Posts Tagged ‘band activity’

Land (er, FREQUENCY) Grab (Part 1)

This article is part one in a multi-part series.  Part 2 is located here: One Aspect of Amateur Radio: Good Will Ambassadors to the World.  Part 3 is located here: In Response — Can’t We All Just Get Along?

 

We’ve all heard it at least once:  no one owns a frequency.

By law, amateurs must keep the transmissions from their station within the bounds of the allocations granted to license-holding operators–within these bands that are allocated for amateur radio use.  Amateurs are expected to follow band-plans, which guide us to which mode can be used in a band.

Subbands — Band Plans

There are many decades of constant refining of the standard operating procedures–perhaps we can call them, traditions–that, for the most part, work out pretty well for most amateur radio operations on our precious allocations in the radio spectrum.  Each band–a slice of radio spectrum between a lower frequency and a higher frequency–is made up of subbands.  These subbands are slices within a specific band (allocation), in which amateurs participate in two-way communications by using a particular mode of transmission, like single side band or CW.

For instance, Morse code enthusiasts use CW (continuous-wave modulation, i.e., A1A) between 14.000 MHz and 14.150, which is the subband that exists in the larger allocations known as the 20-Meter Band.  The 20-Meter Band is 14.000 MHz to 14.350 MHz, and the regulating bodies (such as the FCC in the USA) have directed through law that voice modes cannot be used between those subband frequencies from 14.00 MHz to 14.15 MHz. Voice modes can be used from 14.15 MHz up to 14.35 MHz, with certain license class variations. Read the PDF from the FCC: FCC ONLINE TABLE OF FREQUENCY ALLOCATIONS

CW is not the only mode allowed in the 14.00-MHz-to-14.15-MHz subband.  The regulations stipulate that a number of data modes can be used in this subband. There are specific requirements that a mode must meet, in order to comply with regulations–these are known as the authorized emission types.

Gentlemen’s Agreements

Amateur radio operators, decades ago, began discussing, then agreeing to, agreements between all operators as to where specific modes can be used, so those operating the different modes do not trample on each other’s transmissions.  These agreements are known as our band-plan gentlemen’s agreements.  They exist to help minimize interference–QRM–and to help foster good operating procedures between the different groups.

The band plans that have evolved through the decades are not regulations, and do not mean that any particular group of amateur radio operators own any frequency or subband.  A mode does not own a particular subband.  Amateur radio operators are not encouraged to start transmitting a mode that is typically found in that subband, if someone else is on that frequency using a mode not expected.

Just because some other operator is using the subband for a mode not in compliance with the gentlemen’s agreement, don’t purposefully try to eject that operator.  At the same time, the gentlemen’s agreements exist to help amateurs avoid interference with others that are using different modes.  Thus, the operator who has chosen to use a non-standard mode for a subband known to be used for some other mode should move that operation to the subband identified to be for that operator’s current mode of transmitter emissions.  In other words, do not QRM another amateur radio operator, and do not cause confusion and frustration by barging into a subband for a mode that you are not intending to use.  Use the mode expected in the subband of your current operations.

This concept is especially helpful when we consider weak-signal operations.  If a very strong, loud teletype transmission begins in a subband that is set aside for weak-signal propagation modes like WSPR, then it defeats the efforts of the operators making the attempt to have successful weak-signal two-way communications.  Thus, the teletype transmission should be made in a subband where teletype operation is expected and acceptable.  And, WSPR should stay in the subband where people expect to find WSPR signals.

This concept is also applied to VHF or higher bands.  Why?  If repeaters are parked on known repeater subbands, then weak-signal single-sideband communications can take place in a subband where repeaters are not allowed.  By allowed, though, I mean, by agreement with gentlemen’s agreements.  Regulators have stayed out of the amateur radio operations except by creating regulations at a high-level–for instance, the FCC stipulating that voice communications are not allowed between 14.000 MHz and 14.150 MHz, in the 20-Meter band.

The Frequency Grabs by the WSJT Developers, Planners, and Leadership

With several current release candidates of the WSJT-X software by Joe Taylor, the group of developers and leadership have programmed into the WSJT-X software a set of NEW default frequencies.  These new frequencies are in addition to their current pre-programmed frequencies that the amateur community now identifies as, The FT8 Subbands.

The new proposed frequencies are right on top of other subbands where other modes have been operating for decades (such as PSK and Olivia, and many others).  There was no community discussion, except within the WSJT community.  And, when someone protested the take-over of other well-established subbands, those protests were shot down.  The stated reasons included, “Well, those other modes are not very active or popular, because spots are not showing up on various spotting networks.”  Such reasons break down on deeper consideration–for instance, most spotting networks are not programmed to automatically identify Olivia transmissions.  CW, PSK, and FT8 are programmed into scanners, but other modes are ignored.

This behavior, considered rude, arrogant, presumptuous, and anti-gentlemanly (referring to well-established gentlemen’s agreements) has happened before, with the initial release of FT8.  They (the WSJT-X developers and leadership) simply picked a frequency slice of each subband, without true collaboration with the wider amateur radio community.

When this columnist and fellow amateur radio community member, attempted a discussion, the retort from an official representative was an absolute dismissal of any protest against the choice and method of frequency options within the WSJT software. While the software marks these frequency as suggestions, only, these defaults are used without question by the operators of said software.  And, the mode is so fast that there’s no human way of truly monitoring the frequency before use, to see if some other mode is in operation.  Besides, weak-signals that are present but cannot be heard by one’s ear, might well be in operation.  Subbands exist to keep QRM from covering up the weak signals of the mode expected at that frequency.

Enter the IARU…

The IARU has decided to step in and join the discussion.  “The International Amateur Radio Union has been the worldwide voice of radio amateurs, securing and safeguarding the amateur radio spectrum since 1925.”  The IARU guides regulating bodies like the FCC, regarding the administration and rule-making pertaining to amateur radio.

The IARU states, on their website,

The radio spectrum is a priceless natural resource. Because radio waves do not respect borders, the use of the spectrum must be regulated internationally. This is accomplished through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialized agency of the United Nations. Through World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs) held approximately every four years the ITU revises the international Radio Regulations which have the force and effect of a treaty. The Radio Regulations allocate the spectrum to different radiocommunication services such as broadcasting, mobile, radar, and radionavigation (GPS). The most recent WRC was held in October-November 2019. The next one is not yet scheduled but is expected to be held in 2023, so it is usually referred to as WRC-23.

New uses of the spectrum are being developed every day. This puts enormous pressure on incumbent users who are called upon to share their spectrum access with new arrivals. The allocation process is extremely complex, especially when satellite services are involved.

Reportedly, from first-hand communication from one IARU representative,

WSJT-X RC3 has 14074 kHz again for FT8. IARU is intervening. Stay tuned. I am asking for further suggestions.

73 Tom DF5JL
IARU R1 HF Manager

This is very welcomed news!

What ought to take place, as quickly as possible, is to rally the different interested parties, like the Olivia group, the PSK groups, the various CW groups like CWOps, FISTS, and the SKCC, and many others, for ideas and suggestions.  A discussion must take place in the hope that new gentlemen’s agreements can be made, that include the FT8 and FT4 operations, without stepping on the subbands of other digital modes.

As Tom says, STAY TUNED.

If you have suggestions, please comment. This columnist will summarize the main ideas of the comments and forward them to Tom.  You may also contact the IARU managers and let them know your suggestions.

Discussions in the Olivia community are ongoing, too.  Join in at OliviaDigitalMode.net even if you are not yet an Olivia operator.

On Facebook, you may also discuss your thoughts, in either the Olivia Digital Modes on HF group or in the Digital Modes on HF group.

If you use FT8 and FT4, voice your concerns and ideas, too.  Open dialog, without declaring war, is welcomed and hopefully will prove productive.

This article is the first in a series focusing on band plans, and gentlemen’s agreements. Please stay tuned for more installments.

 

Tomas, NW7US

Tomas Hood, NW7US, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Nebraska, USA. Tomas is the Space Weather and Radio Propagation Contributing Editor to ‘CQ Amateur Radio Magazine’, and ‘The Spectrum Monitor’ magazine.

Busy weekend!

I know I promised the 2015 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Scoreboard would be published today, so my recounting of my busy weekend isn't an excuse for not doing that. Actually the spreadsheet has all been compiled and is up on Google sheets, but is being held private for the moment.  I got an e-mail yesterday from Randy KB4QQJ. He had submitted his results last week and did not receive the confirming e-mail from me ...... and that would be because I never received them. So I asked him to re-send ASAP and I will post the link later today or tonight, either way.  If I have to change things around due to his entry after the initial posting, I will - but something will definitely appear at some point later today. From his brief e-mail to me, I don't think his entry will affect the top five finishers.

The weekend was busy chore-wise. And normally, I wouldn't consider that such a great thing. The HF bands have been so crappy, though, that at least I've been too busy to bang my head against that ionospheric brick wall.  The few times I did turn the KX3 on for a few minutes, I thought both my antennas had disappeared, with one exception I will talk about later.

I spent Saturday mowing the lawns, front & back, as well as completing all the trimming in the backyard. It's kind of amazing how much lawn I've reclaimed by beating off and cutting back all my neighbors' flora overhang from my two side fences. Not only does the backyard look bigger now, but mowing the lawn will be easier. Each time I got near the fence on each side of the yard, I was being treated to whaps in the face by low hanging bush branches encroaching from their yards. Not a problem now!

On Sunday, I had the great honor and immense pleasure to be interviewed by Eric Guth 4Z1UG for an upcoming installment of his "QSO Today" podcast. I have no idea when it will actually be released, but someday soon you'll be able to hear my voice and you'll suddenly realize why I've stayed a CW guy all these years!

All kidding aside, it was a fantastic experience. Eric is a warm and friendly person who immediately puts you at ease. It was just like having a QSO with a dear, old friend. The interview lasted for close to an hour, but it felt more like five minutes. Eric has done a lot of really cool podcast interviews with a lot of deserving and interesting Amateur radio ops, so why he selected me is anyone's guess. But you should do yourself a favor and follow the link I provided and listen to some of them. He's performing a great service to the Amateur Radio community by providing fascinating conversations for us to listen to. This series kind of reminds me of the old Edward R. Murrow "Person to Person" TV show, but on an Amateur Radio basis.

After I finished up with Eric, I dove into cleaning up the shack. I'm not proud to admit that over the past few months, it became a dumping ground and a pig sty (however, I am Flying Pig #612, so maybe that's appropriate?). I ended up spending about three hours, cleaning, organizing and pitching "stuff". I ended up filling four of those large 30 gallon green trash bags with stuff I should have tossed a long time ago, but never did. 

As a bonus, I "found" a few items that I have been looking for and had misplaced. For instance, last Winter, I had ordered a few kite winders that I wanted to use for storing the radiator wires for my EFHW antennas. As QRPTTF and FOBB approached, I knew I had them, but I couldn't locate them.  I had put them down in the shack, and just couldn't figure out where - exactly. I found them yesterday and they are now safely in my portable ops backpack. Of course, it's as we approach the end of the outdoor QRP contest season - but I have them. Yay!

I actually have room to move around and breath in there now!  Don't get me wrong .... it's by no means an immaculate shack. I still need to dust and I want to re-hang my DXCC, WPX and QRP-ARCI awards on the main shack wall before I will consider the job done. However, I can now bring a visitor into the shack without fear that they'll be swallowed up like one of those hoarders you see on TV.

I finished up the evening, by returning to the shack after dinner to see how 80 Meters was behaving itself. It sounded relatively quiet, so I guess that's another depressing sign that Autumn is on the way. (My regular readers know that I'm a Spring/Summer kind of guy and that Autumn bums me out because I know that Winter is not far behind.) I plunked down around 3.561 MHz and tried calling CQ for a bit. For my efforts (no real big effort!) I was rewarded with a QSO from Lee K4ISW in Chartlottesville, VA.  Lee just recently acquired a K3S and I was one of his first week's worth of QSOs on the new rig. Lee's K3S sounded great and Lee sounded happy - so I'm thinking a win/win situation is occurring at the K4ISW shack.

80 Meters sounded great after a Spring and Summer filled with static crashes and loud background QRN.  The return of 80 and 160 Meters into useful Amateur Radio bands is the ONLY good thing about Fall and Winter, in yours truly's humble opinion.

Take care guys/gals - QRP and CW on!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

"QRL?" – please !!!!!

I did go out to the Jeep during lunch today, and no, the bands were NOT dead. But before I go there, I must digress.

I was involved in a 2X QRP QSO on 14.060 MHz with Tom, KC9RXI in WI. He was about a 449 to me; and I'm sure I was no better to him, but we were having a QSO.  I'm sure at times, that to people who may have been listening to the frequency, that it sounded like it was dead.

It wasn't.

All of a sudden, out of the blue, another QRPer started calling CQ/QRP on frequency!  The call will be omitted to prevent embarrassment (but it is forever burned into my brain).  Not so much as a single, solitary "QRL?"

Yes, I am sure that both Tom and I were weak, but we WERE in the middle of a QSO.  Coming on to a frequency, plopping yourself down and commencing to call CQ without asking is just - arrgh! And to top it off, the CQer was calling CQ DE WXXXX/QRP !!!!  I'm sorry, but QRPers, above all Amateur Radio ops, should know better. No excuse - period. If he had sent "QRL?" waited for a bit AND THEN had started calling CQ on top of us, I may still have been annoyed, but I would have thought to myself, "Well, he just didn't hear us."

Unfortunately, while Tom was trying to talk to me, I had to transmit "QRL. PSE QSY". He immediately QSYed (so he was able to hear me!), but at that point I had lost what Tom was trying to say. Shortly after that the QSB went off the Richter scale and the QSO came to a premature end. The "meat" that I could have copied was drowned out forever by needless QRM.

A bit after that debacle, I went to 12 Meters and tuned around for a bit. I heard 7QAA in Malawi quite loudly.  He was loud enough to work - even QRP. I don't think I broke the pile up, as again there was a lot of QSB. If I had more time (lunch hour was running out) I'm pretty darn certain I would have worked him. This time I had the patience - I ran out of minutes.

So , even with the G4 geomagnetic disturbance, Malawi was coming in the best I've heard them so far. Go figure.  Luckily, the station will be on the air until early April and I'm taking a vacation day on Friday. I just may make it into their logbook yet!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Zombie Shuffle Recap – 2014

Tough work week and last night, I felt like a Zombie!

I joined the Zombie Shuffle, already in progress at about 0020 UTC (7:20 PM Local Time). I got on 20 Meters and worked four fellow Zombie Hunters in pretty rapid succession. I thought it was going to be a great night.

I was a tad mistaken.

From there, it got slow - real slow - shuffle slow - slower than shuffle slow.  This Zombie ended up doing a moon dance - looking like he was walking backwards. The perceived lack of participation or lack of good band conditions was a bit of a disappointment.

I stayed on for two hours and worked 13 stations - which somehow seemed appropriate. At that point, while the KX3 was merrily calling "CQ BOO" for me, I actually started to nod off for a few seconds. Being the conscientious, law abiding Amateur Radio operator that I am, I decided it was not a good thing for the Control Operator to fall asleep behind the key. So I accessed the local control point, pulled the big switch and made my way upstairs to get some much needed ZZZZZZZs.

Thanks to fellow Zombies WA5TCZ, KG9DW, KA5T, N5GW, N8RVE, W3KC, W1PID, W3ATB, AB9CA, N1ABS, VE3CBK, WA8REI and WB8WTU for the contacts - lotta good friends there, It was a pleasure to work you all! Five on 20 Meters, six on 40 Meters and two on 80 Meters (which was beautifully quiet without hardly any background QRN - oh if there had only been more Zombies there!).

By the way, I was one of the Elvis stations again this year - so if you worked me, I was worth extra pointage. And as always - special thanks to Paul NA5N and Jan N0QT for running another spectacularly fun event, my own tiredness notwithstanding!

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday, at this time, the bands were humming (relatively) with Skeeters, WES’ers, and WAE’ers, just to name a few. 24 hours later, during a later lunch break ……. not much of anything.  This is where I was picked up by RBN:

The one QSO that I did have was with HA3NU on 15 Meters. Other than that single contact, I spent most of my time calling CQ on 20, 17 and 15 Meters, interested to see where my signal would be picked up. Not as productive a lunch time QRP break as I would have hoped for.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!


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