Introduction

PNWDigital operates 70+ spread-out repeaters in WA, BC, CA, OR, and ID. With time, repeaters can face issues. Due to the small admin team’s location and time constraints, they can’t test all repeaters, risking unnoticed problems and network hiccups.

To catch issues early, PNWDigital started the “Adopt a Repeater” program. Volunteer hams periodically test their assigned repeaters, alert admin about issues, and enable swift fixes for seamless communication.

What do we need to test?

Each volunteer needs to test these three items:

  1. Is the repeater on or off? 
  2. Is RF output normal?
  3. Is Sensitivity normal? 

This takes less than 5 minutes weekly and less than 15 minutes monthly for dedicated guardians. 

How to test?

The first step, done one time, is for you to choose one or more repeaters to use. You can do this by taking this poll.

Testing Steps:
Keep in mind, you’re looking for differences from your usual week-to-week tests (preferably with a fixed antenna). You can use a spreadsheet (see the two examples below) or any method you like to compare your current and past results.

  1. Is the repeater on or off?
    1. How to test: Give the Parrot a kerchunk – you don’t need to speak. Does the Parrot respond? (Using the Parrot triggers a test across most network connections, which is good for simple on/off testing.)
    2. Record your result.  
  2. Is RF output normal?
    1. How to test: We want to know if you’re getting weaker reception than usual. If you can, check the signal strength with RSSI info in dBm. If that’s not possible, just count the bars on your radio screen. (note: some radios like the Anytone 878 show these bars when a signal is received. The bars might not be a precise measure, but they’re better than nothing.)
    2. Record your results.
  3. Is sensitivity normal?
    1. How to test: We want to know if the repeater is not hearing you as well as it usually does.  When speaking into the Parrot on your repeater, keep an eye on the CallWatch page. Look at the “RSSI” and “Loss Rate” columns for your TX, as shown below. 
    2. Record your results.

Report Abnormalities to the Tech Team at: tech@pnwdigital.net.
(Note: Unless you find a problem, please don’t send in your test results.)

Example Recordings 

Example 1

Test DateRepeater NameTest 1 (on/off)Test 2 (RF Output)Test 3 (Sensitivity)
2023/08/27E. Tiger VHFOn4 out of 5 barsRSSI: -98.3 loss rate: 0.0%
2023/08/27E. Tiger VHFOn5 out of 5 barsRSSI: -101.3 loss rate: 0.0%
2023/08/27E. Tiger VHFOn5 out of 5 barsRSSI: -102.3 loss rate: 0.0%
In example 1 above, you would not send a report to the tech team. The repeater is On, you are getting satisfactory RF Output, and finding its sensitivity is typically above the problem floor of RSSI > -110, and loss rate = 0.0%. 

Example 2

Test DateRepeater NameTest 1 (on/off)Test 2 (RF Output)Test 3 (Sensitivity)
2023/08/27E. Tiger VHFOn4 out of 5 barsRSSI: -98.3 loss rate: 0.0%
2023/08/27E. Tiger VHFOffn/an/a
2023/08/27E. Tiger VHFOn5 out of 5 barsRSSI: -102.3 loss rate: 0.0%
In example 2 above, you would’ve sent in a report to the tech team on the second test when you found the repeater to be off.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Mike - NO7RF

    Excellent, the page is very nice…beats my work hands down!. Want something else to fiddle with or name your own poisonous pile. 🙂

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