August was a very busy month for the Northwestern Division ARRL
leadership team, with continuing work, along with most of the ARRL
Board, related to the Symbol Rate (RM-11708), and Digital Transparency
(RM-11831) FCC proposals. A large controversy erupted when the Winlink
people sent users an e-mail last month, and posted comments on their
website: (https://winlink.org/content/what_was_arrl_thinking). Many
upset amateurs were left to think that the ARRL was proposing
restricting all HF digital mode signals to the limited Automatic Control
Digital Stations (ACDS) allocated spectrum, currently mostly occupied by
wide-band Winlink PACTOR gateways. To say that my e-mail box was full of
questions from those upset hams within our Division, and beyond, would
be an understatement. The Winlink e-mail, and what is posted on their
website, is but one side (theirs), of a very complicated set of issues.
What the ARRL actually voted in at the July 2019 Board meeting was a
proposal to be submitted to the FCC, and as agreed to by both sides of
RM-11708 and RM-11831 that met at ARRL FCC Counsel’s office last month,
was to move all HF “wide-band” digital signals to the allocated HF
“wide-band” ACDS spectrum, whether or not they are ACDS stations.
This takes care of one of the major concerns outlined in RM-11831;
interference between “narrow-band” digital stations (< 500 Hz of bandwidth), and “wide-band” digital signals (>500 Hz of bandwidth).
In my opinion, the analogy that Winlink quotes on their website about
“bicycles and horse-drawn carts” on a super-highway is not accurate.
To me, it’s more like adding more trucks on a road already occupied
with lots of bicycles. Trucks are best left on roads where there are
only other trucks, and bicycles with other bicycles. The two don’t mix
well within the same space, and never in favor of the cyclist if the two
Think about it. All SSB signals in their allocated portions of the HF
bands each occupy the same approximately 2.8 KHz of bandwidth. Since
they’re all the same size, the phone hams easily play within the same
spectrum space. CW signals theoretically occupy only a few Hz each in
their allocated spectrum, and all CW signals are also the same size.
(Key clicks aside!) They can play among themselves quite nicely also.
Things are very different in the digital world, with the myriad of
divergent digital modes, all with widely differing technologies and
The result is that not all digital signals are compatible within in the
same space. For example, a typical RTTY signal occupies only about 250
Hz of spectrum, and a typical FT8 signal occupies only about 50 Hz. In
the meantime, a single PACTOR 3 or 4 signal occupies about 2.4 KHz of
spectrum, about 10 times wider than a typical RTTY signal, and 48 times
wider than a typical FT8 signal. A lone PACTOR peer-to-peer station can
come on the air and interfere with as many as 48 other narrow-band
digital stations at the same time! It’s even worse when ACDS stations
do not incorporate “Listen Before Transmit” (LBT) technology within
the software they are using.
The second important part of this equation, and not mentioned in
publication, was the ARRL Board working with US amateurs and the FCC to
find ways to allocate more HF digital spectrum to accommodate the
increasing number of both wide-band, and narrow-band digital stations.
This is important as digital communications becomes a larger part of HF
amateur radio moving into the future. In other words, the ARRL Board is
looking to find ways to INCREASE total US amateur HF digital spectrum
allocations, not limit or reduce them.
Several weeks ago the ARRL Board put together a six member ad-hoc
committee, (of which I am a member), to explore all HF digital
allocations, and see what can be done to mitigate the potential for
interference by broadening the allocated ACDS and wide-band digital
spectrum to accommodate more stations. Since all HF amateur radio
service spectrum is already allocated among various modes, (digital,
phone, CW, SSTV, and probably others), the extra bandwidth will have to
come from, or be shared by, other modes that already occupy that portion
of the spectrum.
We are just beginning the investigative process by attempting to set a
“digital baseline”, gathering as much hard data as we can on how HF
digital spectrum is being currently utilized. This is not only for US
domestic digital stations, but for other ITU regions and selected
countries as well. This data collection will be accomplished by a
variety of means, including comparison of spectrum allocations
worldwide, analyzing skimmer and digital contest data, and reviewing
data collected by some of the digital mode people themselves. Please
note that what the committee will NOT tackle as part of their charter
are the “data transparency”, “compression verses encryption” or
“open-source” issues, as they’re beyond our scope.
The bottom line is: In the end, the ARRL Board will need to balance the
needs of ALL modes, and make some very tough decisions. That said, those
decisions will only be made with your input. Stay tuned as this
Mike Ritz, W7VO
Director, ARRL Northwestern Division
Now we’ll see what Vice Director Tharp has been up to:
Diary of the Vice Director, Volume 1, September 2019
If this is your first Division newsletter as a new member, Mike and I
would like to welcome you into the ARRL and are glad to have you as a
member of the Northwestern Division.
Although the ARISS committee was not directly involved with the
event, the Galileo STEM Academy, in Eagle Idaho, made their long awaited
contact with the ISS on Tuesday the 3rd. The “kids” had enough time
to ask 20 questions to one of the Astronauts on board. Reports state
some 850 people were in attendance during the event, including some VIPs
such as the Mayor of Eagle, local Emergency management folks, and the
West Ada County School District supervisor. The flight path of the ISS
took it slightly South from my QTH here in Yakima, but I was able to
copy (and record) the downlink transmissions except for the last one or
two questions when it went out of range. It’s not a huge file and I
can email it to anyone if interested. (You may have to ignore some
background chatter, I used my phone).
The Legal Defense and Assistance committee asked ARRL Counsel to provide some assistance by way of a letter to the local zoning administrator
assisting an Amateur Operator in Wisconsin. This has been an ongoing
matter, and it looks as if some progress is being made to help educate
the zoning folks about the benefit of having Amateurs in the community.
The PSEWG efforts to review NTS and the current status within the ARRL
have not moved very far since the last newsletter. A wide area poll is
being developed to gather information for the committee. More on this,
when I have more on this…. As I was once told, “If you are tired of
standing by, please sit down”.
Upcoming Division events I plan to attend (or might be currently
attending) are, the “Digital Radio Summer Gathering” September 7 and
8th At Valley Camp. The first ever N7YRC Swap meet at the Yakima OEM
office on the 21st, The Spokane Hamfest on September 28th, the PNW VHF
conference in Issaquah on October 12th,. I hope to see you at one or all
“RRA” (Radio Related Activity) and would like to share that with the
Division, please let us know. Mike and I would be glad to include that
information in the newsletter. This would include event summary’s and
wrap up articles. You never know it might even end up in QST! We cannot
share information if we never receive it. Hamfests, and Conventions of
course are already listed at the always up to date web page maintained
by Lynn, N7CFO at:
http://www.n7cfo.com/amradio/hf/hf.htm This page is also available from
the NW Division Website at https://arrlnwdiv.org.
Check this page often to see if anything is going on in your area.
Division statistics as of the end of August:
196 new licenses issued and 45 upgraded licenses
12,369 ARRL members in Division (+ 0.50% from 2018)
The Membership Challenge.
Out of all the amateur radio folks you know who are not league members,
get one of them to join, just one, not 20, but one. This challenge
started after the Northwestern Division Convention, also known as
SEA-PAC. That event is now 8 months away. More than enough time to get
one more member, grow our league, and make our voice in Washington that
much stronger. To sweeten the deal, I’ll ask that when you get another
person to join ARRL, send me an email with your name, and the person who
joined. Next July, all those names will go into a drawing for “A Major
Award”. (Yes, that is a reference to “A Christmas Story”.) If you
love the league, or hate the league, it is still our number one voice
for retaining our spectrum. This is not a fund-raising challenge, it’s
a membership challenge. Membership numbers matter when we go to
Washington (the East coast one) and work to enhance our hobby, and
maintain our spectrum. Let’s work together to make the league the
best it can be.
f you have any questions or input, an email to email@example.com is the
best way to contact me.
Mark J. Tharp, KB7HDX
ARRL Vice Director
ARRL Northwestern Division
Director: Michael T Ritz, W7VO