Feds to begin monitoring spectrum usage

According to the Monitoring Time Fed File blog, The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will begin monitoring real-world usage of the radio-frequency spectrum in 10 cities and evaluate possible plans to more efficiently utilize both federal and non-federal spectrum.

A document summarizing the plan is available online. At this point, it’s only a pilot program, but the NTIA will use the program to “evaluate whether a more comprehensive monitoring program would create additional opportunities for more efficient spectrum access through, for example, increased and more dynamic sharing.”

The public is invited to comment on this program. More details are available in the document.

This should probably encourage us all to use our bands more, and in the words of a fellow club member, “everything 2m and above is underused.” I tend to agree with this assessment. Do you? Got any good ideas on how to use the UHF/microwave bands?

From the trade magazines: spectrum sharing, active filters, real capacitors

Passive components aren’t really so passive (Part 1): Capacitors. Transistors and ICs are considered active components because they change signals using energy from the power supply. Capacitors, resistors, inductors, connectors, and even the printed-circuit board (PCB) are called passive because they don’t seem to consume power. But these apparently passive components can, and do, change the signal in unexpected ways because they all contain parasitic portions. So, many supposedly passive components, like the capacitor shown below, aren’t so passive.

The model above shows that a capacitor adds more than just capacitance when you use it in a circuit.

Peaceful coexistence on the radio spectrum. How two engineers (shown at right) tried to get the military to share some spectrum with their small company.

Signal-chain basics #43: Active filters. While low-frequency filters can be designed with inductors and capacitors, they often require physically large and often expensive inductors. This is where active filters, which combine an operational amplifier (op amp) with some resistors and capacitors, become attractive. Active filters can provide an LCR-like performance at low frequencies

From my inbox: CQ Burger King, BPL, solderless PL-259

Amateur radio plays a big part in this new Burger King ad.


FCC Denies ARRL BPL Petition. As this commentary from TV Technology notes, the FCC denied the ARRL’s that BPL systems include full time notching of amateur radio frequencies and an increase in the required notch depth from 25 dB to 35 dB. They also say, “While the Second MO&O isn’t good news for amateur radio operators, utilities seem to have lost their interest in using BPL to provide residential Internet access…and smart meters so it may have little real impact.” Let’s hope it stays that way.

Solderless PL-259. On the AMRAD mailing list, one ham writes:

Shakespeare has been in the marine antenna business since shortly before the discovery of oceans and they have a couple of bits of kit which you might consider for your ARES or Field Day bug-out box. They make a PL259 and a coax cable spice which go together with nothing but a knife sharp enough to cut the plastics and a pair of pliers. I wouldn’t try running the legal limit through these (the coax they fit wouldn’t like it either) but i have used the PL259 for up to 100-watt service and they have performed admirably.

They are kind of expensive at around $15 a pop, but they do look like quality parts and that they’d work pretty good in a pinch.

FCC Proposes Large Public WiFi Networks

This sounds like another threat to our spectrum. Hams really need to start using 900 MHz and above before the next edition of ham radio history is titled 2 Meters and Up instead of 200 Meters and Down…….Dan

The Washington Post reports that the FCC recently submitted a proposal to create super Wi-Fi networks across the country that would enable users to make calls or surf the Internet for free. Although the wireless industry has launched a strong lobbying effort to convince policymakers to reconsider the idea, companies such as Google and Microsoft are campaigning for the proposal, saying that it will spark an explosion of innovations that will benefit most Americans. “For a casual user of the Web, perhaps this could replace carrier service,” says analyst Jeffrey Silva. “Because it is more plentiful and there is no price tag, it could have a real appeal to some people.” The airwaves the FCC wants to use for the public Wi-Fi networks would be much more powerful than conventional Wi-Fi networks, but because the major wireless carriers own much more spectrum, their networks would still be much more robust. It also would take several years to set up. “Freeing up unlicensed spectrum is a vibrantly free-market approach that offers low barriers to entry to innovators developing the technologies of the future and benefits consumers,” says FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.

From the ARRL Letter – 5/31/12

Two items in today’s ARRL Letter caught my eye:

FCC News: FCC Expands Part 95 MedRadio Rules to Allow Devices in 2360-2400 MHz Band. In a First Report and Order and a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ET 08-59) released on May 24, the FCC decided to expand the Part 95 Personal Radio Service rules to allow medical devices to operate on a secondary basis in the 2360-2400 MHz band. These devices — called Medical Body Area Networks (MBAN) — provide a way for health care facilities to monitor their patients via wireless networks. Because use of these frequencies will be on a secondary basis, MBAN stations will not be allowed to cause interference to — and must accept interference from — primary services, including radio amateurs who operate on a primary basis in the 2390-2395 MHz and 2395-2400 MHz bands. Read more.

MARS: House Armed Services Committee “Urges” MARS Coordination. On May 18, the US House of Representatives approved HR 4310, The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. This bill authorizes appropriations for military activities and prescribes military personnel strengths for Fiscal Year 2013. When the House Armed Services Committee sent the bill to the House, it included language in support of the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) and called for the three MARS branches — Army, Air Force and Navy/Marine Corps — to be brought under one umbrella. Read more.

I don’t have much to say about the MARS item, except to say that I’m surprised that Congress would have much to say about it. I’m a little more concerned about the Part 95 decision, but what can I say? Amateurs are not really using that spectrum, for the most part, and until we do, encroachment is inevitable.

Senate “Companion” Bill to HR 607 Avoids Impacting Amateur Spectrum

ARRL Bulletin 14  ARLB014
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT  May 25, 2011

To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB014 – ARLB014 Senate “Companion” Bill to HR 607 Avoids Impacting Amateur Spectrum

On Thursday, May 19, Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced S 1040 — The Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011 — in the Senate.  While it has a similar objective to HR 607 — introduced in February by Representative Peter King (R-NY-3) — this Senate bill, unlike HR 607, does not call for auctioning any portions of Amateur Radio spectrum. Both bills call for the allocation of the so-called “D block” of spectrum, 758-763 and 788-793 MHz, to facilitate the development of a public safety broadband network.

On learning in February that a Senate version of HR 607 was being drafted, ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, met with staff members of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who were working on the bill to share the ARRL’s concerns with regard to HR 607. “They seemed very receptive to our argument and appreciative of the public service contributions of radio amateurs,” Sumner said. “It is gratifying to see that S 1040 avoids impacting our spectrum allocations.”

Sumner explained that while some media reports are referring to S 1040 as “the Senate version of HR 607,” it is important that radio amateurs not oppose S 1040: “There is no reason for us to do so. We support the creation of an interoperable broadband network for first responders. Other than to oppose any method that would impact amateur spectrum use, we do not support one method over another of achieving that objective. We only oppose one aspect of HR 607, not the entire bill.”

S 1040 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce, and Transportation, chaired by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Senator Rockefeller earlier introduced his own bill, S 28, to address the same general topic. Neither Senate bill would impact amateur spectrum.


NPR: Ham Radio Volunteers Worry About Spectrum Plan

This evening, NPR aired a spot titled, “Ham Radio Volunteers Worry About Spectrum Plan,” on the HR607 controversy. There’s both the audio that was broadcast and a transcript.

The spot starts,

Across Alabama, emergency communications systems fell silent this week when tornadoes knocked down antennas and cell phone towers. Amateur radio operators are helping to restore emergency communication in some of the areas hardest hit by the storms. But those volunteers say their ability to provide that help is threatened by a new bill in Congress.

Click over to NPR and listen.

Robots Allowed on 440 MHz Band

Recon Scout

ReconRobotics Inc.'s Recon Scout

Government Technology, a trade magazine covering state and local government issues, reports that the FCC will allow a robot used to transmit live video during rescue operations to transmit in the 430 – 448 MHz band, ending a legal battle between amateur radio operators and law enforcement over the device. The report says:

Called the Recon Scout Throwbot, the robot transmits over the 430-448 MHz portion of the 420-450 MHz frequency band, which is primarily used by the federal radiolocation service. The spectrum is also utilized by amateur radio enthusiasts. The latter group, spearheaded by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), opposed a waiver request filed with the FCC by Recon Scout maker ReconRobotics Inc. to use the band.

The ARRL argued that ReconRobotics’ claims that the device would be useful in public safety and anti-terrorism operations didn’t prove that a waiver to use the frequency bands was in the public interest. The FCC admitted, in its order approving the waiver, that while some interference in the frequency bands may occur, it isn’t a reason to prohibit the use of the Recon Scout.

The ARRL spin on this is that this is a partial victory for amateur radio. They correctly note that the FCC granted their request for changes in the labeling and instruction manual requirements to ensure that users of the device are aware of its limitations, with regard to interference:

Recon Scout transmitters delivered after April 15, 2011 must carry the following label: “This device may not interfere with Federal or non-federal stations operating in the 420-450 MHz band and must accept any interference received.” The instruction manual must also include the following: “Although this transmitter has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission, it must accept any interference received from Federal or non-federal stations, including interference that may cause undesired operation.”

Ukrainians Lose Frequencies. Should We Worry?

A reader recently e-mailed me about this item in Amateur Radio Newsline Report 1757, dated April 15 2011:


Some restructuring news out of the Ukraine that’s bad news for ham radio operators in that nation. This, as the Ukrainian government has affirmed new rules for amateur radio operations that have resulted in spectrum losses on the High Frequency, UHF and microwave bands.

According to an e-mail from Alexander Doshchich, UY0LL, the spectrum withdrawn from access by Ukrainian hams includes 10.100 to 10.150 and 14.250 to 14.350 MHz on the HF bands. On UHF an above the losses include 1240 to 1300 MHz, 2300 to 2450 MHz, 5670 to 5850 MHz and numerous other spectrum slots right on up to 248 to 250 GHz. (UY0LL)

He wrote:

One concern is these bands are established by international agreements. For a single country to overrule them is their right in theory, but in practice it bodes poorly if future cooperative agreements are to carry any significance. If it becomes common to disregard the agreements, the whole process collapses into chaos.

The other concern is if they are denying these frequencies to hams, they evidently have some other purpose in mind. This suggests we may be open to new sources of interference to contend with, which undermines the use of these important HF frequencies for world wide communications.

The first step is just to confirm this is true so we aren’t just being stupid. And even if it is real, I don’t mean to be crying the sky is falling immediately. But if this is confirmed, it does seem to me to be an important challenge in maintaining long term viability of the amateur radio bands.

I have no way of determining the veracity of this report.ARN has been a reputable news source for a long time, however, so I wouldn’t question that.

As for interference to contend with, there is an “Intruder Watch.” In the U.S.—and probably for all of Region 2—the ARRL runs this service. In Region 1, there is a Region 1 Monitoring System. I presume there is also a Region 3 Intruder Watch, but didn’t Google them. If there is any interference, I’m guessing that they’ll catch the offenders.

I’m still at a loss for why the Ukrainians would restrict ham radio in this way. I’d guess some kind of military use for those frequencies, but that’s only a guess. Anyone else have ideas?

Threat or No?

This is from Network World, and was posted to their website on March 25, 2011. I tend to think that this is more of a threat to ham radio than not. Mainly because so much of our VHF/UHF bands are so little used–at least on a regular basis. Click on the title to read the entire article….Dan

Microsoft scheme sniffs out unused wireless spectrum

By Tim Greene, Network World

Microsoft researchers have designed a scheme for measuring whether licensed radio frequencies are actually being used so unlicensed devices can use it, something that may become necessary as demand for wireless applications grows.

The architecture, called SpecNet, would sense and map where spectrum is being used and more particularly where it’s not — so-called white spaces, according to a paper being presented next week at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation in Cambridge, Mass.