Olivia is a mode some hams choose to ignore in today’s ‘gimme yer grid’ environment on the HF bands. These days some people have decried the once popular PSK mode to be dead as they prefer the fast and furious FT8. While there’s nothing wrong with FT8 it lacks the personal touch that many hams prefer. The rag chew, where you learn about the station on the other end. Their radios, antennas and other amateur radio gear. Their jobs. Family and so forth. That’s what is lacking in the automated modes of today. Olivia brings something to the table that PSK and JT/FT modes lack: the ability to pull weak signals out of the noise AND be able to hold a real QSO with the other station.
One thing that turns some operators away from Olivia is finding and decoding the other stations. While there are many resources for the mode there’s a group spearheaded by Tomas, NW7US over on the groups.io platform. If you’re interested in learning more about this group here is the link to it: Olivia Digital Mode Radioteletype on HF. One of the best descriptions of operating on this mode come from the group description:
Since Olivia signals can be decoded even when received signals are extremely weak, (signal to noise ratio of -14db), signals strong enough to be decoded are sometimes below the noise floor and therefore impossible to search for manually. As a result, amateur radio operators have voluntarily decided upon channelization for this mode. This channelization allows even imperceptibly weak signals to be properly tuned for reception and decoding. By common convention amateur stations initiate contacts utilizing 8/250, 16/500, or 32/1000 configuration of the OLIVIA mode and then switch to other configurations to continue the conversation. The following table lists the common center frequencies used in the amateur radio bands.
Olivia (Center) Frequencies (kHz)
It is often best to get on standard calling frequencies with this mode because you can miss a lot of weak signals if you don’t. However, with Olivia activity on the rise AND all the other modes vying for space, a good deal of the time you can operate wherever you can find a clear spot–as close as you can to a standard calling frequency.
Note: some websites publish frequencies in this band, frequencies that are right on top of weak-signalJT65 and JT9 segments. DO NOT QRM weak-signal QSOs!
We (active Olivia community members) suggest 8/250 as the starting settings when calling CQ on the USB frequencies designated as “Calling Frequencies.” A Calling Frequency is a center frequency on which you initially call, “CQ…” and then, with the agreement with the answering operator, move to a new nearby frequency, changing the number of tones and bandwidth at your discretion. Even though 8/250 is slow, the CQ call is short. But, it is narrow, to allow room for other QSOs nearby.
1.8269, 3.5729, 7.0729, 10.1429, 14.0729, 18.1029, 21.0729, 24.9229, 28.1229, and so on.
See the pattern?