From the Mailbag

This morning, I received two e-mails with links that I thought I’d share with you:

  1. NTIA Frequency Allocation Chart. If you’d rather not have your frequency allocation chart say “Icom” or “Motorola” on it, click on the image below and download this one from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
  2. Broken Things from ThinkGeek., is giving away defective returned electronics to makers and hackers to tear apart and use in projects. Click on the link for more details.

A Positive Note About HR 607?

If passed in its present form, HR607 would take away the 420-440 MHz segment of the 70 cm band from amateurs and reallocate it for other use. This move has generated quite a bit of publicity, though, and most people seem to be against this reallocation.

On the PR mailing list, there was a bit of good news. John, K7VE, posted this note from his representative, Jay Inslee:

March 30, 2011

Dear Mr. Hays:

Thank you for contacting me regarding H.R. 607, the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011. I appreciate hearing from you.

Like you, I agree that amateur broadcasters should be equipped with the tools and spectrum to respond to emergencies. H.R. 607 allocates a segment of the 700 megahertz block of spectrum (“the D-Block”) for public safety use. The original version of this bill would reallocate and auction paired spectrum in the 420-440 megahertz and 450-470 megahertz bands, currently used by amateur radio operators for emergency communications. However, you may be happy to learn that the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Peter King, has announced that the bill will be amended to protect those frequencies for their current users. H.R. 607 has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, on which I sit. Should the Committee consider the bill, I will be sure to keep your concerns in mind.

Very truly yours,

Member of Congress

HR 607 in USA Today

This morning, USA Today ran an article on HR 607. There’s nothing really new in this article, so if  you’ve been keeping up with this issue, there’s no need to read it, except maybe to read the comments. The comments are overwhelmingly in favor of no reallocating this band.

Perhaps at this point, we need to do more than simply mobilize hams. Anyone out there want to put up a Facebook page to mobilize the general public and help us kill this bill?

If you haven’t yet sent in your letter opposing this bill, DO SO NOW!

Identify Digital Voice Modes Using Analog FM Receivers

In the SF Bay Area there has been a recent flurry of activity about digital transmitters on various VHF frequencies which has led some to falsely presume that the signals were D*Star. As it turns out, the signals were from an amateur MotoTRBO repeater. Due to the inability of the local hams to identify the signal type, the trustee of the D*Star system was falsely accused of generating QRM on frequencies 25 kHz away from his repeater.

Identifying digital voice modes without digital equipment, by listening with 5 kHz analog FM receivers, isn’t easy but there are some things you can listen for. D*Star has a fairly unique sound in that every transmission begins with a short 2400 Hz tone burst; if you hear a very short “beep” at the beginning you’re hearing D*Star. MotoTRBO (which is the Motorola branded variant of ETSI DMR Tier 2) is a TDMA mode and as such it has a “sputtering” or “machine gun” sound on 5 kHz analog FM gear. Then there’s P25 Phase 1, P25 Phase 2, NDXN, etc etc. (Note: I don’t know of any amateur NXDN or P25 Phase 2 systems on the air – yet.)

To help clarify some of the current confusion, I’ve dedicated some time this weekend to generating audio recordings of various digital audio modes as received by a 5 kHz analog FM receiver. I’ve also generated spectrum plots for these modes.

Please download and play “How to Identify Digital Phone Modes on VHF/UHF” (PowerPoint 2003 format) from:




NIST Conducting Time and Frequency Survey

NISTDo you use NIST radio station WWV or WWVH? Do you have a radio-controlled clock or set your computer clock using NIST? Do you get NIST time via telephone or Internet?

Please take a moment to complete the NIST Time and Frequency Services survey. Your input will be greatly appreciated.

By the way, you might also want to visit the NIST Time and Frequency Division website. It has a bunch of interesting info for time and frequency geeks.

For example, currently there’s a piece on the world’s most precise clock. It says:

NIST scientists have built a second “quantum logic clock,” using quantum information processing techniques on a single ion of aluminum to make a clock that would not gain or lose more than one second in about 3.7 billion years.

Japanese Hams Still Providing Communications Support

From the 3/24/11 issue of the ARRL Letter:

JA Quake Statistics

This map shows the effect of the March 11 earthquake. Click for a larger image.

Amateur Radio operators became involved in the rescue effort soon after the March 11 8.9 earthquake and devastating tsunami that hit northern Japan, and that effort continues nearly two weeks later. “In the early stage following the earthquake and tsunami, several radio amateurs were able to activate their stations with car batteries or small engine generators, despite the electric power outages,” IARU Region 3 Secretary Ken Yamamoto, JA1CJP, told the ARRL. “They transmitted rescue requests and information on the disaster situation — including refugee centers and their needs — and the availability of basic infrastructures, such as electricity, water and gas supplies.” After the earthquake and tsunami, there was no electricity, water or gas service in many of the affected areas.

In his report to the ARRL, Yamamoto said that the Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) activated JA1RL — its headquarters station in Tokyo — soon after the earthquake. With the help of many other amateurs, it also activated its regional headquarters station JA3RL in Osaka to communicate with the amateurs in the damaged areas, including its Tohoku headquarters station JA7RL in Sendai. “The communications were mostly on the 7 MHz band in daytime and the 3.5 MHz band at night,” Yamamoto explained. “Short range communications were also made on the 144 and 430 MHz bands. The information gathered through Amateur Radio communications was reported to the rescue and disaster relief organizations for their appropriate deployment. Some other amateurs accepted health-and-welfare inquiries from the [impacted] areas and they posted the information on the Internet.”

Read more here.

Ham Radio Revolutionaries

These days, one of the first things governments do when confronted by protesters is to cut Internet service. While this effectively cuts off many, if not most users, determined dissidents find ways to connect. The Net was, after all, designed to work around inactive nodes and be robust even under difficult conditions.

Wireless plays a vital role in routing the Net around official channels, often providing a lifeline out of the country for many protest movements. So says a recent article in the Economist. The article notes:

Conventional radio … cannot, unfortunately, transmit video or web pages. But a group called Access, based in New York, is trying to overcome that. To help democracy movements in the Middle East and North Africa get online, it is equipping a network of ham-radio operators with special modems that convert digital computer data into analogue radio signals that their equipment can cope with. These signals are then broadcast from operator to operator until they reach a network member in an area where the internet functions. This operator reconverts the signal into computer-readable data and then e-mails or posts the information online.

Sounds a lot like what hams do in an emergency, doesn’t it?

We don’t normally think of our activities as revolutionary, but they certainly can be. Ham radio can be empowering in more ways than one.

Decommissioned Radios Could Help Haiti

This isn’t exactly ham-radio related, but many hams work for groups that could help with this effort…….Dan

Urgent Communications reports on an effort to outfit Haitian emergency communicators with radios being decommissioned here as a result of the FCC’s recent “narrowbanding” mandate. The article notes:

Haiti Engineering, a nonprofit architecture and engineering design group, and theAmerican Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials last week launched Radios for Haiti at the International Wireless Communications Expo. The radio-system donation program is asking for radios that soon will become obsolete in the U.S. because of the Federal Communication Commission’s narrowbanding mandate.

Specifically, the project’s goal is to outfit 10,000 police in Haiti with radios, and have the nonprofit’s engineers install an emergency communications system in the nation’s 50 cities, including a early warning system for hurricanes, said Herby Lissade, Haiti Engineering’s president.

Read more–>

Ham Monitors Libyan “Psyops” Campaign

An Australian newspaper reports that a Dutch amateur has been monitoring and Twittering about the Libyan military campaign, specifically an operation. The article starts:

A DUTCH ham radio operator has been able to learn about a psychological US special forces operation undertaken as part of an international military campaign designed to establish a no-fly zone over Libya.

Listening to his radio, this ham operator from the Netherlands was able to monitor radio exchanges between civilian and military flights in the region and make his findings public on his Twitter account @FMCNL.

Hunched over his radio, he listens in on unencrypted exchanges among military aircraft and their air traffic control centres.

The messages contain information about the location of the planes, which is necessary to avoid collisions between military and civilian aircraft.

You can read the entire article at

IW5EDI lists some of the HF frequencies used in the campaign, including:

  • 4169 kHz
  • 4196 kHz
  • 6690 kHz – Several players over No-Fly Zone
  • 6688 kHz – French Air Force
  • 6712 kHz – Mixed Use; Several Players
  • 6761 kHz – Global Aerial Refueling Operations
  • 6877 kHz – Reported PsyOps
  • 5368 kHz – Libyan GMMRA ALE Network
  • 6884 kHz – Libyan GMMRA ALE Network
  • 9375 kHz – Libyan GMMRA ALE Network
  • 10125 kHz – Libyan GMMRA ALE Network
  • 10404 kHz – Libyan GMMRA ALE Network
  • 9031.0 kHz USB – RAF frequency… very active while writing.

He notes, “I’ve found these frequencies mentioned on some yahoo groups dedicated to milcom (military radio communications), but we know that all important communications are encripted and use satellite. So dont’ expect to hear any interesting communication.”

VA QSO Party – Too much fun and lessons learned

John, KJ4ZFE, first posted this to the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list. I thought this was such a good post that I asked him for permission to re-post it here. I think that it really captures the spirit of contesting……..73, Dan KB6NU

Just thought I would share my experience from this weekend.

This was my first state QSO party and I had an absolute blast!

Over the 30 hour period, I operated for 18 hours, made 498 contacts, contacted 83 counties, 26 states, and Canada. It was a rush to be in a county with few Hams and I learned a great deal about how to handle pile-ups! Wow! My voice is shot but again, I would do it again right now if it happened again.

So, here’s some of the things I learned and as always, I look forward to hearing everyone’s comments.

My station: Yaesu FT-450 AT, Carolina Windom, Laptop, and I used N3FJP VA QSO Party Software.

  1. Computer Problems. Not sure what happened, but 10 minutes before the contest, I fired up the rig, and got the rig control working. I immediately had a blue screen of death. So, I disconnected the rig, rebooted the computer and decided to troubleshoot after the contest. No answer as to why yet. I’ll do some testing with the software later and report any bugs I have with N3FJP to see if it was just operator error or if there’s a problem. Small thing, so I have to click to change bands on the software. I can handle that.
  2. VOX. I took the time to figure out my VOX settings so I could log and type in the contacts simultaneously. Reports from my contacts determined I had VOX set correctly and they could not tell (no choppy reporting). So, that was good, BUT, when I got a loud signal into the shack, it would trigger the VOX so I found myself turning off the VOX during the contact. I could have worn headphones but I don’t like the ones I have, too uncomfortable for long periods so that’ll be something I need to look into.
  3. Pileups. Pileups are a lot of fun! I think I had one pileup with 10+ contacts. Picking a letter heard worked most of the time. Others resulted in narrowing the pileup down but still had to try to get it down to the one call. I looked for mobiles, portables, and tried really hard to get the faint signals first. That paid dividends as to mobiles and portables were worth more points. Good stuff there.
  4. Foot Pedal. I think instead of VOX for the next time, I’ll either make or buy a foot pedal. I think I will like that instead of the accidental key-up due to a sneeze or popping the can open to a beverage.
  5. Voice Recording. I know how to setup the voice recording but decided against it. Prior to this, the longest I had operated was about four hours and wasn’t a strain on the voice. This one really strained the old vocal cords and although my office crew is enjoying my silence today, I think for the next marathon, I’ll use the voice recorder and set up my CQs.
  6. Patience. I made contacts on 80 & 40 meter. I think I should have had more patience on the other bands. Finding an empty spot to call CQ, staying there longer, and looking for others. I made a couple of passes up and down 20 Meter and when I didn’t hear anyone else for the VA QSO party (lot’s of activity though), I decided to move to 40 and 80 and pretty much camped there. I made a couple of CQ calls on 20 and 6 meter but no returns. Again, I should have probably stayed there longer but with my lack of experience, I was worried. I would miss too much somewhere else. I guess it’s the same as I am on watching TV. I don’t care what’s on the channel I’m watching, I’m more worried about what I’m missing on another channel. :-)