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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
December 20, 2018
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
ARRL Home PageARRL Letter ArchiveAudio News


This is the last edition of The ARRL Letter for 2018. The next edition will publish on January 3, 2019. We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

ARRL Petitions FCC to Incorporate Parity Act Provisions into its Amateur Radio Rules

The ARRL has filed a Petition for Rulemaking (PRM) asking the FCC to amend its Part 97 Amateur Service rules to incorporate the provisions of the Amateur Radio Parity Act. The Petition has not yet been assigned a rule making (RM) number and is not yet open for public comment. In the past, the FCC has said that it would not take such action without guidance from the US Congress, but, as ARRL's Petition notes, Congress "has overwhelmingly and consistently" offered bipartisan support for the Amateur Radio Parity Act.

"Private land use regulations which either prohibit or which do not accommodate the installation and maintenance of an effective outdoor antenna in residences of Amateur Service licensees are unquestionably the most significant and damaging impediments to Amateur Radio Service communications that exist now," ARRL said in its Petition. "They are already precluding opportunities for young people to become active in the avocation and to conduct technical self-training and participate in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] learning activities inherent in an active, experiential learning environment. Without the relief in this Petition, the future of Amateur Radio is bleak indeed." The proposed amendments would have no effect on the FCC's limited preemption policy in §97.15(b), which pertains to state and municipal governing bodies, ARRL said.

Specifically, ARRL is proposing that the FCC amend Part 97 by adding a new subsection under §97.15 that prohibits and ceases the enforcement of "any private land use restriction, including restrictive covenants and regulations imposed by a community association," that either fails to permit a licensee to install and maintain an effective outdoor antenna capable of operation on all Amateur Radio frequency bands; on property under the exclusive use or control of the licensee; precludes or fails to permit Amateur Service communications, or which does not constitute the minimum practicable restriction on such communications to accomplish the lawful purposes specifically articulated in the declaration of covenants of a community association seeking to enforce such restriction. ARRL's proposed rule would not affect any existing antenna approved or installed before the effective date of a Report and Order resulting from ARRL's petition.

The proposed provisions reflect the accommodation reached in the ultimate version of the Parity Act bill at the urging of federal lawmakers between ARRL and the Community Associations Institute (CAI), the only organization representing homeowners' associations. "That legislation was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives four separate times and has the support of the Senate Commerce Committee and the current Administration," ARRL stressed.

"Private land use regulations are not 'contracts' in the sense that there is any meeting of the minds between the buyer and seller of land," ARRL said. "Rather, they are simply restrictions on the use of owned land, imposed by the developer of a subdivision... They bind all lots in the subdivision." ARRL noted in its Petition that an increasing number of homes available for purchase today are already subject to restrictive covenants prohibiting outdoor antennas.

In addition, ARRL pointed out that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 gives the FCC jurisdiction "to preempt private land use regulations that conflict with federal policy..."

"It is now time for actual and functional parity in the Commission's regulations in order to protect the strong federal interest in Amateur Radio communications," ARRL said. Read more.

ARRL's Logbook of The World Tops 1 Billion QSO Records

As of December 19, more than 1 billion contact records have been entered into ARRL's Logbook of The World (LoTW) system. And, while 1 billion QSO records represents a significant milestone, a more important statistic may be the nearly 187 million contacts confirmed via LoTW over its 15-year history.

The one billionth record was uploaded by 7X3WPL, the Sahara DX Radio Club, at 2332 UTC for a 20-meter SSB contact with with Davide Cler, IW1DQS, that took place on December 28, 2016. The upload resulted in a match (QSL).

LoTW debuted in 2003 after a lot of behind-the-scenes planning and development. Initially, LoTW got off to a slow start. While user numbers gradually grew to about 5,000, a lot of hams didn't fully understand what LoTW was or how it worked, and opening an account could be cumbersome.

LoTW continued with few major changes until October 2011, when a perfect storm struck -- a large ingestion of logs after the CQ World Wide DX Contest and a freak snowstorm that knocked out power for more than a week in most places.

Field Services and Radiosport Department Manager Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, said uninterruptible power source (UPS) backup power quickly depleted in the days-long power outage. "When the system came back online, it was overwhelmed with the amount of data coming in and could not keep up," Fusaro said. "The water was coming in faster than the pumps could pump it out. Crash!"

The disaster was a blessing in disguise, though, because it revealed weaknesses in the LoTW software and hardware.

Today, LoTW boasts some 112,000 users in all 340 DXCC entities, and 75% of all DXCC applications are filed via LoTW.

Fusaro said the League spent tens of thousands of dollars for new hardware. IT Manager Mike Keane, K1MK, implemented code changes to expedite log processing by giving priority to small- to medium-sized logs and inserting mega-files as openings occurred. Fusaro said a lot of the large files contained duplicate data, bogging down the process so much that users were resending logs already in the queue. Through all of this, not one QSO record was lost, because LoTW uses a redundant backup process, Fusaro said.

A LoTW users' group reflector and a queue-processing status page were set up. With better communication, Fusaro said, the system attracted additional numbers. Today, LoTW boasts some 112,000 users in all 340 DXCC entities, and 75% of all DXCC applications are filed via LoTW, which accounts for 86% of confirmations applied.

Now, ARRL is looking at the development of LoTW 2.0, Fusaro said. "Over the years, we have added more awards that can be applied for using LoTW QSL credits: VUCC, Triple Play, and two CQ awards -- WPX and WAZ."

"The service still has room for a lot of improvement, but it continues to grow and is the preferred method of confirming QSOs because it strives to protect the integrity of DXCC and all awards," Fusaro said.

FCC Releases Plan in the Event of a Partial Government Shutdown

The FCC has released its Plan for Orderly Shutdown in case funds become unavailable to continue operation.

"If a potential lapse in appropriations is imminent, the FCC will determine whether and for how long prior-year funds are available to continue agency operations during a lapse," the FCC said in its plan. According to the plan, if prior-year funds are available, the FCC will remain open beyond a lapse. If prior-year funds are unavailable or exhausted during the lapse in appropriations, the FCC will commence a shutdown.

ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said in such situations, the FCC website goes offline, which includes the Universal Licensing System (ULS) and the registration system (CORES). "This means all electronic license transactions would stop," Somma said. "FRN registrations would be unavailable, and even the search engines would be unavailable."

According to the plan, during such a shutdown, all FCC activities will cease "other than those immediately necessary for the protection of life or property, performing other excepted activities, or those funded through a source other than lapsed appropriations."

A short-term spending bill to fund the government through February 8, 2019, is now in play, in an effort to avert a partial government shutdown this week.

New Amateur Radio Packet Gear Awaits Unpacking, Installation on Space Station

New Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) packet equipment awaits unpacking and installation on board the station after arriving in November as part of the cargo transported via a Russian 71P Progress resupply vehicle. The new packet module for NA1SS will replace the current packet gear, which has been intermittent over the past year.

"With the arrival of Progress complete, the crew has to find free time to unpack Progress, uninstall the intermittent module, and then set up and test the replacement packet module," explained Dan Barstow, KA1ARD, senior education manager of the ISS National Laboratory (CASIS), an ARISS sponsor.

The ISS packet system was reported to have gone down in July 2017, although it unexpectedly came back to life the following summer. At the time of the failure, NASA ISS Ham Radio Project Engineer Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO, said the revived system would fill the gap until the replacement packet module arrived. The packet system operates on 145.825 MHz. ARISS hardware team members on the ground were able to locate a functional duplicate of the ISS packet module that has been in use on the ISS for 17 years. ARISS said the subsequent installation will depend on the crew's busy schedule.

In an email to ARISS and other groups CASIS supports, Barstow pointed out that ARISS is an official backup system for astronauts to talk with Mission Control in the unlikely failure of the station's primary communication systems.

Bartow said that in 2017, hams relayed nearly 89,000 packet messages via the ISS -- an average of 243 every day. The statistic so intrigued and amazed Barstow that he decided to get his Amateur Radio license and gear to join in the activity.

Satellite stalwart and ARISS supporter Patrick Stoddard, WD9EWK, won the December 2018 QST Cover Plaque Award for his article, "Making Digital Contacts through the ISS."

Current International Space Station (ISS) crew members Serena Auñón-Chancellor, KG5TMT, Alexander Gerst, KF5ONO, and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev were scheduled to return to Earth on December 20.

The Doctor Will See You Now!

"Ground Plane Antennas" is the topic of the new (December 20) episode of the "ARRL The Doctor is In" podcast. Listen...and learn!

Sponsored by DX Engineering, "ARRL The Doctor is In" is an informative discussion of all things technical. Listen on your computer, tablet, or smartphone -- whenever and wherever you like!

Every 2 weeks, your host, QST Editor-in-Chief Steve Ford, WB8IMY, and the Doctor himself, Joel Hallas, W1ZR, will discuss a broad range of technical topics. You can also email your questions to, and the Doctor may answer them in a future podcast.

Enjoy "ARRL The Doctor is In" on Apple iTunes, or by using your iPhone or iPad podcast app (just search for "ARRL The Doctor is In"). You can also listen online at Blubrry, or at Stitcher (free registration required, or browse the site as a guest) and through the free Stitcher app for iOS, Kindle, or Android devices. If you've never listened to a podcast before, download our beginner's guide.

US Radio Amateurs Help to Make YOTA Month Happen in Ethiopia

Two US radio amateurs helped to make Youngsters on the Air Month (YOTA Month) a success in Ethiopia. YOTA Month takes place each December, and several participating stations obtain permission to use YOTA suffix call signs for the occasion. Ken Claerbout, K4ZW, and Bob Johnson, W9XY, traveled to Addis Ababa to assist the young members of the Ethiopian Amateur Radio Society (EARS) as they transformed ET3AA at Addis Ababa University Institute of Technology into ET3YOTA, making their country available on the air during YOTA Month. A check of spots on DX Summit shows that ET3YOTA has mostly been active on 20-meter SSB, with some operation on 160 and 40 meters.

Ken Claerbout, K4ZW (seated), and Ephrem Mebratu, KB3WWT, at ET3AA.

"The operators use SSB and FT8, although some would like to learn CW," Claerbout told ARRL. "They all do quite well actually on SSB. Bob, W9XY, worked with them a bit, to give them some pointers, but they have no problem turning on the radio, calling CQ, and facing the masses."

Several students at the university hold US Amateur Radio licenses because the Ethiopian government has not issued any licenses in some years, Claerbout explained.

In a narrative he shared with The Daily DX, Claerbout said the goal for the visit was to spend a lot of time on the air. "It was a chance for us to work with them, to refine operator skills, and jointly work on some station projects," he said. "This is a very enthusiastic group. They love to get on the air and operate!"

Claerbout, Johnson, and the Ethiopian operators obtained permission to stay at the university for three nights to activate 80 and 160 meters. They erected an inverted-L antenna supported with an 18-meter fiberglass pole.

"It is one of the ugliest antennas I've ever built but, boy, did it work, far beyond my expectations," Claerbout said. The antenna's location above a university building's metal roof provided an excellent RF ground, but manmade noise did turn out to be a major issue -- a steady S-9 +20 dB on 160 meters, and a mere S-9 on 80 meters. Unfortunately, using a noise-cancelling device didn't help.

(L - R) Students Yakob, Rediet, and Robel learn about the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN).

"My goal for the 3 nights, along with working as many people as we could, was to see if operating [the] low bands from the club station would be feasible for future visits," Claerbout said. "I believe the noise can be dealt with to some degree, making future low-band operations a real possibility. On top band, many signals were right at the noise. Bob and I both agree that even knocking down the noise an S-unit or two would [open up another layer] of signals."

Claerbout conceded that FT8 would be "very effective" in this sort of situation, but he said FT8 holds no interest for him. "I like the challenge this situation provides and developing solutions to overcome it, with the young engineers at the club station," he said.

The ET3YOTA call sign will be used for the rest of December, with operation on SSB and possibly some FT8. Plans call for uploading logs to LoTW.

Claerbout said, "[M]y involvement with the club is one of the coolest things I have done in Amateur Radio. I think W9XY would agree." He thanks DX Engineering and those who have helped foster the ham community in Ethiopia. "Youth and Amateur Radio in Ethiopia is flourishing," he concluded.

Polish the Brass: Straight Key Night is Just Ahead

Every day is a good day to operate on CW, but set some time aside on New Year's Eve and into New Year's Day to enjoy Straight Key Night (SKN). The annual event begins at 0000 UTC on January 1, 2019 (New Year's Eve in US time zones). The 24-hour event is not a contest, but a day dedicated to celebrating our CW heritage.

Participants are encouraged to get on the air and simply enjoy conversational CW contacts, preferably using a straight key (hand key) or a semi-automatic key (bug). Activity traditionally centers on CW segments in the HF bands. There are no points or obligatory exchange -- the only requirement is to have fun.

Send your SKN list of stations contacted and your votes for "Best Fist" and "Most Interesting QSO" by January 31.

AMSAT will dedicate its third annual CW Activity Day to the memory of past AMSAT President Bill Tynan, W3XO, January 1, 2019, 0001 - 2400 UTC. No rules; just operate CW through any Amateur Radio satellite. Straight keys and "bugs" are encouraged, but not required. -- Thanks to Ray Soifer, W2RS

Fessenden Commemorative Transmission Set for Christmas Eve

As he's done in years past, Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, of Forest, Virginia, will commemorate what may have been the first radio broadcast to include speech and music by experimenter Reginald Fessenden on Christmas Eve 1906. Justin will fire up his vintage-style transmitter operating on 486 kHz under Experimental license WI2XLQ to mark

A replica 1921 CW and Heising modulated AM transmitter constructed by Brian Justin, WA1ZMS. [Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, photo]

the 112th anniversary of Fessenden's accomplishment. Justin will begin his transmission on December 24 at 1700 UTC and continue until December 26 at 1659 UTC.

Historic accounts say Fessenden played the violin -- or a recording of violin music -- and read a brief Bible verse, astounding radio experimenters and shipboard operators who heard the broadcast. For his transmitter in 1906, Fessenden used an ac alternator modulated by placing carbon microphones in series with the antenna feed line.

Justin's homebuilt station is slightly more modern, based on a 1921 vacuum-tube master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA) design, using a UV-202 tube. The transmitter employs Heising AM modulation, developed by Raymond Heising during World War I.

Send listener reports directly to Brian Justin, WA1ZMS.

IEEE Microwave Society Recognizes Radio Amateurs

The IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTT-S) has announced its 2019 award recipients. The list includes several radio amateurs.

  • James C. Rautio, AJ3K, will receive the Microwave Career Award for a career of leadership, meritorious achievement, creativity, and outstanding contributions in the field of microwave theory and techniques.

  • Wayne Shiroma, NH7PA, will receive the Distinguished Service Award in recognition of a distinguished record of service to the MTT-S and the microwave profession.

  • Amir Mortazawi, AC8YB, will receive the Distinguished Educator Award for outstanding achievements as an educator, mentor, and role model of microwave engineers and engineering students.

  • Frederick "Fritz" Raab, W1FR, will receive the Pioneer Award in recognition of pioneering contributions to the theory, development, and practical use of high-efficiency power amplifiers. Raab was coordinator of the ARRL 500 kHz experiment (WD2XSH), which was instrumental in securing the new 630-meter band.

In addition, well-known technical author Rick Campbell, KK7B, was elected an IEEE fellow in 2019 for his work in extending wafer probing into the millimeter-wave range.

Awards will be presented during the International Microwave Symposium (IMS), June 2 - 7, 2019, in Boston.

In Brief...

Registration is open for 2019 Contest University (CTU), Thursday, May 16, 2019, at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Dayton, Ohio. This is the day before Hamvention® opens in Xenia. More than 7,500 students have attended CTU sessions over the last 13 years in eight countries, and more than 100 CTU professors have shared their contesting experiences. The faculty lineup is posted on the CTU website and includes several new and returning members. Newcomer Bryant, KG5HVO, will present ideas for attracting youth into contesting, while Dan, N6MJ, and Chris, KL9A -- the gold medalists at WRTC 2014 -- will present advanced operating papers. Not teaching, but on hand to field questions will be CTU stalwart Frank, W3LPL. The 2019 CTU Dayton course outline will be posted soon. Scholarships (paid registration) are available for CTU attendees through a grant from the Northern California DX Foundation (NCDXF) for students age 25 and younger. Click the "Contact Us" tab on the CTU website. CTU Dayton 2019 registration information is on the CTU website. Prospective attendees who have given or will give a talk about Amateur Radio to any club, hamfest, or other group since May 16, 2018, qualify for a $10 registration discount. Choose the "Registration with Club Talk Discount" option.

The IARU, which sponsors the Worked All Continents (WAC) award, has made clear that it does not sponsor a 5 MHz (60 meters) endorsement. "All IARU member-societies please note: the IARU Worked All Continents award is not available with an endorsement for 5 MHz," an IARU announcement from IARU Secretary David Sumner, K1ZZ, said. "The only band endorsements currently available are for 1.8, 3.5, 50, 144, 432, and 1,296 MHz." The question arose after an individual displaying a purported IARU WAC 5 MHz Award certificate on said other IARU member-societies have been issuing WAC certificates bearing a 5 MHz endorsement under IARU auspices. Ordinarily, an ARRL member would apply for the award through the League, but this individual's membership had lapsed, and he apparently looked elsewhere. ARRL told the individual that the award, displayed over Sumner's signature, "does not match the awards we issue from ARRL, nor can we find any application that was submitted for such an award." ARRL issues no specific awards for 60 meters. Sumner did say that WAC endorsements for 135.7 kHz and 472 kHz would be available shortly, however.

Sweden's Alexanderson alternator station SAQ has planned a Christmas Eve transmission on 17.2 kHz. The transmitter will be tuned up starting at around 0730 UTC, and a message will be transmitted at 0800 UTC. The 200 kW Alexanderson alternator is an electromechanical transmitter dating back to 1924. The event will be streamed live on the Alexanderson Association's YouTube Channel. Listener reports are invited via email or direct to Radiostationen Grimeton 72, SE-432 98 Grimeton, Sweden. Amateur Radio station SK6SAQ will be active on Christmas Eve on 7,035 and 14,035 kHz on CW, or on 3,755 kHz on SSB. Two stations will be on the air most of the time.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: On Wednesday, December 19, reported, "Solar minimum conditions are in effect," adding, "The sun has been without sunspots for 209 days in 2018." said the most recent similar stretch of blank suns was in 2009, "when the sun was experiencing the deepest solar minimum in a century."

My records show the average daily sunspot number for all of 2009 was 5.05, and average daily solar flux was 70.6. Looking at the past 2 months, the same values were 3.6 and 69.4, so we are clearly in the same sort of minimum. Looking at all the numbers for 2018 to date, we see averages of 6.6 and 69.9.

Average daily sunspot numbers for the past week were 3.4, down from 9.7 in the previous week. Average daily solar flux declined slightly, from 70.7 to 70.4.

The average planetary A index decreased from 8 to 4.1, while the average mid-latitude A index went from 6.4 to 3.

Predicted solar flux for the next 45 days is 70 on December 20 - 23; 72 on December 24 - 26; 71 on December 27; 72 on December 28 - January 4; 70 on January 5 - 16; 72 on January 17 - 31, and 70 on February 1 - 2.

The predicted planetary A index is 5 on December 20 - 23; 8 on December 24; 5 on December 25 - 27; 8, 12, 10, and 8 on December 28 - 31; 5 on January 1 - 2; 10, 12, 10, 10, and 8 on January 3 - 7; 5 on January 8 - 12; 8 on January 13; 5 on January 14 - 23; 8, 12, 10, and 8 on January 24 - 27; 5 on January 28 - 29, and 10, 12, 10, and 10 on January 30 - February 2.

Sunspot numbers for December 13 - 19 were 0, 12, 12, 0, 0, 0, and 0, with a mean of 3.4. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 70.2, 70.8, 71.2, 69.8, 70.1, 70.4, and 70.2, with a mean of 70.4. Estimated planetary A indices were 3, 3, 2, 2, 6, 7, and 6, with a mean of 4.1. Estimated mid - latitude A indices were 2, 3, 1, 1, 5, 5, and 4, with a mean of 3.

Share your reports and observations.

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • December 21 -- AGB-Party Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • December 23 -- RAEM Contest (CW)

  • December 26 -- SKCC Sprint (CW)

  • December 26 -- DARC Christmas Contest (CW, phone)

  • December 29 -- RAC Winter Contest (CW, phone)

  • December 29 - 30 -- Stew Perry Topband Challenge

  • December 29 - 30 -- Original QRP Contest (CW)

  • December 31 -- Bogor Old and New Contest (Phone)

  • January 1 -- AGB New Year Snowball Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • January 1 -- SARTG New Year RTTY Contest

  • January 1 -- AGCW Happy New Year Contest (CW)

  • January 1 -- AGCW VHF/UHF Contest (CW)

  • January 1 -- QRP ARCI New Year's Sprint (CW)

  • January 2 -- UKEICC 80-Meter Contest (Phone)

  • January 2 - 6 -- AWA Linc Cundall Memorial CW Contest

  • January 3 -- NRAU 10-Meter Activity Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • January 3 -- SKCC Sprint Europe (CW)

  • January 5 -- PODXS 070 Club PSKFest

  • January 5 - 6 -- WW PMC Contest (CW, phone)

See the ARRL Contest Calendar for more information. For in-depth reporting on Amateur Radio contesting, subscribe to The ARRL Contest Update via your ARRL member profile email preferences.

Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Find conventions and hamfests in your area.

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The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

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