier to read the comments or check my email and made a simple fix.

Another way to participate is to chat. I realize that there may be great distance between us but with the power of the internet and digital radio, we can communicate like we are sitting next to each other. Echolink is an option. So is WiRES-X nodes. Anyone who has browsed through the WiRES-X node list has seen all of the rooms that are empty. We can jump into one and have a conversation. I’m open to hearing what everyone has to say.


If this blog gets bigger, I’m not against taking sponsors. That being said, I will not take a sponsorship from a company that directs my content. I’m not here to read off a script. I’m here to be honest with my experience. If a product needs work, I need the freedom to give feedback. Giving false or guided information to readers can lead to lower consumer trust in the product but also lead to lower confidence in myself. I will also be straight-forward with sponsors. Sponsors will be identified and sponsored content will always be labeled so it is easily noticed.

How Can You Support

You can support by reading and engaging in the blog. Share my page with anyone who may be interested. I plan to make a YouTube channel and will post when that is live. At the time of this writing, the cameras and equipment are on their way. I’m only waiting on some memory cards for the camera and voice recorder. When these are in, there will be more images. The YouTube channel name has been reserved, but no videos have been post. You can support through YouTube by subscribing. I have no plans to start a Patreon. I’m not against Patreon, but it isn’t for me. I have a comfortable living and don’t want to treat viewers differently because they pay. None of my content will be locked behind a paywall. There is no charge to learning.

There will be other opportunities for support in the future. Keep an eye out for when this information is posted. I will update this section with that information in the future.

A Thank You

Finally, thank you for even reading. I am just one person on a planet of 7+ billion people. If I can make a difference in someone’s life, I’ve met my goal of bettering the world. Not all blogs are good quality. I want to provide readers with honest information in a quality format. There will be improvements, hopefully all are for the better. It wouldn’t be possible without readers. So thank you for taking time from your day to read.


Welcome to my radio blog post. Below is information about myself.

Hello. My name is Adam, KD9NRT. I am a new amateur radio operator located in Fort Wayne, IN (EN71kb). I wanted to take some time to introduce myself so you may have a better understanding of who I am. The goals of this blog will be listed in another post.

Who am I?

Obviously, you can see my name and call above but who am I as a person. I’m 34 years old and live in Fort Wayne, IN, the best kept secret in the midwest. I work as a science teacher at a local high school. My other hobbies include SCUBA diving, reading, running, cycling, playing video games, cross country skiing, listening to music, collecting watches, and anything else that may peek my interest. Keeping busy is my main priority, which I do through my various hobbies. I have a BS and MS in biology from Purdue – Fort Wayne with an interest in invasive plant ecology. Prior to moving to Fort Wayne, I served in the US Navy as a hospital corpsman for 6 years, being stationed in Okinawa, Japan and Virginia Beach, VA. The Navy was a culture shock since I grew up in Kendallville, IN, a small town north of Fort Wayne, and was exposed to new ideas. I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone, and in doing so, discovered there are so many fun things to do outside of watching TV.

I am married to Meghan (KD9ODP) and have a dachshund named Hans.

Amateur Radio

Now to the part everyone has been waiting for. Why amateur radio? There are so many other hobbies. I first became interested in amateur radio during a chemistry class at Purdue – Fort Wayne. A fellow student, Jonathan (KC9IPR), was licensed and suggested that I take up the hobby. This was in 2011. I purchased a Baofeng GT-3TP but had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t hear anything nor did I know how to operate the radio. It sat on my shelf for 8 years before it was touched again. In the Navy, I was interested in radio. There is something fascinating about how radio waves propagate and how it can be used for communication.

In 2018, I assisted Jonathan in collecting data for his master’s degree, as he had the same MS advisor I had, Jordan (NM9L). During the trip, both of them took their radios and were able to coordinate different parts of the study using radio. The project took two weeks. During that time, Jonathan’s brother, Jim (AC9EZ), came up while traveling and did a Parks on the Air activation. We came back to a campsite that had his radio, laptop, antenna, and everything else needed to operate. At the time, it was overwhelming. During his activation, a gentleman from Denmark checked in. It was amazing that a signal was able to reach, during the day, from Denmark to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. From that point on, I was hooked. I spent some time looking up how to get licensed and what each step gave you permission to do. I had a goal.

I took my technician exam in August 2019. I followed up two months later with my general, in October 2019. I am currently working on my extra license. My wife took her technician exam in October 2019, at the same time I took my general.


We all have a reason for radio. Some are interested in DX. Some are interested in field day. Some are interested by ragchewing. What are my interests? I am interested in Parks on the Air, Summits on the Air, DXing, contesting, digital, satellites, and moonbounce (EME). This is a lot of interests, but it will give me goals and challenges. I will post about equipment in another post and update it as equipment changes. If I post on a particular topic or technique, I will list the equipment used as a reference. As with anything, these interests will change over time.

Wrap Up

I hope this gives you an insight into who I am. This is important so that as I post, you have a context as to why I am using a particular technique or am doing a certain thing. If you have any additional questions, feel free to post below or to send me an email.