Stating "Handheld" on a Satellite Pass – Dumb idea?

Over time I hear a lot of stations state their callsign followed by “Handheld” or “Rubber Duck” on satellite passes.  I understand that some individuals actually advise this activity.  I’m not convinced the practice serves its intended purpose. 

I’ve heard that saying “Handheld” is supposed to magically encourage home stations to yield to the handheld stations.   What good does it do when predominantly the people on the pass are saying “Handheld?”  This is very common on SO-50 when you have a lot of people trying to make a contact for the first time.   Home stations have every right to make contacts as much as people in the backyard with their HT.  Bear in mind I state this as someone who has made 5,000+ contacts portable from the field or my vehicles — not a high-power big-gun.  It got so ridiculous one day, I jokingly said on AO-51 “W5PFG, doing the hokey-pokey portable.”

Sometimes I hear people say “Handheld station, please come in.”  WHICH ONE?  If you have five people on the pass saying handheld, it doesn’t make sense to call someone blindly just by “Handheld,” does it?  Here’s an actual exchange I heard this week: “Handheld station in ENxx, this is handhend station in DMxx.”  If you don’t want people to come off as lids, educate them better.  Use callsigns and use phonetics.

There are many other designations people apply to their station callsign: Portable, Rover, Mobile, to name a few.  Portable is generally applied by more experienced operators when they are operating outside of their home station (especially grid square.)  For example I don’t say portable even if I’m in my car or in the field, unless I am somewhere outside of EM21.  My opinion is the two most usable designations are Portable and Demo.  Demo indicates you have a live audience and are trying to demonstrate the capabilities of amateur satellites.  I feel yielding to those stations is the right thing to do though it’s not mandatory.  What do you do when three groups are trying to do a demo or special event the same day?   These are more things to ponder.

I’m not saying civility should be thrown out the window.  I’m merely suggesting the use of “Handheld” as a designation doesn’t really offer a measurable benefit and often leads to a lot of confusion on a busy satellite pass.  The best advice I would give to someone with a handheld is to listen and focus on timing.  If you time your transmission right and give your callsign clearly, you will be as relevant as the biggest big-gun on the pass.  

I know of at least one active station today who predominantly used a handheld for over a year and no other station on the satellite would have ever known…

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