Monday, June 17, 2013

Amprnet - net 44

For those who don't know; the amateur radio service has a good chunk of the IPv4 Internet address space (, and it's not being used to its fullest potential. Meanwhile, the rest of the Internet is crowding into the remaining address space and will no longer have any left in the near future.

The address space isn't being used because of a chicken-and-egg problem: the necessary digital repeaters aren't available for users, and there are no users to justify building the repeater network. A background I wrote some time ago.
For mote info see:
Historically the 44 net space has been used by packet radio starting in the 1970's when the IP allocation was first obtained.

But it doesn't have to be limited to just slower packet radio for TCP/IP, either. Some of the newer 802.11 wireless ethernet devices use frequencies that meet with amateur radio spectrum in the 2.4 GHz area. As a result, amateurs can modify the Part 15 compliant devices to increase the power and use better antennas, providing more gain and increasing usable range. These devices are considerably faster at up to 54 megabits per second than the 1200 and 9600 bit per second speeds of VHF and UHF packet radio.

Good connectivity enables a number of applications that were not previously practical to experiment with due to bandwidth requirements; among these could be digital voice repeater linking, digital quality facsimile picture transmission, television (D-ATV), Web-SDR, multimedia, and so on.

European amateurs are the most active users and builders of HSMM/WiFi radio networks.  They have been busy since 2009 building networks.  Most of their network is not directly reachable from the internet as it is an independent radio network.  It can be reached via tunneling from other 44 net addresses.

In the United States there has been debating a bill to create an Internet kill switch, also known as the PCNAA bill. Echolink, IRLP, APRS gateways, and many other services assume the Internet's original distributed design won't allow a single entity to take out the entire network. If the PCNAA passes, this will no longer be true. For true redundancy, a non-critical network can and should be built by the amateur service to avoid this single point of failure.

The cost of the equipment has finally come down to the point where even a modestly funded amateur radio club can afford to set up a small regional network by themselves. Through advocacy and standards development.

Ham radio used to be a good starting place for many who later entered broadcast and electronics careers.  Today those positions are few and far between due to disposable electronics and consolidation of engineers with mega broadcast groups.  What is the most notable/abundant "tech" career today is IT (information technology) work.    Building these networking helps ham radio stay relevant.  These networks have the potential to draw new blood into the hobby.  New hams who have software skills that can help the community with software defined radio and so forth.

In the USA the Broadband Hamnet HSMM-Mesh website is the most active collection of people trying to accomplish the same thing our European amateur friends have.  What their firmware build lacks in a way to use the amprnet and the 44 net address space and it's automatic tunnel connectivity.  The firmware so far also lacks a way to address channels outside of the Part 15 overlap where there is typically a better noise floor.

Attached are some screen shots of interesting things I have stumbled into on the Amprnet.

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