Is this frequency in use?

Everybody knows you should ensure a frequency is free before you start CQing. Listening is the most easy way to do this. Of course especially on the upper bands this may not work well in any case. You simply cannot hear stations within the skip zone. In this case asking “Is this frequency in use?” of course does not help either.
But when selfspotting a frequency in SOTAWatch why not have a short look whether some other activator is just using this frequency or one within the passband? This could avoid situations as the two below:

I do not know, whether Eva acutally was working on 14.288 MHz. I could not hear her or her chasers but that’s no surprise being in her skip zone. As there was little response on my 14.287 MHz I decided to QSY anyway.

Somewhat later the same situation happened again:

I was working two chasers on 14.320 MHz at 12:36 and 12:37. The third chaser was calling in but not coming back to my report - he was propably already working the Romanian activators. When EA1DFP was working them at 12:40 I knew staying on 14.320 MHz would cause nothing but confusion.

Finally: This posting is not indended to blame anybody. I know mobile coverage often is patchy so you are lucky to get your spot through. Displays are hard to read in sunlight and during the time you start sending a spot and its appearance in SOTAWatch (typing, waiting for mobile coverage, …) another activator may just have spotted the same frequency.
I also know, many activators do not read spots on summits at all and some are self spotting with one-way techniques like APRS or SMS.

But in case you have got an app as in these two examples:
Before sending your spot, do a quick check what’s going on on your planned frequency.

Edit: Typo.

73 de Michael, DB7MM


Hi Michael
I do appreciate what you are saying, I was listening yesterday and two sota stations were calling on the same frequency, it must be very frustrating , I have only activated one summit so far and although I did check sotawatch on my phone, there were many activators out there but sadly, the conditions were not good for me on the day, the same thing happened today, I think it may be something we just have to live with, unfortunately.
Always a pleasure to work you on a summit…
Cheers Ken G0FEX

Hi Michael, how are you ?

I know the team of three YO activators very well, we have done more than a few activations together and I know how they operate. I also know the summit - it is flat and it’s impossible to send a spot from the top. To be able to get proper coverage you need to down on one side - this easily takes a few minutes. It looks like YO9RAO found a clear frequency and started caling, in the meantime YO9GSB went to find proper coverage to send the spot.

I know they wouldn’t do this on purpose and it probably was just an unfortunate coincidence. Anyway, I present you my apologies in their name.


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@G0FEX With the patchy conditions in 2016 I have seen many activators in SOTAWatch I could not hear. So instead of having a S2S I could just avoid a conflict case with the aid of SOTAWatch. We will see how conditions will develop in 2017.
Was a pleasure to work you during both activations last weekend.

@YO9IRF Nice to hear from you again. I am sure they were not doing this on purpose. We all know, things are more tricky outside on a summit than in the armchair in the shack. But as I have experienced this situation several times in the past I thought it was worth a post. If possible, making use of other activators’ spots can help all participants.In the best case one gains a S2S which is quite a nice reward for this effort.

73 de Michael, DB7MM

Interesting subject.

At times one has heard two Sotas on one freq but feel there not in each others catch zones and no doubt can’t hear each other it happens and tops of mountains can be the deadest of places for cell reception. But chaser being from many parts of world can give game away if the regulars are calling in and using far more bigger power. But have been chasing one Sota at times and then as it finished off another pops up.

But after two years of chasing Sotas has a strange one couple weeks ago, heard one Sota calling worked few chasers, called in a S2S and worked each other. Then caught the first one did the usual things and next thing I know that Sota is calling back and twigged was different voice. Then thought perhaps multi op on same summit, turns out not so but the 2nd Sota that just worked the first was now working me. double whammy. two sotas on one freq with in seconds of each other. Then the 2nd Sota vacated the freq and the first carried on. rather chuffed with that.

But being a low powered station myself nigh on QRP with the limited 10w I have at hand often get jumped on by a more powerful station but it happens they prob can’t hear me due to way conditions running , two got more power than efficient antenna or just bully there way in.

But does pay to key up and ask IS THIS FREQ IN USE, if reply comes back you move on or even join in.

But my biggest grid is when stations accuses you not running the power other than what you are licensed too like myself at 10w limit and not even ID them selves as they should do. Why do i do so well, its my location on top of big hill in area i live in back end of m small town, not to built up and making antennas to take my little old 10w and make it earn its keep by running more better antennas. May b there are those that run more than they should but have heard some that even exceed the power limits of there full licences. And lastly Technics gain with with experience of known when to call in or not times i have beaten the big boys toys with my simple old set up make me grin

Right sorry for that little bit of slight change to current subject


You would think so, wouldn’t you? It is, after all, good operating practice and good manners. It seems, though, that it is a courtesy that is ignored by far too many hams. When I’m busy in the shack I often leave the rig monitoring the old “Fox Echo” channel (5.3985) which is still popular with SOTA stations in the UK. It is amazing how often people who should know better (judging from the age of their callsigns) come up and start calling CQ without asking if the channel is in use. Worse still, there are a couple of 5 megs stations I could name that start calling CQ on CW on top of ongoing SSB contacts.

I never bother with my phone on a summit, firstly because often there is no signal, and secondly it uses time that can be used more profitably. What I do is set up the station, find a suitable channel and monitor it while I sort out the log book and pen, and get comfortable, or at least less uncomfortable! If I haven’t heard anything I ask once if the frequency is clear and then start calling. After all, if you can’t hear an activator you should be able to hear his chasers.


Hi Michael,

Ideally, the question “Frequency in use??” should be asked and ops will actually listen for any response and then find another frequency. However as we all known that does not necessarily happen. As noted in other responses to your post there are many reasons, conditions, antennas, power, no access to spots, etc, were existing activity is not identified before calling CQ.

Bottom line: do the best you can. Ask the question a several times and listen. Then do the courteous thing and find another frequency. If you find propagation conditions change and you are working the same frequency as another station then determine who is getting the responses. If it is not you then you are indeed wasting your time.

My personal frustration is with those ops (not SOTA activators) who either a: don’t ask or b: ask and then transmit without waiting for any response or c; jump on a nearby frequency and blast away any chance of an activator hearing the chasers.

Having said that I think it just adds to the challenge of SOTA.

Good activations.

de Neil G0WPO.