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.