Tag Archives: Amateur Radio

IEEE Spectrum: “Is Ham Radio a Hobby, a Utility…or Both?”

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post readers who have shared a link to the following article that follows the debate and discussion over an FCC proposal–RM-11831 (PDF)–to “Reduce Interference and Add Transparency to Digital Data Communications.”

The IEEE article, written by Julianne Pepitone, covers both sides of the debate:

Is Ham Radio a Hobby, a Utility…or Both? A Battle Over Spectrum Heats Up

Some think automated radio emails are mucking up the spectrum reserved for amateur radio, while others say these new offerings provide a useful service

Like many amateur radio fans his age, Ron Kolarik, 71, still recalls the “pure magic” of his first ham experience nearly 60 years ago. Lately, though, encrypted messages have begun to infiltrate the amateur bands in ways that he says are antithetical to the spirit of this beloved hobby.

So Kolarik filed a petition, RM-11831 [PDF], to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposing a rule change to “Reduce Interference and Add Transparency to Digital Data Communications.” And as the proposal makes its way through the FCC’s process, it has stirred up heated debate that goes straight to the heart of what ham radio is, and ought to be.

The core questions: Should amateur radio—and its precious spectrum—be protected purely as a hobby, or is it a utility that delivers data traffic? Or is it both? And who gets to decide?

Since Kolarik filed his petition in late 2018, this debate has engulfed the ham world. Fierce defenders of both sides have filed passionate letters and comments to the FCC arguing their cases.

On one side is Kolarik in Nebraska. In his view, it’s all rather simple: “Transparency is a core part of ham radio,” he says. “And yet, you can find tons of traffic from automatic[ally controlled digital] stations that are extremely difficult to identify, if you can identify them at all, and they cause interference.”

The automatically controlled digital stations (ACDS) Kolarik refers to can serve to power services like Winlink, a “global radio email” system.

Overseen and operated by licensed volunteers around the globe, Winlink is funded and guided by the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation, Inc. (ARSFI). The service uses amateur and government radio frequencies around the globe to send email messages by radio. Users initiate the transmission through an Internet connection, or go Internet-free and use smart-network radio relays.

On Winlink’s website, the service says it provides its licensed users the ability to send email with attachments, plus messages about their positions, and weather and information bulletins. Representatives of the service say it also allows users to participate in emergency and disaster relief communications.

But Kolarik’s petition argues two points: First, because such messages “are not readily and freely able to be decoded,” the FCC should require all digital codes to use protocols that “can be monitored in entirety by third parties with freely available, open-source software.” Secondly, he wants the rule change to reduce the interference that he says services like Winlink can create between amateur-to-amateur stations—by relegating the often-unattended automatic stations to operate solely on narrower sub-bands.

Loring Kutchins, the president of ARSFI, says he believes Kolarik’s petition is “well intentioned in its basis. But the fundamental conflict is between people who believe amateur radio is about hobby, not about utility. But nowhere do the FCC rules use the word ‘hobby.’”[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article on the IEEE Spectrum website.

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FCC: RM-11843 seeks creation of a new 8-meter Amateur Radio allocation

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post readers who have shared links to this petition for rulemaking–created by Michelle KU3N–to create a new 8-meter Amateur Radio allocation.

I’ve included the author’s notice about this proposal and also a news item from the ARRL below. First, however, just a quick tip on filing comments via the FCC system:

Making a comment

If you’re interested in commenting on this petition, you can do so via the FCC Electronic Comment Filing System until July 26, 2019.

Using the system the first time is a little confusing–here’s a tip:

Open the comment form on the FCC Express Filing site.

Next, type in the filing number in the first field:

The filing number should auto-complete as you type. Once it has been selected (as in the screenshot above) continue filling out the rest of the form with comments and then submitting it. It’s pretty simple, but if you’re not used to the comment system, selecting the proper petition can be a little confusing.

Of course, the FCC also has the following help page: “How to Comment on FCC Proceedings

For more information about this proposal check out the articles below from the petition author at REC Networks and also a notice from the ARRL:

(Source: REC Networks)

Today, the FCC has assigned a rulemaking (RM) number to a Petition for Rulemaking filed by REC Networks, through its founder, Michelle Bradley, KU3N as RM-11843.

This petition calls on the Commission to work with the National Telecommunications and Information Aministration (NTIA) to allow for amateur radio operations in the 8-meter band. This petition was in response to activities taking place in ITU Region 1 where more administrations are starting to authorize very limited operation on 8 meters.  Ireland, Slovenia and South Africa have already granted amateurs regular access to all or portions of the band being asked for in the petition.   In fact, ComReg, the Irish regulator has even gone far enough to allocate virtually the entire VHF low band (30~49 MHz) for amateur radio use.

In the petition, REC/KU3N notes that this spectrum could be used for weak signal experimentation and general amateur use primarily along transatlantic paths using CW, SSB and digital modes such as FT8 and digital voice.  As no radios are currently manufactured for this band, it could encourage “makers” to design new equipment and antenna design.  REC/KU3N predicts low usage of this band except during scheduled activities such as Field Day and contests as well as periods of sporadic-E, high sunspot numbers and other periods with a higher maximum usable frequency.

In the petition, REC/KU3N is asking to use 40.51 to 40.70 MHz, allowing beacons, prohibiting repeaters and discouraging FM operation.

This spectrum is currently used by the Federal Government as part of an older channelized land mobile radio system, mainly by the Department of Agriculture for national forests and parks.  It is also used for federal and non-federal telemetry and wildlife tracking. The spectrum is also sporadically used by the military for short-range communication.  Industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) devices also operate in the 40.66 to 40.70 MHz area.  REC/KU3N notes that this spectrum would be of most interest to those who wish to conduct transatlantic experimentation and thus will have more amateur activity in the eastern USA where it is likely that federal use of this spectrum is more likely in the western USA.

Comments on this petition will be accepted by the FCC through their Electronic Comment Filing System until July 26, 2019.  Select proceeding RM-11843.

A copy of the petition can be found at the following URL:
https://recnet.net/fcc/8_meter_PRM.pdf

Questions and media inquiries should be directed to REC Networks at our Contact REC form.

(Source: ARRL News)

The FCC has put on public notice for comment a Petition for Rulemaking (RM-11843) that seeks the creation of a new 8-meter Amateur Radio allocation on a secondary basis. The Petition suggests the new band could be centered on an industrial-scientific-medical (ISM) segment somewhere between 40.51 and 40.70 MHz. The spectrum between 40 and 41 MHz is currently allocated to the Federal Government and, as such, within the purview of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). ARRL member Michelle Bradley, KU3N, of Maryland, filed the petition in May on behalf of REC Networks, which she founded and described in the Petition as “a leading advocate for a citizen’s access to spectrum,” including Amateur Radio spectrum.

“REC feels that the time is right for the Commission to open a Notice of Inquiry and eventually a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and in cooperation with the NTIA, this new band opportunity can be realized to spark the next generation of ‘makers’ in the fields of science, technology, education, and math (STEM), especially women and girls,” Bradley told the FCC in the Petition. “The more opportunities we give to make things, the more opportunities we have to build a pool of experts in STEM, right here at home.”

The Petition said the objective of a new band would be “an effort to foster experimentation into the propagation characteristics of this band midway between the 10- and 6-meter bands.” An allocation in the 8-meter band is available to radio amateurs in Ireland, where the Irish Radio Transmitters Society has developed a band plan for 40 – 41 MHz.

“REC perceives this spectrum can be used for weak signal experimentation and eventually general amateur use, especially along transatlantic paths using CW, SSB, digital modes such as FT8 and digital voice,” the Petition said. “As no radios are mass-produced for this band at this time, this opens up new opportunities for ‘makers’ to construct transmitters, receivers, and antenna systems that can be used in this spectrum.”

REC anticipates “very low” usage of the new band, “with peak usage around sporadic-E episodes, operating events such as ARRL Field Day, and VHF contests, as well as during the peak of sunspot cycles,” Bradley told the Commission. “[W]e feel that the sharing of 40 MHz can be accomplished in a manner that serves the needs of the Amateur Radio Service while meeting the organizational missions of Federal Government agencies that utilize this spectrum.”

Interested parties may file short comments on RM-11843 via the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing Service (Express). Visit the FCC “How to Comment on FCC Proceedings” page for information on filing extended comments.

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MagPi Issue 80 features Ham Radio Projects for the Raspberry Pi mini computer

Thanks to a hat tip from the Southgate ARC, I discovered that the excellent MagPi magazine has featured a number of ham radio projects in this month.

I’ve outlined below a list of the projects with page numbers–note that many are simply summaries that link to full project notes in previous editions:

  • Page 52: Pictures from space via ham radio
  • Page 71: ADS-B flight tracker (we also have a short tutorial here)
  • Page 72: WSPR transmitter
  • Page 73: Remote SDR scanner
  • Page 74: Digital voice hotspot
  • Page 75: Satellite tracking
  • Page 75: APRS IGate

Issue 80 of MagPi is free (click here to download as a PDF). You can also pay for a print subscription via post as well.

I highly recommend downloading each issue of MagPi–it’s a brilliant, informative magazine and is chock-full of projects and ideas for Pi fans of any age.

One of my Raspberry Pi 3Bs in service.

I’m a big fan of the Raspberry Pi and use it for a number of applications. This issue has encouraged me to give WSPR a go and perhaps even build a DV hotspot in the near future.

Raspberry Pi kits are quite affordable–Amazon has a massive selection from bare-bones units to full packages which include everything you need to get started. I’m a fan of both Canakits and Vilros.

Click here to search Amazon.com (this affiliate link also supports the SWLing Post).

I also purchase Pi systems, accessories, and hats from AdaFruit.

Post Readers: Are you a fan of the Raspberry Pi or other mini computers? Please comment and share your projects/ideas!

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US Navy finds ham radio training makes “workers better at their jobs”

(Source: Southgate ARC via Mike K8RAT)

Can learning amateur radio make for better engineers and software developers?

Writing in C4ISRNET – Electronic Warfare, Eric Tegler says:

When a group of [US] Navy engineers and software developers took time away from their day jobs in December, they spent the time pursuing a task long considered passe: they became licensed amateur radio operators.

Some 23 employees from Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) took a week-long class in amateur radio at Point Mugu, California culminating with an FCC amateur radio license test. All passed and are certified at the “technician” level for amateur radio operation [permitted 200 watts on some HF bands, 1500 watts above 30 MHz].

Now, Navy officials say the move may make the workers better at their jobs. The staff gained an understanding of radio frequency (RF) propagation that’s essential to what they do, said Brian Hill, electromagnetic maneuver warfare experimentation lead and collaborative electronic warfare supervisor at NAWCWD.

Hill, who earned his amateur radio license in high school, noticed that while most of his department’s recent hires had degrees in computer science, many had little background in RF theory or operation.

“You can explain antenna patterns and concepts like omni-directional vs directional using Smith charts, but it’s helpful to add a demonstration to really convey the concept,” Hill said. “You can explain modulation as a concept, but for a demo… let them listen to how modulated digital signals with audio frequencies sound… For those who never knew the joy of hearing a 2400 bps modem connect over a telephone line, it was a new concept!”

These concepts are central to electromagnetic maneuver warfare.

“We need to be able to have awareness of all threats and opportunities from [zero frequency] to light within an integrated system,” Hill said. “Our adversaries are looking at the entire spectrum to use against us, and we need to do the same. Having awareness of how the atmosphere changes from daylight to night and how that affects propagation of [high frequency] is important.”

This can be critical for young developers/engineers whose experience is typically limited to the UHF/EHF-based systems now in vogue across communications, guidance and ISR technologies.

Read the full story at
https://www.c4isrnet.com/electronic-warfare/2019/02/06/can-learning-ham-radio-make-for-better-engineers-and-software-developers/

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Video: “The Fort and the Field Day”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dennis Dura, who shares a link to this short video highlighting amateur radio at the 2017 Fort Wayne Field Day:

Click here to view on YouTube.

YouTube description: A 10 minute documentary investigating why people still do ham radio. Shot at the Historical Fort Wayne in Fort Wayne, Indiana, during ARRL Field Day in 2017.

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