This Week in Amateur Radio
This Week in Amateur Radio: North America's Amateur Radio News Magazine. Articles on amateur radio and news stories in the media featured here.
Updated: 17 min 50 sec ago
The Belgium amateur radio regulator, BIPT, has decided to dramatically cut Basic licence (ON3) power levels from 50 watts to just 10 watts and they are to lose the 18 and 50 MHz bands. National amateur radio society UBA reports: On March 22, the Decision of the BIPT Council of March 20, 2019 on the frequencies, powers and transmission modes that may be used by the radio amateurs was published on the BIPT website, see https://www.bipt.be/public/files/nl/22777/Besluit_Frequentieplan_RAM_2019-03-20.pdf Unfortunately we have to conclude that this decision for the basic license (class C, ON3) is almost identical to the proposal made by BIPT in the consultation, despite the various proposals made by the UBA to limit the loss for the ON3s, see https://www.uba.be/nl/actueel/flash/raadpleging-bipt-antwoord-van-de-uba
This weekend, some new — and younger — voices will be on the air from the K3LR Superstation, an 11-acre antenna farm of 13 towers owned by Tim Duffy, K3LR. Duffy reports that “Team Exuberance” members will operate from the station in the two-transmitter, multioperator (M2) category for the CQ World Wide WPX Contest (phone), March 30 – 31 UTC. The operators will be NN1C, HA9T, VE7DZO, K6JO, KG5HVO, and KM4ATT, a team with an average age of about 16. Fourteen-year-old team member Kat, KM4ATT, and David, VE7DZO, sparked the idea, and soon a plan was put in motion to create an all-youth team to operate K3LR. Funds for transportation, hotels, and other logistical expenses were raised through a GoFundMe appeal. Kat and David had both participated in the 2018 Dave Kalter Memorial Youth DX Adventure to Curacao. While young, Team Exuberance members boast a combined record of more than 10 contest wins. Two WRTC 2018 competitors are on the list, and several have operated at other prominent stations around the world. “We believe we are the first all-youth serious contest operation in North America,” said Marty Sullaway, NN1C. The Youth Amateurs Radio Club (YARC) Young Contesting Program (YCP) solicited team members for the CQ WW WPX operation and will continue the trend of recruiting young operators to contest from Big Gun stations.
The Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) reports that new records have been set on the 47GHz and 122GHz bands. Operating 47GHz mobile, David, VK5KK and Wayne, VK5APN set a new record of 20.8km on 11 March 2019. At 122GHz, Matt, VK2DAG and David, VK2JDS set a new VK2 state record of 100m. Although this is some way short of the world record, the 122GHz band is fiendishly difficult and has serious attenuation challenges due to an atmospheric oxygen resonance.
The XR0ZRC DXpedition team on Robinson Crusoe Island (Juan Fernandez Islands) reports that a very slow internet connection has hampered its ability to upload logs. Operators report that severe local noise on the low bands is making reception difficult. “The team is looking for another QTH for the low-band position,” an announcement on the group’s website said. “Some of the equipment that came from Chile to the island yesterday is still on the ship. Unloading is not possible due to [a] storm.” The announcement said the XR0ZRC team expects to retrieve the equipment today (March 21) and start installing antennas for 80 and 160 meters. Sponsored by the Russian Robinson Crusoe Club, the XR0ZRC operation is scheduled to continue until March 27. The island was home to marooned sailor Alexander Selkirk from 1704 to 1709, and is thought to have inspired novelist Daniel Defoe’s fictional Robinson Crusoe in his 1719 novel about the character, although the novel is set in the Caribbean. Juan Fernandez Islands (CE0Z) is the 68th most-wanted DXCC entity, according to Club Log.
A four-operator team will activate special event station VI9NI on April 1 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Norfolk Island Act. The Act granted limited self-government to the Australian external territory of Norfolk Island. The Act formally established the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly and gave the Assembly powers to pass, amend, and repeal laws, and — subject to the assent of the Administrator of Norfolk Island — executive powers. The activation will run from April 1 until April 14. Two stations will be on the air from 160 – 17 meters, with a focus on FT8, CW, and SSB. VI9NI will use WSJT-Xversion 2.01 in Fox/Hound mode (call only above 1,000 Hz). — Thanks to David Burden VK3BDX/AC3CW
A new Islands On The Air (IOTA) island — Inakari Island (EU192) — was activated for the first time in February by a small international team. Kataja/Inakari Island was added to the official IOTA list last fall. Martti Laine, OH2BH; Nigel Cawthorne, G3TXF; Niko Halminen, OH2GEK, and Gerben Menting, PG5M, traveled by snowmobile over the frozen surface of Bothnian Bay and set up camp in an abandoned fisherman's refuge. The team ran two stations simultaneously on 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, and 15 meters, CW and SSB. When all was said and done on February 11, the team reported logging 8,088 contacts. The weather conditions iced up the 80-meter antenna, causing the resonant frequency to drop some 100 kHz. Guy wires and fiber support poles also were covered with a layer of ice and snow, which required using hot water to collapse them and return them to the carrying cases.
There was a time when owning a home computer was kind of a big deal. In the days before the popularization of the Internet, so-called "computer shows" were the best way to meet with others to swap advice, information, and hardware. Of course today, things are very different. The kind of people who are building their computers just buy the parts online, and everyone else is probably using a $200 laptop from Walmart that isn't worth spending the time or money on to upgrade. So while the Trenton Computer Festival (TCF) may have started in 1976 as a way for people to buy early computers like the Altair 8800, over the years it has morphed into something much closer to the modern idea of a "con". Those who visit the 44th TCF on March 23rd at the College of New Jersey will likely spend most of their time at the festival attending the 40+ talks and workshops that will be happening in a span of just six hours. But anyone who's got some cash to burn can still head over to the flea market area where they'll be able to buy both modern and vintage hardware.
In the radio business, getting the high ground is key to covering as much territory from as few installations as possible. Anything that has a high profile, from a big municipal water tank to a roadside billboard to a remote hilltop, will likely be bristling with antennas, and different services compete for the best spots to locate their antennas. Amateur radio clubs will be there too, looking for space to locate their repeaters, which allow hams to use low-power mobile and handheld radios to make contact over a vastly greater range than they could otherwise. Now some hams have claimed the highest of high ground for their repeater: space. For the first time, an amateur radio repeater has gone to space aboard a geosynchronous satellite, giving hams the ability to link up over a third of the globe. It's a huge development, and while it takes some effort to use this new space-based radio, it's a game changer in the amateur radio community.
Some alumni, faculty, and staff of Boston College are in the process of trying to restart the Boston College Amateur Radio Club. They would appreciate hearing from current BC students and alumni who are interested in participating. Contact Jim Repetti, WJ1R.
The FCC has adopted new rules to encourage development of new communication technologies and expedite the deployment of new services above 95 GHz. The action was the latest move in the Commission's "Spectrum Horizons" branded initiative. "This spectrum has long been considered the outermost horizon of the usable spectrum range, but rapid advancements in radio technology have made these bands especially ripe for new development," the FCC said in announcing the March 15 move. Prior to its "historic" decision last week, the FCC had no rules for authorizing communication above 95 GHz other than by radio amateurs or through experimental operations. Under current rules, specific Amateur Radio allocations exist at 122.25 – 123.00 GHz; 134 – 141 GHz; 241 – 250 GHz, and at frequencies above 300 GHz, and limited experimentation has taken place in this region of the radio spectrum. Among radio amateurs active in that region of the spectrum is Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, in Virginia — who has made at least one contact on every available Amateur Radio band. He earned the first-ever ARRL VUCC awards for 122 GHz, 134 GHz, and 241 GHz, and even went so far as to make the first contact on a less-than-1-millimeter band, 322 GHz. "Many world DX records were made as well along the way," he said last spring. "The most rewarding one for me was 114 kilometers [about 71 miles] on 241 GHz."
The historic NN3SI call sign is being reactivated under the aegis of the Smithsonian Institution Amateur Radio Group. "We do not have a physical station location, and we are not open for guest operation as in the past, but this this is the start to Amateur Radio slowly coming back at the Smithsonian," the group's president, John Weise, N4NPG, told ARRL. "We expect to begin operating holiday style starting in April." NN3SI will operate mobile and portable from several District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland locations on most bands and modes. NN3SI hopes to be on the air for most contests this year including Rookie Roundup, the ARRL June VHF Contest, and ARRL Field Day, Weise added. As he recounts, NN3SI was initially a temporary "special" call sign granted to the Smithsonian during the US bicentennial in 1976, and the station remained active until 2008 when building renovations left NN3SI without a permanent location. "The call sign lapsed, but was renewed this year," Weise said, "and the new Smithsonian Institution Amateur Radio Group has been organized as a club for Smithsonian staff members, and to provide important emergency management and STEM educational resources to the Smithsonian Institution." — Thanks to John Weise, N4NPG
Radio Club de Chile reports "a short story with a happy ending." Don Martin, a settler living in an isolated location south of Cochrane — a town in Chile's Capitán Prat Province — has a small government-issued radio that allows him to communicate locally. The set failed, however, and when an acquaintance learned of the problem, he contacted the Radio Club de Chile. After some long-distance exchanges, club members were able to determine what was wrong and offered instructions on how to fix it. Their solution proved to be successful, and Martin was able to reestablish communication with Cochrane. He is reported happy and thankful to all who participated. — Thanks to Radio Club de Chile
Interference from what ISED, Canada's telecommunications regulator, called an individual "operating an Amateur Radio station without proper authorization and was known to insult, threaten and impersonate other Amateur operators" has been adjudicated. The case resulted in a petition, which attracted 1,135 signatures, being presented to the House of Commons on January 30, and the Government of Canada responded on March 18. "As the individual disregarded ISED's written and verbal warnings, the department took action to enforce the [Radiocommunication] Act," ISED said. "Due to repeated offences, ISED carried out three searches of the individual's residences and issued seven notices of violation totaling $2,500 plus fees." Last October, the individual was found guilty of the violations of subsection by a Justice of the Peace. ISED also called upon a federal prosecutor to obtain an injunction against the individual. That injunction is currently at the interlocutory stage. ISED said it understands the individual has not been heard on Amateur Radio since August 8, 2018, and that it's "closely following this case." — Thanks to Radio Amateurs of Canada
An FCC Enforcement Bureau Notice of Unlicensed Operation (NoUO) issued last fall to a California Technician-class licensee for alleged unlicensed FM broadcasting on 95.7 MHz now has been upgraded to a Notice of Violation (NoV) that cites violations of the Part 97 Amateur Service rules. The March 15 NoV sent to Daryl Thomas, KE6MWS, of Carmichael, also specifically acknowledges Thomas as an Amateur Radio licensee — something not done in last November's NoUO. The FCC Enforcement Bureau warned that it could progress to a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL), "if warranted." An FCC Enforcement Bureau agent who monitored transmissions on 95.7 MHz from "Amateur Radio station KE6WMS" in the FM broadcast band on January 31, 2019, observed violations of 97.103 — not operating in accordance with FCC rules; 97.113(b) — prohibited transmissions, i.e., broadcasting, and 97.301 — operation outside frequency bands authorized for Amateur Radio. The FCC ordered Thomas to respond in writing within 20 days, explaining each violation and actions taken to correct them and prevent their recurrence.
Alaska's High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is prepping for its spring research program. The activity will run March 25 – 29. The high-power HF transmitter and huge antenna array located near Gakona, Alaska, now is operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). HAARP Chief Scientist Chris Fallen, KL3WX, said investigations will range from practical to fundamental physical theory. "Listen on shortwave between 2.7 and 10 MHz (most experiments will be less than 4 or 5 MHz given low daytime max foF2)," Fallen tweeted on March 13. "Tweet your reception [@ctfallen] and mention me or @uafhaarp, so others can follow along!" A "special broadcast" featuring Concordia University Assistant Professor of Intermedia Amanda Dawn Christie will be among the transmissions. Fallen said Christie "has a special one-hour piece to perform each evening of the campaign at different times." Currently those are scheduled to be 0030 – 0130 UTC on March 26; 0200 – 0300 UTC on March 27; 0800 – 0900 UTC on March 28, and 0600 – 0700 on March 29, subject to change. Christie's GHOSTS IN THE AIR GLOW — ionospheric audio and image mixing with HAARP website offers more information.
Tunisia definitely is not a difficult DXCC entity to put into the log — it's #188 (out of 340) on Club Log's Most-Wanted DXCC List — but Amateur Radio is not exactly a trouble-free or inexpensive avocation to pursue there. The Amateur Radio population trends toward the younger demographic in Tunisia. The Association des Radio Amateurs Tunisiens (ARAT), created in 2011 after the Jasmin Revolution, is the country's International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member-society. "The work that has been done so far was mainly funded by ARAT members — average age 22 years old — and other organizations," said ARAT President Ashraf Chaabane, KF5EYY. These include support by the Yasme Foundation for Youngsters on the Air (YOTA) activity or IARU Region 1 support for Amateur Radio direction finding (ARDF) equipment. Yasme grants have made it possible for young radio amateurs from Tunisia and other countries to attend YOTA summer camp. At present, all Amateur Radio activity in Tunisia is organized around club stations as opposed to individual stations, and several enthusiasts such as Chaabane have obtained US Amateur Radio licenses in order to get on the air from Tunisian club stations. Chaabane, who operates from 3V8SS, is looking forward to the day Tunisia issues him its first individual Amateur Radio license.
The 3Y0I Bouvet Island DXpedition website has announced that the team of operators — led by Polish DXpeditioner Dom Grzyb, 3Z9DX — set sail on March 19 from Cape Town, South Africa, for the remote Antarctic island on board the MV Atlantic Tuna. "The 3YØI Bouvet Island Expedition has officially begun," the announcement said. "If everything goes well, we should reach Bouvet in 7 days around March 26. Landing on the Island will be strictly dependent on weather conditions met upon arrival." According to the website, 3Y0I could be on the air by the end of March but notes that the information is subject to change, noting the vagaries of sea and weather conditions. "The team plans to stay at the island at least for 2 weeks, with an option to extend the stay to 3 – 4 weeks, if weather and other factors permit," the announcement said. "We will sign as E51DOM/mm on the way to and back from the island." The announcement invited anyone interested to track the vessel. "Stay tuned for further updates and cross fingers for us, the announcement concluded. "History has begun!"
Radio amateur Arnold P. Ferolito K2PEV, owner RM Broadcasting LLC, is fighting a Department of Justice attempt to force him to register under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) The Washington Post reports the 76-year-old, who now has residences in Florida and New Jersey, grew up poor in the Bronx. As a child, he built ham radios and this led him, as an adult, to repairing quadruplex videotape machines in his basement from which he founded a multi-million dollar video company. Arnold Ferolito K2PEV believes the expansion of the FARA statute to radio broadcasters is an egregious overstep that is unconstitutional. He says registering under the act would mean he'd have to relinquish his 4th Amendment rights.
The same day that the FCC put ARRL's Technician Enhancement petition on public notice, it also invited comments on another proposal, designated RM-11829, asking the FCC to create a "Tyro" license class that would require a minimal online examination as well as mentoring by an Amateur Radio licensee of Technician class or higher. A "tyro" is a novice or a beginner. The petition was filed in August of 2017 by Gary A. Hampton, AD0WU, of Longmont, Colorado. Tyro licensees would earn operating privileges 99 channels in a 70-centimeter "TyroSubBand." Applicants would have to be at least 11 years old. Hampton said in his petition that one goal would be "reliable, nationwide 70-centimeter interoperability" in the exclusive 430 – 440 MHz segment of the band. "The Tyro license is exceptionally important to FEMA's CERT program," Hampton's petition asserts. "It allows ARES to solve CERT's communication problems. The TyroSubBand technical specifications easily double the capacity of typical 70-centiimeter repeaters…" Hampton maintained in his petition that Amateur Radio also "should be used to further scientific research that is published and quickly placed in the public domain."
The NCVEC Question Pool Committee has released the latest errata for the 2019 – 2023 General Element 3 question pool, which goes into effect on July 1, 2019. These changes are reflected in the new General Pool download file, dated March 15, 2019.