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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
August 13, 2020
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
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ARRL Welcomes Paul Z. Gilbert, KE5ZW, as Director of Emergency Management

As another step in ARRL's increased focus on strengthening its emergency communications capabilities and long-standing working relationships with federal and state agencies and private emergency response organizations, ARRL has hired Paul Z. Gilbert, KE5ZW, of Cedar Park, Texas, as its first Director of Emergency Management.

Gilbert brings more than 30 years of experience in public service in both his professional and amateur radio endeavors. Beginning with his appointment as Emergency Coordinator in 1987, he has held multiple positions in the ARRL Field Organization. Currently in his second term as South Texas Section Manager, he has also served for more than a decade as the West Gulf Division's Assistant Director for Public Service, acting as liaison between Division leadership and local, state, and federal emergency management organizations.

Professionally, Gilbert most recently was Radio Officer, HQ Staff, for the Texas State Guard, where for the past 6 years he has been responsible for planning and implementation of the organization's communications capabilities. Previously, he was a Public Safety Radio Coordinator for a Texas agency, charged with overseeing that organization's large-scale disaster communications response and identifying and eliminating in-state interoperability issues.

Gilbert, who has an Amateur Extra-class license, is a member of Army MARS, and holds numerous DHS certifications, including COML, COMT, COMT Instructor, and AUXCOM Communicator. He is a member of the FEMA Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Group (RECCWG), a graduate of the FEMA Emergency Management Institute's Exercise Design Course, and was a founding member of the Texas Division of Emergency Management Communications Coordination Group.

In his new role, Gilbert will manage a team responsible for supporting ARRL Emergency Communications (EmComm) programs and services, including the Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) and National Traffic System (NTS), as well as lead the continued modernization of those programs in consonance with the future emergency communications needs of the public and ARRL's key partners.

ARRL Board Confers Awards

Meeting in virtual session July 17 - 18, the ARRL Board of Directors conferred three major awards.

The Hiram Percy Maxim Award

The ARRL Board conferred the 2020 ARRL Hiram Percy Maxim Award on Jacob M. Nagel, AD0JA, of Wright City, Missouri. Licensed since 2012, the Board cited Nagel for exemplifying the spirit of amateur radio by learning new technologies, providing community service, and helping with emergency communication. ARRL's top youth honor, the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Award is given annually to a radio amateur and ARRL member under the age of 21. The award consists of a $1,500 stipend and an engraved plaque, to be presented at an ARRL convention or event.

The Board cited Nagel's involvement in providing technical assistance to the Okaw Valley Amateur Radio Club and the Egyptian Radio Club of Illinois for the installation and upgrading of their club repeaters; advising the Germantown, Illinois, Fire Department on upgrading its communication systems; speaking at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention® Youth Forum; sharing his expertise in online forums, and active involvement in projects that allow him to integrate his amateur radio knowledge with other technical ventures in electronics.

Knight Distinguished Service Award

The Board named veteran ARRL Rhode Island Section Manager Robert G. "Bob" Beaudet, W1YRC, of Cumberland, Rhode Island, as the recipient of the Knight Distinguished Service Award, given to an ARRL Section Manager. Beaudet has been Rhode Island SM since 2002.

The Board cited Beaudet's active promotion of ARRL activities in his Section, including visiting hundreds of Field Day operations; participating in many Volunteer Examiner test sessions; attending countless club meetings; staying active as a contester, DXer, and mentor, and serving as a model to other Section Managers. The Board said, "Beaudet's leadership of the ARRL Rhode Island Section Field Organization has led to a strong working cadre of volunteers within the Section."

Doug DeMaw, W1FB, Technical Excellence Award

The Board named Al Rabassa, NW2M, of Rockville, Maryland, as the recipient of the Doug DeMaw, W1FB, Technical Excellence Award.

The Board cited Rabassa's frequent contributions to the QST "Hints & Hacks" column and his QST technical articles, including "The Basics of Fan Cooling." The Board also noted that Rabassa has served as a subject-matter expert on the Yaesu FT-101 transceiver, maintaining a website devoted to the technical aspects of the vintage transceiver series.

Arecibo Observatory Reflector Dish Damaged When Cable Snaps

An auxiliary cable that helps to support a metal platform above the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope's reflector dish in Puerto Rico snapped in the early morning hours of August 10, causing a 100-foot gash in the reflector dish. Operations at the world-famous observatory, which is managed by the University of Central Florida (UCF), have been halted until repairs can be made. When the 3-inch cable fell, it also damaged about a half-dozen panels in the Gregorian dome above the dish and twisted the platform used to access the dome. The cause of the cable break is not yet clear.

The main collecting dish at Arecibo is among the world's largest single-dish radio telescopes. The reflective dish is 1,000 feet in diameter, 167 feet deep, and covers an area of about 20 acres.

"We have a team of experts assessing the situation," Observatory Director Francisco Cordova said. "Our focus is assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible, so it can continue to assist scientists around the world."

UCF manages the National Science Foundation (NSF) facility under a cooperative agreement with Universidad Ana G. Méndez and Yang Enterprises Inc. Home to one of the most powerful telescopes on the planet, the facility is used by scientists around the world to conduct research in the areas of atmospheric sciences, planetary sciences, radio astronomy, and radar astronomy. Arecibo is also home to a team that runs the Planetary Radar Project supported by NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program in NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, through a grant awarded to UCF.

The facility has endured many hurricanes, tropical storms, and earthquakes since it was built 50 years ago. Repairs from Hurricane Maria in 2017 are ongoing. Through it all, the facility has continued to contribute to significant breakthroughs in space research in the area of gravitational waves, asteroid characterization, planetary exploration, and more.

The largest single-dish radio telescope in the world for decades, Arecibo was bumped into second place in 2016 by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China.

The Arecibo Observatory Radio Club operates KP4AO at the site, mostly on special occasions. -- Thanks to UCF and other sources

ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On the Air podcast (Episode 8) features an interview with brothers Andy, KK4LWR, and Tony, KD8RTT, Milluzzi about the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative. The On the Air podcast is a monthly companion to On the Air magazine, ARRL's magazine for beginner-to-intermediate ham radio operators.

The latest episode of the Eclectic Tech podcast (Episode 14) deals with interference isssues and features a chat with David Hodge, N6AN, about his work at Caltech with the radio astronomy team.

The On the Air and Eclectic Tech podcasts are sponsored by Icom. Both podcasts are available on iTunes (iOS) and Stitcher (Android), as well as on Blubrry -- On the Air | Eclectic Tech.

QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo to Become Twice-Yearly Event

The QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo over the August 8 - 9 weekend appears to have been an unmitigated success, so much so that another virtual event will be held next March.

"It was far better than we expected," Virtual Ham Expo Dhair Eric Guth, 4Z1UG/WA6IGR, told ARRL. "We had over 26,000 registered and over 14,000 on the platform both days."

Guth said event sponsors and exhibitors that he's heard from so far "are thrilled with the turnout, engagement, and responses that they received." He said they're also enthusiastic about the second QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo, set for March 13 - 14, 2021. "Our plan is to offer this twice a year," Guth added.

The show, an ARRL-sanctioned event, was developed on the vFairs virtual conference platform, and cleverly re-created the atmosphere of a typical large hamfest, with several tracks of forum sessions on a wide array of topics. Those who had registered but did not log into the live event can see it all on demand until September 9.

"All of the services, except the chat, are running," Guth noted. "The doors are still open."

Dozens of video presentations are available to replay, including the keynote given by the Editor of ARRL's National Contest Journal, Dr. Scott Wright, K0MD, "COVID-19: Amateur Radio's Impact on Problem Solving to Create a Global Response to the Pandemic." Presentations from other ARRL member-volunteers span technical and operating interests, including "Everything you need to know about Lithium Batteries" with Marcel Stieber, AI6MS, and an introduction to creating Arduino-based projects for home and ham radio, with Glen Popiel, KW5GP. Presentations highlighting young ham involvement and development include "Youth in Ham Radio," moderated by Carole Perry, WB2MGP, with six youth presenters.

Guth said a poll would be sent to determine what visitors enjoyed most. "However, my guess will be that the speakers were fantastic, along with the moderators for the live Q&A afterwards," he said. Exhibitors will also be polled for their post-show impressions.

Icom, a principal sponsor of the event, had team members from around the globe staff their exhibits. Icom America Senior Sales Manager Ray Novak, N9JA, said the event supported their new product launches including Icom's new IC-705 HF - 430 MHz all-mode 10-W transceiver, which just received FCC certification.

"We really enjoyed the virtual event," said Novak. "It is our goal to see this grow and to have hams from the various countries attend in anticipation of this becoming a multilingual event as we all are starving for ham radio events during this pandemic."

Kevin Zanjani, KI6DHQ, of Bioenno Power, also gave the virtual event high marks. The show, he said, "was quite exciting and a great platform to interact with customers and the entire ham radio community during these times." Bioenno Power, based in Southern California, is a provider of Lithium-Polymer (LiPo) batteries and solar-power devices. Zanjani said the chatroom was very effective to engage with customers. "Many also dropped by to say hello as well, so we found that nice."

Product Development Manager Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, was among the ARRL representatives engaging with event attendees using text and video chat. He described the experience as having some similarities and some differences from an in-person convention.

"Our team answered questions about ARRL membership programs and services, amateur radio licensing, and even had some fun challenging visitors to our booth with ham radio trivia," he said. Physically located at ARRL Headquarters in Newington, Connecticut, Inderbitzen treated more than 500 visitors to live, online tours from inside Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station W1AW.

"It was fun to see a screen full of smiling faces, and to answer questions in real time. The experience had an on-air feel," Inderbitzen said. A short welcome video greeted visitors at the ARRL booth.

Guth said the organizers' challenge going forward is to reduce the workflow in putting the show together. "But all in all, it was a lot of work, I have a great team, the volunteer speakers and moderators were out of this world, and I am grateful to our sponsors and exhibitors for footing the bill," he added. Read more.

US Department of Defense to Share 3450 - 3550 MHz with 5G Commercial Operations

The FCC will auction sharing rights to the upper 50 MHz of the 3300 - 3500 MHz secondary amateur radio allocation to commercial 5G interests in the wake of the Department of Defense (DoD) agreement to share spectrum at 3450 - 3550 MHz. The entire band currently supports a variety of military operations, and amateur radio has a long history of peaceful coexistence with the Department of Defense as a secondary user of this spectrum.

Late last year, the FCC proposed to delete the amateur 3300 - 3500 MHz secondary allocation as well as the amateur-satellite allocation at 3400 - 3410 MHz. The FCC could auction the 100 MHz of spectrum in early 2022. This latest move makes a contiguous band of spectrum from 3450 - 3980 MHz available for commercial 5G networks.

"For a number of years, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and FCC have focused on the 3450 - 3550 MHz band as the spectrum most conducive to sharing with commercial users," said ARRL Washington Counsel David Siddall, K3ZJ. "Monday's statements announced that a framework for sharing has been worked out."

In December 2019, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in WT Docket 19-348 proposing to delete the 3300 - 3500 MHz secondary amateur band. ARRL strongly opposed the move in its comments on the NPRM, which put forward the FCC's plans to remove "existing non-federal secondary radiolocation and amateur allocations" in the 3300 - 3500 MHz band and to consider options for relocating incumbent non-federal operations.

Siddall said the spectrum below 3450 MHz presents a more difficult government/commercial sharing scenario, and that future sharing there remains uncertain. "We continue to argue that the amateur secondary allocation should not be deleted in this band," he said. "We recognize

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

that our access is secondary, and ask only to be given a chance to use our considerable technical skills to work around whatever future uses may be implemented in this spectrum."

"Together with the spectrum being made available for 5G in the C-band as well as the 3.5 GHz band, we are now on track to have a 530-megahertz swath of mid-band spectrum available for 5G from 3.45 to 3.98 GHz," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. "The FCC looks forward to moving quickly to adopt service rules for the 3.45 GHz band and then hold an auction to bring this prime mid-band spectrum to market." Read more.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: New Sunspot Cycle 25 continues to make a strong showing. Sunspots have appeared every day over the past 3 weeks. Average daily sunspot numbers for the week slipped a bit from 19.6 to 14.3 this week, but average daily solar flux increased from 72.8 to 73.8. Geomagnetic indicators remain quiet. Both the average daily planetary and mid-latitude A index were 3.7.

Predicted solar flux for the next 6 weeks is 74 on August 13 - 15; 72 on August 16 - 27; 73 on August 28 - 29; 75 on August 30 - September 9; 73 on September 10 - 11; 72 on September 12 - 23; 73 on September 24 - 25, and 75 on September 26. This is a welcome change from recent forecasts, which saw predicted solar flux consistently below 70.

Predicted planetary A index forecasts continued quiet geomagnetic conditions, at 5 on August 13 - 23; 8 on August 24 - 25; 5 on August 26 - 28; then 8, 16, and 8 on August 29 - 31; 5 on September 1 - 19; 8 on September 20 - 21; 5 on September 22 - 24, and 8 and 16 on September 25 - 26.

Sunspot numbers for August 6 - 12 were 14, 14, 11, 13, 12, 12, and 24, with a mean of 14.3. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 73.1, 74, 74.7, 73.9, 74.2, 73.5, and 73.1, with a mean of 73.8. Estimated planetary A indices were 5, 4, 5, 3, 3, 3, and 3, with a mean of 3.7. Middle latitude A index was 4, 5, 5, 3, 3, 3, and 3, with a mean of 3.7.

A comprehensive K7RA Solar Update is posted Fridays on the ARRL website. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service, read "What the Numbers Mean...," and check out K9LA's Propagation Page.

A propagation bulletin archive is available. For customizable propagation charts, visit the VOACAP Online for Ham Radio website.

Share your reports and observations.

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • August 15 - 16 -- SARTG World Wide RTTY Contest

  • August 15 - 16 -- ARRL 10 GHz and Up Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • August 15 - 16 -- Russian District Award Contest (CW, phone)

  • August 15 - 16 -- Keyman's Club of Japan Contest (CW)

  • August 15 -- Feld Hell Sprint

  • August 15 - 16 -- North American QSO Party SSB

  • August 15 - 16 -- CVA DX Contest, CW

  • August 16 -- SARL HF Digital Contest

  • August 16 -- NJQRP Skeeter Hunt (CW, phone)

  • August 16 -- ARRL Rookie Roundup RTTY

  • August 16 -- Run for the Bacon QRP Contest (CW)

Campus Radio Clubs Face an Altered Fall Landscape

Many colleges and universities are preparing incoming students for fall classes, amid a complex landscape of re-entry plans due to COVID-19. Schools are pursuing a variety of instructional modalities, including live and asynchronous online classes, reduced-size or no in-person classes, and hybrid classes with some mix of it all. At schools where in-person attendance is allowed, the emphasis is on classes. Related student activities, such as sports, clubs, and so on may be nonexistent or extremely limited, due to the demands of social distancing and the need to repurpose facilities and rooms for lower densities. As institutions are forced to make hard choices, it's going to be more important than ever for school amateur radio clubs to find ways to continue, even if in-person meetings are impossible.Some campus radio clubs continue to sponsor training and testing of new hams by using videoconferencing and asynchronous communications to offer instruction and support.

ARRL's Instructor Discount Program includes reduced-price self-study license manuals, including the popular ARRL Ham Radio License Manual. The discount program is ordinarily offered to ARRL-registered instructors, but ARRL has temporarily extended the program to any in-school students who call to order ARRL License Manuals by referencing their school radio club or their ARRL-registered instructor. Call toll-free (888) 277-5289, Monday - Friday, 8 AM - 5 PM Eastern Time.

Club instructors can download free instructional resources for use with The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual, including PowerPoint slides, syllabus, and study review questions. Some college clubs are providing scheduled online license tests. For example, the Columbia University Amateur Radio Club in New York City and the MIT Radio Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have scheduled online license examinations.

To make club resources available when in-person gatherings are not possible, some college clubs have remote-enabled their radio stations. California Polytechnic (Cal Poly) recently shared the details of the monthly ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative (CARI) web conference in July. The monthly online conferences continue into the fall.

The Collegiate QSO Party is planned for September 19 - 20. The QSO Party is an operating event focused on amateur radio clubs at colleges and universities around the world. Each fall, the Collegiate QSO Party provides an opportunity for clubs to demonstrate amateur radio to new members, engage with alumni, and promote activity throughout college and university communities. Read more. -- Thanks to Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R

  • The Duga-2 was one of three Soviet Russian over-the-horizon radar (OTHR) sites, now just outside the Chernobyl exclusion zone. In operation from 1976 until 1986, it was dubbed the "Russian Woodpecker" by radio amateurs for the widespread havoc it wrought on the HF bands. BBC Reel has posted a short video about it, in Russian and English, with English subtitles.

The Russian Woodpecker Duga-2 site. [BBC Reel, image]

  • The GQRP Club has released a detailed agenda for its Online Convention 2020, Saturday and Sunday, September 5 - 6. The online event, which replaces the club's annual GQRP convention at Telford due to current COVID-19 restrictions, is open to existing members. A special rate for non-members will include GQRP Club membership until January 2022.
  • The Antique Wireless Association (AWA) 2020 Virtual Conference presentations are available on YouTube. New videos will be added daily through August 14. -- Thanks to Mark Erdle, AE2EA

  • David Burger, K3HZ/VK2CZ, has pointed out a couple of online Engineering and Technology History Wiki articles regarding the manufacture of transmitting tubes that make interesting reading. One discusses Eimac, and the other Heintz and Kaufman.

  • ARRL Volunteer Historical Archivist Michael Marinaro, WN1M, is the recipient of the Antique Wireless Association Bruce Kelley Award for his historical article, "Early Wireless -- Magazines, Clubs, and War."

  • The Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) has released its Board proceedings for January to April 2020. They include mention of a possible new UK Beginners amateur radio license.

Russia-Ukraine "Radio War," HF Radars are Most Frequently Reported Ham Band Intrusions

The Russia-Ukraine "radio war" and the Russian over-the-horizon radar (OTHR) "Contayner" were the most frequently reported amateur band intruders during July, according to the International Amateur Radio Union Monitoring System (IARUMS). IARUMS characterized the ongoing broadcast radio war transmissions between the neighboring nations as "spiteful and provocative." Clandestine stations have appeared on 7.055, 7.090, and 7.110 MHz. IARUMS has determined

The Russian OTHR "Contayner" signal on 40 meters last fall.

that the heavy harmful interference from the Contayner Russian OTHR is coming from a location east of Moscow. Contayner OTHR signals have been monitored on various frequencies on 40, 20, and 15 meters, with a typical occupied bandwidth of about 12 kHz.

"Sometimes, we also found the 20 kHz wide OTHR from the UK base in Cyprus, but less than in previous years," reported IARUMS Region 1 Coordinator Peter Jost, HB9CET, in the July newsletter. "Due to some band openings at 10 meters, some of us [also] heard several driftnet fishing buoys."

Owing to vagaries in ITU Radio Regulations footnotes that relate to amateur radio frequencies, however, not every signal classified as an intruder is actually an intruder. It could be a signal that complies with the regulations, Jost pointed out to readers.

"The numerous footnotes of the ITU Radio Regulations must always be taken into account," Jost said. "For example, the 14,250 - 14,350 kHz range is primarily assigned to the fixed service in some [countries]. Since we cannot determine the origin of signals with absolute certainty, they are usually recorded as intruders, even if there is the possibility of an exception, due to a footnote."

The latest IARU-R1 Monitoring System newsletter includes reports from German radio amateurs on the large number of fishery buoys operating on 10 meters, where amateur radio is primary.

Listeners outside of Region 1 can monitor the HF online using one of the many web-based SDR receivers.

Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Note: Many conventions and hamfests have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Check the calendar of canceled events on the ARRL website.

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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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