Thursday, May 17, 2012



N7NG, Wayne Mills 


When many stations are calling, it is virtually impossible for the DXers to hear the DX return a call to one of them if they are all calling on the DX frequency. Therefore it is necessary for the DX to listen on a frequency different from that upon which he is transmitting, This is called split operation. Split operation gives rise to several problems which will be discussed later. Same frequency or simplex operation is possible and even desirable under certain conditions if the pileup is not large.

Some time ago, a DXpeditioner, perhaps on his first expedition, wrote at length in the subsequent article that he thought working split was entirely unnecessary. He noted that it was unnecessary to disrupt a large space in the band as he was entirely successful working the DXers on his own frequency, Quite simply, if you are able to work a pile on your own frequency with a decent rate, the pile is not large enough to need split operation. Working a pile on your own frequency is indeed preferable; it is simply not possible with a large pileup!

When it appears that the pileup is going to be large and split operation has been selected as the operating mode, the methods by which the stations will be selected from the pile should be considered. Some methods are more effective and lead to higher QSO rates which in turn leads to fewer policemen and jammers. These methods also lend themselves to greater satisfaction on the part of the callers than others. The method or pattern of this change in listening frequency is called pileup dynamics.

Generally, it will be necessary to move the listening frequency following each QSO. Otherwise a large number of stations will find the frequency of the QSO and call there, making identification of the next callsign difficult. Working stations on the same frequency one after the other is very difficult because the signals all seem the same strength, usually very weak. It is always amazing to me how much louder a station sounds when it is in the clear compared to when it was part of a pile of nearly equal strength signals.

Initially, the DX station operator should inform the callers of the range of frequencies over which he will listen. Under no circumstances will it ever be necessary to listen to more than 30 kHz on SSB and about 10 kHz on CW. Then, it is extremely important that the operator actually move his listening frequency according to his own instructions. If he simply asks the pile to spread out, and then continues to listen on the same frequency, the pile will not disperse. The operator, therefore, must change his listening frequency in a manner which will define the range of his pileup. He may then move his listening frequency up or down following each contact until he finds a station calling on a relatively clear frequency. Whatever the method, the operator should follow some sort of pattern which can be discerned by the calling stations. A wide ranging, random selection of receiving  frequencies  only  leads  to  frustration.  After  the  pileup  is  properly  defined  the  operator  should frequently announce the listening range.

Often it appears that no one in a pile is even listening to the DX station. Everyone seems to be calling continuously, making it extremely difficult for the DX station to complete a QSO. The reason for this difficulty is usually a lack of rhythm in the operation of the DX station.

At the first CQ, we might assume that everyone is actually listening. Following that first call, everyone calls, and then listens. If the DX station operator is successful in picking a call and begins the first QSO, a high percentage of those who were calling will hear the first QSO and not call until a second call is solicited. If the DX operator can continue this procedure, those calling will be somewhat synchronized, calling and listening, calling and listening.

At some point, however, if a callsign is not quickly identified, those calling will probably initiate another call. Considering the different length of various callsigns, and the different times between calls, the pileup will diffuse in time until eventually there will be continuous calling with little chance for the DX station to be able to complete a QSO with the station he finally selects.

It is therefore extremely important that a DXpeditioner be capable of picking a call from the pile and getting the QSO underway (by sending a report) within the time it takes for a caller to send an average call and think about calling again. This is so important, that an experienced DXpeditioner will sometimes pick a dummy partial that he doesn't even hear, just to preserve the rhythm. Frequently this procedure will even result in a QSO.

Another unique method which has been used successfully in managing an SSB pileup is the conversational style. Using this method of dealing with the pileup, the expedition operator establishes a friendly relationship with the pile by speaking to it and is able to control the situation by communicating important information to those calling. By knowing what the DX operator has in mind and what he is likely to do, the DXers are made to feel at ease and to sense that their expectations of working the DX will be fulfilled. To some extent, this technique also addresses the issue of excessive questions by answering them in advance. No amount of conversation will answer every question when it arises, of course.

Bits of information such as how long the expedition operator will spend on each call area, why he is working a particular area, to what frequency he will QSY, or when he will QRT, can be easily conveyed. Primarily, however, this technique establishes a positive relationship with the pile, and that is its main feature.

No doubt about it, tail-ending is an art. With experience, a DXer can determine the exact instant at which to insert his call during the last segment of a previous QSO in order to "jump the queue." If this technique is properly done, it works very well, but if it is poorly done, it can make the caller look bad and can temporarily disrupt the operation. Proper tail ending technique is described in detail in "Where Do We Go Next," Appendix I.6 I personally relish a good tail-end and encourage it, but each DXpeditioner must decide for himself whether
or not to allow the practice, realizing that if tail-end calls are accepted, callers who are not familiar with the proper procedure will try to use it, with poor results. The DXpeditioner must be prepared to handling the resulting situation.

a) Split operation is necessary whenever the pileup is large enough to make it impossible for those calling the DX to be able to hear the DX. It should be noted that an expeditioner may not always be able to hear the congestion on his frequency and it should not be assumed that there is no QRM on the other end.
b) Simplex (same frequency) operation is possible, and sometimes desirable (to minimize disruption) but can be used only when the number of stations calling is relatively small. Recognizing that one cannot always hear the pileup as it appears in other areas of the world, perhaps the best measure of success is the QSO rote. When the rate drops to an unacceptable level, a problem exists. If simplex operation is being used, a change to split operation should be made.
a) When working a large split pileup, it will be necessary to move the listening frequency after each successive QSO. If this is not done, the pileup on the listening frequency will become congested and the rate will diminish substantially.
b) Establish tuning patterns which maximize the QSO rate. This may vary according to the signal conditions. Under no circumstances will it be necessary to listen to more than 30 kHz on SSB (10 kHz on CW).
c) Initially, the pileup may be established by working stations at the limits of the desired range. It is important to mention the frequency limits often. This will keep the pile within the desired
limits and properly dispersed.
d) Perhaps the best technique is to establish a frequency range, ten kilohertz on CW, for example and then move from each QSO frequency up as far as necessary to locate a signal in the clear, continuing this until the upper limit of the range is reached. It is amazing how much stronger a signal sounds alone instead of in a large group of signals of similar signal strength. Generally it will be possible to move far enough between QSOs and still maintain a relatively small calling window.
e) When signals are strong, it is possible to work most stations within several hundred Hertz of each other, minimizing disruption and maximizing the QSO rate. This has the disadvantage of selecting the stronger signals over the weaker ones and tends to make even strong stations seem weaker.
f) It is not good procedure to move randomly across the pileup range. Without a pattern to work with, many DXers will become frustrated.
a) In order to minimize continuous calling it is necessary to quickly pick another call from the pile following each QSO. This will tend to keep each caller calling only once. If a caller finishes his call and hears nothing, he will call again. Soon, the pile is one continuously calling entity, rather than an orderly group calling and then listening.
b) Rhythm is considered so important that many experienced DXpeditioners suggest responding to a non-existent partial and getting the QSO underway if a callsign is not identified within the calling window.
c) It is important to initiate a QSO by sending a signal report even if responding only to a partial.
Maintain a friendly dialogue with the pileup. Pass information from time to time and generally keep those calling in the loop.
Accept tail-ending if you feel comfortable with it, but be prepared to handle those callers who are unable to do it properly.


The objective of those calling a DXpedition is to get their callsigns in the log in order to be able eventually to receive a QSL card verifying the contact. Therefore, the DX operator must take care to see that he has the correct callsign in the log and that the station worked knows that his callsign is correct in the log.

Accomplishing this requires only that the DX operator follow the proper format for a good contact (never say "good contact"). When listening, the operator picks, at worst, an incomplete "partial" from the pile. When the station repeats his callsign, and the DX operator has copied it correctly, he must send the corrected callsign back to the station. It is totally inadequate to simply say "QSL," even if you have copied the callsign correctly, since the station worked can't be sure his call has been correctly logged. In extreme cases where accuracy is most important, a second confirmation might be required by the DXpedition operator. That is, the DX operator can ask the DXer if he has heard his call repeated correctly. Failure to follow these procedures will result in an excessive dupe rate. Those expeditioners who complain of unnecessary dupes should take a close look at their operating procedure. Often they are practicing defective QSO mechanics.

Among other aspects of successful QSO mechanics is persistence. If the DXpeditioner is generally responding to partial callsigns, it is imperative that he persist with a partial until he has the complete callsign. If he does not persist, he is inviting others to callout of turn during his efforts. DXers have been very clear about how they feel on this issue; if the DX does not persist, calling out of turn is justified-even if it is their calling out of turn that prevents the DX from being able to copy the desired callsign!

At this point we should also discuss station identification. It is clear that DXers can be become very vocal over infrequent identifying, and it may be that this leads to difficulties for the DXpeditioner.7,8  It is not necessary in all cases to identify your station during each QSO. It is, however, reasonable for most of the stations calling to know whom they are calling. Therefore, the question is how often the DX station should send his own callsign.

There are a number of options. If he dislikes responding to queries, he can send his call frequently. If the callsign is short, it will take little time to do this and it can even be a personal signature. A DXpedition is not a contest, however, and no one really needs the callsign immediately. If the expedition is a major one, it is likely that even the neophyte DXer will know who he is calling (especially if designated frequencies are adhered to) and relatively infrequent IDs will suffice.

If another expedition is in progress, it becomes very important to identify frequently since there is often confusion over just which station one has worked.

1) Consistent with keeping a good rhythm, a DXpedition operator may need to respond to a partial callsign, but in responding to a partial, the operator should always initiate a QSO by sending a report rather than a query. This tends to keep those with other partials from calling at this time.
2) When a partial is identified, the operator must persist with the partial until a complete callsign is copied, unless it is decided that no such station actually exists. The operator must be firm on this issue.
3) Once a complete callsign is copied correctly, it should be repeated to the calling station in its entirety, although completing the callsign may suffice for some operators. Failure to do this will result in excessive duplicates.
4) The callsign of the DX station should be sent often enough so that most of the stations calling know whom they are calling.


An important issue related to successful pileup management is frustration. Those who feel that, for reasons related to the operation, they will never be successful in making at least one QSO are a potential source of problems for a DXpedition. A few who feel that the DX is not giving them a fair deal may create QRM on the DX frequency consisting of derogatory comments, carriers and various other obnoxious forms of interference.

It is therefore important to create conditions which will lead to a high degree of positive expectation on the part of those participating in the pileup. Several methods are available to accomplish this end.

One of these methods is simply staying power. That is, remaining on a band for hours at a time and showing the callers that when conditions are right or when the pileup diminishes, they will have their chance for a QSO. Staying on the same band has the added advantage of minimizing band-dupes, and maximizing the number of different stations worked.

A tool useful in minimizing the overall frustration potential is simply keeping the rate high. There is no
question that one senses that the chances are good to be able to work a DX station that is working other stations at a rapid rate. Not only is it true that more stations can be worked in the allotted time, but one receives a feeling that the operator is competent and will work everyone before the expedition is over. In addition, many DXers report that the amount of jamming decreases as the rate increases. Distractions such as conversations with friends should be minimized.

Another method for managing large pileups which also tends to reduce frustration is working by call areas. This method might only be used when the pileup is very large, but in any case, it has the advantage of regionalizing the competition making the playing field more level for those calling. In this way, even those with small antennas and low power will have a chance earlier on. Several considerations are important, however, when working by call areas.

When working by call areas it is most important that consideration be given to the existing propagation. It is generally useless to attempt to work areas where propagation is poor unless that is the only propagation that you expect. It is important to recognize such cases, and to pay special attention to these areas. It is extremely important to work all of the areas within the subdivisions you have defined, assuming propagation exists. If the band is open to the whole of the USA from Africa and areas one through five are worked after which the DX goes QRT for the evening, those callers in areas six through zero will not be impressed. There are variations, however. In some situations, where plenty of time is available, the DXpedition may decide to work only fours during a particular opening, there being ample opportunities for working the fives and sixes on other occasions. Care must be exercised to make certain that all areas are treated fairly in the end, however.

On twenty meter SSB from Albania, ZA1A, the pileups were enormous. Most of the time, call areas were worked. It was desirable, however, to break the call areas down to even smaller subdivisions. One evening in fact, about one hundred W4s were worked followed by one hundred K4s, followed by one hundred N4s, etc. When we reached the western US on several occasions, the propagation was relatively poor, and we skipped them entirely. At the time this was not very popular among the fives, sixes and sevens, but there was plenty of time, and when we did work the west, the rate was considerably higher, and the resultant QSO quality was higher.

A nagging problem that comes with working by call areas is stations signing portable. That is, when the expedition is working threes, some stations in other call areas are prone to call "portable three." This problem seems to be overrated, and drastic solutions are not necessary. This situation is discussed in the "PROBLEMS" chapter.

Information which DXers consider important concerning the details of the operation such as which stations are active, what frequencies they occupy, when each will be on the air and when they will QRT should be provided from time to time. This information will allow the DXers to plan their own personal strategies for getting into the DX log. While such information is useful for the DXer, he should not expect to be informed to the point that he can arise from the couch in front of the television to work the DX at the appointed time and return in only a few minutes missing only the Bud Lite commercial, and he shouldn't ask for such information either.

1)  POSITIVE EXPECTATIONS are the best deterrent to jamming and QRM on the DXpedition frequency.
a) A continuous presence on the bands will reinforce positive impressions of the performance. Activity should continue for long periods on the same frequency when the band is open.
b) Keeping the QSO rate high will tend to create the feeling for the DXers that a QSO will eventually result, and indeed, it will most likely come sooner if the rate is high.
3)   QSO format (QSO mechanics) should fulfill the DXers need for a QSO; that is, the calling stations should be able to hear their callsigns before the QSO is complete.
4)  Working by call areas can increase the expectation of the DXer for making a contact with the expedition.
5)  Consistent with proper QSO mechanics, the DXpeditioner should be extremely persistent with partial callsigns. To do otherwise will only encourage others to call during the QSO.
6) Home traffic, secret frequencies and other information:
a)  Home traffic should be conducted on the regular operating frequencies. The pile will standby as long as the traffic is not excessive.
b)  No operation should ever take place on secret frequencies. Everyone should have an equal chance at working the DX. Most of those who might be privy to secret frequencies would be able to work the DX easily.
c)  Information concerning when the various stations will be active and what frequencies they will occupy and when they will QRT should be provided.

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