Digital Operating Modes
In the meantime computer and the internet found the way into the ham shack.
Therefore digital operating modes becomes more and more popular beside the well known
AM, SSB and CW.
One advantage for the digital modes versus FM, SSB
and AM is the
small bandwidth and therefore the insensitive against QRM and QRN.
Due to low bandwidth and decoding possibilities robust connections are
possible with low transmitting
If your transceiver has a small CW
filter it reduce even more the QRM and the readability of the signals.
Some weak digital signals are not audible out of the noise but the programs
decode it nearly perfect.
PSK31, OLIVIA are some of this modes.
With a soundcard, interface and a program it is
very easy be a part of the digital operating communities. DX is
possible even with antenna
and transmitting power restrictions.
For the IARU Region 1 digital transmissions should be in the
following band segments.
The permissible bandwidth are max. 500 Hz
10 Meter Band:
28.070 - 28.190 MHz
20 Meter Band:
12 Meter Band:
30 Meter Band:
15 Meter Band:
21.070 - 21.110 MHz
21.120 - 21.149 MHz
40 Meter Band:
7.040 - 7.060 MHz
17 Meter Band: 18.095 -
80 Meter Band: 3.580 -
Each mode has its own unique characteristics
advantages and disadvantages.
You will find here some short descriptions of the most popular digital modes with sound
is a specialized form of RTTY. The term is an acronym for Amateur
Teleprinting Over Radio and is derived from the commercial SITOR system
(Simplex Telex Over radio) developed primarily for Maritime use in the
AMTOR improves on RTTY by incorporating a simple Error Detection technique.
It is an FSK mode that has been fading into history. While a robust mode, it
only has 5 bits (as did its predecessor RTTY) and can not transfer extended
ASCII or any binary data. With a set operating rate of 100 baud, it does not
effectively compete with the speed and error correction of more modern ARQ
The system remains relatively uncomplicated but AMTOR performs well even in
poor HF conditions. While there can still be many errors in AMTOR data, the
Error Detection helps a lot and the result is quite tolerable for normal
text mode conversations because of the high redundancy in plain language
text. Certainly much better than RTTY. But for more critical data such as
program code, or even some technical information messages, NO errors can be
There are two modes used in Amtor:
The non-ARQ version of this mode is known as FEC, and known as
SITOR-B by the Marine Information services.
or "Radio Teletype" is a FSK mode that is older than any other
digital mode (except for Morse code). With a five-bit code all the letters,
numbers, punctuation and control characters are covered.
At 45 baud (typically for amateur radio) and a tone shift of 170 Hz each bit
is 1/45.45 seconds long, or 22 ms and corresponds to a typing speed of 60
There is no error correction provided in RTTY; noise and interference can
have a seriously detrimental effect. But beside this disadvantages
RTTY is very popular.
Bandwidth is 170 Hz and fits perfectly in a 250 Hz CW-Filter.
combines the advantages of a simple variable length text code with a
(about 70 Hz) phase-shift keying (PSK) signal using DSP techniques.
This mode is designed for "real time" keyboard operation and at a 31 baud
rate is only fast enough to keep up with the typical amateur typist.
There are some other PSK modes available, but the most popular is PSK31.
was developed for weak signal QSO. For this reason the MFSK (Multi-Shift
Frequency Keying) modulation was chosen, as it is a good FEC code in itself
and its waveform has an almost constant envelope, so that the radio
transmitter can work at its maximum power. As well MFSK passes well through
the ionosphere made distortions.
default settings for the “Olivia” mode are to send 32 tones spaced by 31.25
Hz at the rate of 31.25 baud. This results in 1000 Hz of total bandwidth.
However, the user can chose to send 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 or 256 tones
and the total bandwidth can be set to 125, 250, 500, 1000 or 2000 Hz. The
correct baud rate is calculated according to the number of tones and the
The overall arrangement results in 5 characters
being sent every 2 seconds, thus the typing speed is 2.5 characters per
second for the default settings. This corresponds to about 15 words per
minute (WPM). For the signal to noise performance, the simulation shows that
the transmission can be still decoded when the signal is 10 dB below the
noise, where the noise power is measured within the 1000 Hz bandwidth.
is a method of sending and receiving text using facsimile technology. This
mode has been around along time. The single-tone version (Feld-Hell)
is the method of choice for HF operation. It is an on-off keyed system with
122.5 dots/second, or about a 35 WPM text rate, with a narrow bandwidth (about
75 Hz). Text characters are "painted" on the screen, as apposed to being
decoded and printed.
Feld-HELL Club web page
is also new digital mode. It is accomplished by a complex scheme to encode
text in a matrix of 64 tones over time and frequency.
This overkill method provides a "cushion" of error correction at the
receiving end while still providing a 100 WPM rate. The wide bandwidth (1Khz
for the standard method) makes this mode less desirable on crowded ham bands.
is another MFSK (Multiple Frequency Shift Keying) sound card mode that
attempts to use Fast Fourier Transform technology to decode a 5 tone
signal. The THROB program is an attempt to push DSP into the area where
other methods fail because of sensitivity or propagation difficulties and at
the same time work at a reasonable speed. The text speed is slower than
an advancement to the THROB mode and encodes 16 tones. Continuous Forward
Error Correction (FEC) sends all data twice with an interleaving technique
to reduce errors from impulse noise and static crashes. A new improved
Varicode is used to increase the efficiency of sending extended ASCII
The relatively wide bandwidth (316 Hz) for this mode allows faster baud
rates (typing is about 42 WPM) and greater immunity to multi path phase
shift. This mode is becoming a standard for reliable keyboard to keyboard
is a PSK mode which provides a full duplex simulation. It is well suited for
HF operation (especially under good conditions), however, there are
differences between CLOVER modems. The original modem was named CLOVER-I,
the latest DSP based modem is named CLOVER-II. Clovers key characteristics
are band-width efficiency with high error-corrected data rates. Clover
adapts to conditions by constantly monitoring the received signal. Based on
this monitoring, Clover determines the best modulation scheme to use.
Slow Scan Television allows the user to send fixed pictures, in colors or
in grey scales, with a transmission band similar to the one of HF Fax .
Different SSTV modes exist.
SSTV is, as Fax mode, an analog mode, not a digital mode.
is an FSK mode and is a standard on modern TNCs. It is designed with a
combination of packet and Amtor Techniques. It is the most popular ARQ
digital mode on amateur HF today. This mode is a major advancement over
AMTOR, with its 200 baud operating rate, Huffman compression technique and
true binary data transfer capability.
(Golay -TOR) is an FSK mode that offers a fast transfer rate compared to
Pactor. It incorporates a data inter-leaving system that assists in
minimizing the effects of atmospheric noise and has the ability to fix
garbled data. G-Tor tries to perform all transmissions at 300 baud but drops
to 200 baud if difficulties are encountered and finally to 100 baud.