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#199254 - 03/30/10 04:16 PM Re: Ham Radio Folks, Please Chime In [Re: KG2V]
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2177
Loc: Bucks County PA
Originally Posted By: KG2V

Some hams/ares groups look for a reason NOT to do something, or do it "their way", and don't really bother to read what the guys at the FCC says is acceptable in an emergency.

I was a member of this group maybe 10 years ago, and I remember that they had this massive, wonderful interlinked repeater system, with 2M/440 and even some 6M cross-band links. You key down here and you're heard where you need to be heard.

However, the whole system was "locked down" and the ONLY time it was ever activated was when a designated control operator entered the secret codes to open the network - and that was done for 15 minutes for a weekly emergency net and then it was shut down. I know - I ran the weekly nets for a while and it was made very clear that this was a system that was never to be used without direct, hands on control, no matter what.

I'm just trying to get these guys in a place where they can help, but it seems that they have a lot of obstacles to work through. I'll let them work it out based on their own internal process.

As a quick aside - there was a hamfest a few weeks ago, I got an email back in Feb advertising it, so I replied - "Sure, I'll take a table - what's your paypal address so I can send you the money?" reply: "We don't do paypal". So much for a "high tech" hobby.

#199255 - 03/30/10 04:25 PM Re: Ham Radio Folks, Please Chime In [Re: James_Van_Artsdalen]
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2177
Loc: Bucks County PA
Originally Posted By: James_Van_Artsdalen

Why Skype? Sending out SMS messages via email is far simpler on the infrastructure, works in low bandwidth scenarios and is store & forward: Skype probably has some unknown bandwidth floor requirement the radio operator has to meet (and I think some HAM schemes are quite slow, 9600 bps nominal or less).

Skype was just an example, as far as SMS, it's good, but I have better options (including, just like the LAFD and the OEM of NYC, Twitter!).

I've used Skype at 28.8Kb/Sec - with Voice - the results are fine. I like Skype because it has insanely efficient codecs and unlike 97% of the other voice/text chat tools I've used (and I've used them ALL) Skype JFW on any hardware/software combination and any NAT/Firewall combination I've ever encountered. I can use Skype to reach the PSTN as needed and vice versa.

After even more study today, I find myself, sadly, finding that the Ham radio guys - who were once innovators of things like APRS, Packet Radio, and even that ancient precursor to cell phone networks, Repeater systems - have become ensnared in a knotty mass of habit and rules, leaving them in the same basic category of people I know who are absolutely expert with all things muzzle-loading, but look with disdain on a Beretta CX4 Storm. It's great to know all about voice based systems, and I like voice comms - sometimes - but data comms are even more critical today. The commercial options are cheaper, faster and as good or better than the options I have with the ham radio.

#199256 - 03/30/10 05:42 PM Re: Ham Radio Folks, Please Chime In [Re: MartinFocazio]
unimogbert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/10/06
Posts: 881
Loc: Colorado
I can't explain much about what's available but you need to remember that ham radio cannot be used in furtherance of business. Thus things like connecting to the internet via ham radio contain significant legal perils for the ops.

My employer floated the idea of listing all the hams who might like to volunteer to help during a major emergency. No problem, folks identified themselves as hams.
When "business continuance in case of emergency" became part of the discussion the hams noted their regulatory prohibition against helping in that way. And the whole idea went dormant - as it should.

If you were pursuing "business continuance" for your employer you'd encounter similar issues.

If you were pursuing backup comms for the fire dept the barriers should be fewer since that would clearly be in the public interest.

#199257 - 03/30/10 06:14 PM Re: Ham Radio Folks, Please Chime In [Re: MartinFocazio]
thseng Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/24/06
Posts: 900
Loc: NW NJ
Originally Posted By: martinfocazio
So much for a "high tech" hobby.

I went to that hamfest. The usual gray-ponytail crowd was out in force. Great place to buy a broken walkman for more money than a new mp3 player costs. The biggest hit was a couple of totes of radioshack parts in dusty blister packs going for a dollar each. Which is about what they cost in the store, if you can find them in the store anymore.
- Tom S.

"Never trust and engineer who doesn't carry a pocketknife."

#199266 - 03/30/10 08:24 PM Re: Ham Radio Folks, Please Chime In [Re: MartinFocazio]
philip Offline

Registered: 09/19/05
Posts: 639
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
Well, there seems to be some issue with if the person sending instant messages via Skype is a licensed ham operator, and the role of the control operator vs. the user and it all got complicated very quickly. Not to mention there seemed to be all to much complexity.

That's a shame. The ARES coordinator is the guy I would have gone to. It seems you talked to someone bogged down in bureaucracy, though.

Amateur radio does require licensed operators; I'm not sure this should be a surprise. But the ARES guys in my area are using ham radio for what sounds like the same thing you want. I'll check and see what I can come up with for more information for you. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so the hams around here work for Stanford, NASA, Lawrence Livermore, and high tech companies, so I may be spoiled by my resources.

Do you consider yourself in the Philly area or Manhattan? Bucks County can go either way. :-> (I used to live in the Philly area.) Maybe I can put you in touch with more helpful groups.

Although it sounds like you're well on your way to getting things set up, I still suggest having a ham set up for a workaround. This article:
is clearly slanted in our favor, but it mentions the problems in Haiti in getting their existing infrastructure back on line and how they used amateur radio in the meantime. Note that they used voice via phone patch for comms in some cases. See this video:
for an example. And they also used Skype, winlink email, and echolink.

#199270 - 03/30/10 09:02 PM Re: Ham Radio Folks, Please Chime In [Re: philip]
JohnE Offline

Registered: 06/10/08
Posts: 601
Loc: Southern Cal
I'm curious, what sort of information is it that needs to be transmitted?

Have you looked into DStar?


"and all the lousy little poets
comin round
tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson"

The Future/Leonard Cohen

#199280 - 03/30/10 10:22 PM Re: Ham Radio Folks, Please Chime In [Re: unimogbert]
James_Van_Artsdalen Offline

Registered: 09/13/07
Posts: 449
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: unimogbert

If you were pursuing backup comms for the fire dept the barriers should be fewer since that would clearly be in the public interest.

The trickiest situation I can imagine would be, for example, ordering fuel delivery for the backup generators at a private hospital.

But I can't imagine that being a problem if (1) it's done during a civil emergency and in support of that emergency, (2) non-HAM communications are not available and the order is time-sensitive, and (2) the order is done or approved by a government emergency management official. If current rules preclude it I'm pretty sure the FCC would issue a clarification if asked.

Another trick is whether the operator is allowed to have only "general knowledge" of the messages or must have "specific knowledge". If the FCC holds the operator responsible for each word spoken then every email or SMS would need to be pre-screened by the HAM. I would again bet that at worst the FCC would favorably clarify this for civil emergencies.

#199284 - 03/30/10 11:17 PM Re: Ham Radio Folks, Please Chime In [Re: James_Van_Artsdalen]
KG2V Offline


Registered: 08/19/03
Posts: 1371
Loc: Queens, New York City
ARES is based around a county by county structure, with an EC at the county level, with (Possibly) an DEC and a SEC (who reports to the section manager) above that

NYC has a fairly small (based upon our population) group, but is fairly forward looking. We have the general attitude (particularly in Queens, where I USED to be the EC, and AM an AEC) of "we are communicators FIRST, hams SECOND". We train to get the message through by whatever the BEST method is. Doesn't hurt that we have some serious telecom people involved, and there are a lot of 'connections' with folks in the land mobile radio service (aka commercial radio)

In Queens, almost our entire focus for the past 7 or so years has been digital comms

As for Winlink being evil - the way it's currently used on HF _IS_ pretty bad, but we consider that way way down the list.

As I said, for digital comms, our FIRST choice is setting up 'standard wifi' or even getting their broadband working (hey, having members involved at cable and telco operations on the digital end helps). The NEXT choice is using the ham channels of the WiFi spectrum with amps (Yes folks, ham radio operators actually have 1st dibs on 2300-2450 Mhz - which is channels 1-6) We can run SERIOUS power on channels 1-6, enough that we have tested 12 mile WiFi links! (do NOT step infront of that transmitter please)

The other thing is that the NY Metro area (Marty - I have NOT checked if it reaches your area) has an extensive "flexnet" digital packet backbone, which is how WE move Winlink (and for that mattter non winlink) data. We come in on a VHF 'User port", it gets bumped onto a UHF Backbone, and routed to where we need it to go - you have a map of all the possible paths, and you can route around nodes that are down, and there are extensive gateways to/from the internet on the network - route your winlink packet to one of them, it it puts the email out onto the net, and routes it back (and it doesn't do the evil stuff that HF winlink does - just an increase in packet traffic on an already digital backbone)

Between our groups here in the city, with some help of some guys in Nassau, we are fully prepared to drop up to 3 voice repeaters and 3 packet nodes wherever needed in the area, and get them linked in

So, as I said, it all depends. Here in Queens, You're likely to have someone show up with digital modes out the ears, with the necessary help to setup digital backbone relays (or have communications to one of the other guys who does) and has access to some of the best repeater points in the city
73 de KG2V
You are what you do when it counts - The Masso
Homepage: http://www.thegallos.com
Blog: http://kg2v.blogspot.com

#199290 - 03/30/10 11:56 PM Re: Ham Radio Folks, Please Chime In [Re: JohnE]
philip Offline

Registered: 09/19/05
Posts: 639
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
I don't speak for the original poster and his area, of course. Here in the SF Bay Area, D-Star is less useful for two reasons. We're in the range of Air Force over the horizon radar operating in 70cm, so our use of that band has been greatly limited. Repeaters have been required to operate at lower power, so the use of D-Star on 70cm is limited. Worse, our number of 2M and 70cm repeaters is so great, the addition of new ones on those bands is being resisted, and coordinators are having problems fitting in repeater band-pairs in 2M and 70cm due to crowding and the objections of existing repeater owners.

#199341 - 03/31/10 01:49 PM Re: Ham Radio Folks, Please Chime In [Re: MartinFocazio]
Am_Fear_Liath_Mor Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/03/07
Posts: 3078
What's state of the art in Ham radio data? Can I reasonably expect ham radio folks to bring data connectivity to my emergency operations center? Possibly internet?

What sort of emergency are you planning for that would take out both POTS (dial up 56K), GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz), T1, DSL, ADSL (2,2+) for your required data connectivity but not also take out another network such as HAM packet radio data (if available) or even your own network constructed using the fixed non LOS wireless Ethernet connections etc.

You will still need a gateway to the Internet for Internet access, where on the periphery of the comms blackout would you expect the gateway to be located?.

Do you have Satellite Broadband services where you are located to act as the gateway for your private WWAN.

Constructing your own emergency wireless network (combination of Routers, Wireless Ethernet, Satellite Broadband Gateway, and local Wifi would be expensive (the Power Supply requirements i.e. Solar Battery, Gen sets etc, create the additional expense) but again what makes you think that your own network would be anymore resilient than commercial providers except from the point of view of data communications congestion assuming of course that commercial networks either fixed cable, POTS, Wireless 2,3G are available in your area.

Chances are if all the above commercial communication network providers go down, you are basically left with the Post Office, carrier pigeons, runners and the odd HAM running his valve set talking into his mike saying 'Mayday, Mayday, Is there any one out there, over'.

BTW if you do end up creating your own emergency network, the old fashioned red rotary dial telephone on your VOIP network will add a little style and help justify the cost. wink

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