Calling CQ on Amateur Radio – A Complete Guide

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What you will learn from this article:

  1. What is CQ?
  2. History & Usage
  3. 4 Steps for calling CQ on amateur radio
  4. Some helpful tips when the other stations can’t hear you
  5. An example of How to Call (and Answer) a CQ?

So let’s start,

What is CQ?

CQ code is generally used by radio operators especially those contacting in MORSE CODE for making a normal call, you can say it a “CQ call”. The transmission of CQ letters is actually a request for any radio operator or voice operator to respond the frequency. It is still far used in amateur radio.

History & Usage of CQ

The CQ call was basically used by the UK and French landline telegraph operators, and still, they are using. It is an authoritative language for foreign postal services. And the word which they were using was sécurité. “When a marine radio transmission begins with the phrase “Sécurité, sécurité, sécurité it means that what follows is important safety information.” It is still used in the sense of foreign telecommunications.

The CQ word was derived from the French word and it also sounds like French “c’est qui?”  Which means who is there? In America or in other countries where English is common, the motive of abreaction was changed so rapidly to the phrase “seek you” or later, when used in CQD (Calling all distress).

The first code used as a distress signal was the “CQD” which was the alternative of CQ call. It was approved in 1904 and was suggested by Marconi Company. But was recouped b/w 1906 & 1908 by SOS code.

From history

When the Titanic sank in 1912, however, it initially transmitted the distress call CQD DE MGY, MGY being the ship’s call sign. (The Titanic’s radio operator alternated between SOS and CQD afterward.

When we use amateur radio, at that time, the CQ call can be certified by appending more letters. Like in CQ DX which means “calling all stations located in a different continent to the caller”. Or you the ITU call sign prefix which is for specific homey. E.g. “CQ VK for “calling Australia” The begetter of a call can be analyzed by conjoining the alphabets DE (French for “from”, also means “this is…”) and the call sign of the transmitting station.

4 Steps for calling CQ on amateur radio

Calling CQ on amateur radio or you can say ham bands mean, you want to discuss something with someone, anytime to any station that might be listening. Be ready for anyone to answer when you are calling CQ. Maybe you are a lucky one and catch the foreign (DX) Station. Call CQ DX, if you want to work foreign station (DX). This lets stateside stations know not to answer your call. There are some steps from which you’ll learn how to call CQ on amateur radio. Let’s start.

Step 1

Is the frequency is in use or not

Before Calling CQ, you must have to know, the frequency which you are using is in use or not. If on CW, use QRL. Just wait for 30 seconds and then again transmit your message. If the frequency which you are using is clear, then you can proceed to the second step.

CQStep 2

Now Begin your Call:

When you transmit your message again. Start you calling like this. “This is (your call Sign) calling”. Repeat this at least three times.  It will be something like this as shown in below picture.

CQStep 3


Now wait again for just only 30 seconds to 1 min. And then start again.

CQStep 4

CW Pro-sign of QRZ

If you receive from the station and you are not sure about their call sign, do not use the CW pro-sign of QRZ. This means, e.g. “Is there a station calling me” or anything like this. Instead, use proper words, like; “Please, call your sign again” or “Please again with your call sign”. According to the situation if necessary, you should standard military phonetic alphabets of you call sign. E.g. call sign of W8XXX can be “whiskey, 8, x-ray, x-ray, x-ray over” Never use unfamiliar phonetics that may not be understood by calling a station.

CQSome helpful tips when the other stations can’t hear you.

Watch other ham users that how they are making new contacts for enlightening yourself. Don’t be get nervous when you are making your first contact. You will feel more cheerful when your contact list will be increased day by day. Here are some helpful tips.

Read More:

Example of How to Call (and Answer) a CQ


Steve Katz, WB2WIK/6

It seems impossible, but it’s very true that most new hams don’t know how to call CQ. And a lot don’t know how to answer one, either!

We’re all to blame for that. There just isn’t as much “CQing” as there used to be, except during contests. One reason might be that we’re mostly using transceivers with VFO control – as silly as that sounds. Here’s the explanation: Back in the good old days (for me), we used mostly crystal controlled transmitters with separate, tunable receivers. The odds of having a crystal on exactly the same frequency as someone else who was in the band, and within range, at the same time was pretty slim. So, it was common to call CQ, then tune around, looking for answers.

Well, today, we needn’t tune around looking for answers, any answers will be right there on the same frequency we’re on. Experienced operators know it’s easy to break into an ongoing QSO if you know how and when it’s appropriate to do so. I make a lot of my contacts like that: Just overhear an interesting conversation, wait for a pause, insert my call sign, and join the group. But many newbies, as well as some old-timers, are too shy to do this, or maybe just not very good at it. And it is frowned on by most to break into a conversation when you’ve absolutely nothing to add to it.

Read More:

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