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The ARRL Letter
March 15, 2018
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Why ARRL is Recommending Enhanced HF Privileges for Technicians

ARRL has asked the FCC to expand HF privileges for the entry-level Technician license to include limited phone privileges on 75, 40, and 15 meters, plus RTTY and digital mode privileges on 80, 40, and 15 meters, where Technicians already have CW privileges. ARRL believes the additional digital privileges will attract younger people to Amateur Radio.

The proposed additional HF phone privileges are 3.900 to 4.000 MHz, 7.225 to 7.300 MHz, and 21.350 to 21.450 MHz. Technicians already have HF privileges on parts of 10 meters.

Some in the Amateur Radio community have questioned the need for expanded Technician privileges or to express other perspectives. ARRL has responded to point out some of the key advantages of its petition, which recognizes the tremendous technological advances and changes in Amateur Radio. Some key points:

  • A thorough review of operating privileges available to the entry-level license has not taken place since the late 1970s, when the Novice-class license -- the entry-level license at that time, and no longer issued -- was modified to allow Novices access to a limited portion of 10 meters. This included the first HF phone privileges for Novices.

  • The 2-year process that led to the development of ARRL's petition includes significant input from the Amateur Radio community. The two surveys that the ARRL board's Entry-Level License (ELL) Committee conducted on this issue drew more than 8,000 responses from ARRL members.

  • The 378,000 Technician licensees comprise more than half of the US Amateur Radio population, yet the Technician-class license no longer serves its original purpose from 18 years ago. Many Technicians do not participate actively, pursue on-air and public service opportunities, renew their licenses, or upgrade. An uncomfortably large attrition rate exists among Technician licensees. Technician licenses are not upgrading, because they don't find their operating privileges interesting enough to keep them in the hobby.

  • The proposed addition of 275 kilohertz of HF phone privileges, spread across 80, 40, and 15 meters, would allow Technicians the opportunity to develop and expand their understanding of HF propagation. In addition, this proposed change would allow Technician licensees to participate in public service-oriented, emergency, and Section traffic nets on 75 meters, from 3900 to 4000 kHz, where primary state/Section-wide public service activities often take place.

  • Additional operating privileges for Technicians will not limit their incentive to upgrade. ARRL points out that Technicians now have access to 850 kilohertz of spectrum in four HF bands. ARRL proposes an additional 275 kilohertz on three of those bands, so the total under this proposal is 1,125 kilohertz on four bands -- 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters.

    Compare that to current General-class HF privileges: 3150 kilohertz across nine HF bands -- 160, 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, and 10 meters. In addition, Generals have access to the five 60-meter channels and to the two newest bands, 2200 and 630 meters. The incentive to upgrade from Technician to General is a tripling of the available HF spectrum; upgrading to General allows access to eight additional bands, including the prime daytime bands of 20 and 17 meters. Also, Technicians upgrading to General or higher are permitted the maximum amateur power level of 1500 W PEP. Read more.

ARRL to Shine Spotlight on Public Service Communications at Hamvention 2018

Hamvention® 2018 is May 18-20 at the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Xenia, Ohio. The largest annual Amateur Radio gathering in the US, this year's event has been sanctioned as the 2018 ARRL Great Lakes Division Convention. The theme for this year's Hamvention is "Amateur Radio...Serving the Community." ARRL has responded in that spirit, and four ARRL-sponsored forums -- to include many guest presenters -- will comprise a Public Service Communications track on Friday and Saturday of Hamvention.

"Getting Started in Public Service Communications," an introduction to public service communication training and emergency preparedness, will take place on Friday at 9:15 AM, moderated by Ken Bailey, K1FUG, the ARRL Emergency Preparedness Assistant and Continuing Education Program Administrator. He will cover the many ways that radio amateurs serve their communities in good times and in bad.

"Building Partnerships," with ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, and FEMA Community Partners Specialist, External Affairs Sarah Byrne as co-presenters, will begin at 11:50 AM on Friday. Acknowledging that collaborative and mutually beneficial partnerships are key to successful disaster and emergency response, this session will explore how Amateur Radio public service groups rely on such partnerships when serving their communities. Corey and Byrne will address how to build and grow partnerships of different levels of complexity across a wide range of interests and organizations -- from Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADs), to other nonprofits and commercial entities.

ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U.

Corey also will moderate a panel discussion on Saturday at 9:15 AM. This session will offer a chance to hear from representatives of Amateur Radio's largest organizations and partnerships that are active during times of disaster and emergency.

"Stories from the 2017 Hurricanes" is ARRL's final forum in the Public Service Communications track. It will take place at 1:30 PM on Saturday. Special guests will share firsthand accounts of Amateur Radio's response to the 2017 hurricanes in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and across the southeastern US. Speakers will include ARRL Section Manager (SM) for Puerto Rico, Oscar Resto, KP4RF; US Virgin Islands SM Fred Kleber, K9VV, and Andy Anderson, KE0AYJ, who was among the Amateur Radio operators organized by ARRL as American Red Cross volunteers who deployed to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Anderson and fellow volunteer -- and Hamvention Amateur of the Year -- Val Hotzfeld, NV9L, who also deployed to Puerto Rico, will be keynote speakers at the 2018 ARRL Donor Recognition Reception on the Thursday evening before Hamvention.

People who attend three or more of the ARRL-sponsored Public Service Communications forums will earn an ARRL certificate in recognition of their commitment to ham radio public service training and development.

Hamvention has also organized activities that fold into this year's public service theme. Preble County, Ohio, ARES Emergency Coordinator Gary Hollenbaugh, NJ8BB, has coordinated a display of mobile emergency communications vehicles and equipment at Hamvention for 10 years. "The purpose of the display is to promote emergency communications, and for groups who build and operate mobile communications facilities to display their equipment and demonstrate their capabilities," Hollenbaugh said. "It's also a chance for the groups to talk about how to develop emergency communications in the field and to exchange ideas with Hamvention visitors."

The centerpiece of the ARRL's participation at Hamvention is ARRL EXPO 2018, a spacious exhibit area that will be located in Building 2 at the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center. Corey and Bailey have organized an Amateur Radio Public Service exhibit for ARRL EXPO, which will include a small stage and seating so attendees can enjoy 15-minute public-service-themed presentations throughout the convention.

The exhibit will include a display of ARRL Ham Aid equipment. Ham Aid kits were used throughout Puerto Rico for the hurricane relief and recovery effort. Following the 2017 hurricanes, more than 600 donations to supply and re-supply the Ham Aid program were received from radio clubs, individuals, and several Amateur Radio retailers and manufacturers.

Other ARRL highlights at Hamvention 2018 include the popular ARRL Member Forum, moderated by ARRL Great Lakes Division Director Dale Williams, WA8EFK. The ARRL Member Forum -- at noon on Saturday in Room 3 -- is your opportunity to hear from national and local ARRL officials on key areas of member interest. All are welcome.

On Friday at 2:25 PM in Room 3, "ARRL International Grid Chase 2018 -- Get in the Chase!" will offer an update on ARRL's year-long on-the-air event aimed at working as many grid squares as possible before next year. ARRL Contest Branch Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, will provide tips on participating, uploading your contact data to ARRL's Logbook of The World (LoTW), scoring, and awards.

The ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative Forum will gather on Saturday, 4-5 PM, in Room 3. Moderators will be Andy Milluzzi, KK4LWR, and his brother Tony Milluzzi, KD8RTT. A growing number of campus radio clubs and student radio amateurs are sharing ideas and suggestions on the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative (CARI) Facebook page. They're among those inspiring a renaissance of ham radio on campuses. CARI provides a space for students to meet and to network. The ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative is sponsored in part by the W1YSM Snyder Family Collegiate Amateur Radio Endowment.

"Reaching the Public with Ham Radio" will be the focus on Sunday from 9:15 AM to 10:15 AM, in Room 2. Presenters will be Tommy Gober, N5DUX, an ARRL Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology instructor, and ARRL Marketing Manager Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R. Many radio clubs organize displays and exhibits to garner interest for Amateur Radio. They recruit new hams at Maker Faires, school and Scouting events, county fairs, public events, and science and technology conventions. Clubs also set up displays for the general public during ARRL Field Day. Participants will learn and share different methods for organizing exhibits and engaging the public at non-radio events.

A complete list of Hamvention forums is on the Hamvention website. Purchase Hamvention tickets online.

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The Doctor Will See You Now!

The Doctor opens the mailbag for the newest (March 15) 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 e-mail your questions to doctor@arrl.org, 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.

2018 ARRL International Grid Chase Update

Our second month of the 2018 ARRL International Grid Chase (IGC) is now in the books. Big numbers continue on the bands, with overall reporting up by more than 5% from January. While WARC and VHF+ band activity dipped a bit, activity was up on the other HF bands. As evidenced by how many amateurs participated in February, per the leader board, the month saw 22,121 participants (logbook accounts = station locations). March is off and running with more than 14,600 logbook accounts -- through March 12 at 1200 UTC. Months start out strong because the leaderboard resets, allowing repeat contacts.

Last month, we reported that low sunspots and low winter E-skip and F2 motivated lower band participation. As spring takes hold, E-skip will bring up the MUF for upper HF (and VHF) bands, and tropospheric openings will fuel VHF-to-microwave openings as well.

Activity in late February and early March also benefitted from the ARRL International DX Contest CW and phone weekends.

ARRL's social media feeds have been humming with lots of IGC chatter. A couple group activities that caught our attention included posts by Bob Lindsay, W8MRL, who is tracking the IGC activities of Ohio hams, and by Paul Gacek, W6PNG, and the TI/WJ1B team who mounted a DXpedition to Costa Rica (EK70) for the couple of weeks around the time of the ARRL DX Phone weekend. In addition to Gacek, the team included Buddipole CEO/Owner Chris Drummond, W6HFP; ARRL Dakota Division Director Matt Holden, K0BBC, and retired ARRL COO Harold Kramer, WJ1B.

Complete Grid Chase information is always available on the ARRL website. Also visit the IGC 2018 Facebook page.

ARRL 2018 International Grid Chase gear now is available from the ARRL Store. You can buy IGC t-shirts, coffee mugs, pins, and stickers, as well as an IGC North America map, grid square map, and grid square atlas. -- Thanks to ARRL Contest Branch Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ

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Log into AmazonSmileGo, and with every qualifying purchase you make through AmazonSmile, Amazon will make a contribution to ARRL. This helps ARRL to extend its reach in public service, advocacy, education, technology, and membership. Support the Amateur Radio Service and ARRL by shopping AmazonSmile today.

For more information, visit AmazonSmile, and log in to your Amazon account.

Digital QST App Update Now Available

The digital QST app, upgraded to feature a new build from our digital publishing partner, is now available. This change only affects mobile users who read the digital edition of QST on their smartphones or tablets through the app; web browser use will not be affected. The update will look different from the current app, but provide the same function to read and download digital QST, plus some new features that have been frequently requested by members. These additions include the ability to:

  • Create and manage bookmarks

  • Start a download queue when downloading issues for offline use

  • Clear the cache from within the app

To help members adjust to the new look and functions, we have updated the app section of our instructional guide, which is linked from the QST page of our website. If auto-updates are enabled on your device, the app will automatically convert to the new build when it is available. If you do not have auto-updates enabled, you will receive a notification and have to manually update the QST app through your device's app store (the update does not require a fee). Please be sure to conduct this manual update to keep your app up to date and functioning optimally. The guide also includes step-by-step instructions on how to know when an app update is available and how to download it on your device.

Note that this update will delete any downloaded issues of QST accumulated on the app since ARRL changed digital publishing providers in December 2016. The instructional guide provides further details on using the new build. To see lists of mobile devices that are compatible with the digital QST app, visit the FAQs page and click the link for your corresponding mobile device.

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FT8 DXpedition Mode Field Test Attracts Upward of 500 Participants

The "Fox" and the "Hounds" were on the bands March 6, as the WSJT-X development group conducted a field test of the still-beta FT8 DXpedition Mode. A second beta version of WSJT-X version 1.9.0, which includes the DXpedition-mode-capable version of FT8 -- was released recently. Version 1.9.0-rc2 was made available to allow further field testing of the FT8 DXpedition mode, which is designed to permit DXpeditions to make FT8 contacts at very high rates.

Developer Joe Taylor -- the "T" in FT8 -- has released a few highlights drawn from his observations during the public test. The "Fox" is the DXpedition station, while "Hounds" comprise the pileup. According to the FT8 DXpedition Mode User Guide, contacts between the DXpedition station and callers can be completed in as little as one transmission apiece by the calling station. DXpedition stations can transmit up to five signals simultaneously, allowing contact rates up to about 500 per hour, under ideal conditions.

"The overwhelming majority of participating Hounds operated as intended, and according to instructions," Taylor said. "I copied 190 unique Hound call signs during the 2300 [UTC] hour -- when I was acting as Fox on 20 meters -- and 330 unique call signs during the whole 4 hours. I suppose that we had at least 400 - 500 participants, maybe more."

Taylor said that depending on programming progress and his own schedule, the development team may schedule another public test in a few weeks. Read more.

Chinese Lunar-Orbit Amateur Radio Payload Could Launch this Spring

China's twin-launch Chang'e 4 mission to the far side of the moon will place a pair of microsatellites in lunar orbit this spring "to test low-frequency radio astronomy and space-based interferometry." The two satellites, unofficially called DSLWP-A1 and DSLWP-A2 (DSLWP = Discovering the Sky at Longest Wavelengths Pathfinder), could launch this spring.

The pair represent the first phase of the Chang'e 4 mission, which involves placing a relay satellite in a halo orbit to facilitate communication with the Chang'e 4 lander and rover, which will be sent to the far side of the moon in December. Because the moon's far side never faces Earth, the satellite is needed to serve as an Earth-moon relay. The Chang'e 4 mission will be the first-ever attempt at a soft-landing on the far side of the moon.

The two spacecraft also will carry Amateur Radio and educational payloads, but not a transponder. Developed by students at the Harbin Institute of Technology, the Amateur Radio payload on DSLWP-A1 will provide a telecommand uplink and a telemetry and digital image downlink. Radio amateurs will be able to transmit commands that allow them to send commands to take and download an image.

The satellites will piggyback on the Chang'e 4 relay package and will deploy themselves into a 200 × 9,000 kilometer lunar orbits. The Harbin Institute of Technology team has proposed downlinks in the 435 and 436 MHz range.

Equipped with low-frequency antennas and receivers, the astronomy objectives of DSLWP-A1 and -A2 will be to observe the sky at the lower end of the electromagnetic spectrum -- 1 MHz to 30 MHz -- with the aim of learning about energetic phenomena from celestial sources. The launch is anticipated for May or June. Read more.

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Tennessee Middle School Students Will Send CubeSat into Space

NASA has informed Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, that its "RamSat" 2U CubeSat proposal has been accepted for participation in NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) for a launch opportunity during 2019, 2020, or 2021. The Robertsville proposal was one of 21 satellites selected or prioritized for participation in the ninth CSLI selection. CSLI provides opportunities for small satellite payloads built by schools and nonprofit organizations to fly on upcoming launches. RamSat will be an educational mission to develop and implement a middle school STEM curriculum for building a CubeSat.

"This is such an exciting opportunity for the students!" said Peter Thornton, one of the RamSat team leaders from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "They will now have the chance to design, build, carry out, and own a satellite mission. They will be the mission scientists, the communication specialists, and the logistics experts."

The students' plan for RamSat is to send a small camera and radio encased in a 2U nanosatellite that will relay data and images from space back to Earth. This will let students study reforestation patterns of vegetation lost in forest fires. The student mission arose in response to a real-world connection they had to the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, fires last year.

"I can't think of a more exciting project to ignite the students' curiosity and passion for science and engineering," Thornton said. Read more. -- Thanks to AMSAT News Service via Oak Ridge Schools

In Brief...

Paul Gilbert, KE5ZW, will succeed ARRL South Texas Section Manager Lee Cooper, W5LHC, who is stepping down. Cooper cited time constraints and the workload associated with his consulting business. "This was not an easy decision to make, but one I felt best for the future of our Section," Cooper said in a message to South Texas Section members. He has been South Texas SM since 2009. Gilbert will take the reins on April 1, to complete the current term of office that continues through September 30, 2019. Of Cedar Park, Gilbert is an Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator and Technical Specialist in the South Texas Section. He also serves as the West Gulf Division Assistant Director for Public Safety. He is a member of the Radio Club of America Board of Directors.

Past ARRL Louisiana Section Manager Jim Molan, KD5IGG, of Bunkie, Louisiana, died on March 8 after suffering a severe head injury in a fall. He was 84. Molan had served as Louisiana SM from 2014 until 2016 and was a Louisiana Section Field Organization volunteer prior to that, having served as Assistant Section Manager, Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator, District Emergency Coordinator, and Emergency Coordinator. Molan was a veteran of the Korean Conflict and later enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard, where he was a battalion tank leader. He retired from electric services company Cleco after some 40 years of service. A Red Cross volunteer, Molan was named as the National American Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteer of the Year in 1997.

Before shutting down on March 12, Z60A in Kosovo had logged 98,450 contacts during its celebratory operations to hand out a new one to the madding crowd. The 30-day-long initial activation of the newest DXCC entity encountered 30,541 individual call signs in 174 DXCC entities. "Mission Goodwill Kosovo" expressed appreciation to the 28 operators from various countries near and far who turned out to handle the pileups. The Z60A logs will be uploaded to Logbook of The World (LoTW) soon, and QSL cards will be at the printer's next week.

Radio amateurs around the world will celebrate Saint Patrick's Day on the air during the St. Patrick Award activity. The activity starts at 1200 UTC on March 16 and continues until 1200 UTC on March 18. (St. Patrick's Day is March 17.) Radio amateurs or SWLs are invited to take part. Awards will be in four categories: SPD Station Award (for registered stations); Fixed Station Award; Mobile Station Award, and Short Wave Listener Award. Register to be an official participating station. Visit the event's Facebook page. -- Thanks to Bobby Wadey, MI0RYL


Getting It Right

The article "History-Related Events Will Operate from Rare Grid in Cape Cod National Seashore," in The ARRL Letter for March 8 contained an error in the day of the week that the W1MGY Titanic memorial operation begins. It should have said, "Operation will begin on Thursday, April 12, at 9 AM ET..."


The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: The blank sun continues, with no sunspots observed since March 2, so the average daily sunspot number dropped from 1.6 to zero this week, and average daily solar flux rose fractionally from 67.6 to 67.7. Geomagnetic indicators were up slightly, with planetary A index increasing from 5.1 to 7.1, and mid-latitude A index rose from 4.6 to 5.7.

Predicted solar flux is 69 on March 15-22; 72 on March 23-29; 70 on March 30; 68 on March 31-April 11; 70 on April 12; 72 on April 13-25; 70 on April 26, and 68 on April 27-28.

Predicted planetary A index is 18 on March 15; 15 on March 16-18; 10, 5, 7, and 5 on March 19-22; 10, 5, 8, and 20 on March 23-26; 5 on March 27-29; 8 on March 30-31; 5 on April 1-9; 8, 10, 14, 16, and 20 on April 10-14; 5 on April 15-16; 12, 18, 10, 5, 8, and 20 on April 17-22; 5 on April 23-25; 8 on April 26-27, and 5 on April 28.

Sunspot numbers for March 8 through 14, 2018 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, and 0, with a mean of 0. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 66.6, 67.5, 67.7, 67.8, 68.1, 68.6, and 67.7, with a mean of 67.7. Estimated planetary A indices were 4, 12, 12, 6, 3, 4, and 9, with a mean of 7.1. Estimated mid-latitude A indices were 3, 10, 9, 7, 2, 3, and 6, with a mean of 5.7.

Send me your reports and observations.


Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • March 17 -- Feld Hell Sprint

  • March 17 -- AGCW VHF/UHF Contest (CW)

  • March 17-18 -- Russian DX Contest (CW, phone)

  • March 17-18 -- Louisiana QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • March 17-18 -- All Virginia QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • March 17-19 -- BARTG HF RTTY Contest

  • March 18 -- UBA Spring Contest (SSB)

  • March 19 -- Run for the Bacon QRP Contest (CW)

  • March 19 -- Bucharest Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • March 22 -- NAQCC CW Sprint

  • March 22 -- RSGB 80-Meter Club Championship (SSB)

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 e-mail 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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