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Monday, August 31, 2020

The Communicator Magazine September-October 2020


Over 100 Pages Of Projects, News, Views and Reviews... 

Amateur Radio News from the South West corner of Canada and elsewhere. You will find Amateur Radio related articles, profiles, news, tips and how-to's. You can view or download it as a .PDF file from:  


http://bit.ly/SARC20SepOct




As always, thank you to our contributors, and your feedback is always welcome.
The deadline for the next edition is October 21st.


If you have news or events from your BC club or photos, stories, projects or other items of interest from elsewhere, please email them to communicator@ve7sar.net

Keep visiting our site for regular updates and news: https://ve7sar.blogspot.ca    

73,

John VE7TI
'The Communicator' Editor







Friday, August 28, 2020

Our COVID Policy



Resuming semi-normal activities


We have developed the attached COVID policy in preparation for our resumption of meetings, classes and activities.


Members, students and guests are expected to adhere to these guidelines when attending our events.

~


Sunday, August 23, 2020

LADD and RR Frequencies


The SARC Communicator [Excerpt]

Back to Basics – Sept/Oct 2020

From The Canadian Amateur Radio Basic Question Bank

There has been a great deal of discussion, confusion, and misinformation surrounding the legality of the off-road community using so-called LADD and RR frequencies while travelling the backcountry. Many of our SARC Basic class students take the course to become certified and are under the impression that having an amateur radio operator certificate gives them legal access to LADD and RR frequencies with amateur equipment. To shed some light on this oft discussed subject, and perhaps avoid forfeiture of equipment or a fine, this Communicator’s Back to Basics column offers an explanation.

The focus in this issue has two questions that apply. One has to do with the equipment, the other with the licencing or certification requirement:

Question B-001-006-006  
Some VHF and UHF FM radios purchased for use in the amateur service can also be programmed  to communicate on frequencies used for land mobile service. Under what conditions is this permissible? 

A. The equipment has an RF output of 2 watts or less 
B. The equipment is used in remote areas north of 60 degrees latitude 
C. The radio is certified under the proper Radio Standards Specification for use in Canada and is licenced by Industry Canada on the specified frequencies 
D. The radio operator has Restricted Operator’s Certificate 

And the second question:

B-001-006-005  
Which of the following statements is NOT correct? A person may operate radio apparatus, authorized in the amateur service: 

A. only where the person complies with the Standards for the Operation of Radio Stations in the Amateur Radio Service 
B. only where the apparatus is maintained within the performance standards set by Industry Canada regulations and policies 
C. except for the amplification of the output power of licence-exempt radio apparatus outside authorized amateur radio service allocations 
D. on aeronautical, marine or land mobile frequencies

I will be quoting frequently from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada regulations and policies and will refer to them hereafter as ‘ISED’.   

First some definitions… 

Amateur Radio Service


Amateur radio service means a radiocommunication service in which radio apparatus are used for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication or technical investigation by individuals who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary [monetary] interest.

An Applicable Basic Amateur Radio Certificate Restriction

According to Radio Information Circular (RIC) 3

4.4.1 Basic Qualification

The following privileges and restrictions are applicable to the Basic Qualification:

  • re-programming of radio equipment to operate in the Amateur Bands if this can be done by a computer program

    Note: No physical modifications to the circuitry of the radio are permitted.

Land Mobile Service


Radiocommunications Regulations state:

Land mobile service means a radiocommunication service that provides for communications between mobile stations and

(a) fixed stations,
(b) space stations, or
(c) other mobile stations

Mobile Station 


A Mobile Station is also defined on the ISED website as: “a radio station intended to be used while in motion and during stops.”

Commercial Licence Radiocommunication Services and Stations



Per the Canada Radiocommunications Regulations:

s.3 It is a term of a radio licence that the holder of the licence may

(a) install, operate or possess radio apparatus to perform any of the following services, as authorized by the radio licence, namely,

(i)  aeronautical service,
(ii) amateur radio service,
(iii) public information service,
(iv) developmental service,
(v) fixed service,
(vi) intersatellite service,
(vii) land mobile service,
(viii) maritime service, and
(ix) radiodetermination service; and

(b) install, operate, or possess radio apparatus at a fixed station, mobile station or space station as authorized by the radio licence.


Mobile Stations s.60 (4)


The radio licence fee payable in respect of radio apparatus installed in a mobile station that operates in the land mobile service is the applicable fee set out in item 5 of Part I of Schedule III for all authorized transmit and receive frequencies.

s.63  The fee, for the applicable metropolitan or other area, set out in Part IV of Schedule III for each assigned transmit or receive frequency (Sections 56 and 60) Fee Schedule Applicable for a Mobile Station in any Service other than the Amateur Radio Service

  • Mobile station in the land mobile service – monthly $3.40 - annually  $41.00


Licences, Certificates and Callsigns


The Amateur Radio Service requires the operator to hold an amateur radio operator's certificate. Traditionally, amateur radio operators were issued two separate authorizations: An Amateur Radio Operator Certificate and a radio station licence. The Amateur Radio Operator Certificate was issued for life and had no fee associated with it, while the radio station licence was issued on a yearly basis and a licence renewal fee was charged.

Effective April 1, 2000, ISED combined these documents into one authorization, the Amateur Radio Operator Certificate. This certificate is the sole authorization required to operate amateur radio apparatus in the amateur radio service. (It is no longer called a licence - Amateurs have a certificate to operate)

A callsign is assigned when you receive your amateur certificate. This is required for the purpose of station identification. For a fee, additional callsigns can be requested by contacting the Amateur Radio Service Centre. Your callsign covers all your base, mobile, and portable radios at that location, and allows you to operate within any of the amateur bands (frequency ranges) for your certification class. Fixed stations at separate locations require a separate callsign for station identification.

A radio operator certificate is required only in the aeronautical service, maritime service, and the amateur radio service. (per s.33 of the Radiocommunications Regulations). A radio operator certificate is not required in the Land Mobile Service but each radio requires a separate licence (callsign); this is different than your Amateur certificate. So, if you own a mobile and a portable used on a commercial band, you would require two licences. You pay per radio, not per frequency in the radio, but each frequency in the radio must be listed on that radio's licence.

‘Type-Approved’ Radio Equipment 


Contrary to Amateur Radio, commercial radio is pre-programmed to operate on specific frequencies and cannot be user programmable. So, you cannot actually "attempt" to transmit on an amateur frequency if it does not already exist in the radio. Commercial radio equipment must pass testing to ensure it does not create interference and is compliant with both ITU and Canadian regulations. This is referred to as being “type-approved”. Radio equipment is approved according to the bands and purpose for which it is marketed, and a lower standard exists for amateur equipment than commercial. Unlike Amateur Radio, where we can choose our own frequency to operate (if it is within an Amateur band), commercial radios are not permitted to be frequency-agile. For example, a trucker cannot one day decide to set up a talk channel on a frequency that is not already designated and licenced by ISED for trucking. Commercial radios modified to be programmed by the operator in the field are not type-approved and can not legally be used on commercial frequencies.

A commercial VHF radio’s frequency range will typically be capable of covering all or a portion of the amateur VHF band. The amateur VHF band is 144-148 MHz; you will find commercial radios with ranges of 136-174 MHz, 146-174 MHz, 136-152 MHz, or similar. So amateur frequencies CAN exist in a commercial radio, but they would have to be programmed in and the operator licenced to use them in a specific band.

Surplus and new commercial radios are readily available and may be programmed and used by amateur radio operators within the amateur bands for which YOU are certified. If you are an amateur radio operator and have a licence for your commercial radio, you can have your commercial frequencies and your amateur frequencies in the same commercial VHF radio, but they must be professionally programmed to avoid errors.

VHF and UHF commercial gear is better quality because they have more stringent specifications than amateur radios and have minimal operator controls for ease of use, typically only an on/off and volume control, squelch, and a channel selector. 

One more caveat.  Since 1997 narrow band equipment has been implemented in North America for VHF commercial radio equipment. This means that twice as many channels can be assigned as each channel takes up only half the bandwidth. Channels are now specified narrowband (11 kHz) with a maximum transmitter power of 30 watts, or as otherwise indicated. Amateur radio equipment is not narrow-band and causes interference on narrow-band channels. This is one of the reasons Amateur radio equipment is not permitted on commercial frequencies. If you buy an older commercial radio it may not be narrow band and would no longer be type-approved for certain commercial frequencies.

So, amateur radios cannot be used to transmit on commercial frequencies, in part because they do not necessarily meet the specifications required for use in the commercial (land mobile) radio service, and in part because ISED does not want commercial users to be able to program frequencies on the fly, generally assuming that the commercial users are not radio hobbyists and therefore would not have the knowledge to correctly program a radio.

Lastly, it is not illegal to program an amateur radio to receive outside of the amateur band, or possess such a radio if you have a licence, but it's illegal to use it to transmit outside of the amateur band.  Some amateur radios come from the factory able to transmit outside of the amateur bands, but this is not ISED approved.

LADD Frequencies


In Canada, the LADD (or LAD) VHF channels (Logging ADministration Dispatch) were originally intended for commercial trucking, general communications in forestry & logging, heavy mining, and exploration and petroleum. These are also known in Western Canada as the "Opens". Their use is governed by Industry Canada and require a licence and compliant, type-approved radio equipment. Click here for info about ISED licencing.

Due to the wider availability of low cost amateur VHF FM radios and the decline of CB Radio, recreational users have adopted them for back country communications and, for those who do not have reliable cellular service, especially survivalists and preppers, they are marketed as an essential communication resource. Users of LADD channels require commercial type-approved equipment and require a corresponding licence for the radio – NOT AN AMATEUR RADIO LICENCE (or certificate) to comply with the regulations. Also, in keeping with Spectrum Canada regulations, it is important to note that there are geographic restrictions where LADD channels can be used to prevent interference to adjacent users.  

ISED has approved four LADD channel frequencies for radio licencing. Companies or individuals with only one or two radios no longer have to wait for a letter of permission from an existing radio channel holder in order to licence their radios. Their radio supplier can apply with ISED on their behalf for the use of 154,100Mhz (Ladd-1), 158.940Mhz (Ladd-2), 154.325Mhz (Ladd-3) and 173.370Mhz (Ladd-4) in their ISED approved commercial VHF radios. Larger companies may apply for a commercial (shared) channel frequency if they have many mobile vehicles needing to be dispatched from an office base station.

For legacy compatibility, LADD1-LADD4 channels use normal FM (FM is +/-5 kHz deviation, bandwidth 16 kHz, max bandwidth 20 kHz), while most of the other channels increasingly use Narrow NFM (NBFM is +/-2.5 kHz deviation, bandwidth 11 kHz, max bandwidth 11.25 kHz). Normal FM has slightly longer range than Narrow FM (see the RadioMaster article FM versus NFM for Best Radio Communications). If you are using NFM and reception is loud and distorted, try FM instead.

Resource Roads


Background


Mobile radio communication on resource roads had been historically highly variable across the Province of British Columbia (BC) for a multitude of reasons:

  • Road users were required to know unwritten local protocols
  • Heavy radio traffic caused overlapping calls and interference
  • Radios had to be reprogrammed to local channels with each location change
  • Road signage was inconsistent and unclear

A standard mobile radio communications protocol was developed to standardize and simplify, and thus make travel on resource roads safer.

Refer to the ISED page RR — British Columbia Resource Road Channels

ISED RR channels are specified narrowband (11 kHz) with a maximum transmitter power of 30 watts, or as otherwise indicated. These channels must only be used in locations where it is specifically posted for usage. Improper usage, for example "chit chat", will result in harmful interference to other resource road and loading usages or to other priority radio spectrum users. All channels are designated such that they cause no interference to other users and must accept interference from other priority users.

Mobile Radio Station Licence Application


In the Province of British Columbia, Resource Roads are typically one or two-lane gravel roads built for industrial purposes to access natural resources in remote areas. Over 620,000 kilometers of roads on the British Columbia landbase are considered resource roads.

Two-way radios using these channels require a mobile radio licence. The use of amateur, marine or user programmable radios is not permitted.




The BC Forest and Range Practices Act regulates the use of these roads and radio communications. Outside BC check your applicable legislation. 

FOREST SERVICE ROAD USE REGULATION [current to 2020-07-28]


Use of 2-way radio

s.5 (1) A driver on a forest service road who uses a 2-way radio to communicate with other drivers on the road must announce, in accordance with any road markers posted at intervals along the road,

(a) his or her position, and
(b) the branch of the road being travelled if the radio's signal can be received on more than one adjacent branch of the road.

(2) Subsection (1) applies to a driver only if

(a) the driver uses a radio frequency provided by the holder of a private commercial radio station licence, or other licence under the Radiocommunication Act (Canada) and the regulations under that Act, to communicate with the other drivers, and
(b) the forest service road is posted with a sign that indicates the radio frequency that is to be used.

[Editor’s note: This legislation says ‘MUST announce, in accordance with any road markers’ and appears to make it illegal for anyone without proper communications – i.e. a licenced commercial type-approved radio with programmed RR channels, to drive on a Forest Service Road if marked with RR signage.]

Liability insurance


s.12 (1) A person must not operate or cause to be operated a motor vehicle or trailer, other than a motor vehicle or trailer described by section 2 (5) of the Motor Vehicle Act, on a forest service road unless

(a) the driver, motor vehicle and trailer are insured under a valid and subsisting contract of accident insurance providing insurance against liability to third parties in the amount of at least $200 000, and

(b) the driver carries written evidence, supplied by the insurer, of the insurance referred to in paragraph (a), or a copy of that written evidence, and produces it, on demand, to a peace officer or an official.

(2) Motor vehicles operated by the government that are subject to a government self-indemnification plan are exempt from the requirements of subsection (1).
[am. B.C. Reg. 354/2004, Sch. B, s. 2.]

[Editor’s notes: For clarity, the insurance exemption under section 2 (5) of the Motor Vehicle Act referred to above is for farm implements.  

If travelling on a Resource Road the vehicle or trailer must have third-party liability insurance of minimum $200,000 and proof must be carried and shown if requested by a peace officer or official.

A reminder also that anyone operating two-way radio equipment is subject to any applicable distracted driving legislation that may be in force.]

Offence


s.13 (1) A person who contravenes section 3 (3), 5 (1), 6 (5), 10 (1) or 11 (1) or (3) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5 000 or to imprisonment for not more than 6 months or to both.

 (2) A person who contravenes section 4, 6 (3) or (4), 7, 8 or 12 (1) commits an offence.


Resource Road User Safety Recommendations

http://www.bcforestsafe.org/files/tk_pdfs/gde_resrd.pdf and Resource Road Radio Communications

Government in collaboration with industrial and other stakeholders has moved forward with implementation of standard radio communication protocols on Forest Service Roads (FSR) and other natural resource roads across the province.  FSRs with industrial activity and many other resource roads have adopted and are using the standard protocols which consist of:

  • standard call protocols - call content and order
  • standardized signage
  • dedicated, standardized bank of resource road radio channels

The standard bank of resource road mobile radio channels is available, to those with applicable [NOT Amateur] mobile radio licences, for programming at local commercial mobile radio shops.

It is important to note that not all resource roads have adopted the protocols and standard bank of resource road radio channels. It is recommended that road users retain current radio frequencies until such time that they are sure they are no longer required.
Most resource roads are "radio assist" and use of mobile radios for communicating location and direction is not mandatory.  Always drive safely according to road and weather conditions and if using a mobile radio, do not solely rely on mobile radio communications recognizing that not everyone has or is using a mobile radio.

In the transition to new resource road radio channels and communications protocols, resource road users are advised to exercise additional caution when traveling on resource roads. Drive safely according to the road conditions and weather at all times. This should be communicated by employers to all their affected employees and contractors.

Most Forest Service Roads and natural resource roads are radio-assisted, but not all roads are radio-controlled. Road users are reminded not to drive exclusively according to the radio. Where posted, road users using mobile radios must use the posted channels and call protocols.

Channel Maps


A standard bank of resource radio channels has been provided by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) for dedicated use for mobile radio communications on resource roads in BC.  By agreement, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is responsible for administering the use of the standard bank of resource road radio channels in BC.

The standard bank of resource road radio channels has been distributed across the B.C. landscape to minimize the likelihood of interference. Channel assignment maps have been developed, and periodically are changed, to reflect channel assignments as planning tools. The maps should not be relied upon for appropriate channel selection in the field as in some cases, the channel assignments have not been implemented on the ground.  The radio channel signage in the field will always govern over the maps. See the mobile resource road radio planning maps:

Resource Road Radio Channel Planning Maps

Best management practices for mobile 2-way radio use on resource roads in BC, installation and maintenance

Radio requirements on BC resource roads (and elsewhere) will be for narrow-band communications. Radios manufactured after 1997 have this capability but older radios may only communicate with wideband transmissions. Wideband transmissions sound overly loud when received by narrowband radios and narrowband calls received by these radios may sound too quiet. Wideband radios should be replaced with newer, narrowband capable radios.

FRS, GMRS and Other Common Non-Amateur Frequencies


It should be no surprise to you that the licence exempt radios marketed for these bands are very low power and have narrow channel spacing. Licence exempt devices include cordless telephones, baby monitors, family radio service (FRS) walkie-talkies, remote garage door openers, or wireless local area networks. Although licence-exempt radio devices generally transmit signals at low-power levels, the power level alone does not determine if a licence from Industry Canada is required. By law, licence exemptions only apply to radio equipment that has been tested and certified to comply with specific technical standards and operates in specially designated frequency bands.

For the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) in Canada transmit power is capped at 2 watts by law, while the units sold in US can operate at 5 watts. Everything else is the same - frequencies and the communication standard. One needs a BS licence to operate a GMRS radio in the States (easily obtainable by anyone and does not require any test), but no licence is needed in Canada.

These devices may not be modified or fitted with different antennas. It is NOT permissible for you to transmit on any of these channels with your amateur equipment as you will exceed power and/or bandwidth limits. As with other frequencies, you may monitor them as receive only.

The answers to our original questions


Some VHF and UHF FM radios purchased for use in the amateur service can also be programmed to communicate on frequencies used for land mobile service. Under what conditions is this permissible? 

C. The radio is certified under the proper Radio Standards Specification for use in Canada and is licenced by Industry Canada on the specified frequencies

You can wade through RSS-119 — Radio Transmitters and Receivers Operating in the Land Mobile and Fixed Services, but it all boils down to: “The radio is certified under the proper Radio Standards Specification for use in Canada and is licenced by Industry Canada on the specified frequencies.”

And the answer to the second question

Which of the following statements is NOT correct? A person may operate radio apparatus, authorized in the amateur service

D. on aeronautical, marine or land mobile frequencies 
You are certified to operate ONLY on the frequencies assigned to the Amateur Service. This means “on aeronautical, marine or land mobile frequencies” is incorrect.

So there it is. I’m not preaching but, as a Basic Amateur Radio course instructor,  simply passing along the existing regulations and policy to answer the question that come up in every class. These rules exist for a purpose. Do with it as you will but be aware that there is enforcement and you are subject to the penalties if you are caught.

~ John VE7TI

Thanks to Kasun Somaratne (ISED) for the review of this article to confirm it reflects current ISED policy and regulation.  






Thursday, August 20, 2020

My Weekend Test of FT-8



It gets through, even on a compromised antenna

I haven’t been keeping up with my QST magazine reading but had heard about FT8 when it showed up online at some point in 2017. When my friend Clyde Feero VE7CKF mentioned he had set it up recently I knew it was time for me to try it out too.  So this weekend I decided I should spend some time reading about FT8 and see what all the hype is actually about. I watched some YouTube videos and I decided to set it up myself. It was far easier than I thought it would be.

First let me give you an idea of my previous experience with digital modes. I have made less than 100 contacts using PSK31 on Ham Radio Deluxe Digital Master 780. I’ve used it enough to confirm my abilities and my shack’s setup.  I have an iCom 7300 with an end fed wire and 20m dipole for antennas. Both of my antennas are very low from to ground at only about 8 feet up. Even with this compromised antenna system, I’ve made PSK31 contacts as far as South America and Europe.

FT8 is one of the newest digital modes available to amateur radio operators.  It is very popular with anyone wanting to make distant contacts using low power or compromised antennas.  If you’ve ever thought about trying a digital mode like JT65 or PSK31 you might just want to try FT8 for yourself.

Compared to the DM780/PSK31 I found WSJTX/FT8 extremely simple only requiring a few things. You need to configure your radio, sound card and enter your callsign/gridsquare.  With DM780/PSK31 you need to setup some macros. I setup WSJTX software in as little as 5-10 minutes. If your like me and use Ham Radio Deluxe you can still use it for advanced rig control and use WSJTX for FT8. It has an option to select HRD as your radio.  There are also logging abilities supported by WSJTX but I didn’t experiment with them yet. LOTW is still being setup to accept FT8 contacts and contesters are waiting for N1MM to support FT8 as a mode, but it’s only a matter of time.

An FT8 QSO exchange is completely automated by the software. There is an option to perform each step in the QSO exchange manually but when it comes to digital modes there seems to be some desire to have everyone follow a common flow. You probably won’t be actually having a conversation with basic FT8 but instead a quick exchange of contact info.

It’s important that your computer’s clock be accurate because every 15 seconds a cycle completes and a new one begins. If you monitor for awhile you’ll notice every 15 seconds call signs will show up.  Some of the call signs are people calling CQ and others are those in the middle of their QSO exchanges. I’ve provided some reference links below and you can setup NTP (Network Time Protocol) to keep your PC clock in sync.

When you respond to CQ you’ll be sending your callsign and grid square. So this can be a little confusing at first when you notice the callsigns and other numbers displayed. You only need to double click on a CQ and the software will start transmitting. If the contact responds back to you they will send you your signal report. Once you each have these details your 73’s begin and your finished with your QSO.

I made my first FT8 contact with N4CAP Jeff Clouse in Jamestown North Carolina, who was 3857 km away from me using the grid square reference.  I was only running 25 watts on 20 meters and I must emphasize that for me to make this contact I just picked his call sign in a list I saw every 15 seconds.  I then double clicked his call sign on my mousepad.  I did nothing else!! Yes it was just that easy.



You can view a screenshot [right] but the software automatically sent him my callsign and grid square. He then responded to me giving me a -22db signal report. I sent him a -14db signal report for his CQ call. He sent me a roger roger 73 and I returned with a 73. End of call, and he began to call CQ again. All of this took less than 1 minute 15 seconds!!

Call it beginners luck I guess but I tried a second contact and didn’t have the same success I had the first time.  You can view [below] where I responded to the CQ of W1JGM but he didn’t answer me. Since I was already monitoring his frequency I noticed someone else exchanging with him and the software stopped transmitting automatically. When the exchange was done I only needed to time my ‘Enable Tx’ again to try a second time. This is where the computer clock and the 15 seconds cycle applies.  I needed to transmit during the send period and not after. I had no luck, but again it either means he could not hear me or chose not to respond to my weak signal.



To get setup for FT8 you’ll need to download and install WSJTX software for your computer.  Since it is available on Windows, Linux, and Mac I decided to try setting it up on my MacBook. This is my first attempt at using digital modes on my Macbook using Apple’s native MacOS, but have previously used Windows on BootCamp for HRD.

For me using the iCom 7300 for digital modes is a little easier than some radios because it is essentially seen as a sound card when you plug in via USB to a computer; so I didn’t need to use a SignalLink sound card. The WSJTX software lets you pick which audio interfaces you want to use and has a huge selection of predefined radios for CAT control.  There is also a “Test CAT” and “Test PTT” feature so you’ll at least be able to confirm your radio is connected well.

Some advanced setup steps might be required to ensure your radio is setup for data mode and not SSB.  You’ll want to confirm your power output is low 25 watts or less to start with and the ALC is not overdriving the radio.  Your computer will be sending audio to the radio and it may be too strong and overdrive the transmission. The main reason you don’t want to overdrive the transmission is to keep your signal clean and not produce splatter.

While I was trying to respond to a few CQ calls that didn’t get picked up I did notice my signal was getting out all over the world.  Kazuhiko Nishimura JG0CQK located near Japan’s Eastern coastline was approximately 7453 km away picked up my attempts at answering other calls in North America. How do I know this? Well the http://pskreporter.info site supports FT8 mode and provides me this info along with all the other stations that received my transmissions.  This is an excellent tool for proving the low power/efficiency of the FT8 mode at my station without even making a single contact. It also proves the FT8 mode is very popular because so many people are listening and volunteering their signal reports. The reporting feature of WSJTX is turned off by default, but I would encourage everyone to enable it to help others with their reports.



My 25 watt compromised antenna signal also made it to Hawaii, and Bermuda. I covered the East coast of North America, Florida, Southern California and various places in between.

If you’re interested in long distant contacts using low power or have a compromised antenna system like I do, the FT8 mode might be for you.  It’s not really a mode for any kind of ragchew but it is great for very fast QSO exchanges so it will likely be wildly popular for Field Day and contesting.

I found several YouTube videos talking about FT8 and how to setup WSJTX but none were to the point and did not contain the level of detail I wanted to share.  Check out the links below and try FT8 yourself. It works extremely well once you get the hang of it.

~ 73, Jeremy VE7TMY
   18-03

References:


Sunday, August 16, 2020

The SARC Foxhunt Is Coming Up


Postponed from May

With COVID restrictions in effect over the past few months, it has been some time since we have had any organized club activities.   So a no-fee foxhunt has been planned to get us moving again. 

What is a foxhunt?  Also called “radio direction finding”, It is a radio sport, a friendly competition to locate hidden transmitters using a handheld receiver which can determine direction of the transmitted signal.  It’s fun and it’s easy to learn the technique.  Check out the video at: 

There is an earlier post detailing fox hunting at:

Details can be found in the poster below.  Loaner equipment is available for those who don’t have an 80m foxhunt receiver, we can pair you with an experienced team, or you can purchase one for $125.

We ask that you confirm with Anton (email in the poster below) if you plan to participate.




We encourage participants to practice proper COVID precautions and to maintain social distancing at all times.

~ John Brodie VA7XB

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Why is a 5/8-wavelength vertical antenna better than a 1/4-wavelength


Back to Basics


This 'Back to Basics' may be of particular interests to you off-roaders...

The Canadian Basic Question Banks asks:

B-006-10-4  Why is a 5/8-wavelength vertical antenna better than a 1/4-wavelength vertical antenna for VHF or UHF mobile operations?

A. A 5/8-wavelength antenna has less corona loss
B. A 5/8-wavelength antenna has more gain
C. 5/8-wavelength antenna is easier to install on a car
D. A 5/8-wavelength antenna can handle more power

An ordinary 1/4 λ (wavelength) vertical is smaller and resonant without any loading coil or matching network. What's the advantage to a 5/8 wavelength vertical? Why 5/8 in particular, and not something longer or shorter?

Indeed, why? A 5/8λ isn't resonant where a 1/4λ or 1/2λ would be.

The reason is the radiation pattern. The pattern for a 1/4λ monopole is essentially a doughnut, a pretty good pattern especially for a VHF antenna used primarily for local work. Extending the antenna changes the current distribution. This flattens out the pattern, removing power from the useless (for VHF purposes) vertical dimension and giving more horizontal gain and at a lower angle. See the illustration lower left from the late L. Cebik. The 5/8λ antenna focuses energy somewhat better towards the horizon (lower radiation angle) than a regular quarter-wave antenna.


Depending on the source, they will quote anywhere from 1 dB to 3 dB gain over the 1/2λ design [3dB is a doubling!]. There has also been some discussion that in some areas (urban and mountainous terrain) the lower angle of radiation is a detriment and a standard 1/4λ or 1/2λ antenna is to be favoured. 

So, why 5/8λ? Why not long longer? After all more gain is better right? Well, inspecting the figure below, you will notice the appearance of high angle lobes. As you lengthen the antenna past 5/8λ these lobes become more pronounced and break up the pattern in undesirable ways. Making it shorter maintains a good pattern, but the gain is less. So, 5/8λ is about optimal for this style of antenna.


You may have noticed a pattern developing here. A quarter wave ground plane antenna has a radiation pattern that produces maximum gain at about 25 degrees and a half wave antenna drops that angle to 20 degrees, and the 5/8 wave antenna further drops that angle to 16 degrees. So why not just keep extending the antenna out to one full wave? Well it would be nice if it worked but unfortunately the wave pattern begins to create very high angles of radiation beyond 5/8λ. 

So we've reached the maximum gain at this point and extending the antenna any further just reduces the gain where we want it (low angles). Of course if you are interested in very short skip, extending the antenna will produce nice gains over a dipole. 
All antenna lengths depend on various factors. Some of these factors are: 

  • the height above ground;
  • the diameter of the wire;
  • nearby structures;
  • the effects of other antennas in the area; and
  • even the conductivity of the soil. 


If we calculate the length of a 5/8λ antenna for our SARC repeater (147.360 MHz) the formula is 178.308/147.36 which equals 1.21m (3.97 feet).

The answer to our question therefore is 2. A 5/8-wavelength antenna has more gain.

Our next Basic Course starts September 15th.

~ John VE7TI
   08-03




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