Distant Operations – DX

DXing involves making two-way radio contact with distant stations on the ham bands. DXing takes its name from the morse code shorthand notation of the word distant, or distance (DX). Typically these contacts happen on the HF bands, however, the 6-meter, 2-meter and 70cm bands can provide long distance contacts under the correct conditions. Typically these contacts are confirmed by exchanging QSL cards, either physically, or virtually. Physical QSL cards have been exchanged for decades by mailing colorful postcards containing the contact information. To save funds on the international delivery of these cards, the ARRL created a QSL bureau or ‘burro’ in shorthand. With the advent of the Internet, a number of different methods of sending electronic QSL cards have popped up. Some of those are listed here.

When a station suddenly pops up in a rare DXCC entity, US state or grid square, the result is a chaotic swarm of signals as everyone tries to make contact. We call these on-the-air mob scenes pileups.

The most difficult pileup occurs when everyone, including the DX station, is on the same frequency.

A good DX operator will try to make order out of chaos by imposing some rules. The most common technique is to ask for calls in order of call sign district:

“J77DR QRZ for sevens only!”

This means that J77DR only wants to hear from hams in the 7th call district. If your call sign has a number other than seven, you must remain silent and wait your turn.   

As pileups become massive, the only workable solution is to spread it out. DX operators do this by transmitting on one frequency while tuning and listening through a range of frequencies.

For example, J77DR may transmit on 14190 kHz, but he will be listening for calls from 14195 through 14210 kHz:

“J77DR QRZ, 195 to 210!”

Or he may be somewhat less specific…

“J77DR QRZ, Up 5 to 15!”

This means that he is listening 5 to 15 kHz above his transmitting frequency.

Spreading the pileup in this fashion is known as working split. To make this work, you need to understand how to place your transceiver into the split frequency mode. Most modern radios have two variable frequency oscillators (VFOs) that you use to set your frequency. These separate VFOs are usually labeled A and B. When you place your radio in the SPLIT mode, you transmit on one VFO frequency and listen on the other. The trick is making sure that you don’t have them reversed.

Your best chance of making contact in a pileup is when the DX station is working split. You can analyze their operating patterns and pick a transmit frequency that gives you the greatest chance of being heard.

DX Code of Conduct

The following set of ‘rules’ have been provided by the DX community to help DXers wade through the communications pileups that typically occur during a foreign transmission.

  • I will listen and listen and then listen again before calling.
  • I will only call if I can copy the DX station properly.
  • I will not trust the DX cluster and will be sure of the DX station’s call sign before calling.
  • I will not interfere with the DX station nor anyone calling and will never tune up on the DX frequency or in the QSX slot.
  • I will wait for the DX station to end a contact before I call.
  • I will always send my full call sign.
  • I will call and then listen for a reasonable interval. I will not call continuously.
  • I will not transmit when the DX operator calls another call sign, not mine.
  • I will not transmit when the DX operator queries a call sign, not like mine.
  • I will not transmit when the DX station requests geographic areas other than mine.
  • When the DX operator calls me, I will not repeat my call sign unless I think he has copied it incorrectly.
  • I will be thankful if and when I do make a contact.
  • I will respect my fellow hams and conduct myself so as to earn their respect.

Logbook Of The World (LOTW)

The ARRL has created a website called the Logbook Of The World. This system allows hams from around the world to create a user profile and log their contacts to this system. Once you and the foreign station both document the contact, the electronic QSL is generated. This speeds up confirmation of DX contacts and saves both time and money.