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: 18 min ago
It’s a story as old as time: you need to swap between your custom license plates, but you can’t find a screwdriver and you’re already running late for a big meeting at the Business Factory. You called AAA to see if they could come out and do it for you, but as luck would have it something must be wrong with your phone because the line was disconnected as soon as you explained the situation. As if life in the First World couldn’t get any more difficult. Luckily, a company called Reviver Auto has come up with a thoroughly modern solution to this age old problem. Assuming you live in Arizona, California, and Michigan and are willing to pay $800 USD (plus a small monthly service fee), you can join the Rplate revolution! Less a license plate and more of a “cool-looking, multi-functional digital display and connected vehicle platform”, the Rplate will ensure you never again find yourself stuck on the side of the road with an unfashionable license plate.
The Young Amateurs Radio Club (YARC) Youth Contesting Program (YCP) wants to match groups of enthusiastic young contesters with “Big Gun” stations to gain operating experience during the CQ World Wide WPX SSB Contest over the March 30 – 31 weekend. The YCP is a weekend initiative for groups of young Amateur Radio contesters in the US and Canada. “It will hopefully enable a new dimension of the hobby to young hams who have contested a little before and set a new precedent for the welcoming of a new generation of radiosport aficionados,” explained YARC Board Member Sterling Mann, N0SSC. The 27-year-old electrical engineer, who helps manage YARC programs and outreach, described the initiative as “intentionally flexible, lightly organized, and low-cost.” “It works like this — we will attempt to pair a small group (up to four) of young contesters interested in operating with a ‘Big Gun’ station owner interested in hosting the youth group,” continued Mann, an ARRL member active in the College Amateur Radio Initiative. “The contesters will operate from the station, and the host has the option to help the youth improve their skills, provide advice, and even operate alongside. We will try to keep it such that young hams will only require a relatively short drive (ideally no more than 5 hours) to keep travel costs low.”
The ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator said today that the FCC has begun processing Amateur Radio applications for the first time since early January, when it shut down because of the lapse in funding. “The FCC worked through its backlog very quickly, and started processing our files about noon today,” Assistant ARRL VEC Manager Amanda Grimaldi, N1NHL, said on Wednesday. “We’re slowly submitting the files we have in queue — we don’t want to bombard them! Assuming there are no hiccups, everyone should see their applications processed by the close of business on Thursday.” The ARRL VEC had piled up some 2,700 pending Amateur Radio applications, many of them from 425 ARRL VEC examination sessions that took place during the shutdown or immediately prior to it. These do not include files that the other 13 VECs may have ready to upload to the FCC.
The National Weather Service (NWS) is discontinuing its high seas and storm warnings transmitted via National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) WWV/WWVH time and frequency-standard HF transmissions, starting January 31 at 1800 UTC. The NWS warnings are aimed at the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific. “This service is being terminated because weather information in the current broadcast format does not support frequent-enough updates for changes in marine weather and cannot provide enough detail in the allotted window required by mariners to avoid hazardous weather,” NWS said in announcing the discontinuation. “Additionally, alternative technologies and numerous media outlets that provide weather information in various formats have overtaken the need for providing weather information through the NIST frequency signals.” The NWS said other sources of marine weather information, high seas alerts, and detailed forecasts are available over satellite, telephone, the internet, marine fax, radio fax, and VHF radio. The NWS, US Coast Guard, and US Navy provide multiple dissemination methods for storm positioning, high sea areas, observations, forecasts, outlooks, and warnings for both coastal and oceanic marine zones near the US, all through a variety of technologies, including NAVTEX and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
The third annual AM Rally is just ahead. The event, which aims to encourage the use of AM on 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, and 6 meters, gets under way at 0000 UTC on Saturday, February 2 (Friday, February 1, in US time zones) and continues until 0700 UTC on Monday, February 4. The AM Rally is open to any radio amateurs running full-carrier amplitude modulation using any type of radio equipment — modern, vintage, tube, solid-state, software-defined, military, boat anchor, broadcast, homebrew, or commercial. Numerous transceivers in use today offer AM capability. A lot of hams enjoy restoring and using vintage Amateur Radio equipment. The event website has complete AM Rally details, contact information, award categories, logging, and tips on how to get the most out of your station equipment in AM mode. Contact Clark Burgard, N1BCG, for more information. The event is sponsored by Radio Engineering Associates (REA), in cooperation with ARRL, which supports all modes of Amateur Radio operation. W1AW will play a leading role in the event, as it has for the past 2 years.
[UPDATED: 2019-01-29 @ 2115 UTC] In the wake of the more-than-month-long partial government shutdown, the FCC said today that it would be tackling the backlog of applications already in the queue over the course of a couple days. The FCC had earlier indicated that it would resume processing Amateur Radio applications starting today. Subsequently, the Commission requested that Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VECs) give the agency time to work through its already-pending backlog, before they submit any additional new files. Information released before the shutdown said the FCC would take the first day it was open, which was Monday, January 28, to get idle systems up and running again. “The FCC has resumed all operations since the partial funding lapse has ended,” the FCC said via Twitter on Monday. The ARRL VEC now is awaiting word that it can transmit the some 2,300 pending Amateur Radio applications it has in the queue, many of them from 325 ARRL VEC examination sessions that took place during the shutdown or immediately prior to it. These do not include files that the other 13 VECs may be waiting to upload to the Universal Licensing System (ULS). ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said the ARRL VEC won’t send all its pending files until it’s sure the system is working properly.
Volunteer Examiner Coordinators across the US are continuing to receive paperwork from Amateur Radio exam sessions held during the partial government shutdown. While it’s still possible to access the Universal Licensing System (ULS) and file applications, the FCC is not processing individual, club, and exam session — new and upgrade — Amateur Radio applications. The FCC closed most operations on January 3, when available funding ran out. According to the FCC public notice, aside from a few emergency and auction-filing systems, all other Commission electronic filing systems will be unavailable to the public until normal agency operations resume. “Nothing’s moving until the FCC reopens,” said ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM. “ARRL VEC continues to enter exam session, individual, and club license data into the system while we wait for the FCC to reopen and normal agency operations to resume. We have approximately 1,600 applications and 125 exam sessions waiting in the queue to be processed. Everything’s in there ready to go.” Somma stressed that, although license upgrade applications are still on hold, current FCC Amateur Radio licensees who have successfully upgraded and hold a Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) may operate temporarily using the privileges of their new license class, until their new licenses are granted. via American Radio Relay League | Ham Radio Association and Resources http://bit.ly/2FSE46q
At its annual meeting January 18 – 19, the ARRL Board of Directors decided that the organization needs to “review, re-examine, and reappraise ARRL’s regulatory and legislative policy with regard to private land use restrictions.” In order to effectively undertake such a review, the Board adopted a resolution to withdraw its December 18 Petition for Rule Making to the FCC, which sought to amend the Part 97 Amateur Service rules to incorporate the provisions of the Amateur Radio Parity Act (ARPA), without prejudice to refiling. The resolution also is asking members of Congress who had refiled legislation to enact the Amateur Radio Parity Act (ARPA) to refrain from seeking to advance that legislation pending further input from the ARRL. Board members noted that the ARRL has been pursuing adoption of the ARPA for the past several years, and that objective has not yet been achieved. While everyone understands that getting Congressional approval on any matter can be a lengthy process, the difficulties getting the ARPA approved have been a source of frustration to the organization and its members. A majority of the Board now believes that there is a need to reassess the organization’s approach to this issue.
The Ohio/Penn DX (OPDX) Bulletin mailing list is reported to be “in limbo” after a January 11 hack of the Hamnet.org server. OPDX Bulletin Editor Tedd Mirgliotta, KB8NW, reports that the server, which he’d used since the late 1980s, was “hacked and wiped” on January 11. The OPDX Bulletin mailing list was among the casualties. “The OPDX mailing list is now in limbo, and I was told that the server Hamnet.org is probably is gone for good,” Mirgliotta said in the bulletin’s January 14 edition. He said the OPDX Bulletin, including an archive of back issues, remains available on the OPDX website. “I know this is going to be a big disappointment for the subscribers, as well as it has been for me, but after almost 29 years, I am considering possibly retir[ing] from writing the bulletin,” Mirgliotta said. Mirgliotta said the OPDX Bulletin would not be delivered by email for the time being. Contact Mirgliotta via his new email address.
The Inter-MAI amateur radio slow scan television experiment on the International Space Station is scheduled to be activated between Wednesday, 30 January and Friday, 1 February. It appears that the experiment will only be active during a couple of orbits that overfly Moscow, rather than a continuous operation. Expected periods of activation appear to be between 1300 and 1900UTC, and should occur on the traditional 145.800MHz downlink frequency.
The FCC says it will reactivate its Equipment Authorization System (EAS), which had been unavailable since the FCC ran out of funds on January 3 because of the partial government shutdown that began a month ago. RF devices, including Amateur Radio equipment that contains a scanning received, and Amateur Radio power amplifiers must be properly authorized before being marketed or imported into the US. The FCC Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) administers the equipment authorization program. “After reviewing our statutory authority, the status of contract obligations, and our lapse in funding plan, we will be reactivating this system today,” the FCC said in a January 18 public notice. “Most radio transmitters are required to be certificated to ensure compliance with the Commission’s technical rules.” Certification applications are reviewed and granted by private-sector Telecommunications Certification Bodies (TCBs), which must enter the application and grant of equipment certification into the EAS before the grant becomes effective.
The Indonesian national society, ORARI, reports new amateur radio regulations have been issued with top class licensees gaining new WRC-15 Secondary allocations at 136kHz, 472kHz and 5MHz. via Radio Society of Great Britain
More than 80,000 contacts went into logs at YOTA suffix stations and others participating in December Youngsters on the Air (YOTA) Month, with most operations in International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 (IARU-R1). The final tally included 46,989 on SSB, another 28,064 on CW, some 3,814 on FT8, and the rest on various other modes. “This year, as many as 44 participating stations made 82,938 QSOs in December, proving once again that neither the weather nor the holidays can keep a radio amateur away from the station,” Gergana Ruseva, LZ1ZYL, said in the 2018 YOTA Month report.
Like many Victorian gentlemen of means, Richard Carrington did not need to sully himself with labor; instead, he turned his energies to the study of natural philosophy. It was the field of astronomy to which Carrington would apply himself, but unlike other gentlemen of similar inclination, he began his studies not as the sun set, but as it rose. Our star held great interest for Carrington, and what he saw on its face the morning of September 1, 1859, would astonish him. On that morning, as he sketched an unusual cluster of sunspots, the area erupted in a bright flash as an unfathomable amount of energy stored in the twisted ropes of the Sun’s magnetic field was released, propelling billions of tons of star-stuff on a collision course with Earth. Carrington had witnessed a solar flare, and the consequent coronal mass ejection that would hit Earth just 17 hours later would result in a geomagnetic storm of such strength that it would be worldwide news the next day, and would bear his name into the future. The Carrington Event of 1859 was a glimpse of what our star is capable of under the right circumstances, the implications of which are sobering indeed given the web of delicate connections we’ve woven around and above the planet.
The FCC said in a January 2 Public Notice that in the event of a continued partial lapse in federal government funding, it will suspend “most operations” at mid-day on Thursday, January 3. Some systems that have gone dark in prior government shutdowns will remain operational this time, however. That includes the FCC website, although it will not be updated except for matters related to spectrum auction activities and those necessary for the protection of life and property until normal operations resume. The FCC Daily Digest will continue to appear. The Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), the Universal Licensing System (ULS), the Electronic Document Management System (EDOCS), and the Commission Online Registration System (CORES) will remain available, but no support will be provided except that necessary for spectrum auction activity. Processing of Amateur Radio applications will come to a halt, however, said ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) Assistant Manager Amanda Grimaldi, N1NHL. Also down will be the Consumer Complaint Center and the Experimental Licensing System, among several others Still available will be the Network Outage Reporting System (NORS), the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), the Public Safety Support Center (PSSC), the Licensing Management System (LMS), the Consolidated Database System (CDBS), the Auctions Public Reporting System (PRS), the Auction Application System, and the Auction Bidding System. “All other Commission electronic filing and database systems will be unavailable to the public until normal agency operations resume,” the FCC said.
The third annual AM Rally is on the near horizon, getting under way at 0000 UTC on February 2 and continuing until 0700 UTC on February 4. The event aims to encourage the use of AM on 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, and 6 meters while highlighting the various types of AM equipment in use today. The event is open to any and all radio amateurs running AM using any type of radio equipment — modern, vintage, tube, solid-state, software-defined, military, boat anchor, broadcast, homebrew, or commercial. “We’re very excited about the upcoming AM Rally in February, given its growth over the past 2 years and the positive comments we’ve received,” said Clark Burgard, N1BCG, who is spearheading the event with Steve Cloutier, WA1QIX, and Brian Kress, KB3WFV. “In particular, it’s great to hear how so many ops are giving this classic mode a try, many for the first time, and of the help offered to them by those who have mastered the technology.” For many, if not most, radio amateurs getting on AM is as simple as pressing the AM mode button on the front panel. Numerous transceivers in use today offer AM capability. A lot of hams enjoy restoring and using vintage Amateur Radio equipment, which typically means a separate transmitter and receiver. Until SSB subsumed it on the ham bands, AM was the primary HF voice mode. The change to SSB did not happen without some pushback, however.
The US Senate has confirmed Geoffrey Starks and Brendan Carr to full 5-year terms as FCC commissioners. Starks, who most recently had served as assistant chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau, fills the seat vacated last spring by Mignon Clyburn. Both are Democrats. Republican nominees have a 3 – 2 advantage on the Commission. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is the other Democrat on the FCC. “I congratulate Geoffrey on his Senate confirmation,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “During his confirmation hearing, I was excited to hear him highlight the need to expand rural broadband and the power of telemedicine. I look forward to working with him and having a fellow Kansan on the Commission.” Carr, a Republican originally nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the seat left vacant by the departure of former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, was confirmed last August. He now has been confirmed for a full 5-year term. Carr previously served as FCC general counsel.
The FCC has settled an investigation into an alleged unauthorized launch and operation of small satellites by Swarm Technologies. The company agreed to a Consent Decree that included a $900,000 penalty, an extended period of FCC oversight, and a requirement of pre-launch notices to the FCC, among other stipulations. “We will aggressively enforce the FCC’s requirements that companies seek FCC authorization prior to deploying and operating communications satellites and earth stations,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary Harold said. “These important obligations protect other operators against radio interference and collisions, making space a safer place to operate.” In April 2017, Swarm applied for an Experimental license to deploy and operate two Earth stations and four tiny 0.25 U CubeSats called SpaceBEEs. The FCC denied Swarm’s application in December 2017 over concerns about the ability to track the satellites. Swarm nevertheless launched the satellites on January 12, 2018, on a vehicle that also carried an Amateur Radio satellite into space. After reports of the unauthorized SpaceBEEs launch surfaced, the FCC launched an investigation last March.
If the partial lapse in federal government funding continues, the FCC will suspend most operations on Thursday, January 3, at mid-day. At that time, employees will have up to 4 hours to complete an orderly shutdown of operations. Work required for the protection of life and property will continue, however, as will any work related to spectrum auctions, which is funded by auction proceeds. In addition, the Office of the Inspector General will continue operations until further notice. ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said in such situations, the FCC website would go offline, including includes the Universal Licensing System (ULS) and the Commission Registration System (CORES). “This means all electronic license transactions would stop,” Somma said. “FRN registrations would be unavailable, and even the search engines would be unavailable.” The FCC said it will release a Public Notice on January 1, detailing the specific effects that a suspension of operations would have, including the impact on electronic filing and database systems, filing deadlines, regulatory and application fee payments, transaction shot clocks, and more. The FCC has released its overall shutdown plan. The resumption of normal operations will also be announced on the FCC’s website. Agencies affected by the shutdown make up about a quarter of that portion of the federal government funded by Congress. Some 350,000 government employees have been furloughed since the partial shutdown began on December 22.
The World Radiosport Team Championship 2022 (WRTC 2022) Organizing Committee has debuted its official website as well as the Initial Qualification Rules — already under debate — to be selected as a WRTC 2022 team leader. While 2022 may seem a long way off, the qualifying events — 24 in all — take place between February 2019 and November 2020. Each qualifying event has a point value that’s used in calculating qualifying scores, and each entry category has been assigned a weighting factor. “Please don’t think that WRTC is only for Top Guns,” the announcement said. “You might have a chance.” According to the announcement, WRTC 2022 Selection Areas are much smaller, so that operators on all continents will have more chances to qualify. Team leaders, once established, will select a team member from among the top applicants who did not qualify as team leaders. “WRTC 2022 is now for everybody. The only things that you will need are commitment, motivation, and skill!” the announcement said. An email reflector has been set up to field “suggestions, corrections, and new ideas” on the Initial Qualification Rules, and the Final Qualification Rules will be published on January 31. The first qualifying event is the ARRL International DX Contest CW. WRTC 2022 will be held in Bologna, Italy.