Posts Tagged ‘QRN’

More ‘Hydroponic’ RF

courtesy: ARRL

Today's blog is a repost from August, 2015.

I see that the ARRL has filed three more formal complaints to the FCC concerning the bone-crushing HF emissions being produced by off-the-shelf grow light ballasts. The complaint also includes detailed lab data collected on all three devices and it is not pretty. One wonders why it is necessary at all that the ARRL be the industry watchdog instead of the FCC ... why aren't they being more diligent in filtering out these products before they hit the market? If importers and dealers are simply bypassing regulations for the sake of a quick-buck, then heavy fines must be imposed until someone 'gets the message'.

Some of the test products were ordered and purchased through Amazon and through Sears ... the ARRL's thorough report makes it obvious that rules are being ignored and amateurs are paying the price.

“The level of conducted emissions from [these devices] is so high that, as a practical matter, one RF ballast operated in a residential environment would create preclusive interference to Amateur radio HF communications throughout entire neighborhoods,” ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, wrote in each complaint. The devices exceeded conducted emission limits under all test conditions, “sometimes by extreme margins, throughout most of the HF range ...”


In a similar vein as its recent complaint about marketing of certain RF lighting devices by The Home Depot, the ARRL pointed out that there were no FCC labels on two of the devices mentioned nor any FCC compliance information “anywhere in the documentation, or in or on the box, or on the device itself,” in violation of FCC Part 18 rules.

The League asked the FCC to require removal of all such illegal “grow light” devices from retail sale and marketing and the recall of those devices already sold or available for retail sale, and it said the device importers should be subject to a forfeiture proceeding.

With the proliferation of both legal and illegal 'hydroponic' operations, this kind of QRN is probably just the tip of the iceberg. It's good to see the ARRL slowly pounding away at the rule-breakers on behalf of American amateurs.

I see these same devices being sold on E-Bay, where presumably, they could be purchased worldwide and installed anywhere. As well, several of the U.S. online dealers state "We ship to Canada" ... just great.

Hopefully Industry Canada and RAC are gearing-up for the fight.

FCC’s Pirate Purge Continues


For some reason, the FCC continues to pour money into its hell-bent roundup of FM pirate broadcasters! I suspect much of this 'tough stance' is more politically motivated than for the reasons that they state, but the FCC seems to have plenty of will-power and the necessary funding ... it's too bad that they couldn't put the same zeal into getting on top of or making a start on the huge growing noise problem throughout the radio spectrum. I guess rounding up pirates is much easier than tackling the far more important noise issues, now growing so rapidly that many radio amateurs just throw up their hands in surrender and close up shop for good. Even commercial users of the spectrum are being negatively affected by the growing noise floor, as the growing Internet of Things connected devices produce even more radio crud.

It now seems that the FCC may get a further boost in its crackdown if a new bipartisan proposed federal law becomes reality. A May 9, 2018, article in Radio World reports the tabling of the new bill in the US Congress called the PIRATE Act or "Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act". It would also be nice to see the PAIN Act (Preventing All Illegal Noise) in the RF spectrum but I see no Washington appetite for this much-needed FCC oversight.

The continued obsession for rounding up FM pirate broadcasters is fascinating in its own right. "It is time to take these pirates off the air by hiking the penalties and working with the Federal Communication Commission on enforcement", stated Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ).

"As reported in Radio World, the PIRATE Act proposes to hike the fine for violations to as much as $100,000 per day, with a maximum fine of $2 million. The rules currently allow the FCC to impose a maximum daily penalty of about $19,200 per day. At a Congressional hearing on the bill in March, New York State Broadcasters Association President David Donovan told lawmakers that illegal operators are undermining the nation’s Emergency Alert System, causing invasive and insidious interference, pose potential public health problems due to overexposure to radio frequency radiation, and interfere with airport communications."

It is apparent from reading investigative reports, that each acted-upon complaint requires a substantial investment of time and money as in the April 24 Notice of Apparent Liability for a case in Paterson, New  Jersey ... it seems that NJ and NY are 'pirate hotbeds'. By the end of the investigation, a team of fully-equipped FCC field agents had visited the pirate's site(s) on eight different occasions, a considerable investment in time, energy and money. In the end, a $25,000 penalty has been proposed for the offender.

I am not a fan of illegal pirate radio broadcasting in any form but the reasons stated by the FCC for the ongoing pirate purges seem somewhat shaky. In all of the investigative reports that I've read, I have yet to find any that were reported to cause "interference with airport communications" and I question the assertion that the low power levels used by most pirates are going to "pose potential public health problems due to overexposure to radio frequency radiation". One more likely reason may be the strong lobby pressure from broadcasters who see the possible loss of advertising revenue. I'm sure that many Washington electees receive healthy campaign donations from state broadcasters as well.

Although many pirate radio ops seemingly solicit advertising revenue, overall it can't be much of a threat to mainstream broadcasters. Is it just the NAB Washington lobby that is fuelling the FCC pirate craze or is it muscle-flexing from the new administration, wanting to look tough on "crime" and radio-pirates are just easy low-hanging fruit? I suspect that it may be more of the latter.

The FCC's 'Pirate Action' postings make for interesting reading as does the fascinating Westword article on pirate radio activity in Ward, Colorado, and the recent attempted FCC take-down of stations in operation since 1997!

There's no question that a lot of FCC resources are being used to eliminate unlicenced QRM. What will it take to see the same attack on unlicenced QRN as well?

RFI – More Vigilance Coming?


A posting yesterday in the Yahoo MW DXer's Group pointed to a new article at RadioWorld.com, re the new urgency within the broadcast field to address the growing noise floor.


The article "Noise Inquiry Spurs Recommendations" discusses the fallout from last year's FCC Technical Advisory Council's (TAC) Inquiry ET-16-191, seeking public comments on the rapid increase in "man-made RF noise issues".

As radio amateurs have known for decades already, there is a huge problem when it comes to spectrum noise levels. They were even complaining about this way back in 1932's Short Wave Craft ... "The reasons for this extraordinary amount of noise which we have to contend with at the present time are manifold." If only they knew how quiet it really was!

Now that noise is beginning to have severe affects on profit margins when it comes to AM, FM, TV and Wi-Fi connected devices, it seems that there may now be a larger appetite for some resolution.

"Other industries using RF wireless technologies report growing noise trouble as well. A recent IEEE Spectrum article was subtitled “Electronic Noise Is Drowning Out the Internet of Things.” Designers of IoT devices are not getting the range they expect due to unexpectedly high background noise, it reported."

Comments to the enquiry pointed out the usual offenders, all well-known to hams, such as noisy powerlines, switching power supplies, noisy motors etc and emphasized the fact that none of these offenders should cause interference if properly designed.

The TAC Working Group recommended some steps that it thought the FCC should take with the key one being an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to "resolve unanswered questions and take corrective action".

According to a recent meeting between The Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers and FCC officials, it was pointed out that:
  • there had been no official RF noise studies done in over 40 years. 
  • some manufacturers are deliberately cheating to skirt emission requirements.
  • those in charge of enforcement (FCC) need to be more diligent. 
Much can be said for the same conditions here in Canada where our ISED has failed to properly safeguard spectrum noise pollution.
Other somewhat "telling" recommendations were also put forward and can be viewed in the Radioworld article here.

If you're one of the hundreds (thousands?) struggling with a new mystery noise source, perhaps you can identify the noise signature from one of these two sites:

http://www.arrl.org/sounds-of-rfi

http://www.rfiservices.com/sound.htm

It is reported that the new FCC Chairman seemed receptive to the concerns presented but so far there has been no official action. Hopefully he will soon tackle this with the same gusto shown for chasing down illegal broadcasters. With recent FCC cutbacks and proposed budget slashing from Washington, one wonders if this problem will be given the attention that it needs before it is truly too late to reverse.

RFI – More Vigilance Coming?


A posting yesterday in the Yahoo MW DXer's Group pointed to a new article at RadioWorld.com, re the new urgency within the broadcast field to address the growing noise floor.


The article "Noise Inquiry Spurs Recommendations" discusses the fallout from last year's FCC Technical Advisory Council's (TAC) Inquiry ET-16-191, seeking public comments on the rapid increase in "man-made RF noise issues".

As radio amateurs have known for decades already, there is a huge problem when it comes to spectrum noise levels. They were even complaining about this way back in 1932's Short Wave Craft ... "The reasons for this extraordinary amount of noise which we have to contend with at the present time are manifold." If only they knew how quiet it really was!

Now that noise is beginning to have severe affects on profit margins when it comes to AM, FM, TV and Wi-Fi connected devices, it seems that there may now be a larger appetite for some resolution.

"Other industries using RF wireless technologies report growing noise trouble as well. A recent IEEE Spectrum article was subtitled “Electronic Noise Is Drowning Out the Internet of Things.” Designers of IoT devices are not getting the range they expect due to unexpectedly high background noise, it reported."

Comments to the enquiry pointed out the usual offenders, all well-known to hams, such as noisy powerlines, switching power supplies, noisy motors etc and emphasized the fact that none of these offenders should cause interference if properly designed.

The TAC Working Group recommended some steps that it thought the FCC should take with the key one being an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to "resolve unanswered questions and take corrective action".

According to a recent meeting between The Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers and FCC officials, it was pointed out that:
  • there had been no official RF noise studies done in over 40 years. 
  • some manufacturers are deliberately cheating to skirt emission requirements.
  • those in charge of enforcement (FCC) need to be more diligent. 
Much can be said for the same conditions here in Canada where our ISED has failed to properly safeguard spectrum noise pollution.
Other somewhat "telling" recommendations were also put forward and can be viewed in the Radioworld article here.

If you're one of the hundreds (thousands?) struggling with a new mystery noise source, perhaps you can identify the noise signature from one of these two sites:

http://www.arrl.org/sounds-of-rfi

http://www.rfiservices.com/sound.htm

It is reported that the new FCC Chairman seemed receptive to the concerns presented but so far there has been no official action. Hopefully he will soon tackle this with the same gusto shown for chasing down illegal broadcasters. With recent FCC cutbacks and proposed budget slashing from Washington, one wonders if this problem will be given the attention that it needs before it is truly too late to reverse.

MFJ / Timewave Noise Canceller Shootout

 
A previous blog described a series of tests that Mark, VA7MM, performed demonstrating the effectiveness of his newly acquired MFJ- 1026 Noise Canceller. 
He, along with Guy, VA7GI, recently had the opportunity to compare the performance of the MFJ against Guy's Timewave ANC-4.

I'll let Mark describe the results:

NoiseCancellerShootout 2017 Report:

Guy Immega, VA7GI, and Mark Mattila, VA7MM, undertook side by side comparative tests of Timewave ANC-4 and MFJ-1026 noise cancellation gear (photos attached) by listening to interference at VA7MM in the HF spectrum between 7 MHz and 14 MHz. The program Spectran was used with the receiver on AM to adjust each unit for best performance and observe the relative performance of each. A system of coaxial relays was used to switch instantaneously between the units (photos attached).



Findings:

For practical purposes Timewave’s ANC-4 and MFJ’s 1026 are equal performers for eliminating interference in the HF spectrum.


Our findings corroborate the earlier findings of VE7CA that are posted on his website.

Switching the units in and out of noise was previously assessed on 40m CW, broadcast and raw noise. Examples of these tests are in a previous blogspot.

Commentary:

- main antenna in the tests was a multiband dipole at 30m above the ground.

- noise sense antenna was a Cushcraft R7 vertical antenna located 20m away from the main antenna.

 - receiver was an Icom IC-746Pro.

 - both units tested have the same nulling capability.

- the preamp on the MFJ was found to be useful in certain instances for boosting the noise signal.

- in one test instance the Timewave unit produced intermod with AM broadcast leaking into the receiver when the noise gain was set near maximum.

- in instances where noise was coming from more than one direction, the filters could eliminate one noise source, or the other, but not both.

General Observations:

- the Timewave and MFJ filters have a learning curve to figure out how to quickly and precisely null out noise. A couple of evenings of tinkering was required to figure out how to use the unit with different noise sense antennas and different types of noise.

- the noise sense antenna is critical and must pick up a strong noise signal for the units to work effectively. In most instances for local interference at VA7MM the noise sense antenna is near the ground and vertically polarized and the main antenna is high above the ground and horizontally polarized.

- both noise amplitude and phase need to be alternately adjusted to attain a good null on the units.

- using Spectran or SDR with the receiver on AM helps in adjusting the units.

Next Steps:

- discussions are on combining the noise canceller with a small vertical plane receive loop on 160 or 80m. The idea is that the combination of the two could enable noise in two directions to be nulled. The receive loop would be pre-amplified. 

- having two noise cancellers in series was also discussed as a means of nulling noise from two directions. An issue with this approach is that more processing electronics are put ahead of the front end of the receiver and this introduces its own noise and may create intermodulation. 

- I like that the MFJ unit has gain controls for both the noise antenna and the main antenna. Other differences include MFJ providing both relay and RF sense T/R switching whereas the Timewave only has RF sense capability. The noise antenna connector on the MFJ is an SO-239which I find more practical than the RCA phono socket on the Timewave. As far as mechanical construction is concerned, the Timewave is more robustly built.


We’re open to any questions on these findings.

73,
Mark Mattila, VA7MM
Guy Immega, VA7GI

MFJ / Timewave Noise Canceller Shootout

 
A previous blog described a series of tests that Mark, VA7MM, performed demonstrating the effectiveness of his newly acquired MFJ- 1026 Noise Canceller. 
He, along with Guy, VA7GI, recently had the opportunity to compare the performance of the MFJ against Guy's Timewave ANC-4.

I'll let Mark describe the results:

NoiseCancellerShootout 2017 Report:

Guy Immega, VA7GI, and Mark Mattila, VA7MM, undertook side by side comparative tests of Timewave ANC-4 and MFJ-1026 noise cancellation gear (photos attached) by listening to interference at VA7MM in the HF spectrum between 7 MHz and 14 MHz. The program Spectran was used with the receiver on AM to adjust each unit for best performance and observe the relative performance of each. A system of coaxial relays was used to switch instantaneously between the units (photos attached).



Findings:

For practical purposes Timewave’s ANC-4 and MFJ’s 1026 are equal performers for eliminating interference in the HF spectrum.


Our findings corroborate the earlier findings of VE7CA that are posted on his website.

Switching the units in and out of noise was previously assessed on 40m CW, broadcast and raw noise. Examples of these tests are in a previous blogspot.

Commentary:

- main antenna in the tests was a multiband dipole at 30m above the ground.

- noise sense antenna was a Cushcraft R7 vertical antenna located 20m away from the main antenna.

 - receiver was an Icom IC-746Pro.

 - both units tested have the same nulling capability.

- the preamp on the MFJ was found to be useful in certain instances for boosting the noise signal.

- in one test instance the Timewave unit produced intermod with AM broadcast leaking into the receiver when the noise gain was set near maximum.

- in instances where noise was coming from more than one direction, the filters could eliminate one noise source, or the other, but not both.

General Observations:

- the Timewave and MFJ filters have a learning curve to figure out how to quickly and precisely null out noise. A couple of evenings of tinkering was required to figure out how to use the unit with different noise sense antennas and different types of noise.

- the noise sense antenna is critical and must pick up a strong noise signal for the units to work effectively. In most instances for local interference at VA7MM the noise sense antenna is near the ground and vertically polarized and the main antenna is high above the ground and horizontally polarized.

- both noise amplitude and phase need to be alternately adjusted to attain a good null on the units.

- using Spectran or SDR with the receiver on AM helps in adjusting the units.

Next Steps:

- discussions are on combining the noise canceller with a small vertical plane receive loop on 160 or 80m. The idea is that the combination of the two could enable noise in two directions to be nulled. The receive loop would be pre-amplified. 

- having two noise cancellers in series was also discussed as a means of nulling noise from two directions. An issue with this approach is that more processing electronics are put ahead of the front end of the receiver and this introduces its own noise and may create intermodulation. 

- I like that the MFJ unit has gain controls for both the noise antenna and the main antenna. Other differences include MFJ providing both relay and RF sense T/R switching whereas the Timewave only has RF sense capability. The noise antenna connector on the MFJ is an SO-239which I find more practical than the RCA phono socket on the Timewave. As far as mechanical construction is concerned, the Timewave is more robustly built.


We’re open to any questions on these findings.

73,
Mark Mattila, VA7MM
Guy Immega, VA7GI

RFI … Radio Spectrum’s Global Warming?

courtesy: http://www.arrl.org/utilities

The FCC's recent publication of an Order and Consent Decree (DA-17-471) has me wondering if this action signals new interest in cracking-down on those who manufacture and distribute unapproved spectrum polluting noise-generating devices or is it just a once-in-awhile muscle flex with little change in overall policy ... hopefully it's the former!

Highlights of the agreed upon notice:

Section 302 of the Act authorizes the Commission to promulgate reasonable regulations to minimize harmful interference by equipment that emits radio frequency energy....Specifically....that “[n]o person shall manufacture, import, sell, offer for sale, or ship devices or home electronic equipment and systems, or use devices, which fail to comply with regulations....

.... the Commission establishes technical requirements for transmitters and other equipment to minimize their potential for causing interference to authorized radio services ... the Commission administers an equipment authorization program to ensure that equipment reaching the market in the
United States complies with the technical and administrative requirements set forth in the Commission’s rules. The equipment authorization program requires, among other things, that radio frequency devices must be tested for compliance with the applicable technical requirements in accordance with one of three authorization procedures—i.e., certification, Declaration of Conformity, or verification—prior to marketing.


... the Rules prohibits the marketing of radio frequency devices unless the device has first been properly authorized, identified, and labeled in accordance with the Rules ...


... a privately-held company that manufactures and distributes lighting fixtures that are used in residential and commercial properties ... under-cabinet LED light fixtures were reportedly causing interference to AM/FM radio transmissions. 

During the course of the investigation, the evidence revealed that ... the LED light fixtures were not tested and authorized under the Commission’s equipment authorization rules prior to marketing.

... the Bureau’s Spectrum Enforcement Division issued a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) ... directing to submit a sworn written response to a series of questions relating to ... the marketing of its LED lighting fixtures in the United States.

... continued to market the light fixtures at issue for certain times during an approximately five-month period after receipt of the LOI.

Other highlights indicate that the company in question acknowledged their violation and agreed to appoint a Compliance Officer in charge of implementing new company protocols, including the retraining and education of employees dealing with compliance issues. As well, a $90,000 civil penalty was imposed on the company for the violation.

As a point of interest, I can't ever recall seeing similar notifications being released or reported here in Canada by our FCC equivalent, the ISEDC. Hopefully they also take similar actions, but if so, they don't seem to be reporting it ... perhaps I'm just not looking in the proper places.

As I've mentioned here previously, for too many radio amateurs, the growing noise floor throughout the radio spectrum has become a global threat for the healthy pursuit of our hobby. Even if we saw the immediate  implementation of rigorous new tight standards, crackdowns and prosecutions of offenders, it may already be too late to reverse the damage we are now seeing ... in many respects, it's the 'global warming' of the RF spectrum and there may be no turning back without immediate action.


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