Remember when you ran to a high place and raised the radio above your head to get the signals? That won’t happen again with a radio repeater.
What is a radio repeater? How does a radio repeater work? A repeater system consists of a transceiver and a repeater tower. The tower is located on a mountain top and equipped with strong antennas.
The tower receives your signals when you communicate via the repeater input frequency. Then, it repeats your signals to the output frequency. Thanks to the height advantage, repeaters transmit more powerful output signals, covering larger areas and eliminating signal loss.
Everything About Radio Repeater
An RF repeater is a radio relay station that helps to amplify the signals. A two-way radio repeater system consists of one transceiver and one repeater tower. This simple system solves most problems of traditional two-way ham radios.
Limitations of two-way handheld ham radio
UHF and VHF FM radios can be in simplex or repeater operation. Simplex operation means the stations talk and listen to each other on one frequency. Examples include your TV or radio broadcasting, where information goes from one party site to multiple receivers.
Similarly, when using a pair of simplex two-way radios, only one party can talk at a time. The other must listen until that party finishes and allows them to transmit. This is inconvenient, especially in emergencies.
In addition, the frequency of most handheld two-way radios and intercoms is from 150MHz to 900MHz. Radio waves in these frequencies travel in a line-of-sight path (meaning travel in a straight path from the source to the receiver).
Unlike AM radio waves, these waves don’t travel around obstacles but pass through them. Thus, they lose a bit of their strength each time they meet an obstacle.
With no obstruction, the communication distance between two handheld radios is from 4 to 6 miles. But this distance lowers significantly in reality because obstructions are everywhere.
How a radio repeater provides long-range communications
- Height advantage
A repeater tower is located on top of a mountain, tall building, or radio tower. Its high position eliminates obstacles and provides clear line-of-sight paths.
When two handheld radios communicate on flat ground, the signals must pass many obstacles. But with a repeater, the signal is transmitted to a high place, then sent down to the receiver.
The height also extends the signal range. With a VHF radio repeater, the communication range doesn’t stop at five miles; it extends to hundreds of miles. The higher the antenna, the larger the range it covers.
- Equipment advantage
A fixed repeater tower is equipped with high-quality antennas, sensitive receivers, and strong transmitters. They range from 100 to 500 watts, while handheld radios operate at 5 watts at maximum.
Hence, a 2-way radio repeater never misses any signals. The system is much more effective than two small handheld radios.
Unlike simplex handheld radio, a walkie-talkie repeater receives signals on one frequency and simultaneously transmits them on another frequency. These two radio repeater frequencies allow faster and more efficient communication.
When you tune in to the input frequency, your voice will be sent to the repeater system. Then, the repeater transmits the signals to the output frequency. Now, other people can tune in to the out repeater channel and hear you.
You can find a diagram of how repeaters work in this video:
How to Use a Radio Repeater
To use a repeater, you must have a transceiver and the repeater facility’s frequencies. The frequency a repeater receives is called the input, the frequency it sends on is called the output. The input and output frequencies differ in a number that varies depending on the band, which is called the offset.
Most transceivers you buy in the market already have the correct offset for use. This allows you to switch between simplex and repeater operation. When you have the transceiver and frequencies, all you need to do is turn on the microphone to transmit through the repeater.
However, not all repeaters are available for everyone in range. Many of them are private properties that only allow access to a group. In that case, you must contact the owner for an allowance.
1. How do I know if my radio repeater is working?
Most repeaters are constantly active. So, when you turn your device on, you should hear a short transmission and a beep sound. The beep is the signal that shows someone has just finished transmitting. If you hear the beep and transmission, you accessed the repeater successfully.
2. Does a repeater amplify the signals?
Yes, it does. A repeater increases the power of radio signals and repeats them, allowing them to travel further. Thus, it amplifies the signal. But don’t mistake a repeater for an amplifier.
3. How to find a repeater?
You can ask local amateurs or contact the nearest radio club to get the frequencies. Additionally, the ARRL publishes a repeater directory, which is a radio repeaters’ map throughout the United States, Canada, South America, and the Caribbean.
You have to pay for the directory, though. It will help you find information about local repeaters, including their positions and frequencies.
To wrap up, a radio repeater does what its name implies – repeats the signals at a higher wattage than handheld radios, allowing them to cover larger areas.
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