[amsat-bb] Re: The Need for Phonetics

Glen Zook gzook at yahoo.com
Sun Apr 10 08:26:37 PDT 2011

The question of "proper" phonetics comes up several times a month in threads on QRZ.com.  Unfortunately, the ICAO phonetics (alpha, bravo, etc.) present problems when regional accents in the United States are present and even more so when the person involved does not have English as their primary language.

ICAO phonetics were adopted for use on radio circuits that are usually free of QRM, QSB, etc., by trained operators.  Unfortunately, amateur radio operations are often not QRM, QSB, etc., free and the vast number of amateur radio operators are not professionally trained.

The ICAO phonetics were adopted by the military decades ago and generally work well for military communications.  However, military operators are very well trained.

Those operators who are involved in "DX chasing" and contest operations often use geographic names instead of the ICAO phonetics.  This procedure works very well when QRM and QSB are present as well as with operators who do not have English as their primary language.

When working stations that have English as their primary language I do use the ICAO phonetics for my call:  Kilo Nine Sierra Tango Hotel.  However, when working DX my call is very often not fully understood.  Under those circumstances I use:  Kilowatt Nine Spain Texas Honolulu and my call is understood the first time 99.99% of the time.

Then there is the case of a local YL operator who's call ends in the letter "i".  She was working a DX station who just could not get the last letter in her call.  She tried the ICAO "India" and that did not work.  She tried the geographical name "Italy" and that did not work.  Therefore she tried all sorts of words starting with the letter "i" and they did not work.  Finally, in frustration she called out "idiot"!  The DX station got her last letter that time!

Basically, the ICAO phonetics are the standard for general amateur radio operations.  Geographic names are the pseudo standard for working DX.  But, as the local YL found out, you use anything that works!

Glen, K9STH
Head moderator QRZ.com

Website:  http://k9sth.com

--- On Sat, 4/9/11, John Papay <john at papays.com> wrote:

 Kevin, KF7MYK, provides a great example of what happens when operators do not use phonetics.  You may think you are saving time by not using them, but the fact is that unless someone is familiar with your callsign, they may copy it incorrectly.  You want everyone on the bird to have your callsign correct so they can call you with the right call rather than having to ask for it again in phonetics, or worse yet, getting it wrong.

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