Monday, September 14, 2009


I just watched a show on BBC America “MI-5”, its a drama that follows a team at MI-5. Good drama, excellent stories. Just now one of the operatives was on the radio and ended the transmission with “Roger, Over and Out”.

Really? REALLY? You know, when you say something stupid, somewhere a baby gets punched in the face, so smarten up.

In radio communications the goal is brevity, conservation of bandwidth. The FCC requires that communications be done at the lowest possible power level and the lowest possible bandwidth needed to complete the contact. Yes, you may be licensed to operate at 100 watts, but if you can make the contact at 1, you should. Yes, you can transmit that telefax at 9600 baud, but in some bands you are restricted to 2400 baud. Its good radio practice and helps keep the airways clear. This tends to create terse radio operators. So, saying “over and out” is too wordy, but its also incomprehensible. “Over” means “I am done transmitting, awaiting reply” and “Out” means “I am done transmitting, ending conversation.” So “Over and Out” means, literally “I am done transmitting, awaiting reply. Done transmitting, conversation over.” So which is it? Are you standing by or ending the communication?

And just for completeness… “Roger Wilco” is redundant. “Roger” means “affirmative”. Wilco is a military term that is derived from “Will Comply”. So yes, you can say “Roger Wilco”, but its redundant', either “Roger” or “Wilco” will suffice. Although it COULD be argued that “Roger Wilco” can be translated as “Copy, Wilco”. But again, would you comply if you did not copy the message? I would hope not, therefore “Wilco” is fine. BUT, “Roger Wilco, Over and Out” is right out.

-- PaulC, over.


  1. I was listening in on the flight line com during a SAC alert exercise one night on Guam. Things were not going well at all and the brass were in a tizzy. They kept making the crews(ground) repeat one thing over and over, till finally someone miked up and said "WTF, over?". Of course the base commander heard it and demanded to know who it was. The Airman(no, not me) replied, "Uh, roger that, wilco out" or something to that effect. Very funny stuff that night, not so funny the next day when everyone from every squadron was standing at attention on the flight line in the tropic heat. We were Sierra Oscar Lima and Tango Foxtrot Sierra for a few days.

  2. Ok, this came up again this past weekend. For the record, this rant is not a PaulCism, rather it’s a point of fact. I felt that my logic was enough to make people understand and agree, but it’s apparently not, so here are my references.

    From wikipedia we get
    "Over — I have finished talking and I am listening for your reply. Short for "Over to you."
    Out or Clear — I have finished talking to you and do not expect a reply.
    "Over and out" is an incorrect combination, since the two statements contradict each other."

    And because I know that some of you do not consider wikipedia a valid reference, I further cite FM 21-75 - Combat Skills of the Soldier, chapter 7 Communications, subsection 6 Radiotelephone Procedures:
    "OUT . .. This is the end of my transmission to you and no answer is required.
    OVER . ... This is the end of my transmission to you and a response is necessary. Go ahead: transmit."

    Note that an operator that signals "over" IS monitoring for a reply, while the operator that signals "out" may not be monitoring. To help clarify this, it is generally assumed that the operator that signals "out" is no longer monitoring, they have left the net.
    So "over and out" is both redundant and contradictory. They both mean "I am done transmitting" (redundant) but one means "and waiting reply" and the other means "and am leaving the net" (contradictory).

    This confusion is so complete, that the ARRL notes that HAM voice operators use "Clear" and "Final" and says this:
    "As you complete your final transmission of a contact and do not intend to respond, it is customary to add ‘Clear’ to let everyone know that you are through."
    "Final – the last transmission, as in ‘I will be clear on your final’ "

    So "Clear" is analogous it "Out", as in "I am now leaving the net". And "Final" is similar, "I will leave the net after your final transmission." Note that FM 21-75 has no reference to "Final" as it could lead to confusion. "Final" is used by HAM operators as a courtesy, it means "Goodbye, if you want to wish me well, I will hear it, but not acknowledge." Clearly this type of communication has no place in the military.

    For the record, many HAM voice operations occur over repeaters. Repeaters are just what they sound like; they receive a transmission on one frequency and repeat it on another. This is a huge boon for mobile operators who may have limited transmit power, inefficient antennae, or both. BUT, when using a repeater it is not necessary to end every transmission with “over” because the repeater will send a short audio signal (beep) at the end of your transmission for you.