Sunday, June 12, 2022

Repeater sites

Repeater sites are hard to obtain and keep access too. You may recall a recent ARRL posting about the Forest Service fees. Here in the midwest, or maybe its just even more locally, TV and radio broacasters are ham radio's greatest friends when it comes to repeater sites.

I keep close tabs on whats going on in broadcast, since my interests aren't just related to ham radio. It also stems from my fathers involvement in broadcast. Mowing the grass at the sites, and keeping in touch with the engineers is what its all about. Most of the towers that the hams are on are owned directly by the stations themselves. That is not common for any recently constructed towers. Newer ones are owned and managed by a holding company and are harder to work with for hams.

My recent radio exerimenting has to do with ATSC 3.0 / Netgen since locally we have a transmitter. So I went out and bought a Silicon Dust Flex so I can receive this stuff. I was using an older Silicon Dust receiver for building my own MythTV DVR.

Anyway what is going on locally is all the stations main channels are being transmitted from one tower in the new format. This host station's old ATSC 1.0 channels have been scattered to other towers as subchannels by the other broadcasters. Interesting stuff. Lots of working together.

If this new format with monkier NextGen TV catches on, it should help broadcasters to be more competitive. I see this as important since most of the inital towers put up in the 1950's are continually derated in terms of the load they can bear by insurance carriers as they age. Thusly they are becomming almost non profitable since you cannot rent space to other tennants. So ultimately they will need to be replaced, which is a major expense.

There are provisions in the new standard to simulcast which will replace the old translater (on a different channel) approach for the fringe areas. Anyway I cannot see broacasters going back to their own towers once this ATSC 3.0/ NetGen layover period where they broadcast in both formats ends. Hopefully from the SmartTV feedback channels broadcasters will finally be able to show their adversisters who watches what and when, just like the cable guys do.

So in the end, new towers will be erected replacing the old. And due to the legal world we live in they will be managed by holding companies and hams will be in a worse place than they are now.

I find the M17 project a noble effort, and impressive to see hams from some many corners of the world working together on it. But honesty it doesn't "blow my skirt up", as its still based on ages old traditional narrow band FM carrier technology. That and I don't expect to see it materialze and displace the incumabnt modes in my life time.

I wish something like Tetra was in the works. What I find especially good about that modes is their mesh like extension that allows a portable radio that might not be able to reach the main site directly to same channel (TDMA) repeat though any other Tetra radio it can reach. This is a part of their DMO mode. This modern day radio relay / mesh style stuff is what I wish was baked into M17. I view this as important as repeater sites become fewer and harder for clubs to maintain/obtain. Short of technology addressing this site acccess problem that will just get more prevelant and difficult as time goes on, then the league or someone really needs to write a Dale Carnegie style book on how to shake hands, win friends and be a good site neighbor.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Coordination bodies should promote MMDVM

Seven years ago a smart UK ham gave us the means to retrofit repeaters to do this. Yet manufactures still just want to continue stomping their feet insisting their single mode is king.

And at the same time people (coordinators and repeater owners) don't feel passionate about the duties of coordination like they used to. Here in Wisconsin there have a been several years where the annual update (still done by mailing in a form) was waived by the coordination body. Then there are people who have requested coordination and have waited over a year for a pair.

I don't feel more short lived coodination volunteers is the answer. The solution in my eyes is to ease the bureaucratic burden by changing the existing policies.

Also some general guidance / editorial ship when it comes to putting things on the air makes sense to me. Most areas don't have easy acccess to good sites, and thus can't support one analog, one D-Star, one DMR and one YSF system, etc. Repeater owners should be at least thinking about retrofitting with a STM32-DVM to enable more than one mode. Coordination bodies is in a leadership position to suggest such best practices. And do they really want to deal with coordinating all those seperate machines? I've noticed most digiatl modes go in fads, and then a mode/repeater sits idle when the next one becomes popular.

I feel users should be deciding what the future of digital voice modes are, not the repeater owners (with good sites) and coodination bodies. Promoting MMDVM modems helps level the playing field in this regard. I am not sure if anyone ever really thinks about this.

In addition to promoting smarter spectrum use and cutting down on coordinating extra machines, I think in the long term this could signal to manufactures that user radios that do more than one mode are logical. It's like how PL mandate on repeaters helped encourage PL built into user radios which became the norm later.

To be clear when I speak of MMDVM I am not referring to the low power personal hotspots. I am referring to the origional implementation of using a MMDVM modem to flat audio drive an analog system.

MMDVM - Blog and interface ordering from Bruce, VE2GZI

INADVM - MMDVM (type) interface board from INAD Communications / Kevin, W3KKC

RB_STM32_DVM - Repeater Builder Multi-Mode Digital Voice Modem.

Teensy MMDVM - Interface board and microcontroller from Micro-Node International.