A Communicator Reprise: November 2012
Our VHF and UHF bands are subdivided into sub-bands while the ones used for FM and digital communications are channelized. Certain sub-bands are allocated to channelized repeaters and simplex communications, resulting in a fixed number of channels in each band. This limits the number of repeaters and simplex channels available for use, but on the other hand, with coverage being generally limited to line-of-sight distance, these channels can be reused many times across the Province.
Early in the development of VHF repeaters it became evident that some form of organization needs to ensure that repeaters do not interfere with each other while the use of the available spectrum is optimized so that the greatest number of repeaters can be accommodated in the limited space available. The result was the emergence of Frequency Coordination Councils, groups of amateurs who volunteer and take it upon themselves to manage the repeater portion of the band, coordinating frequencies so as to prevent interference. Frequency Coordination is the process of choosing and recommending one or more specific frequencies for a system that will operate on fixed frequencies, such as a voice repeater, an ATV repeater, a packet system, a remote base or link, etc.
In BC, the British Columbia Amateur Radio Coordination Council (BCARCC) was incorporated in January 1995 and is the current coordinator of VHF and UHF frequencies. It has taken its band plan from the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) band plan and modified it to dovetail with one adopted by the Western Washington coordinators. Repeater operators and clubs who sponsor repeaters work with the Council to find and establish frequencies for their repeaters. The complete list of BC repeaters can be found at their website, www.bcarcc.org.
Coordination councils in Canada have no power of enforcement: they depend on the respect and cooperation of those they serve. Over the years, BCARCC has gained the credibility and respect of virtually all Hams and has worked with all repeater operators. Amateurs cooperate with BCARCC because this approach to the use of these bands for fixed frequency installations has proven to be a workable and effective method, for everyone's benefit.
In November 1996, BCARCC and Pacific Region of Industry Canada (IC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish the advisory role of BCARCC versus the legislative and regulatory role of IC. Under the MOU, IC refers all applications for repeaters to BCARCC for coordination, and no longer lists specific frequencies on Amateur licenses (reflecting the fact that no Amateur is licensed to have exclusive use of a frequency).
Coordination requires cooperation: Although our Amateur sub-bands are a finite resource, they can support a large amount of fixed-frequency activity if shared in a harmonious and cooperative manner. Abuse can destroy the resource for everyone. BCARCC provides the resources to manage our spectrum. BCARCC has other responsibilities besides frequency coordination. For example, it is involved in mediating interference issues, band planning, working on approaches to solving technical problems, and communication and cooperation with neighbouring coordination councils as well as working with other local and national organizations.
BCARCC’s success over the long term has, in part, been the result of policies that differ significantly from those of other coordination councils:
- Unlike other councils whose members are repeater operators, BCARCC’s members are Ham clubs. This ensures that policies are developed to benefit the Ham community, not only the interests of repeater operators.
- Coordinations are completed based strictly on technical factors: can the repeater provide the coverage on the specified frequency without causing harm to other systems? The purpose of the repeater, the number of Hams it will serve or the identity of the operator (as long as he/she has an Advanced License) have no bearing on the coordination.
- The BCARCC executive and its Board of Directors determine policy and provide direction. Coordinators are appointed for their technical competence and work independently, based on these policies. Policies are documented at www.bcarcc.org/policies
- BCARCC has area coordinators in various regions of our Province. These coordinators provide local knowledge and help those wishing to install repeaters with frequency selection and other technical issues.
- BCARCC considers itself to be an enabler that provides support for the enjoyment of the hobby, not as a regulator and not as a curb on Ham activities.
- BCARCC is fortunate to have the support and continued involvement of retired, professional, communications engineers who ensure that policies are appropriate and who work with repeater operators to resolve technical and interference issues.
More than 450 repeaters are coordinated in BC. These repeaters are also known to coordinators in Washington State as well as Alberta and the Yukon and can therefore be protected from other users of the frequency. Over 150 simplex nodes have been registered. Simplex stations, such as Echolink, IRLP, APRS and point-to-point links are registered, meaning that their presence is published. It is hoped that Hams respect their presence although simplex stations cannot be assured of protection from other users of the frequency.
A complete list of coordinated and registered stations is available at www.bcarcc.org. These lists are in pdf format and can be printed. Feel free to make contact regarding coordination issues.
~George Merchant VE7QH