2017 ARRL Auction time

Bidding for the 2017 ARRL Auction opened up yesterday. Didn’t see anything that made me go “I NEED THIS“, but there were still a few items that I thought were interesting enough to put bids on.

Seems like there’s a fair bit of bidding activity going on in the auction already after just a day. The ARRL Mystery Junque boxes are back (only 4 of them this year). One of them is already up to $155. Hope it’s got something good in it.

So far, the items I’ve decided to chase are a copy of Introduction to RF Design, a reproduction 1st edition ARRL handbook, and one of the Vibroplex keys. Nice things to add to the bookshelf and collection, but nothing that I’ll be disappointed over if I don’t win.

I always enjoy watching the activity in the ARRL auction. It’s interesting to see what items end up going for.

Approved for 630 m and 2200 m

Got an email yesterday clearing me for operating on the new US 630 m and 2200 m bands.

Dear Eugene Mah (AB4UG),

This notice is being provided to Approve your proposed amateur radio station in the 135.7 – 137.8 | 472.0 – 479.0 band(s) at the following coordinates:  XXXXXXXXXXXXX.   UTC has determined that your proposed amateur radio station would not operate within a horizontal distance of one kilometer from a transmission line that conducts a power line carrier (PLC) signal in the 135.7 – 137.8 | 472.0 – 479.0 bands.

An amateur operator must not operate an amateur station if UTC responds that the proposed amateur station is located within 1 km of a transmission line with a PLC system that operates on the same frequency or frequency range.  Amateur operators are advised that their operations within 1 km of a PLC system could cause interference to PLC systems that are used by electric utilities to protect their electric transmission systems against faults and electrical outages.  Interference from amateur operations could affect the operation of PLC systems, thereby affecting the reliability of electric utility operations.  As such, amateur operators are advised not to operate any amateur stations within 1 km of a transmission line with a PLC system that operates on the same frequency or frequency range, and amateur operators will be subject to FCC enforcement for unauthorized operations, as well as potential legal liability for damages that result from interference caused by amateur operations to PLC systems.

Still need to learn about how to get on the new bands.

CFF Ride for Life 2017

Spent the day today with fellow CARS club members helping out with communications support for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Ride for Life event today.

2017 CFF Ride start/finish
2017 CFF Ride start/finish

CARS has been helping out with the event for the past few years, and today was my second time participating. It’s a pretty easy and laid back event to work out in an area where some of the spots have marginal cell service.

This year I was at the start/finish line helping out with the net control duties. Had a pretty good turnout of hams to help out with the ride this year. 7 rest stations on the course, with 6 of them having at least one amateur radio operator, one motorcycle mobile ham, one in a SAG vehicle and one more participating in the ride. We had pretty good coverage of the entire course.

Tom/K4WJC motorcycle mobile
Tom/K4WJC motorcycle mobile

The day started pretty early with riders on the 100 mile route starting off at 7AM.

100 mile riders
100 mile riders

They were followed by the 65 and 30 mile riders about 45 minutes later.

CFF Ride 65 and 30 mile riders
CFF Ride 65 and 30 mile riders

We were able to keep tabs on where riders were along the course and kept the race director informed of the riders’ progress. Aside from someone getting a flat tire, there were fortunately no incidents throughout the day.

The event lasted a few hours longer than I anticipated, with the final rider rolling in just before 3:30PM. Everybody came in under their own power, and nobody needed a ride back. All in all, a very well run event and a nice easy event to work, especially if you’re just getting into the public service part of amateur radio.

Note for next year: Bring a chair and see about getting an earpiece for my HT.

2m dipole performance

The 2m dipole attachment I made for my monopod seems to be working well. It’s a definite improvement over the Diamond SRH77CA and SRH999 antennas (which already work fairly well) when it comes to receive. I can receive a pretty clear signal from the repeaters from inside the house, whereas with the Diamond antennas, the repeater signal was on the scratchy and noisy side. When I’m outside, all of the antennas perform pretty well.

The two repeaters closest to the house that I can reach (and use) are about 7-8 miles away, so they’re a bit of a reach to hit standing on the ground with a 5W HT. The repeater beeps at me after I transmit, so I think I’m hitting the repeater with the dipole attachment, although I’m not sure how well I’m getting in. The repeater has a voice playback function, but I still need to learn how to use it.

In any case, the dipole attachment seems to be a success, and I can at least monitor some of the repeater activity more easily.

Time to start planning for a dual band VHF/UHF radio for the house.

The new Top Bands

US amateur radio operators will soon have access to small slivers of the 630 m and 2200 m bands as secondary users. The 630 meter allocation goes from 472-479 kHz (a little bit below the US AM broadcast band, 530 – 1700 kHz) while the 2200 meter allocation goes from 135.7-137.8 kHz (not a heck of a lot).

Although the new allocation was announced several months ago, now access to the bands is only a form submission and 30 days away.

Before being allowed to operate, hams will be required to notify the Utilities Technology Council. Notification can be done online, and involves submitting name, contact info, call sign, lat/long of your antenna location(s) and the bands you’re planning on operating on. If you don’t hear anything back within 30 days, you’re supposedly good to go.

Even if you have no immediate plans to operate on the new bands, you might still want to notify the UTC in case you decide to operate there later. If there’s no objection to your notification, and a utility later wants to deploy or modify a PLC system near you, they’ll have to use a frequency range other than one you’ve indicated on your notification.

If an electric utility seeks to deploy a new or modified PLC system on a transmission line that is within one kilometer of a previously coordinated amateur station, the electric utility must employ a frequency in the 9-490 kHz range that has not been included in the amateur station’s notification, as ARRL suggests.  If the previously coordinated amateur station no longer operates in the band, the electric utility may deploy a PLC system in that band.

Now, how to build an antenna for 2200 m…