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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
September 17, 2020
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
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Storms Generate Busy Times for ARES and the Hurricane Watch Net

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) activated on Sunday, September 13, on both 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz as Hurricane Paulette was predicted to make landfall on Bermuda the next day as a Category 2 storm. That tour melded into an extended activation in anticipation of Hurricane Sally, which came ashore on the Gulf coast in Alabama on September 16. The slow-moving storm, which diminished to a tropical storm not long after landing, at mid-week was causing "catastrophic and life-threatening flooding" over portions of the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama.

The HWN stood down at mid-week after 71 hours of continuous operation. HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said it seem long activations such as these are happening all too often. "I suppose Mother Nature hasn't been getting the attention she desires," Graves quipped.

Northern Florida Section Emergency Coordinator Karl Martin, K4HBN, reported on September 17 that Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) teams in his Section were standing down. "We had a total of 4 counties affected by Sally," he said. "The hardest hit was Escambia county, located at the Alabama/Florida border. The Atlantic is still very busy, but I hope the rest of the season is quiet."

ARES teams went on alert in other Sections in the region.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced on Tuesday that two 60-meter channels had been made available for interoperability between US government stations and US amateur radio stations involved in emergency communications related to the wildland firefighting response in California, Oregon, and Washington, as well as to Hurricane Sally. The interoperability

channels will remain active until the need for them no longer exists:

  • Channel 1 -- primary voice traffic 5332 kHz channel center, 5330.5 kHz USB voice

  • Channel 2 -- digital traffic 5348 kHz channel center, 5346.5 kHz USB with 1.5 kHz offset to center of digital waveform

Frequencies may be modified or added to by FEMA Region 10 for their area or operations due to existing 5 MHz/60-meter interoperability plans for their region.

Amateur radio is secondary on the 5 MHz band and must yield to operational traffic related to wildland firefighting and hurricane response. Although the intended use for these channels is interoperability between federal government stations and licensed US amateur radio stations, federal government stations are primary users and amateurs are secondary users.

The FCC has granted ARRL's request for a temporary waiver to permit amateur data transmissions at a higher symbol rate than currently permitted by section 97.307(f) of the FCC amateur service rules. The FCC acted to facilitate hurricane and wildfire relief communications within the US and its territories.

ARRL sought the waiver for amateur radio licensees directly involved with hurricane and wildfire relief via HF using PACTOR 4 modems for communication within the US and its territories, relative to several impending hurricane situations and wildfires in the western US. ARRL's petition noted that Section 97.307(f) of the amateur rules prevents the use of PACTOR 4, a data protocol that permits relatively high-speed data transmission. ARRL also noted that past FCC temporary waivers have allowed this protocol during similar events. The waiver is limited to 60 days.

The Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) is following FEMA's lead on the interoperability channel designations for the wildfire and hurricane response. Army MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY, says he has alerted all MARS members of the FEMA channel designations and MARS members are prepared to support response efforts as needed.

WX4NHC at the NHC also activated on Sunday in advance of Paulette, monitoring and gathering reports from the HWN on 14.325

and 7.268 MHz and via the VoIP-WX Net on EchoLink WXtalk 7203 Conference and IRLP 9219.

The Caribbean Basin has more in store during this hurricane season. "We are now keeping a close eye on Hurricane Teddy," Graves said, noting that Bermuda could be affected by another hurricane by late Sunday night or early Monday morning. "Also, we are keeping a close eye on a system that seems to be getting better organized in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico."

The next named storm will be Wilfred, and after that storms will be designated using the Greek alphabet, starting with Alpha. "If we reach Alpha, it will be the second time in history to use that name," Graves pointed out. "The first was in 2005."

ARRL to Seek Changes in FCC Draft Decision on Amateur 9-Centimeter Band

ARRL efforts are under way to preserve amateur radio access to the 3.3 - 3.5 GHz (9-centimeter) band. In an 80+ page draft Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulelmaking (R&O) in WT Docket 19-348, the FCC announced its intention to delete the 3.3 - 3.5 GHz amateur secondary allocation, subject to a phased withdrawal tied to its licensing of new primary users. According to the FCC, the 3.450 - 3.550 GHz spectrum will be put up for auction as early as December 2021. Incumbent users will be permitted to continue operating in the band until licensing to commercial interests -- presumably 5G -- begins. That's estimated to be about 3 months after the spectrum auction concludes, or around mid-2022. No alternative spectrum was proposed to replace the 9-centimeter spectrum for amateur radio operations. In an associated Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC said it seeks comment "on whether it is in the public interest to sunset amateur use in the 3.3 - 3.55 GHz band in two separate phases," -- first above 3.4 GHz, and later below 3.4 GHz.

"We find that removing the existing secondary non-federal allocations from the 3.3 - 3.55 GHz band and clearing these non-federal operations from the band is in the public interest, and therefore, we adopt this proposal," the draft R&O says. "Because the [Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Agency] agree that commercial users operating pursuant to flexible use licenses can be accommodated in the 3.45 - 3.55 GHz band at full power, and given continued interest in the 3.3 - 3.45 GHz band for future sharing for flexible-use licenses, we find that retaining the secondary non-federal allocations across this spectrum would hinder the Commission's ability to offer flexible-use licensing in the future and would undermine the intensive and efficient use of valuable mid-band spectrum."

"Further, to prevent adjacent-channel issues and to preserve the possibility of additional clearing for flexible use licensing below 3.45 GHz, we find that sunsetting the secondary amateur allocation from the entire 3.3 -- 3.5 GHz portion of the band is in the public interest," the FCC said.

Last February, ARRL filed comments opposing the FCC's proposal to delete the 3.3 - 3.5 GHz secondary amateur allocation, pointing to amateur radio's long history of successful coexistence with primary users of the band.

The absolute deadline to submit additional comments on the draft R&O and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking via the Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) or to contact FCC staff on this issue is Wednesday, September 23 -- 7 days before the full Commission's consideration of the draft for final adoption -- in order to comply with FCC "Sunshine Rules."

In August, the White House and the Department of Defense announced plans to allow for commercial 5G systems to operate in the 3.45 - 3.55 GHz band throughout almost all of the contiguous US. The plan would leave radio amateurs to "individually determine appropriate alternate spectrum from existing available spectrum allocations."

The 3.45 - 3.55 GHz segment would be teed up for a spectrum auction that's expected to commence by the end of 2021. This would mean amateurs would have to cease all operations at 3.45 GHz and above by the middle of 2022 at the earliest, based on an FCC estimate.

The 3.3 - 3.45 GHz segment is not immediately available for reallocation and auction, because more work is needed to accommodate the Department of Defense. Under the rules as proposed, amateur operations will be permitted to continue in this spectrum until sometime in the future, when FCC rulemakings establish new rules and conduct a spectrum auction and commercial licensing.

ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On the Air podcast (Episode 9) features a discussion on how to tune HF signals and use transceiver tools to enhance reception. 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 16) features a chat about the 222 MHz band, with QST's "The World Above 50 MHz" columnist Jon Jones, N0JK. Also, Steve Ford, WB8IMY, offers some tips on shopping for coaxial cable.

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.

Analysis Determines We Are in Solar Cycle 25

It's now official. The solar minimum between Solar Cycles 24 and 25 -- the period when the sun is least active -- occurred in December 2019, when the 13-month smoothed sunspot number fell to 1.8. This is according to the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel, co-chaired by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). We are now in Solar Cycle 25, with peak sunspot activity expected in 2025, the panel said. The panel expressed high confidence that Solar Cycle 25 will break the trend of weakening solar activity seen over the past four cycles.

"We predict the decline in solar cycle amplitude, seen from Cycles 21 through 24, has come to an end," said Lisa Upton, panel co-chair and solar physicist with Space Systems Research Corporation. "There is no indication we are approaching a Maunder-type minimum in solar activity."

At 11 years, Solar Cycle 24 was of average length and had the fourth-smallest intensity since regular record-keeping began in 1755, with what is considered Solar Cycle 1. It was also the weakest cycle in a century. At solar maximum in April 2014, sunspots peaked at 114 for the cycle, well below the 179 average.

Solar Cycle 24's progression was unusual. The sun's northern hemisphere led the sunspot cycle, peaking more than 2 years ahead of the southern hemisphere sunspot peak. This resulted in fewer sunspots at solar maximum than if the two hemispheres were in phase.

For the past 8 months, activity on the sun has steadily increased, indicating that we have transitioned to Solar Cycle 25, forecast to be a fairly weak cycle -- about the same as Solar Cycle 24. Solar Cycle 25 is expected to peak in July 2025, with a predicted 115 sunspots.

"How quickly solar activity rises is an indicator on how strong the solar cycle will be," said Doug Biesecker, the NOAA-NASA panel co-chair and a solar physicist at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). "Although we've seen a steady increase in sunspot activity this year, it is slow."

"While we are not predicting a particularly active Solar Cycle 25, violent eruptions from the sun can occur at any time," Biesecker added.

An artist's rendering of the Space Weather Follow-On L-1 observatory.

Before Solar Cycle 25 peaks in 2024, NOAA is slated to launch a new spacecraft dedicated to operational space weather forecasting. The Space Weather Follow-On L-1 observatory (SWFO-L1) will be equipped with instruments that sample the solar wind, provide imagery of coronal mass ejections, and monitor other extreme activity from the sun in finer detail than before. NOAA's next Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-U) is also scheduled to launch in 2024. GOES-U will carry three solar monitoring instruments, including the first compact coronagraph, which will help detect coronal mass ejections. Enhanced observations of the sun from these satellites will help improve space weather forecasting.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: As detailed elsewhere in this edition of The ARRL Letter (see Analysis Determines We Are in Solar Cycle 25), this week's big news was that scientists have pinned down the Solar Cycle 24 minimum to December 2019 -- and the start of Solar Cycle 25.

The reason behind the delay in announcing this is the nature of moving averages, which, in this case, is a smoothed sunspot number derived from arithmetical averaging of sunspot numbers over 1 year -- i.e., half the numbers before December, and half after December -- to derive a mid-point average.

Recent news stories, such as this article from SpaceRef, give predictions for the next cycle.

Over the September 10 - 16 reporting week, the average daily solar flux was 69.2 -- no significant difference from the previous week. Average daily planetary A index was 5.3, up from 4.4 the previous week. Average daily mid-latitude A index went from 4.9 to 5.4.

Predicted solar flux for the next 45 days (September 17 - October 31) remains 70, the same as reported in recent bulletins.

Predicted planetary A index is 5 on September 17 - 22; 8, 10, 15, 10, 25, 15, and 10 on September 23 - 29; 5 on September 30 - October 14; 8 on October 15 - 16; 5 on October 17 - 19; then, as earlier, 8, 10, 15, 10, 25, 15, and 10 on October 20 - 26,and back to 5 on October 27 - 31.

Sunspot numbers for September 10 - 16 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, and 0, for a mean of 0. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 69.3, 68.7, 69.3, 69.8, 68.9, 68.8, and 69.5, with a mean of 69.2. Estimated planetary A indices were 2, 3, 5, 6, 11, 7, and 3, with a mean of 5.3. Middle latitude A index was 2, 2, 6, 7, 10, 8, and 3 with a mean of 5.4.

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
  • September 19 -- QRP Afield (CW, phone, digital)

  • September 19 -- Wisconsin Parks on the Air (Phone)

  • September 19 -- Feld Hell Sprint

  • September 19 -- VHF FOC QSO Party (CW)

  • September 19 - 20 -- Collegiate QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • September 19 - 20 -- ARRL 10 GHz and Up Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • September 19 - 20 -- SARL VHF/UHF Digital Contest

  • September 19 - 20 -- Scandinavian Activity Contest (CW)

  • September 19 - 20 -- All Africa International DX Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • September 19 - 20 -- Iowa QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • September 19 - 20 -- New Jersey QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • September 19 - 20 -- New Hampshire QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • September 19 - 20 -- Washington State Salmon Run (CW, phone, digital)

  • September 20 -- North American Sprint, RTTY

  • September 20 -- BARTG Sprint 75 (Digital)

  • September 20 - 21 -- Run for the Bacon QRP Contest (CW)

  • September 21 -- 144 MHz Fall Sprint (CW, phone, digital)

  • September 23 -- SKCC Sprint (CW)

  • September 24 -- RSGB 80-Meter Autumn Series, Data

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.

International Telecommunication Union Releases 2020 ITU Radio Regulations

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has published the 2020 ITU Radio Regulations -- the international treaty governing the global use of RF spectrum and satellite orbits. The publication contains the complete texts of the Radio Regulations adopted during World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19), held last year in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Available in all six of ITU's official languages, the 2020 ITU Radio Regulations are in effect for all signatory parties on January 1, 2021. Electronic versions are free, and the "traditional four-volume boxed set," as well as a multilingual DVD, will be available for purchase in the coming weeks, the ITU said.

"The publication of the Radio Regulations is the culmination of the hard work and intense deliberations that took place during WRC-19," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. "Efficient and economical use of the naturally limited radio-frequency spectrum is key to ensuring we bring the benefits of connectivity and digital transformation to people everywhere. The ITU Radio Regulations are a vital vehicle for this endeavor."

The ITU said that, when it comes to allocating radio frequencies, including sharing and harmonizing their use for different purposes, the Radio Regulations are the ultimate tool. "They ensure the use of the RF spectrum is rational, equitable, efficient, and economical, all while aiming to prevent harmful interference between different radio services," the ITU said.

The Radio Regulations govern 40 radiocommunication services, and are designed to protect existing radio services while enabling the introduction of new and enhanced services.

  • CQ World Wide Contest Director John Dorr, K1AR, has announced some rule changes effective with this fall's contests. Multi-Single, Multi-Two, and Multi-Multi will be the standard entry category names; amplifiers will be included in the 500-meter diameter circle of the station location, and logs must be uploaded online.

  • The Fox Mike Hotel Portable Operations Challenge on October 3 - 4 permits operation as a portable station from backyard, garden, or patio, using portable equipment.

  • The FCC has announced that the Anchorage Amateur Radio Club VEC has joined the list of authorized Club Station Call Sign Administrators (CSCSAs).

  • Radio Amateurs of Canada has announced that it will hold its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Sunday, September 20. It will be a virtual event.

  • The Collegiate QSO Party this weekend provides bonus points for alumni working their alma maters, or an alumnus/alumna working other alumni. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, rules have been relaxed to allow a campus radio station to be operated remotely by college club members, some entry classes have been changed, and scoring has been modified.

  • Weatheradio Canada has announced that it's considering shutting down 48 of its 230 VHF weather information transmitters across the country -- about 20% of the network. The Canadian government says most of the sites are in urban areas with ample access to other sources of weather information. -- Thanks to The SWLing Post

Ham Radio Exams are Not Going Away in Brazil After All

Amateur radio examinations are not being eliminated in Brazil. A notice that the country's telecommunications regulator ANATEL released recently was intended to prompt discussion and elicit comment on the idea, but it prompted confusion too. On September 10, ANATEL responded to a letter from Brazil's national amateur radio society, LABRE, that expressed concern regarding the proposal to scrap amateur radio exams. ANATEL told LABRE that no such change is in the works, although the regulator did say that some rules and regulations will be revised and modernized in due course.

"With respect to the merit presented in the correspondence, this will be analyzed and considered by the technical team of this agency [i.e., ANATEL] in the finalization of the regulatory impact analysis report and the respective regulatory proposal, if any," ANATEL told LABRE.

Henrique Gravina, PU3IKE, contacted ARRL to offer his take on the confusion. He said many people have complained to ANATEL over the years about amateur exams. When ANATEL considers that a particular issue raised represents a problem area, it selects a complaint to use as a starting point for discussion. This is akin to a Petition for Rulemaking (PRM) that the FCC might "put on notice" to invite comment after a suggested change in the rules.

"Portuguese is a difficult language, even for natives, and it gets worse when we speak and write in legal terms and in bureaucratic processes that are very complicated," Gravina allowed. "Hams who are not law students or lawyers read the [proposal] and did not understand what was happening."

LABRE has said it was satisfied with ANATEL's response and will continue to collaborate with the agency to help modernize the regulatory framework that governs amateur radio in Brazil. ANATEL said it's considering extending the deadline for public comment on the group of proposals that included the suggestion to eliminate ham radio exams.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some changes have already come about in the form of online exams for two license classes -- A and C. Brazil retains a 5 WPM Morse code requirement for the class B license, and that has not been made available online. Applicants must have 1 year of experience as a class B licensee to sit for the class A exam. The Morse code exam can only be taken at an ANATEL agency office, available in most Brazilian states. -- Thanks to Henrique Gravina, PU3IKE

In Brief...

The ARRL Board of Directors has named James W. Brown, K9YC, as the recipient of the 2019 ARRL Technical Service Award. The Board cited Brown's frequent contributions to -- and presentations at -- amateur radio forums at conventions including Dayton Hamvention®, Pacificon, and the International DX and Contesting Convention in Visalia, California. Brown, of Santa Cruz, California, has also collaborated with the ARRL Lab, contributed to various ARRL publications, including The ARRL Handbook, The ARRL Antenna Book, and others, and shared his technical and educational expertise in the fields of audio engineering, RFI, and other aspects of electronics and engineering. He shares his knowledge and expertise with the amateur radio community via his informational website. The Board said, "Brown continues to provide his expertise as a means of 'giving back' to the amateur community, in the spirit of the amateurs that worked with him when he was first licensed at the age of 13."

Former Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, recently encouraged the use of mesh networking. He said mesh networking can empower volunteers during natural disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires. Fugate was the keynote speaker for the International Wireless Communications Expo's (IWCE) virtual event. "By building these types of networks, you can put people back into communication and put people to work where they're needed," he said. He encouraged public safety agencies to work with local amateur radio groups and commercial providers to create solutions that can build these mesh networks when the main network goes down. -- Thanks to The ARES Letter

Past New England Division Director Bill Burden, WB1BRE, of Strafford, Vermont, died on July 29. An ARRL Life Member, he was 84. Burden served as ARRL New England Division Director from 1992 to 1996. Prior to that, he was New England Division Vice Director (1991 - 1992) and New Hampshire Section Manager (1985 - 1991). He served as the emergency management director for the Town of Strafford. A graduate of Lowell Tech with a degree in electrical engineering, Burden worked for Lockheed-Sanders, retiring in 1991.

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.

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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