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Utah Group Puts Broadband-Hamnet to Work for Food Project


A small band of Amateur Radio volunteers in Utah’s Salt Lake Valley successfully used a broadband WiFi network set up on the 2.4 GHz amateur band to help coordinate the Boy Scouts of America’s “Scouting for Food” project on March 21. in which Scouts collect items donated to a food bank. Local radio amateurs provide both voice and digital mode communication.

This year for the first time they used a Broadband-Hamnet™ (BBHN) system that coupled modified wireless router gear on amateur frequencies to create a peer-to-peer WiFi network to share audio and video over a generous patch of real estate. BBHN is a descendent of the former ARRL High Speed Multimedia (HSMM) Working Group efforts, earlier known as the “Hinternet” and pioneered by John Champa, K8OCL (SK), and others in the early 2000s. 

“[W]e would call it WiFi on Steroids!” said David Baumanm, KF7MCF. The Utah hams linked 13 nodes across the valley to form a network “that is like a mini private Internet,” Bauman explained. “They then used this network to send live video and audio back to the BSA Headquarters, showing them what was happening at food drop off sites and at the [truck dispatch] headquarters. Bauman called it “a huge step forward in technology from the old days of Morse Code.” Retired clergyman Robert Jelf, KG7OHV, of Magna, headed up the team.

Just outside BSA Headquarters near the University of Utah, Brandon Bauman, KG7RWO, was able to watched via his laptop as volunteers miles away dropped off canned food items and as YRC freight dispatched trucks to pick-up sites around the valley. Brandon was part of an Amateur Radio group that assists the Boy Scouts in the Scouting for Food Project each year by providing communications. This marked the first time BBHN technology was used to support the project in the Salt Lake Valley. Their WiFi network, known as a wireless mesh network, was able to cover a large portion of the valley.

“The farthest point from our hub site was 8.5 miles across the city through a narrow path lined with lots of manmade objects for signals to bounce off,” Jelf said. “While the mesh group was used to show video of the dispatch of trucks and of truck trailers at collection points within the hub site path, collection took place throughout the Wasatch Front area and elsewhere in Utah.”




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