Monday, May 18, 2015

Hams Play Key Role in Nepal Quake Response

Despite the fact that Nepal has only about two dozen licensed amateurs and only one active repeater, amateur radio quickly became a critical link in re-establishing communications after the April 25th earthquake that caused massive damage in the Himalayan country and killed thousands of people.
Volunteer hams from India assisted in the Nepal
earthquake aftermath, including VU2JOS (right, with
HT) and 9N3AA (left, with cap) in the Gorkha
District. [Photo courtesy India's National Institute of
Amateur Radio (NIAR)]

Hams from India and other countries came to help (see photo), after overcoming bureaucratic hurdles; the ARRL Letter reports a repeater donated by an American group - the Computer Association of Nepal-USA (CANAM) - was cleared through customs after the personal intervention of the country's Minister of Information and Communication, and nets on HF and VHF provided links both within Nepal and to the outside world. We will have complete coverage in July CQ's "CQ World Wide" column.

[Editor's note: At the time of this posting, Nepal had been hit with a magnitude 7.3 aftershock, which resulted in additional deaths, injuries and property damage. There was no word yet as to whether ham radio activity, which had been winding down, was ramped back up.]

FCC Proposes New Ham Bands Above 200 Meters

For the first time since amateur radio was formally recognized by the U.S. government in 1912, hams may soon have access to wavelengths above 200 meters (frequencies below 1500 kHz). In a combination Report & Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in late April, the FCC established a secondary amateur allocation at 2200 meters (137 kHz) and proposed another at 630 meters (472 kHz). 

Final rules for 2200 meters will be determined as part of the NPRM proceeding on the 630-meter allocation, but initial indications are that amateur use of both bands will be limited to permanent fixed stations with power outputs of 1 watt and 5 watts EIRP (equivalent isotropic radiated power), respectively. The FCC also granted amateur radio primary status on the 1900-2000 kHz portion of the 160-meter band. 

For more details on this ruling and proposal, see "How Low Can You Go?" in the June issue of CQ.

FCC Proposes Making Hams' Past Addresses Private

Responding to "occasional requests from amateur licensees" to remove past address information from the public record, the FCC in late March proposed making only an amateur's current address publicly accessible. The reason, the Commission explained, is to address privacy concerns cited by amateurs who originally used their home addresses for their licenses but then changed them to a post office box or a business address. Continuing to have the home address in the public record, the FCC said, does nothing to help protect these amateurs' privacy.

Comments are due by June 16, with reply comments due a month later.

Congress Pressures FCC on Proposed Field Office Closures

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which provides Congressional oversight of the FCC, is not happy with the Commission's plan to close two-thirds of its field offices and eliminate the positions of nearly half its staff of field agents. 

The ARRL Letter reported that the committee asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to provide all documents related to the planned reorganization of the Enforcement Bureau, which the FCC says will be streamlined with the addition of "Tiger Team" strike forces to deal with issues in specific areas. 

However, Newsline reported that the Commission turned over only one memo and PowerPoint presentation, and that members of the committee's Communications and Technology subcommittee - chaired by Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, W7EQI - were not satisfied and would be pushing for more answers.

Emergency Conference Cancelled

The 2015 Global Amateur Radio Emergency Conference (GAREC) has been cancelled due to insufficient registrations. The conference had been scheduled for this month in Tampere, Finland, where the first GAREC was held 10 years ago. For more information, see the "CQ World Wide" column in the June issue of CQ.

AMSAT May Have "Rideshare" to Geostationary Orbit

The AMSAT News Service reports that AMSAT-NA has accepted an opportunity for sharing a ride to geostationary orbit as a "hosted payload" aboard a private launch scheduled for 2017. The satellite would be built by Virginia Tech, with funding to be secured by the school as well. A satellite in geostationary orbit would appear to be in the same spot overhead at all times, thus providing constant access to all stations within its "footprint."

Party Balloon Carries Ham Transmitter Around the World

Map of the course followed by the PS-41 foil balloon on its round-the-world
flight in April (map from website)
A foil balloon carrying an amateur radio payload has successfully circumnavigated the globe. The ARRL Letter reports that PS-41 (standing for PicoSpace balloon #41) was launched by Andy Nguyen, VK3YT, in Australia, on April 6 and crossed its starting point on April 16 before splashing down in the South Pacific off South America on April 22. The solar-powered balloon carried an HF payload, transmitting WPSR spots and JT9 telemetry at 25 mW on 30 and 20 meters. It was tracked by a network of hams monitoring both bands. Nguyen had been trying for more than a year to get one of his ham radio balloons to fly all the way around the world.

New Ham Band Intruders Around the World Reported


The International Amateur Radio Union's Monitoring Service is reporting several new intrusions into the HF ham bands. According to Newsline, the non-amateur stations include Russian channel markers on 80 meters; Radio Eritrea, the Voice of Iran and Radio Hargaysa in Somalia, all on 40 meters; and Australian over-the-horizon radar on 15 meters.

L-Band Uplink Added to Fox-1C/-1D Design: Fox-1E to Carry Linear Transponder

Fox-1 engineering prototype
(from AMSAT-NA website)
AMSAT has announced plans to include L-Band (1.2 GHz) uplink capability in its upcoming Fox-1C and Fox-1D satellites. But there won't be a complete L-band receiver on board the spacecraft. Instead, the AMSAT News Service reports, the plan is to design a frequency converter that will receive uplinked signals on 1.2 GHz, down-convert them to 435 MHz and feed them to the satellite's regular UHF receiver. Downlink will be a single FM channel on 2 meters, regardless of the uplink band. A team of volunteers is working on designing an affordable Mode L uplink station to convert 70-centimeter FM signals to 1.2 GHz.

Fox-1E is now slated to carry a Mode J (2 meters up, 70 cm down) linear transponder into orbit, with a 30 kHz bandwidth and a beacon sending telemetry in BPSK. The goal is to test a design for including linear transponders in future cubesats, most of which are currently limited to single-channel FM receivers and transmitters. AMSAT says there is a chance that Fox-1E will have a launch opportunity next year, but could not disclose details.

Bendable Batteries?

Imagine a battery that can be bent and that recharges in less than a minute. Newsline reports that scientists have developed a prototype which is packaged in a soft pouch, contains aluminum for one electrode and graphite foam for the other, surrounded by a special liquid salt. They say it recharges in less than a minute and is safer than current Lithium-ion batteries. The new technology is described in an article in the journal Nature, and may be downloaded from <>. Additional details are available from <>

ARRL Receives Award from NPTSC

The ARRL has been named as the latest recipient of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council's Heinrich Hertz Award. According to the ARRL Letter, the award is in recognition of the League's "exceptional devotion to the activities of NPTSC and unwavering support of the public safety community." 

ARRL is a member of NPTSC. The award was presented at the council's May 6 meeting by council Chairman Ralph Haller, N4RH, whom some may remember as a former Chief of the FCC's Private Radio Bureau - which regulated amateur radio at the time - in the 1990s. Haller noted that the Hertz award is not presented annually, but presented only "when exceptional performance warrants it."

Green Auroras Detected on Mars

The MAVEN Mars probe has detected widespread green
auroras on Mars (even though this NASA artist's
conception shows them as violet). (NASA image)

Mars is commonly seen from Earth as reddish in color, but NASA says the planet routinely has green auroras. Evidence of auroras on Mars was first detected 10 years ago by the European Space Agency's Mars Express probe, but NASA Science News says the currently-orbiting MAVEN Mars probe has discovered that they are widespread and wide-ranging. 

Mars does not have a magnetic field surrounding the whole planet as Earth does, but rather sporadic "magnetic umbrellas" that are remnants of an ancient global field, and they are regularly "lit up" by particles from the sun. But according to researchers at the University of Colorado, which operates MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument, these umbrellas are mostly found in Mars's southern hemisphere and there is now evidence of widespread auroras in the northern hemisphere as well. 

"The (solar) particles seem to precipitate into the atmosphere anywhere they want," says IUVS lead scientist Nick Schneider. "Magnetic fields in the solar wind drape across Mars … and the charged particles just follow those field lines down into the atmosphere."

CQ Announces 2015 Hall of Fame Inductees

 (Dayton, OH - May 15, 2015) -- CQ magazine today announced its 2015 Hall of Fame inductees, adding two members each to the CQ DX and Contest Halls of Fame, as well as nine new members of the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame.

            The CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame honors those individuals, whether licensed hams or not, who have made significant contributions to amateur radio; and those amateurs who have made significant contributions either to amateur radio, to their professional careers or to some other aspect of life on our planet. The 2015 inductees (listed alphabetically) are:

Tim Allen, KK6OTD - Actor and star of the ABC comedy, "Last Man Standing," on which his character is also a ham, Mike Baxter, KA0XTT.

Charles Apgar, ex-2MN (SK) - uncovered German spy transmissions from Telefunken shore station WSL in New York during WWI.

Dan Benishek, KB8TOW - Member of Congress from Michigan. Medical doctor and advocate for veterans.

Olof Lundberg, G0CKV - Leader of the communications satellite industry for a quarter-century. Founding Director General of Inmarsat; founder, CEO and Chairman of ICO Global Communications and CEO of Globalstar, Inc.

Bre Pettis, W2BRE - 3D printing pioneer and founder of MakerBot.

Alvino Rey, W6UK (SK) - A leading musician of the swing era, Rey is considered the father of the electric guitar and inventor of the talk box, pickups and other electronic musical devices. He combined his love for music with his love of radio to transform the music world.

Bob Twiggs, KE6QMD - Co-inventor of the cubesat design standard.

Greg Walden, W7EQI - Member of Congress from Oregon. Chairman of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, YD2JKW - President of Indonesia.

CQ DX and Contest and DX Halls of Fame

The CQ DX and Contest Halls of Fame honor those amateurs who not only excel in personal performance in these major areas of amateur radio but who also "give back" to the hobby in outstanding ways.

The 2015 inductees to the CQ DX Hall of Fame are:

Yasuo "Zorro" Miyazawa, JH1AJT - is a DXer, DXpeditioner, educator and philanthropist. Zorro is the founder and CEO of the Seisa Group, which runs schools in several countries; and founder/CEO of the Foundation for Global Children, which provides medical and educational support for children in Japan, Bhutan, Myanmar, Cambodia and Bangladesh. Zorro has also helped promote or re-introduce amateur radio to many of these places, and has donated money and/or equipment to help amateurs in rare locations get or stay on the air.

Michael Wells, G7VJR - is founder of Club Log, an online DXpedition log-hosting tool that has changed the face of DXpedition operating by, among other things, allowing operators to upload their logs while still on the air and permit hams around the world to know if they are "in the log" on a given band or mode. Michael is a DXpeditioner himself, having been part of a half-dozen major operations and having operated from 25 different DX entities over the past 10 years.

The 2015 inductees to the CQ Contest Hall of Fame are:

Doug Grant, K1DG - is not only a world-class contester, but has not hesitated to share his knowledge and skills with others. He has built or helped to build several championship contest stations, is a founding member of the Yankee Clipper Contest Club, a founding director of the World Wide Radio Operators Foundation, is a regular instructor at Contest University and has run the Contest Forum at the Dayton Hamvention® for the past 20 years. In addition, Doug has competed in five World Radiosport Team Championships (WRTCs), and has medaled three times.

Ward Silver, N0AX - has been a contester for over four decades and has operated from some of the world's top contest stations, spanning four continents. A founder of the World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) competitions in 1990, Ward is currently Secretary of the WRTC Sanctioning Committee. He is also president of the YASME Foundation, which supports DXpeditions and contest operations around the world, QST contesting editor and author of Ham Radio for Dummies and Circuitbuilding Do-It-Yourself for Dummies.

Formal inductions to the CQ Contest and DX Halls of Fame were held at the Dayton Hamvention.® More detailed descriptions of inductees will appear in the official announcement in the July 2015 issue of CQ magazine.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hopeful Signs for RadioShack

A New Jersey RadioShack gets outfitted with new Sprint
logos, showing the new partnership between General
Wireless and Sprint.

Electronics hobbyists may still be able to buy components and similar products at remaining RadioShack stores. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year and has closed or is closing more than 2200 stores nationwide. However, 1743 of its locations have been purchased by General Wireless, Inc., which will continue to operate them under the RadioShack name (just over 1400 of those stores will be co-leased by Sprint and will be renamed as Sprint-RadioShack). In a news release announcing the purchase, General Wireless hinted that hobbyists - long a major part of RadioShack's customer base - will not be forgotten. "The stores will feature emerging technologies," the statement said, "that enhance the traditional accessories, DIY electronics and innovation for which the company is known." (See this month's "Kit-Building" column for the opportunities presented by going-out-of-business sales at those RadioShack stores slated for closing.)

FCC Cutting Back Support for Amateur Radio

The April 3 retirement of Bill Cross, W3TN, from the FCC marked the end of a long era at the Commission. Cross, who was technically a "program analyst" in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, was for more than a decade the FCC's go-to person on all matters dealing with amateur radio. He was also the primary author of all Notices of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM)s and FCC Reports and Orders relating to Part 97 proceedings. 
But Cross told the ARRL Letter that there were no plans to replace him with another "Ham Guy," as he said most FCC staffers referred to him. "The plan is to divide up my work among other staff members, based on topic," he told the Letter.

Cross also said he would not be surprised if, in the future, the number of ham radio license classes was further reduced from its current three (Technician, General and Extra) to two or even one, noting that the differences between the privileges granted by each class "really are not that much." (See this month's "Zero Bias" editorial for more on this general topic.)

Ten-Tec, Alpha, Have New Owner

The Alpha Amplifier and Ten-Tec brands have been sold by RF Concepts to RKR Designs of Longmont, Colorado. RKR was formed specifically for the purchase. Its principals are Richard Gall, Ken Long (N0QO) and Rich Danielson (the R, K & R of RKR). 

Gall and Danielson have run QSC Systems, a contract manufacturer, in Longmont for over 20 years, and have been building Alpha amps for RF Concepts for the past five years, as well as boards for Ten-Tec since the company's purchase last year by RF Concepts. Long has been involved in the amateur radio and electronics industry for two decades, and will be President and CEO of the new company, according to a news release. RKR says it plans to expand Ten-Tec's and Alpha's offerings while continuing to service existing customers.

NCDXF: $50K Grant to Heard Is. DXpedition

The Northern California DX Foundation has announced a grant of $50,000 to help fund a planned DXpedition to Heard Island in the southern Indian Ocean. The VK0EK expedition is scheduled for November. The NCDXF noted that Heard Island had risen to the #5 most-wanted spot after the recent DXpedition to Navassa Island.
This follows another $50,000 NCDXF grant reported last month in support of a planned DXpedition to South Sandwich and South Georgia islands, and according to Newsline, brings to $175,000 the foundation's total grants in the past year. (For more on the costs of large-scale DXpeditions and the need for funding ahead of time, see May CQ's cover story on Navassa.)

ARRL: No Need to Relocate Ham Band for Vehicular Radar

The ARRL has told the FCC there is no need to modify the current amateur radio allocation at 77-81 GHz in order to accommodate expanded spectrum space for vehicular radar, and notes that neither the original petitioner nor any of the commenters have made such a request. In comments on an FCC proposal to expand the vehicular radar allocation from its current 76-77 GHz to include 78-81 GHz, the ARRL says it has worked closely with petitioner Robert Bosch, LLC, and that both groups are satisfied that vehicular radar and amateur radio can "play nicely together" on the band, according to an ARRL bulletin.
Acknowledging the possibility that the Commission may choose to reallocate the 4-millimeter ham band despite its protests, the ARRL requested the assignment of "equivalent spectrum" at 75.5-76 GHz and 81-81.5 GHz. The current amateur allocation at 4 mm is 77-81 GHz, with primary status in the 77.5-78-GHz segment.

WWV Keeps On Keepin' On at 25 MHz

The home of WWV in Colorado. (NIST photo)
An "experimental" reactivation of WWV's time and standard frequency transmissions on 25 MHz is continuing after a year, according to the ARRL Letter, with no plans as of now to discontinue the broadcasts. WWV had shut down its 25-MHz transmitter in 1977 but reactivated it a year ago in response to an e-mail lamenting its loss from Dean Lewis, W9WGV. The 1-kW signal provides not only exact time and frequency, but helps serve as an indication of propagation conditions on 12 and 10 meters. WWV welcomes signal reports and listener comments.

Updates, Growth for Broadband Hamnet

One of the ways in which ham radio can help fill in gaps in internet service when normal infrastructure is knocked out is via ad-hoc self-organizing RF computer networks, now referred to as Broadband Hamnet. Flying mostly under the radar so far, the technology now seems poised for a significant boost in usability, according to several reports on both Newsline and the ARRL Letter.
In March, the developers of Broadband Hamnet announced a firmware upgrade for users of both Linksys WRT54G and Ubiquiti wireless routers, and a group calling itself the AREDN Project introduced new software for what it calls the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network, or AREDN. According to Newsline, AREDN is being described as a new way by which hams providing emergency communications can support needs for high-speed data transmission. The AREDN software works with the mesh networks created using Broadband Hamnet and allows the interconnection of laptops, cell phones and other wireless devices. The networks may (or may not) also connect to the Internet. More information on AREDN is available from <>.

A typical Broadband Hamnet mesh network.
Meanwhile, the ARRL Letter reports that a group of hams in Utah successfully deployed a Broadband Hamnet mesh network in support of a Boy Scouts "Scouting for Food" project in March. The group set up a network of 13 nodes across the Salt Lake Valley, linking back to the local scout headquarters and transmitting live video and audio from each of the food drop-off points and the truck dispatch location. Described by one of the participants as "Wi-Fi on steroids," the 2.4-GHz network covered distances of more than eight miles from the central hub site.

Space Station Scatter?

Can the International Space Station be used to bounce
signals for intercontinental contacts on 2 meters? A ham
in Namibia and another in Brazil are planning to find out!
(NASA photo)
Two hams on two continents are planning to try to make contact on 2 meters by bouncing signals off the International Space Station as it passes over the South Atlantic Ocean.

 The South African Radio League reports that Namibian ham Pieter Jacobs, V51PJ, and Brazilian amateur Marcos Turbo, PY1MHZ, are planning to conduct scatter tests from the ISS on 144 MHz. 

The overall path length has been calculated as 5000 kilometers (approximately 3100 miles), with each station's signal needing to travel 2500 km (1550 miles) before bouncing off the space station. We'll do our best to keep you posted on their progress.

FCC Proposes Broadband CB Service

The Citizens Broadband Radio Service is the name bestowed by the FCC on a proposed new broadband wireless service that would be open to all, with very few restrictions on the types of applications permitted in the band. According to, the FCC proposed the new service in a March 27 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and planned to put it to a vote on April 17. The new service would initially operate between 3.550 and 3.650 GHz, with room for possible expansion to 3.700 GHz. Individual licensing would not be required and incumbent users would be protected from harmful interference.
According to eweek, the concept behind the new service is "to support activities including small cell deployments, fixed wireless broadband services and something the FCC calls general consumer use."  Apparently, the flexible structure of the plan is designed to promote experimentation by individuals as well as use by small and large wireless service providers.

The proposed new band begins just 50 MHz above the top end of the 9-centimeter ham band, so it's possible that a new market for consumer-grade equipment designed to operate at 3550 MHz could also help make more affordable equipment available for amateur use at 3300-3500 MHz. (Tnx K8RKD)

New Privileges for Hams in South Africa and UK

New rules published by South Africa's telecommunications regulators now allow amateurs there to use up to 1000 watts of output power on most bands (with Class B licensees getting a boost to 100 watts), along with an expansion of the 160-meter band all the way to 2 MHz. This, according to the South African Radio League.
A few thousand miles to the north, full-license hams in parts of the United Kingdom and its "Crown Dependencies" will soon be gaining data privileges on the 4-meter band, from 70.5 to 71.5 MHz. This band has long been available to amateurs in many European countries, but not those in the Americas, where 70 MHz was used for commercial television broadcasting. According to Newsline, hams in most of the UK (excluding Scotland) will be able to apply for "Notices of Variation" to permit operation on 4 meters. The allocation is not permanent and is subject to reassignment on 12 months' notice.

ATV Pioneer Don Miller, W9NTP, SK

Don Miller, W9NTP, built the slow-
scan TV station used on board the
Mir space station in the 1990s.
(NASA photo)

One of the fathers of slow-scan television has become a Silent Key. Don Miller, W9NTP, died on March 22 at age 91. According to the ARRL Letter, Miller worked closely with Cop MacDonald, VY2CM, in developing SSTV. Miller also founded Wyman Research, Inc., which built SSTV/ATV equipment for hams, including the SSTV station used aboard the Russian Mir space station. Miller wrote about SSTV on Mir in CQ VHF back in the 1990s.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bencher Product Line Sold to Vibroplex

The Bencher BY paddle series is
part of the comapny's complete
amateur radio product line that has
been sold to Vibroplex.
(Photo from Bencher website)
Bencher, Inc. of Antioch, Illinois, has announced the sale of the Bencher Amateur Radio product lines to Vibroplex, LLC of Knoxville, Tennessee. This sale ends Bencher’s presence in the amateur radio field.

The product lines sold include the Bencher BY series of Iambic Paddles (the world’s best selling iambic paddle, with over 150,000 sold), as well as the ST series of single lever paddles, the Bencher Hex Paddle, the N2DAN Mercury Paddle, and the Bencher RJ series Hand Keys. Also included in the sale are the HK-1 Universal Hook-up kit and the YA-1 Low Pass Filter.

Vibroplex has agreed to honor the manufacturer’s warranties of all covered products, and to offer parts and support for these products as well. Vibroplex will continue to offer the Bencher products through existing marketing channels.Vibroplex may be contacted at, or at (865) 309-5073.

K3LR, W5KUB, G3RJV, Orlando ARC, Receive Dayton Honors

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association has announced the winners of its 2015 Hamvention Awards.

Noted contester Tim Duffy, K3LR, has been named Radio Amateur of the Year in recognition of his work as founder of Contest University, as well as moderating the Dayton antenna forum every year since 1984.

This year's Special Achievement Award goes to Tom Medlin, W5KUB, in recognition of his 14 years of providing live streaming video on the Internet of various amateur radio events and activities, including the Dayton Hamvention.

The 2015 Technical Excellence Award winner is the Rev. George Dobbs, G3RJV. Dobbs is a leading authority on low-power ham radio operating, founder of the G-QRP Club, longtime editor of its journal, SPRAT, and QRP columnist for multiple British radio magazines.

Finally, the Orlando Amateur Radio Club was named as Club of the Year, in recognition of its wide variety of activities, including sponsorship of the annual Orlando Hamcation hamfest.

All award winners will be honored at this year's Dayton Hamvention, May 15-17, in Dayon, Ohio.

U.S. Ham Licensing Numbers at All-Time High

The ARRL-VEC reports that the ham radio population in the United States hit an all-time high of 726,725 as of the end of 2014, and has continued growing to more than 727,000 in the first two months of 2015. According to the ARRL Letter, ARRL-VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said the number of licensed amateurs in the United States has grown by more than 8 percent in the past decade. In addition, she said, there were 33,000 new licensees in 2014, an increase of 15% over 2013. Plus, Somma added, the ARRL-VEC conducted a record 7216 license exam sessions last year, crossing the 7000 threshold for the first time.

HR 1301 New Bill Number for Amateur Radio Parity Act

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is the
prime sponsor of HR 1301, which
would extend FCC limit on amateur
antenna installations to include
private land use agreements.
(U.S. Congress photo)
A bill to require the FCC to extend the “reasonable accommodation” requirements of its rules regarding amateur radio antennas and support structures to private land use contracts has been re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 1301, the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015, is identical to a previous bill that died at the end of the last Congressional session.

Introduced by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) with bi-partisan support from a dozen co-sponsors, the bill would include homeowner association rules and deed restrictions (commonly known as CC&Rs) under the protections currently granted to amateurs from overly-restrictive state and local zoning laws and ordinances. Those protections include requirements that any restrictions on amateur antennas and support structures must “reasonably accommodate” amateur operation and must represent the “minimum practicable” restrictions to accomplish the regulatory authority’s legitimate purposes.

The ARRL encourages all amateurs to urge their representatives in Congress to support and/or co-sponsor the new bill.

“Totally Remote” Multi-Op Contesting

A team of contesters believes it may have broken new ground with a remote multi-op effort in February’s ARRL DX Contest CW weekend. A half-dozen different hams operated contest station K4VV in northern Virginia (using the call sign K3TN) from several different locations scattered from Maryland to Florida. According to the ARRL Letter, members of the group each activated the contest station from their homes in Virginia and North Carolina, while one started the competition from his home in Maryland and finished the weekend at his condo in Florida. It was pointed out that, due to a snowstorm, the K4VV station was inaccessible during the contest weekend.

ARRL Seeks Input on HF Band Plan Changes

The ARRL is looking for member comments on a variety of proposals aimed at limiting the frequencies on which wideband digital modes are permitted and expanding the HF operating privileges available to Novices and Technicians. Some of the proposed changes would affect only the voluntary band plans that informally structure the HF amateur allocations. Others – such as expanding the CW/data/RTTY subband on 80 meters or granting RTTY/data privileges to Techs and Novices on 80 and 15 meters – would involve petitioning the FCC for rule changes. Details of the proposed changes and a form for submitting comments may be found on the ARRL website at < >. Member comments are due by April 19.

Proposal to Cut FCC Enforcement Resources

The ARRL reports that it has obtained an internal FCC memo in which the Enforcement Bureau lays out plans to ask the full Commission to close two-thirds of its field offices and to cut in half the current number of field agents. In their place, the bureau is proposing the formation of flexible “Tiger Team” strike forces that could be deployed as needed to deal with enforcement issues.

ARRL CEO Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, was troubled by the plan, noting that enforcement already appears to be a low priority at the FCC and that reducing its “geographic footprint and number of field agents” is the wrong path to follow.

RadioShack Makes Deal to Sell More Than Half its Stores

Working under the reorganization rules of Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws, RadioShack reportedly has reached an agreement with General Wireless, Inc. to purchase as many as 2400 its 4000+ company-owned stores. Many others will be closed. 

According to the ARRL Letter, General Wireless – which is affiliated with RadioShack creditor Standard General – has reached an agreement in principle with to open “store within a store” Sprint wireless retail locations in up to 1750 of its newly acquired RadioShack stores.

There is no indication of whether these stores would continue to operate under the RadioShack name or if they would continue to sell electronic components and other products favored by hobbyists.

ARRL to MITRE: Don’t Mess With HF Ham Bands

MITRE Corporation headquarters
The MITRE Corporation has an FCC experimental license to test wideband communication techniques on a variety of HF frequencies between 2.5 and 16 MHz. 

The ARRL Letter reports that ARRL Chief Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, has sent the company a letter asking that it either structure its tests to avoid HF amateur bands or, at minimum, to provide advance notice of times and frequencies of planned transmissions. 

The ARRL’s concern, according to the Letter, is that “with the operating parameters proposed, it will be impossible to conduct your tests … within the Amateur Radio allocations and … avoid harmful interference.” A further concern is that due to the nature of the transmissions, “amateur licensees will have no way to determine the source of the interference or know to whom they might complain.” At press time, there had been no response from MITRE.

German Hams Become Shortwave Broadcasters

A group of hams in Germany has received a license to operate a shortwave broadcast station on the 49-meter band frequency abandoned two years ago by that country’s premier international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle. “Channel 292” is now broadcasting around ten hours a day, generally from about 0700-1700 UTC, on 6070 kHz, using a 10-kilowatt transmitter built partially from parts of the old 500-kW Deutsche Welle transmitter and a dipole antenna. The station’s signal covers much of western Europe, but has also been heard in Russia and North America, according to the ARRL Letter.

Privately owned by a group of German hams, the station has a business relationship with Germany’s national ham radio organization, the Deutscher Amateur Radio Club, and is also known as DARC Radio. The DARC produces a weekly ham-oriented magazine show in German. The ARRL Letter reports that the Radio Society of Great Britain has expressed interest in contributing English-language segments.

Other programming on the station is leased, with programs airing in a variety of languages. Reception reports will be QSLed via the DARC outgoing QSL bureau. For more information, visit

Space and Satellite Roundup

A series of spacewalks in late
February caused delays in a scheduled
ARISS contact and space station
SSTV transmissions. (NASA photo)
Imagine having your “sked” delayed by a spacewalk! That’s exactly what happened to a school group in Florida that was scheduled to have an Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact on February 25. A series of spacewalks in late February to prepare the station to dock with commercial U.S. rockets also resulted in a cutback of planned slow-scan TV transmissions from the station. According to the ARRL Letter, all ham transmissions are suspended for during spacewalks for crew safety.

Speaking of ARISS, the program is now accepting applications for school contacts in the first half of 2016, with a focus on educational organizations with the potential to draw large numbers of participants and integrate the contact into a well-developed educational plan. The application deadline is April 15.

AMSAT-NA’s Fox-1A satellite is ready for launch, having passed its Mission Readiness Review in late February. Integration with the launch vehicle was scheduled for March 25, with
a tentative launch from California in late August of this year.

The European Space Agency is offering a ride to deep space for as many as six small cubesats and is hosting a competition to select those projects that will be accepted. The AMSAT News Service says the small satellites will be launched in 2020 along with Asteroid Impact Mission. The judges are looking for projects that will “produce meaningful scientific return” from deep space.

Finally, NASA is making available a collection of soundbites from space that are suitable for use as ringtones. Among the available files, according to the ARRL Letter, is one of the Juno spacecraft sending “HI” in Morse code during a flyby of Earth in 2013.

NCDXF Grants $50k to DXpedition Group

The Intrepid-DX Group is the recipient of a $50,000 donation from the Northern California DX Foundation (NCDXF), in support of its planned DXpedition early next year to South Sandwich Island (VP8S) and South Georgia Island (VP8G) .

The group anticipates that the 10-day visit to the two islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean will cost more than $400,000. They are British overseas territories and very high on most DXers’ most-wanted lists.

U.S. to Propose More Sharing of 10 GHz at WRC-15

The U.S. government is working on its proposals and positions for this year’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15). Among them is a proposal to add 600 MHz to the spectrum currently available to the Earth Exploration Satellite Service (EESS) in the vicinity of 10 GHz, also known as “X-band.” Amateur radio currently has a secondary allocation from 10.0-10.5 GHz, with a specified segment for the Amateur Satellite Service between 10.45 and 10.5 GHz. The ARRL Letter says the proposal would consider amateur satellites already in service at the time of the change to have co-equal status with the scientific satellites, but that any launched after that time would have secondary status. The ARRL has been involved in the discussions and is monitoring them closely.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nominating Period Open for 2015 Newsline Young Ham of the Year Award

Amateur Radio Newsline is seeking nominations for its 2015 Young Ham of the Year Award. CQ is a long-time corporate co-sponsor of the award.
 For consideration, a nominee must have used amateur radio in some way that has benefited his or her community or encouraged technological development directly or indirectly related to communications.

Nominees must be 19 years of age or younger, and reside in the United States including Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, and Puerto Rico or any of the Canadian provinces.. The individual must also hold a currently valid United States or Canadian amateur radio license.

This award is not a contest. The person selected as "Young Ham of the Year" is judged on his or her overall accomplishments and contributions. Any prizes awarded are secondary in nature.

For example, a youngster whose only claim to fame is that of being licensed as an extra at age 5 would not necessarily be judged as having made a significant contribution to the Amateur Radio Service. On the other hand, a 14 or 15 year-old Technician running a Net during a major disaster or whose experimentation has advanced the state of the art in science, technology or electronic communications would definitely be given consideration.

The deadline for submitting an application is May 30th 2015 and the decision of the judging committee is final. To obtain an application, send a self addressed, stamped envelope to:
2015 Young Ham of the Year Award 
c/o Amateur Radio Newsline
28197 Robin Ave. 
Santa Clarita, CA 91350. 
You may also download a form in Microsoft Word format by going to and clicking on the word "here". Basic instructions on what documentation is required and how to file are included on the nominating form.

Presentation of the 2015 Amateur Radio Newsline Young Ham of the Year Award will take place the weekend of August 15 ­ 16 at the Huntsville Hamfest in Huntsville, Alabama.

(Tnx ARNewsline)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bye-Bye Paper Ham License

Waiting to receive your ham license in the mail is now a thing of the past, unless you have specifically requested it. As of February 17, the FCC stopped routinely issuing paper license documents to amateur licensees, noting that inclusion in the Commission's online database has for several years been the official record of a ham's authorization to operate. 

Licensees may print out official copies - as well as unofficial "reference copies" - of their licenses via the FCC's Universal Licensing System (ULS) database, or may request the issuance of a paper document. 

According to the ARRL Letter, the ARRL had asked that new licensees continue to receive paper licenses, along with instructions on how to set up their ULS accounts for future license renewals and upgrades. But the FCC declined, saying applicants or licensees who include e-mail addresses with their applications will receive an official electronic authorization via e-mail. The Commission says the change will save it over $300,000 a year.