Friday, November 30, 2012

CQ Files Comments in Relicensing Proceeding

CQ Communications, Inc., the parent company of CQ, CQ VHF, Popular Communications and WorldRadio Online magazines, has filed comments with the FCC in response to WT Docket 12-283, which, among other things, proposes permanent exam element credit, even for amateurs whose licenses are long-expired.

In the comments, CQ generally supported the concept for former licensees as well as those amateurs who gained partial credit for an upgrade but did not complete the upgrade within the one-year "window" granted by a Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) [for example, a pre-2000 Advanced Class licensee who had passed the Extra Class theory exam but not the 20 word-per-minute code test].

CQ disagreed with the proposal to shorten or eliminate the current two-year grace period for license renewal, primarily to protect a licensee from losing his or her call sign due to missed paperwork. CQ also disagreed with the proposal to reduce the minimum number of Volunteer Examiners at a test session from three to two, and recommended that the FCC initiate a pilot program on remote exam administration before making a final decision on that part of the proposal.

Finally, CQ supported the proposal to permit the use of single-slot TDMA (time domain multiple access) on the amateur bands, but called on the FCC to re-initiate a dialog with the amateur community on broader changes in mode regulation in order to remove the necessity of going through the rule-making process whenever a new operating mode is introduced.

The full text of CQ's comments, along with others received by the FCC in this proceeding, may be accessed through the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) at <>. Enter 12-283 under "Proceeding Number," then scroll down and click on "Search for Comments." The deadline for filing comments is December 24, 2012, with reply comments accepted through January 22, 2013.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

FCC Formally Proposes LF Amateur Band

The FCC has issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ET-Docket 12-338) which, among many other things, formally proposes a secondary amateur allocation at 135.7-137.8 kHz. The 130-page notice, whose broad purpose is to implement the decisions of the 2007 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07), also proposed granting primary status to amateur radio on the 1900-2000 kHz segment of the 160-meter band. That segment is currently shared with radiolocation systems. (The 1800-1900 kHz band segment is already allocated exclusively to the Amateur Service.)
The only current U.S. users of the spectrum segment including the proposed 135.7-137.8 kHz band are power companies operating PLC (power line carrier) systems for monitoring electrical infrastructure. Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) is a form of PLC, but the systems at these frequencies are used internally by the power companies. Ironically, if the amateur allocation is approved here, the FCC says it is likely that hams will have to coordinate with utilities and avoid causing interference to the PLC systems.
Comments on ET Docket 12-338 are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, with reply comments due 30 days later. As of this posting, the NPRM had not yet been published in the Register.

CQ Highlighted on "Conan"

There's an old saying in politics: "I don't care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right." The same sentiment applies here as well… at the end of October, comedian and talk show host Conan O'Brien did a segment on his TBS show, "Conan," called "Real Magazines that Outlasted 'Newsweek' " … and guess which magazine was featured first? Yes! CQ!
Talk show host Conan O'Brien holds up the October issue of CQ
to lead off a segment on "Real Magazines that Outlasted'Newsweek' "
on his program, "Conan," which airs weeknights
at 10 PM eastern on TBS. (Internet screen grab)

Of course he was making fun of us (that's his job), but our October cover was still splashed across national television! And the serious point of the whole segment (that he probably didn't realize he was making) was that even though general interest magazines such as "Newsweek" are in trouble, niche magazines - such as this one and the others he featured - are still going strong. There is a future for print magazines and niche magazines are that future. The entire segment may be viewed on YouTube at <>.

One Ham Killed, Another Rescued, in Sinking of HMS Bounty

One of the first casualties of Superstorm Sandy was the tall ship HMS Bounty, a replica of the British sailing vessel made famous when a band of crew members mutinied on a 1789 voyage to the South Pacific. Fourteen of the 16 crew members were rescued safely. However, the captain - Robin Walbridge, KD4OHZ - was never found and is presumed to have gone down with the ship. The second casualty was Claudene Christian, a descendent of mutineer Fletcher Christian.

A second ham on the crew, Ship's Electrician Doug Faunt, N6TQS, was rescued. He told the ARRL Letter that the ship's crew used various methods, including HF amateur radio, to try to get help but met with little success. Finally, they were able to use Winlink to e-mail a distress message to the Coast Guard. Faunt told the Letter that "ham radio got me into my position on the Bounty, and ham radio got me out alive!"

There was also a closer-than-comfortable link between the Bounty and the CQ "family." Former CQ Youth Editor Brittany Decker, KB1OGL, crewed aboard the ship last summer. Her father, Paul Decker, KG7HF, told CQ she had considered staying on through the fall but, thankfully, decided to head off to college instead.

Post Office Wants to Phase Out IRCs

If the U.S. Postal Service has its way, International Reply Coupons (IRCs) will no longer be available for sale after January 27. According to the ARRL Letter, the postal service published a notice of its plans in the Federal Register on October 28, citing insufficient demand to continue providing the service. Comments were being accepted through November 23. Even if IRCs are no longer offered for sale by the postal service, Universal Postal Union (UPU) regulations require that post offices honor and redeem IRCs that have been purchased in other countries. IRCs are a form of prepaid postage, redeemable for a single unit of airmail postage in any UPU member country. Hams have long used them to provide return postage for QSL cards from DX countries.

W7EQI Re-Elected to Congress, Gains National Position

Oregon Congressman Greg Walden, W7EQI, easily won re-election in the 2012 election. Newsline reports that Walden, who is chairman of the Communications Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the 112th Congress, polled nearly 70% of the vote in his district. The Congressman's website reports that Walden will keep his subcommittee chairmanship when the new Congress convenes in January, and that he has been elected by his fellow GOP lawmakers as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

China Revamping Amateur Radio Regulations

B1Z is a contest station of the
Chinese Radio Amateurs Club,
which is about to receive formal
government recognition. (PY2QI photo)
Revised regulations on amateur radio are working their way through the bureaucracy of China's government and are expected to open the door for widespread licensing of individuals and clubs in the world's most populous nation. The new rules are also expected to expand recognition of amateur radio organizations in China from only the Chinese Radio Sports Association (CRSA) to include the relatively new Chinese Radio Amateurs Club (CRAC). [See PY2QI's article, "Inside a Chinese Contest Station - B1Z in the WPX SSB Contest," in the January 2013 issue of CQ.] According to Newsline, the CRAC is expected to become China's official representative to the International Amateur Radio Union.

New Data Mode Uses Chinese Characters

As the use of amateur radio grows in China, a new digital mode has been developed that uses Chinese characters rather than the Western European/American alphabet. Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that the new mode is called CP-16 and is based on the 16x16 dot-matrix display used to generate Chinese characters on computer screens. It uses 16 on-off keyed audio characters spaced at 17-Hz intervals, resulting in a total signal bandwidth of less than 400 Hz. Transmission speed is two-to-five characters per second and it can be received on any software defined radio (SDR) receiver or SSB receiver/computer combination running waterfall-display software. The characters will appear directly on the waterfall display. More information is available at <>.

DX to be 2013 Hamvention® Theme

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association has decided on DX and DXing as the theme for the 2013 Hamvention®, calling this year's show "DX Hamvention." According to the ARRL Letter, General Chairman Charles Kaiser, KD8JZR, noted that Dayton "is often an important DX destination for amateurs from all over the world," adding in a message on the Hamvention website that "possibly nowhere on Earth can one experience first-hand the incredible diversity and worldwide reach of amateur radio as during this event." This year's Hamvention will be held May 17-19 at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

Morse Code from the Sky

Conceptual view of Morse code message from FITSAT-1
(Courtesy FITSAT website)
Skywatchers may get a unique treat from the heavens during December, courtesy of the students and professors at Japan's Fukuoka Institute of Technology who built the FITSAT-1 satellite, also known as Niwaka. In addition to a CW beacon and data links, the satellite features an array of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that controllers hope will be visible from Earth with the naked eye. According to the AMSAT News Service, Professor Takushi Tanaka, JA6AVG, said his team plans to flash "HI THIS NIWAKA JAPAN" in Morse Code from orbit on Christmas Eve (December 24) and was planning to conduct tests throughout December. So keep an eye to the sky for messages from above in Morse!

Space Station Calling…

Speaking of seeing things from space with the naked eye, NASA is now offering a new service to notify people when the International Space Station will be passing overhead in their area. The AMSAT News Service says NASA's "Spot the Station" program will send a text or e-mail message to those who sign up for the service a few hours before the ISS comes into visual range.
"It's really remarkable to see the space station fly overhead," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, "and to realize humans built an orbital complex that can be spotted from Earth by almost anyone looking up at just the right moment." To sign up for the alert program, visit <>.

Huge Audience for ARISS Contact

An amateur radio contact between the International Space Station and students at the South Florida Science Museum was broadcast throughout the West Palm Beach area on educational, local access and public television, and watched by students throughout the county's school district. According to the AMSAT News Service, over 150,000 students watched the contact and it is estimated that an additional 100,000 people in the region tuned it in as well, along with retired Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter, who sat in on the contact at the museum.

Online-Only ARRL Convention

The ARRL's Atlantic Division tried a new approach to a division convention in November -- a one-day, online-only, series of forums not connected with an in-person event. According to the ARRL Letter, the virtual convention on November 10 was hosted on and featured a half dozen topics led by prominent hams around the country. At press time, there had been no indication of how many hams participated in the free but limited "seating" event.

European Union Adopts BPL Standard Over Hams' Opposition

European Union flag
(Courtesy CIA World Factbook)
The European Union has adopted new technical standards for PLT (the European name for what American hams know as BPL, or Broadband over Power Lines), despite objections from national amateur radio associations in England, Germany and elsewhere. According to the British online newspaper, The Register, the new standard does require that Power Line Telecommunication signals must avoid amateur radio bands, use the minimum necessary power and shut down when not in use. The Radio Society of Great Britain and other ham groups had lobbied for extending to PLT current rules on other RF-producing devices that they not "generate undue radio interference."
In the United States, BPL has become somewhat of a non-issue as it has not turned out to be an economically viable alternative to cable and phone company internet service.

ReconRobotics Devices Limited to 100-kHz Bandwidth

Robotic reconnaissance devices
may use 70 centimeters but must
limit signal bandwidth to 100 kHz.
( photo)

The FCC in mid-November denied an ARRL appeal of its 2010 decision to permit robotic reconnaissance devices used by public safety agencies to operate in the 70-centimeter band, on which amateur radio is a secondary user. However, the ARRL Letter says the Commission made it clear in its ruling that the devices' signals are limited to a maximum bandwidth of 100 kHz.

Rod Newkirk, W9BRD/VA3ZBB, SK

Longtime QST DX Editor Rod Newkirk, W9BRD/VA3ZBB, passed away in mid-November at age 90. According to the ARRL, Newkirk wrote QST's "How's DX?" column from 1947 to 1978 and was credited with (unintentionally) introducing the term "Elmer" into the amateur vernacular as a reference to a ham radio mentor. Rod was also a member of the CQ DX Hall of Fame (inducted in 1984) and the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame (2002). He had lived in Canada since 1997.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

CQ Offices Re-Open After Storm

Power has been restored to the CQ offices in Hicksville, New York, allowing us to open for business for the first time this week. Our offices had been closed since Monday due to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.

If you are trying to reach us or have placed an online order, please be patient as we need some extra time to make sure all of our systems are operating properly and to work our way through the backlogs that have developed over the past three days. In addition, some telephone service into and out of the New York City metropolitan area remains spotty and it may be difficult to get a call through.

We will work to clear the backlogs and get back to full speed as quickly as possible. Your patience is appreciated. - Thank you.