Posts Tagged ‘2200m’

LF and MF Now Very Close For U.S. Amateurs!

For U.S. amateurs anxiously awaiting implementation of the new 630m and 2200m bands, the wait seems to be almost over!

Good news came down late yesterday in the form of the FCC's "Report and Order" (ET Docket No. 15-99) which lays out the proposed rules and regulations that, barring any further changes, will likely become standard operating procedures once these two bands become finalized.

Highlights of the FCC's document are as follows:

1. Recognition that both Utilities (UTC) and amateurs can co-exist within these parts of the spectrum:

... co existence between PLC systems and amateur radio operations in these bands is possible, and the service rules we adopt in this Order will foster this co existence.

2. Amateurs operating within these bands must be no closer than 1 km from transmission lines that are actively carrying PLC (control) signals:

As proposed, we will permit amateur stations to operate in the 135.7-137.8 kHz and 472-479 kHz bands when separated by a specified distance from electric power transmission lines with PLC systems that use the same bands.   To support the operations of both the amateur service and PLC systems in these bands, we adopt a minimum horizontal separation distance of one kilometer between the transmission line and the amateur station when operating in these bands.

We find that a one kilometer separation distance reasonably ensures that PLC systems and amateur radio stations are unlikely to experience interference.  In addition, establishing a zone where amateur use is not authorized will simplify and streamline the process for determining whether an amateur station can transmit in these bands when in proximity to transmission lines upon which PLC systems operate.

3. Amateurs must "make notification" to local UTC authorities before commencing operation on either of these two bands:

We will require amateur operators to notify UTC of the location of their proposed station prior to commencing operations, to confirm that the station is not located within the one kilometer separation distance. 

The notification requirement will entail notifying UTC of the operator’s call sign and coordinates of the proposed station’s location for confirmation that the location is outside the one kilometer separation distance, or the relevant PLC system is not transmitting on the requested bands.  UTC, which maintains a database of PLC systems must respond to the notification within 30 days if it objects.  If UTC raises no objection, amateur radio operators may commence operations on the band identified in their notification.  The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau will issue a public notice providing the details for filing notifications with UTC.

A simple notification to UTC with a 30-day waiting period does not appear to be burdensome.  Amateur operations can commence as soon as that period expires.  ARRL claims that UTC should provide access to the PLC database to them or directly to amateurs to assist them in determining whether their notified operations are within the one-kilometer separation distance from transmission lines with PLC systems operating on these bands.  ARRL fails to make a persuasive case why it would be a better organization to make those determinations rather than UTC.  Further, since UTC has control of the PLC database which can be updated, we find no reason to mandate its release to another party especially considering the sensitive nature of information it contains.

4. Power limits will be expressed in EIRP as well as maximum PEP:

Amateur stations may operate in the 135.7-137.8 kHz band with a maximum radiated power of one watt EIRP ... that amateur stations operating in the 135.7-137.8 kHz band should be subject only to the general Part 97 limit of 1.5 kW peak envelope power (PEP).

We also adopt the power limits proposed in the WRC-12 NPRM for amateur stations operating in the 472-479 kHz band.   For such stations, the maximum radiated power will be five watts EIRP, except for stations located in the portion of Alaska that is within 800 kilometers of the Russian Federation, where the EIRP will be limited to one watt.  We also limit the transmitter power for amateur radio operations in the 472 479 kHz band to 500 watts PEP; provided, however, that the resulting radiated power does not exceed five watts EIRP.   In other words, it may be necessary to reduce transmitter power below 500 watts PEP to avoid exceeding the five watts EIRP limit.

5. Antenna height will be limited:

... we will require that the antennas used to transmit in these bands not exceed 60 meters in height above ground level (AGL), as ARRL proposed.

6. Regarding transmission modes, no bandwidths have been specified in order to encourage experimentation:

Consistent with our proposal in the WRC-12 NPRM,  and with the existing rules in Section 97.305 for the frequency bands below 30 MHz, we authorize amateur stations to transmit the following emission types throughout the new amateur bands: CW (international Morse code telegraphy), RTTY (narrow-band direct-printing telegraphy), data, phone, and image emissions.   These emission types provide amateur operators with maximum flexibility, and we find that additional restrictions would needlessly hinder experimentation.

7. Experimental stations appear to 'still be in business' but are encouraged to transition to the 'amateur' service:

Finally, we decline to permit previously licensed experimental stations – some of which have been authorized with significantly more radiated power than the adopted EIRP limits for these new amateur service bands – to communicate with amateur stations operating in these bands.  Amateur operations in these bands currently authorized under experimental licenses should transition their operations in accordance with the adopted rules and not circumvent such rules by use of experimental licenses.

My understanding of the R&O document is that participating parties may still file a 'Petition For Reconsideration' notification within 30 days of the R&O's publication in the Federal Register. Once these (if any) are dealt with, there are no other roadblocks preventing immediate implementation.

The document contains additional details not discussed here and makes fascinating reading for amateurs that might be looking forward to the new allocations.

This is the news that many U.S. amateurs have been waiting many years to hear! It is also good news for Canadian's operating on these bands to know that they may soon see a large increase in activity south of the border. Let's hope things continue to transpire favorably and that we will finally see the new bands become a reality.

Get those soldering irons out guys and gals!

The Joys Of ERP

Amateurs and and U.S. experimental licence holders operating on the LF and MF bands, are limited in the amount of power they are legally able to run. Unlike the HF bands, where maximum power limits are expressed in either DC power input or PEP output, LF and MF operators are required to observe ERP or EIRP limitations. Canadians operating on 2200m are limited to 1W EIRP and to 5W EIRP on 630m.

Although this doesn't sound like much, mustering this amount of effective power can be quite a task on either band, especially on 2200m. This is due to the very poor efficiencies encountered when using antennas that are so small in size compared with what would be considered 'normal'. For example, a typical 1/4 wave vertical used on 40m is about 33' high and with a good radial system can achieve efficiencies in the 80% range, while the equivalent antenna for 2200m would be 550m or about 1800' high ... a little large for most suburban backyards!

The equivalent of a normal 2m 'rubber-ducky' antenna when built for 2200m would be over 600' tall, while one designed for 630m would be around 170' high! A 2" stub used on your 2m hand-held would be the same as a 56' vertical on 630m. Consequently, most LF / MF backyard antennas will realize efficiencies of less than 1% and likely, quite a bit less.

In order to reach the maximum radiated power levels allowed usually requires several hundreds of watts, especially on 2200m, where near kilowatt levels are needed. These small radiated power levels might seem discouraging but they don't account for radio's great equalizer ... propagation. More than anything else, RF loves to radiate, and at times, what can be achieved on these bands with such low effective radiated powers is stunning

It would seem that Industry Canada did us no favors when they stipulated LF / MF power levels to be measured in EIRP and not the, much easier to calculate, DC power input level ... or perhaps they did. I think that, unlike on HF, imposing EIRP rather than DC input power limits puts everyone on an even playing field. Amateurs with lots of real estate and room for a larger, more efficient LF antenna, will be required to run much less power to reach the allowable EIRP and 'stay legal', compared to someone with a small backyard in the suburbs ... the latter can legally generate the higher level of DC input power required to reach the EIRP limits since their smaller antenna is operating at less efficiency. However, determining EIRP is not as cut and dried as measuring input power.

With some fairly sophisticated (ie. expensive) field strength measuring equipment, not typically found in amateur radio operations, ERP / EIRP can be readily determined. This means that for most amateurs,  alternate methods must be used.

Neil, WØYSE in northern Oregon, who runs an experimental 630m station under the call of WG2XSV, has produced an excellent treatise on calculating your station's EIRP level, providing a step-by-step procedure to follow.

In order to determine your ERP / EIRP, you must first determine your antenna's radiation resistance. Two methods of calculating the antenna's radiation resistance for both verticals and top-loaded verticals (inverted L's or T's) are demonstrated, using the physical size of the antenna in relation to the frequency of operation. Once this value is known, the antenna current is measured while transmitting. These two values allow the Total Radiated Power (TRP) to be calculated. The TRP is then multiplied by 3 to yield the EIRP or by 1.82 for ERP. Roughly speaking, 5W EIRP is the equivalent of 3W ERP. Thanks to Neil for this helpful resource.

An alternate method of roughly determining ERP / EIRP values is an interesting new online 'antenna simulator' at the site. Using known physical sizes along with your ground quality description, the calculator will indicate what total power output is required to produce various levels of ERP and EIRP as well as expected antenna currents, at 472kHz. It's a good starting point if you are either planning a new antenna system or perhaps, repurposing an HF antenna such as an 80m inverted-L or an HF center-fed dipole for use on 630m.

There are also a number of online calculators, such as found here, that will indicate your ERP / EIRP value when you plug in your antenna's 'gain' figure along with your TPO value. Some of the better antenna modelling programs can produce estimates of your antenna 'gain' at 630m and from there it is a simple matter of calculating what power is needed to reach the legal level.

I'm sure there will be a lot more information and discussion about this topic once the LF and MF bands are released in the U.S.A. but in the meantime, calculating your ERP / EIRP levels is not as hard as it might initially seem ... and is likely accurate enough for most agencies overseeing amateur radio activities.

630m To Down Under

Today's Sun courtesy:

With the sun remaining reasonably quiet over the past several days, a sudden spike in the geomagnetic field on Saturday afternoon saw a number of trans-Pacific spots showing up on 630m WSPR mode.

In the predawn hours of Sunday morning, my own system decoded the VK3ELV WSPR beacon, located in south east Australia, 12,992 km from here. From an e-mail exchange, it seems that VK3ELV is using a 'drifting' IC706M2G on 10Mhz with a VK3XDK Transverter into an old HF AMP (2x 2SC2290) modified for 630m. This is running about 130-140 watts output. The antenna is an inverted L about 30 metres high and 1/4 wave long.


VK3ELV 630m
Further to my south, the WG2XGP WSPR beacon run by Larry, W7IUV in central Washington, was reported down under by two different VK's on Sunday morning as well ... VK4YB and VK2DDI, both some distance from VK3ELV.

It's interesting to note the time difference for these receptions, with Larry's reception being several hours earlier than my own (1304Z), close to my sunrise. As well, the 'spotlight' effect of propagation over such a vast distance is somewhat intriguing. I would have thought that if I should see any VK's on 630m, it would be the closer ones and not the further one, yet it was just the opposite.

Although VK3ELV's signal was right at the edge of WSPR decoding levels (-29db), it would only take a few more db to allow a two-way JT9 digital mode QSO to take place ... maybe something that will be possible in the coming years of solar minimum and much better LF/MF propagation. To be readable on CW would need an equivalent true power output increase of at least 16 times, requiring VK3ELV to run around 2,000 watts output!

Over the years I have seen ZL6QH a number of times on 2200m (QRSS CW mode) but this is my first reception of VK and, hopefully, not my last.

To keep up to date with overnight activities on 630m, visit the excellent site of KB5NJD. John posts a detailed daily summary of events. In addition, you will find some excellent resources to help you get involved in this part of the spectrum ... and remember, you don't need a big backyard or a big antenna to have fun on 630m.

ARRL Working For LF / MF Future

As the rollout of new LF and MF ham bands grows closer for U.S. amateurs, earlier this month, the ARRL requested the FCC to carefully consider the procedural requirements governing the advance notification of local electric authorities of their intended 630m / 2200m operation. The FCC had suggested that under certain circumstances (mainly the distance to the nearest PLC signal-carrying power lines), amateurs would be required to notify and co-operate with power authorities ... but it was all very vague and seemed to place the conditions under which operating authority would be granted into the hands of the power companies.

In what appears to be a preemptive move to head-off the (possibly) overly onerous and impossible roadblocks suggested by power company representatives, the ARRL filing states:

“ARRL does not object to such a notification requirement, provided that it is appropriately circumscribed, not overbroad in its applicability, and not overly burdensome for radio amateurs to comply with,” the League’s statement asserted.

In addition, the power authority Utility Telecom Council (UTC) has been notably silent on the issue ... slowing the process even further.

"The ARRL noted that comments filed by the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) called for a system of “quasi-coordination” by radio amateurs before commencing operation on 2200 meters (135.7-137.8 kHz). In its remarks to the FCC, the ARRL pointed out, however, that the UTC has not volunteered any information with respect to how a notification process might work nor offered any PLC database information to the ARRL or to the amateur community so prospective users of the band could determine if their operation might be problematic."

The League took the opportunity to remind the FCC, once again, that the low ERP levels generated by amateurs operating on the new bands would have a low probability of creating any interference and further pointed out that PLC systems operating between 9 and 490 kHz are not subject to protection from licensed services.

The ARRL also indicated that any sort of blanket notification requirement prior to transmitting on 2200 or 630 meters “would be clear regulatory overkill,” and that utility companies should clearly be required to demonstrate how amateur operations would cause harmful interference to their PLC (unlicenced) operations.

It's good to see the ARRL still being proactive with regards to procuring these new frequency allotments on behalf of U.S. amateurs ... hopefully making implementation sooner rather than later. The entire ex parte filing can be read here as well as the ARRL's own news posting of the procedure here.

In the meantime, I'll make yet another call-to-arms to fellow Canadian amateurs, who already have these two new bands but aren't using them ... new activity from the western provinces would be especially welcome as there are a now a number of well-equipped stations in VE7 who would like to work you.

Plans At VY1JA

In the midst of this weekend's California QSO Party, I heard VY1JA calling CQ, looking for the Californians. It had been several years since I last heard VY1JA and the last time that we worked was on 137kHz on the 2200m band.

The CQs continued without much luck as the Californians just didn't appear to be hearing (or looking) to the north ... missing one of the rarest multipliers in North American contests.

Now, I had recently read that the VY1 station had been experimenting with remote operation, so that hard core, experienced contesters, could have the opportunity to hand out the rare 'NT' (Northern Territories) multiplier in future contests ... especially in the popular November ARRL Sweepstakes. I assumed that the station was likely being remotely operated.

After listening to a lot of CQ's going unanswered, I swung the beam towards Whitehorse and sent, "ur 599 down in VE7 land" and sent my call. Much to my surprise, it was my dear old friend 'J' himself, operating the station. What followed was a 10-minute catch-up on what he had been doing over the past few years and his plans for the future.

J in Nunavut as VYØJA
Since we had last worked on 2200m (we both had 'experimental licences at the time since 2200m was not yet an allocated ham band), J had retired ... un-retired for several years of contract work in the Arctic ... and once more, this time for good. With the help of some dedicated contesters, along with a 'gofundme' project on Facebook, J has been re-building his fine station from the ground up. Maybe you would also like to help.

Future plans, now well underway, call for multiband V-beams (520' legs) at 70' aligned to the SE and NW  and some high metal on a pair of 100' towers for the HF bands. As well, a new K-3 will drive an Alpha 9500 amplifier on all bands.

A few of the 20 poles, ranging from 70' to 30', that will be used to support V-beam legs and elevated groundplanes for the low bands.

I've saved the best news for last. J told me that he really wants to get going on 630m as well! His signal will be a wonderful addition to the band as he should be workable by most of the western provinces on nights of normal propagation. I am very much looking forward to working J again on the LF bands, recalling how strong his 100W signal could get during several of our early-morning 2200m CW ragchews.

Welcome back J!

LF/MF Moving Closer For U.S. Amateurs

With all commentary periods for the FCC's 'Notice of Proposed Rulemaking' (Docket 15-99) now closed, it appears that one of the last comments to be filed may contain the most powerful arguments in favor of swift implementation.

In its extremely detailed 42-paged submission, the ARRL states, in no uncertain terms, the reasons why access to both the 2200m LF band and the 630m MF band should not be held back and that service rules should be 'finalized'. Indeed the powerful arguments stated in favor of implementation should go a long way in making this happen sooner rather than later.

The FCC's position is that there is little to no evidence to indicate that amateur radio operation on either band would be incompatible with power company PLC systems, going as far as stating that at distances of 1km or more from PLC lines, "there is no chance of interference". Further supporting their claim, the thousands of hours of experimental operation were offered as powerful proof and that the ARRL was “unaware of any reports of interference to PLC systems arising from that operation conducted pursuant to numerous Part 5 experimental licenses…in the large band utilized by PLCs.

In addition, the ARRL had harsh words regarding the FCC's attempt to legitimize the growing number of fish-net beacons in the 160m band, and pulled no punches regarding their position in this matter.

"There is no indication that these buoys are compatible with other uses in the band, no track record of interference avoidance or resolution, and certainly no indication that the current operators can be relied on for compliance with the Commission’s rules."

"The Commission is urged to avoid enacting rules that it has no effective ability or intention to enforce. That fishing vessels have, with impunity, illegally deployed radio buoys in this band on a widespread basis (whether or not due to misrepresentations of the importers and retailers of these devices or due to a disregard of the Commission’s rules generally) without even nominal enforcement actions by the Commission, provides no basis for assuming that there will be compliance with any deployment limitations (including geographic deployment restrictions) on these buoys going forward. Nor is there any basis for the assumption that there will be any enforcement action taken with respect to continued illegal operation of the buoys if and when interference is caused. Spectrum planning by the Commission in this context has to be based on ex ante determinations of compatibility rather than mere assumptions, especially where the record indicates such a low level of historical compliance."

A summary of the comments can be read here in the ARRL News while all comments filed for the NPRM be found here temporarily, while the FCC site is down for maintenance.

Sparking-Up On 2200m

I haven't been on 2200m (135.7 - 138.8 KHz) for some time ... my last transmissions on this band were almost three years ago. The recent acquisition of the 630m band has refocused a lot of my attention but Canadian activity has never been very high on the real 'top band'. Hopefully when the U.S. gets the 2200m band soon, activity will increase on both sides of the border.

An e-mail alert from Toby, VE7CNF, on the other side of Georgia Strait, indicated that everything was ready for a two-way test on 2200m and he was looking for his initial contact on the band. Having not been on the band for such a long time, some review of my 'tune-up' procedures were in order as well as the need to burn out the spider webs in my outdoor loading coil.

Since being on 2200m, I had modified my 2200m kilowatt transmitter so that it could also be used on the new 630m band. To change bands from 630m back to 2200m, I needed to swap the frequency-sensitive power divider back to 2200m as well as re-set the DDS frequency.

2200m Power Divider
Setting my DDS to the correct control frequency and keying the driver stage revealed no sign of a signal on 137.779 KHz. This was puzzling and several re-checks turned-up no reason for the problem ... it seemed as if there was no signal from the DDS into the transmitter. I set everything back to 630m, just to confirm that there wasn't a more serious problem but everything worked just fine. It was then that I realized my error.

When modifying the transmitter, three years ago, I had also changed the transmitter's input frequency divider from a 'divide-by-four' to a 'divide-by-two' scheme. My original system on 137KHz started with a DDS frequency in the 5.48MHz range and then was divided by ten before being fed to the transmitter's input where the 548KHz signal was then divided by four. Using a higher DDS frequency allowed for greater frequency resolution at 2200m and allowed for very small frequency adjustments across the band. I would have kept the same system for 630m except that my 'divide-by-ten' chip was not very happy at 18MHz and refused to divide.The newer system now only allows me to move around the band in 4.5Hz steps. It's really not much of a problem as there is presently a minuscule amount of activity in Canada on 2200m, but as previously mentioned, this may change when U.S. amateurs gain access to the band.

Having sorted out my transmitter problems and confirming that all was well, the next task was to check antenna resonance and impedance matching as it would more than likely not be the same as I had left it. A low-power check using the 'scopematch' indicated that both resonance and impedance were not optimized. Tapping down on the loading coil by one-turn took care of resonance while adjusting the impedance tap in my matching transformer to its lowest value (see matching scheme below) resulted in a near perfect match on the scope.

I'm guessing that the resonance change was due to the recent heavy trimming of the 80' Balsam that supports one end of my 'inverted-L' and large three-wire flatop.

The tree's crown had previously been very dense and some of the branches were almost touching the flatop. The close proximity always made me worry about possible flashover at the antenna ends as voltages here would be several kilovolts. Removing much of the wet green tree branches directly beneath the flatop also likely contributed to the slight change in resonance.

Impedance Matching Transformer On TV Flyback Cores
The change in impedance to a lower value may have been due, in part, to the removal of the tree branches as well but more likely it was reflecting the change in my ground system. When I had last been on (in mid-winter), the ground was well saturated and the water table at normal heights. The present conditions are just the opposite as things are drier than they have ever been and the water table has certainly dropped substantially.

The sked with VE7CNF went smoothly and it was nice to see another new Canadian station taking an interest in the band, along with all of its challenges. Toby's 200W signal was a solid 559 here even with his small antenna system yet to be fully optimized. As well, he was bothered by heavy switching-power supply QRM from a nearby neighbour. Unfortunately, such noise sources seem to be increasing in numbers and are making operation on LF, already a big challenge, even more challenging. Toby has taken up the challenge with enthusiasm and has now had contacts on 2200m well as on 630m, adding to the ranks of active VE7's on LF and ... demonstrating yet again that amateurs can enjoy the LF bands with small 'backyard' antenna systems. Don't let living in the city be a reason to avoid our new LF bands.

Wouldn't it be great to see some activity from our neighbours in VE6 or VE5, both easily workable on both bands from the west coast... maybe you're up to the challenge!

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