ARRL NW Division Newsletter – December 9, 2020

Once again I hope this finds you all healthy, safe, getting ready for
the Holidays, and importantly, on the air! A couple of weeks ago the
CQWW DX CW contest was held, and the Solar Flux Index (SFI) was over 100
the entire weekend. This was for the first time in several years, and
that means that both the 15 meter and 10 meter bands were actually
“open for business”! If you are a new operator on HF, and even if
you’re using FT-8 with low power, you should easily be able to start
picking off new states and countries on those bands that have been
previously out-of-reach due to low sunspot counts. Cycle 25 is
certainly alive and kicking, time to work on those ARRL Worked All
States (WAS), and DXCC (100 countries) awards!

One important thing that occurred in last month’s ARRL Board Programs
and Services Committee (PSC) meeting is worth mentioning here. For the
last few months I have been pushing for an update to the ARRL General
Contest rules regarding adding specific amateur “transmitter
cleanliness” language to those rules, (ie: no “key-clicks”,
splatter, or other spurious emissions, as outlined in FCC Part 97.307).

What’s in the current ARRL Contest Rules is very vague: “2.2
Entrants agree to be bound by the regulations of their national
licensing authority.” What I also wanted to do was align our rules
with those already in place for the CQ sponsored contests. No brainer,
right? Well, not quite.

The backlash I received from the amateur community was pretty much split
on this. Some thought it was a waste of my time, (as in “you should be
working on more important things”), while many others thought it was
certainly a much needed step in the right direction. One of the comments
I received from a very well-known amateur took the idea one step
further, and that’s the direction I brought to the PSC meeting.

The thought is: A rule change such as I was proposing is pretty much
unenforceable, however, what might be better to think about is the
creation of an ARRL “Clean Signal Initiative” (CSI) program,
involving the combination of an ARRL led educational effort to teach
amateurs how to properly set up their HF equipment to ensure clean
signals, and importantly, the ARRL lab working with manufacturers to
ensure their equipment adheres to a standard set of “transmitter
cleanliness” parameters, (yet to be defined, however somewhat beyond
the current FCC limits, or covering parameters not currently covered by
FCC limits.)

An example of one the parameters involved here is related to the rise
time of CW signals. A CW signal with a very fast rise time has been
identified as one of the root causes of “key-clicks”, which can
cause interference for those near the offender’s frequency. Many of
the manufacturers now have the ability to set that parameter in
software, however the default settings aren’t always correct to
minimize key-clicks, and amateurs often don’t know they need to change
them. It has been shown that about an 8 ms CW rise time is adequate to
eliminate key-clicks, however, some manufacturers use a very quick 4 ms
as the default setting, while others do not control the parameter at
all.

There are other examples as well; such as amateurs using incorrect
modulation levels, excessive compression, or incorrect automatic limit
control (ALC) settings in SSB signals, which can cause splatter and
other spurious outputs from transmitters, and create interference to
others on a nearby frequency.

In my opinion, this initiative is something that can benefit all HF
amateurs, not just contesters. The more we can clean up HF signals on
the air, the more we will be able to actually use the bands, especially
on crowded contest weekends. Remember, this initiative will be all
about educating not only amateurs, but the equipment manufacturers as
well! The ARRL touts itself as the “national association of amateur
radio”, and in my opinion, setting standards such as these should be
exactly the type of thing we should be focusing on.

The good news is that after a lot of discussion in the last PSC meeting,
the committee has authorized that a new “best practices working group
for transmission and transmitter signal quality standards” is to be
assembled with the mission of wrapping their collective heads around
this initiative program. Nothing on this will happen for a few months
at best, as it will be up to the new PSC Chairperson, to be appointed in
January’s Board meeting, to actually appoint the working group members
and get it off the ground. I would certainly hope the working group
members will include both representation from ARRL lab staff, and also
include “subject matter experts” from outside the ARRL walls, in
addition to the usual Board members. Stay tuned as this develops!

Now the $100 question: What do NW Division members think about this
“CSI” program possibility? Drop me a line and let me know your
thoughts on the subject.

Next, while the ARRL is still fighting very hard to keep our secondary
allocation on the 3.5 GHz band, it appears that our 5.9 GHz secondary
allocation is currently safe, albeit most likely more crowded in the
upcoming years with new users. On November 20, 2020, the FCC published
the following on the subject (Docket 19-138):

(Note: The below described “U-NII-3” are basically unlicensed Part
15 equipment, (such as Wi-Fi routers), and “U-NII-4” is the 5.9 GHz
band in discussion):

“In the 5.9 GHz NPRM, we tentatively concluded that our proposal to
apply the existing U-NII-3 power rules to the 5.850-5.895 GHz band would
protect co-channel secondary Amateur Service operations from harmful
interference and sought comment on this approach. Proponents of Amateur
Services contend that authorizing unlicensed operations in the 5.9 GHz
band will cause harmful interference to co-channel Amateur Service
operations. However, they do not include any specific technical analysis
for their particular position. These commenters suggest that the
Commission should abandon its proposal to authorize unlicensed
operations in the U-NII-4 band to avoid harmful interference to amateur
operations.

We believe that U-NII devices operating in the U-NII-4 band will not
cause harmful interference to amateur operations because of the
relatively low power with which U-NII devices will operate as compared
to amateur stations, which are permitted to operate with as much as 1.5
kW (62 dBm) peak envelope power. Furthermore, as noted above, the
Amateur Service is an allocated service that is entitled to interference
protection within the 5 GHz spectrum, whereas U-NII devices operate
under our Part 15 rules on the conditions of not causing harmful
interference and accepting any interference from an authorized radio
station.

Commenters also oppose reallocating the lower 45 megahertz of the 5.9
GHz band from the Amateur Service to Part 15 unlicensed operations. As
an initial matter, Part 15 unlicensed devices do not operate pursuant to
an allocation. Thus, in the 5.9 GHz NPRM, the Commission did not propose
to reallocate the lower 45 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band from the
Amateur Service to part 15 unlicensed operations; it proposed to
authorize unlicensed operations under Part 15 in the lower 45 megahertz
of the 5.9 GHz band. Therefore, we dismiss such concerns as beyond the
scope of this proceeding.”

(Think about it: 1.5 kW on 5.9 GHz! That’ll sure keep those pesky Part
15 Wi-Fi routers off our frequencies!

The full FCC text can be found here:
https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-20-164A1.pdf

Next, as you may have already heard, the FCC will start REQUIRING e-mail
addresses when submitting applications or renewal documentation to them,
as outlined in an ARRL Bulletin sent on December 2nd. (Link here:
https://tinyurl.com/y4xxbcvu )

Due to some questions that came up , the below was sent to ARRL Board
members by ARRL FCC Counsel, David Siddall, K3ZJ in reference to this
action:

“It will become effective six months after publication in the Federal
Register, so probably next June or July. Experience with the pandemic
certainly increased the FCC’s perceived need to go all electronic, but
it has stated this to be its policy goal for more than 20 years. The
electronic FCC filing systems have continued to work well throughout the
pandemic, keeping the Commission in business even though the offices are
vacant.

The email and electronic filing requirements are being implemented for
all licensees that are not already subject to such requirements, which
includes an FCC- estimated 2.25 million+ licensees that use the ULS
licensing system. This change is not amateur-specific.

In addition to moving correspondence to email, all amateur applications
will have to be filed electronically (subject to seeking a waiver, see
below). When the ULS system was initiated in 1998, the Commission
provided that a paper alternative could still be used if necessary.
Overall, today the percentage of ULS paper applications has shrunk to
fewer than 1 percent (2019 figure). The amateur paper application load
appears to be consistent with this figure, with 1,528 paper applications
filed in 2018 and 1,339 in 2019.

In general, the few remaining items that could still be submitted to the
Commission on paper are being moved to electronic submission.

The Commission stated that it will routinely check returned email, as it
currently checks returned postal mail, to correct errors and try a
second time.

According to the Commission, there will be provision for applicants to
supply two email addresses. This is analogous to the current ULS system
procedures for licenses that use Form 601. (I am separately following up
with the FCC staff to confirm that a second email address field will be
available for amateurs to use, consistent with the Commission’s
decision, because I tried and didn’t find one on my own amateur
license record. However, there are two email addresses for other types
of ULS licenses that I hold or administer, and the email requirement for
amateur applications is not yet in effect.)

If an applicant is unable to file an application electronically, the
Commission said that its waiver rules can be used to seek acceptance of
a paper application pursuant to 47 C.F.R. 1.925(b)(3). Among the
explicit cognizable reasons for granting relief is that “the applicant
has no reasonable alternative.” This can be used to also address the
email requirement if necessary.”

Finally, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and as always, stay safe! For
a little levity in this COVID Christmas, check out a classic: “A
Ham’s Night Before Christmas”, by Gary Pearce, KN4AQ, with guitar
melody by Don Mercz, WA3AYR. (Just cut and paste the below link to your
browser.)

https://tinyurl.com/yya6396l

73, HO! HO! HO! ,
and Merry Christmas from Mike, W7VO

ARRL NW Division Director
www.arrl.org
www.arrlnwdiv.org
w7vo@arrl.org

Now we will see what Vice Director Mark Tharp, KB7HDX has to say!

Diary of the Vice Director, Volume 2, December 2020

ARISS has released news that one of our own, the Oregon Charter Academy
in Mill City, has a window between December 14th and 18th for its
contact with the ISS. The Salem ARC is helping with this and Jay, WB6RDV
was specifically listed on the proposal form. Let’s all hope this goes
off without a hitch, and the students have a fantastic contact with
space.

More information on ARISS, including how you can help support this
program, can be found here:
http://www.arrl.org/amateur-radio-on-the-international-space-station

Repeater coordinators,

I would like to take a moment and thank all those who put in the
hundreds of hours volunteering as a repeater coordinator or as part of a
coordinating body. Repeater coordination is very important to reducing
interference from one system to the next. These folks work hard without
pay and most of the time without any thanks. All of these folks I have
interacted with have a real passion for what they do, and have always
been very helpful. We have a unique landscape here in the division and
as we all know; radio does not stop at the border. If you or your group
is working on a new repeater please contact your local coordinator and
help keep our airwaves clear of interference. Your Section Manager
should be able to put you in contact with the correct person or group.
If not, drop me a line.

Membership numbers,
Perhaps my pleas are being heard to get your non-ARRL member friends to
join up.

Our division is still holding strong in the number 3 slot for
membership, but we are only 10 new members away from taking the number 2
spot away from the Atlantic division. I know it’s not a competition
but as I have said before the league is important. Love it or hate it
the reason we still enjoy this hobby is due to the ongoing efforts of
it. Your ARRL affiliated club can retain 15 dollars of the membership
fee if the person is a new member OR a lapsed member for 2 years or more
and 2 dollars for a regular renewal. More information on this program is
here: http://www.arrl.org/affiliated-club-benefits

As this year winds down, I would like to thank each and everyone of you
for the support you have given Mike and I over the last two years. We
both continue to enjoy the work we are doing for the league and more
importantly, YOU. As Mike has mentioned, the January meeting will again
be done remote. Personally, I am tired of looking at everyone on my
computer screen and can not wait to get back out on the hamfest and
convention circuit. I would even be glad to pay 13 dollars for an
overcooked, dry bun, “sorry but we ran out of mustard” hot dog!
Please stay safe during your holiday endeavors and as always, let Mike
or I know if we can help you with anything ARRL related.

Division statistics:
186 new licenses issued and 50 upgraded licenses.
12,664 ARRL members in Division (+ 1.8% from 2019)
147 Active ARRL affiliated clubs.

Overall league membership 157,841, up .9% from 2019

If you have any questions or input, an email to kb7hdx@arrl.org is the
best way to contact me.

73..

Mark J. Tharp, KB7HDX

ARRL Vice Director
Northwestern Division.
kb7hdx@arrl.org


ARRL Northwestern Division
Director: Michael T Ritz, W7VO
w7vo@arrl.org

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