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Introduction to Olivia Digital Chat Mode - Raleigh Amateur Radio Society

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by NW7US, Dec 18, 2023.

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  1. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Olivia is the digital communications mode on shortwave (high frequency sub band, or, HF) for amateur radio operators who want more than the "Check Propagation" FT8 mode. This video is an introduction that was presented to the Raleigh Amateur Radio Society ( ) on December 12, 2023, presented by Tomas Hood, NW7US


    Olivia, a Multi-Frequency Shift Keying (MFSK) radioteletype digital mode, is an amateur radioteletype protocol designed to work in difficult (low signal-to-noise ratio plus multipath) propagation conditions on shortwave radio (i.e., high-frequency, or HF) bands. The typical Olivia signal is decoded when the amplitude of the noise is over ten times that of the digital signal! It is commonly used by amateur radio operators to reliably transmit ASCII characters over noisy channels (slices of high-frequency spectrum -- i.e., frequencies from 3 MHz to 30 MHz; HF) exhibiting significant fading and propagation phasing.

    The Olivia digital modes are commonly referred to by the number of tones and the bandwidth used (in Hz). Therefore, it is common to express the Olivia digital mode as Olivia X/Y (or, alternatively, Olivia Y/X ), where X refers to the number of different audio tones transmitted, and Y refers to the bandwidth in Hertz over which these signals are spread. Examples of common Olivia modes are, 8/250 (meaning, 8 tones/250-Hertz bandwidth), 16/500, and, 32/1000.

    The protocol was developed at the end of 2003 by Pawel Jalocha. The first on-the-air tests were performed by two radio amateurs, Fred OH/DK4ZC and Les VK2DSG, on the Europe-Australia propagation path in the 20-meter shortwave radio amateur band. The tests proved that the Olivia protocol (or, digital mode) works well and can allow regular intercontinental radio contacts with as little as one-watt RF power (when propagation is highly-favorable). Since 2005, Olivia has become a standard for digital data transfer under white noise, fading and multipath, flutter (polar path) and auroral conditions.

    Olivia can perform nearly as good as the very popular WSJT mode, FT8, and better than FT4.

    See you on the waterfall!
    73 de NW7US

    Olivia information can be found, here:

    YD1DLM, KG4UPR, KI4ZUQ and 7 others like this.
  2. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've tried the mode a few times and thought it worked out rather well. My complaint and why I stopped using it is the business with the different modes i.e. 8/250,16/500,32/1000 WHY??
    If you are going to use those different variations why not write the software to recognize and identify the variation, so the other station would not need to guess at it? Maybe some things have changed since last I operated... I sure hope so.

    Full disclosure, I don't know the first thing about writing software.
    UT7UX, W6AAJ, N1DQQ and 6 others like this.
  3. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    In this presentation, I discuss how the popular software suites that support Olivia, has a feature that does decode the mode settings, allowing you to quickly switch to the right configuration - the Reed-Solomon ID feature.

    I also discuss why we have different tone and bandwidth choices. I tried to answer your questions, in the video.

    N2WHT, N7SNR, KG4UPR and 4 others like this.
  4. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for the information. "Quickly switch" is not the same as automatically switching. Is there a reason the software could not be set up to automatically switch to the correct mode?
    UT7UX, KF7PCL and NW7US like this.
  5. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Imagine being in a QSO on one mode, and the software automatically switching on you while receiving, destroying your QSO...

    Perhaps someone can inspire the software creators to come up with a hybrid, but I know that both FLDigi and DM780 can do semi automatic switching, I believe.

    But, then, Ham Radio is a technical hobby... perhaps you can make those changes to FLDigi software.
  6. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thank you, I appreciate your taking the time to offer an explanation.
    NW7US and (deleted member) like this.
  7. N6SPP

    N6SPP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    MultiPSK by F6CTE also auto-selects the BW via it's TX/RX id... 73, n6spp-cm98
  8. ON3MDR

    ON3MDR Ham Member QRZ Page

    First time I heared it, it sounded like one of those Seventies computers in the scifi this mode, more interaction than FT8
    N2WHT, KF7PCL, N3RYB and 1 other person like this.
  9. K4EIA

    K4EIA QRZ Lifetime Member #723 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Where do you find the software?
    KA4JAM likes this.
  10. K3FHP

    K3FHP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    My GoTo suite for these modes is FlDigi, which does the job well and is very adaptatble to various rigs and conditions. I DO NOT feel the need to use the FLRig gig control but use the CAT control built into the main FlDigi program. You can find this at, the programs home page. Tough Oli(as we call it) is great and has it's utility, there are many other modes I also use and like even better, all in the Fldigi suite.
    MFSK(16 being the most popular version), Contestia(a abbreviated Oli version only slightly less robust but faster), Domino EX, Thor, and of course the old favorites PSK and RTTY. On the W1HJK page be sure to click on 'Sights and Sounds' which brings up a page describing the characteristics and features of these modes. All IMHO much more fun than FT8 and very usable.

    On the other hand, not mentioned is the newer program JS8. This is a keyboard mode with many features for chatting, beaconing, message handling, DXing and more. It can be as or more robust as FT8 but IMHO is back to real ham radio rag chewing capability. It lets you 'concatenate' the segments into a single message. It works and sets up like FT8 . You can get it at This mode hangs out at .078 from the bottom of the band(.578 on 80)

    Like FT8, all reports of signals heard on JS8 can be sent to automatically and you leave the receiver on all day and let others see wo hears them. Also if you select it a received beacon(called a heart beat) can be automatically responded to with a signal report. Also faster modes are available that bring up the communications rate to at least PSK31 speeds. It is building a good following worldwide. During the times of poor conditions, it really pulls through the contacts and many users use marginal/compromise antennas with good results. Though not a QRP specific mode, you can meke many contacts with QRP levels of power AND compromise antennas though I find 20W helpful and usually more than enough. Remember it is a 100% duty cycle mode so be king to your rig as exchanges can last a while while rag chewing.

    Good luck, have fun.

    N3VH, KI4ZUQ, KF7PCL and 2 others like this.
  11. N6SPP

    N6SPP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Ref JS8- I find the beaconing mode handy.. It reminds me a little of the old program & early path reporting system "Prop Net Reporter (PNP)". The psk31 multi-window Robot decoder that ran from 2005-2018. The downside of JS8 is that the message transmissions are truncated and limited to 13 characters. Just like FT8. A single JS8 "sentence" is divided a few times depending on total character length of the sentence. Ex: "Hello Fred, how are you today?".. Is sent as- Hello Fred, ho (rx)... (tx) w are you tod (rx).. (tx) ay?" Three TX/RX sequences for that line. Secondly. there is no timing between stations. So there can be tx/rx overlap between stations- a little like psk31 under poor/qsb condx- when an operator is not sure if he should tx or rx in fear of sending over the top of another stn etc...I'm curious if JS8 Traffic Handling Nets (Emergency etc) put "NNNNN" at the beginning and end of their transmissions..hi.. Ok, I'm going back to "Opera" mode (EA5HVK) now on 28 MHz.. 73, Eric (vet- USA Sig Corp)
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2023
  12. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I love how folks hijack a thread.... the topic is Olivia, not JS8Call. Squirrel!
    W6ZD and KF7PCL like this.
  13. KB2HSH

    KB2HSH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thank you for the time machine ride back to 2010. What a blast!!

    Moving on.
  14. M0MNE

    M0MNE Ham Member QRZ Page

    The problem with this mode is actually making a QSO which is not a pre arranged sked. I’ve spent hours calling CQ in this mode on the recognised Olivia frequencies and being heard on all the web SDRs. Unfortunately it’s an undeniable fact that there is nobody listening unless arranged in advance. It’s a very good mode when you can actually get a QSO. I even tried running one of the days of a special event station exclusively in Olivia mode. Number of QSOs achieved that day. Zero. Yes, with RSID on.

    I think the mode should be promoted more. FT8 gets no end of publicity yet it’s just boring. Olivia is just as good I’m terms of SNR, and you can actually have a conversation.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2023
    N2WHT, N1DQQ, W6ZD and 1 other person like this.
  15. KA1BSZ

    KA1BSZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Up here in Vermont and New Hampshire in our radio club, I tried many, many times to get people to just to even try PSK, Olivia any of those digital modes. Out of 32 members, I got 1 to do PSK once for 10 minutes and 1 to try Olivia for 5 minutes and 1 to do cw for 3 minutes. The club has 3 repeaters and nobody uses them. I got sick of just even trying to post on Facebook different things they're done over the years, and it's like pulling teeth. They just won't do anything. They will go to meetings and bitch and complain there's nothing to do, but when there is some operating event, they won't do anything. So dropped out of the club. They are just lazy. You couldn't pay them $100.00 per hour to even turn on their radios. Such a same. I'm on 15,17,20,30 and 40 meter cw every night.
    N2WHT, KQ7A, W6ZD and 2 others like this.

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