Olympia Amateur Radio Society

ARRL Special Service ClubWatts News

Monthly Newsletter of the

Olympia Amateur Radio Society

P.O. Box 2861, Olympia, WA 98507

  September 2007
Edited by George Lanning  KB6LE 

Table of Contents

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From the Oval ShackPresident's Message

A young ambitious salesman drove down a country road anxious to begin his career selling insurance. As he drove past a farmer's home he noticed an old man standing out by his wheat crop bent over leaning on a shovel. The young man stopped and thought, this should be an easy sell.

As the young enthusiastic man approached the old man, he unloaded his sales pitch. Anxious to hear a positive response, the wise farmer looked at the young man without saying a word. The old man looked the salesman in the eye and did not say a word. Time passed and the young salesman started to get nervous. Surely this old man has the money. The young man started to sweat. Finally the old man looked the young man in the eye and said, "Do you see those stems of wheat, the old ones, golden and bent over?" Yes replied the salesman. The farmer replied, "Those are the ones with the wheat in them."

This is one of my favorite stories. As a young man growing up on my father's farm in Wyoming, I looked up to those farmers. Many are gone now, and I find myself older in life with more gray hair than I would like. There are a lot of folks out there who want to know about ham radio, but are intimidated by the technical stuff -- I was and am one of them. We need to take the time to share what we know. It is not only a nice thing to do, but it is essential for the survival of ham radio.

-- Bart Tirrell

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WA7OLY Call Sign

If you hear this in the near future on the OARS repeaters, we'll let you in on what it means! The Thurston County ARES RACES Unit applied for, and got, a club license and asked for the vanity call of WA7OLY. The last three letters should make it easy for other District/Region 3 and State agencies to remember what station is talking to them.

For over 25 years, OARS allowed ARES/RACES to use their various calls at our local EOC. We thank all of you in OARS for that and your continued support of the local emergency communications community.

So, if you hear the WA7OLY call, you'll know the Thurston County ARES/RACES unit is on the air! For more information on ARES/RACES, go to: www.wwa-district3-ares.org/thurston_county/ or ARRL.org.


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Health and Happiness

A woman walked up to a little old man rocking in a chair on his porch. "I couldn't help noticing how happy you look," she said. "What's your secret for a long happy life?"

"I smoke three packs of cigarettes a day," he said. "I also drink a case of whiskey a week, eat fatty foods, and never exercise."

"That's amazing," said the woman, "how old are you?"

"Twenty-six," he said.

-- from AJokeADay via Internet

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NATO Group Releases Report on BPL

The Information Systems Technology group, part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) Research and Technology Organization (RTO), released their report, "HF Interference, Procedures and Tools" (RTO-TR-IST-050), in June. This report "address[es] the concerns raised by the potential for unintentional radio interference to be caused by the widespread operation of broadband wire-line telecommunications systems."

BPL, also called Power Line Telecommunications (PLT) in Europe, uses existing power lines for telecommunications with data rates higher than 1 MBit per second. NATO said that since existing power lines were not designed for such transmissions, "they will cause unintentional RF emissions which may adversely affect the established radio noise floor directly, or by cumulative propagation from many such sources. The existing HF background noise possibly may be increased via ground wave and/or sky wave propagation."

Not only could this be a problem for Amateur Radio operators, but NATO said that military users would be affected as well: "Increase of the existing HF noise floor by widespread use of PLT...will bring up problems for Military Radio Users as well as for HF Communication Intelligence (COMINT) in all NATO countries. The signal-to-noise ratio thus may be reduced for tactical and strategic HF radio as well as for fixed sensitive COMINT sites."

Saying that "PLT will produce the most problems regarding HF interference," the report makes the assertion that ambient noise levels in Europe have not increased in the last 30 years. This was proved using measurements made by the ITU in the 1970s compared with noise levels today, with the report saying that the "ITU Recommendations for natural and man-made noise in the HF-range are still valid in Europe."

The NATO report said "[r]ecent measurements carried out in Germany and Great Britain indicated that there is no remarkable difference between these measurements, specifically no increase of the ambient noise in quiet rural zones within the last 30 years. Based on these measurement results, the cumulative interference field strengths far away from telecommunication networks should not be higher than -15 dBuV/m (9 kHz bandwidth) across the entire HF range, if no measurable increase in minimum noise levels are to be tolerated."

Conversely, some European PLT proponents "in presentations and discussions have argued (without being able to prove it) that ITU recommendations based on measurements carried out in the 1970s are no longer valid, as the man-made and the ambient noise levels have increased since that time to considerable higher values (by up to 30 dB)."

The NATO report also indicated the following: A high probability that PLT would cause increased noise levels at sensitive receiver sites given the projected market penetration; and the percentages are highly influenced by assumptions on transmitter EIRP (equivalent, or effective, isotropic radiated power), PLT market penetration and duty cycle.

ARRL Laboratory Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI, was pleased to see the report. "The findings described in this paper are based on good science. NATO has concluded that protection levels well below 0 dBuV/m are needed to prevent interference to sensitive HF operation. They studied distance extrapolation and concluded that 40 dB/decade is not the correct factor to use to make measurements at one distance, and related the measured values to other distances. They also have advanced the state of the art and determined that the aggregate noise from large scale deployment of BPL will increase worldwide noise levels by skywave propagation."

Hare points out that NATO's report "pretty much echoes the ARRL's pleadings during the BPL rulemaking." The ARRL has constantly argued against the 40 dB/decade extrapolation factor that, while recommended by the FCC, the report found, "was not confirmed by measurements carried out by other organizations."

The report acknowledges that there are no commonly accepted regulatory emission limits from PLT and recommends that countries work together to limit these emissions. "While it is highly desirable that the regulatory limits on PLT emissions be harmonized throughout the NATO countries, the RTG recognizes that NATO, by itself, has no regulatory authority over the emission limits. Therefore, it is recommended that NATO seek the implementation of this goal by working together with the national and international regulatory authorities."

-- from the ARRL Letter

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Treasurer's Report

As of 8/31/07

    GENERAL FUND (checking account)

        Previous balance     $ 1,839.02

            Income               112.89

            Expenses             475.00

        Ending balance         1,476.91

    REPEATER / PACKET FUND (savings account)

        Previous balance     $ 1,005.72

            Income                 0.00

            Expenses               0.00

        Ending balance         1,005.72

-- Ed Fitzgerald, N7WW, Treasurer

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OARS Net check-ins

The following stations checked in on the OARS General Information Net one or more times on the dates of August 7, 14, or 21:


Net control stations reporting for the month were Tom Bohon, KE7EJJ, Steve Ward, WC7I, and Dan Crane, KB7DFL. Thank you for your support!!

The net meets at 7:30 every Tuesday evening on the 3 linked OARS repeaters: 147.36, 224.46, and 441.40 MHz. All Hams are invited to check in.

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Student Misunderstandings

-- from Tony, VK3API, via packet

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ARRL Continues Efforts on Interference to PAVE PAWS Radar Sites

On August 13, the ARRL began sending "specific mitigation reduction numbers" to 122 repeater owners, recommending that they reduce their signal anywhere from 7 dB to 56 dB, according to ARRL Regulatory Information Branch Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND. These reductions, requested by the US Air Force and the Department of Defense, only concern those repeaters identified by the DoD as affecting the PAVE PAWS radar system.

"Some reductions are going to be attainable," Henderson said. "You can do 7 dB, but 56?" He said such a reduction would "not be realistic to achieve. While many of the affected repeater owners may not be able to achieve the required reductions, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't try to meet the goal. Everyone involved needs to continue trying to meet the DoD's requirements. This gives us the best chance to keep as many of these machines as possible on the air."

Henderson stressed that any order to shut down a repeater will come from the Federal Communications Commission, at the request of the DoD. "This situation only affects those repeaters on the DoD's list in Massachusetts and California. It does not affect the everyday, casual user of 70 cm. This is not a wide-spread threat to the 70 cm band."

Citing an increasing number of interference complaints, the US Air Force has asked the FCC to order dozens of repeater systems to either mitigate interference to the PAVE PAWS radars or shut down. The ARRL has been working with the DoD to develop a plan to mitigate alleged interference from 70 cm ham radio repeaters to this military radar system on both coasts. According to the DoD, the in-band interference from Amateur Radio fixed FM voice repeaters has increased to an unacceptable level. PAVE PAWS radars are used for national security functions, including early detection of sea-launched missiles. They are critical to our national defense and are in use 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The Amateur Radio Service is a secondary user in the 420-450 MHz (70 cm) band, both by the Table of Frequency Allocations and the FCC Part 97 regulations. As such, Amateur Radio licensees, jointly and individually, bear the responsibility of mitigating or eliminating any harmful interference to the primary user, which in this case is the Government Radiolocation Service that includes the DoD PAVE PAWS systems.

-- from the ARRL Letter

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FCC to Lower Vanity Call Sign Fees September 17

The FCC will reduce the regulatory fee to obtain or renew an Amateur Radio vanity call sign by more than 40 percent starting September 17. In a Report & Order (R&O) released August 6, "Assessment and Collection of Regulatory Fees for Fiscal Year 2007," in MD Docket 07-81, the Commission will cut the fee from its current $20.80 to $11.70. This marks the lowest fee in the history of the current vanity call sign program. The FCC is authorized by the Communications Act of 1934 (as amended) to collect vanity call sign fees to recover the costs associated with that program. The vanity call sign fee has fluctuated over the 11 years of the current program -- from a low of $12 to a high of $50. The FCC says it anticipates some 14,700 Amateur Radio vanity call sign "payment units" or applications during the next fiscal year, collecting $171,990 in fees from the program.

The vanity call sign regulatory fee is payable not only when applying for a new vanity call sign, but also upon renewing a vanity call sign for a new term. The first vanity call sign licenses issued under the current Amateur Radio vanity call sign program that began in 1996 came up for renewal last year. Call signs issued prior to 1996 are not considered vanity call signs, even if the holder was able to request a specific call sign.

Amateur Radio licensees may file for renewal only within 90 days of their license expiration date. All radio amateurs must have an FCC Registration Number (FRN) before filing any application with the Commission. Applicants can obtain an FRN by going to the ULS http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/ and clicking on the "New Users Register" link. You must supply your Social Security Number to obtain an FRN.

The ARRL VEC will process license renewals for vanity call sign holders for a modest fee. The service is available to ARRL members and nonmembers, although League members pay less. Routine, non-vanity renewals continue to be free for ARRL members. Trustees of club stations with vanity call signs may renew either via the ULS or through a Club Station Call Sign Administrator, such as ARRL VEC.

License application and renewal information and links to the required forms are available on the ARRL Amateur Application Filing FAQ Web page http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/regulations/application-filing-faq.htm. The FCC's forms page http://www.fcc.gov/formpage.html also offers the required forms.

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FCC Issues Two Citations in Longstanding Power Line Noise Case

The Federal Communication Commission's Dallas Field Office issued Citations on July 25 to two utilities in a longstanding power line noise case in Lubbock, Texas. Bryan Edwards, W5KFT, of Lubbock, first reported the interference concerning the two involved utilities, Lubbock Power & Light (LP&L) and Xcel Energy, as early as 1994. The record shows that the FCC Dallas Field Office clarified the FCC rules with regard to power line noise for LP&L as early as 1998, and issued three letters to LP&L in 2003 and 2004. Xcel Energy was first issued an FCC letter in 2004.

The Citations to the Lubbock utilities said that due to an investigation conducted by the FCC's Dallas office on May 22-25, 2007, they found that both LP&L and Xcel "'caused harmful interference to the reception of amateur communications to amateur licensee W5KFT in Lubbock, Texas."' The FCC directed both LP&L and Xcel, pursuant to the Commission's Rules, to provide documents and information within 10 days of their respective Citations.

In its undated Response to the FCC's Citation, LP&L stated that it "does not admit to and specifically denies any violation of the [Communications] Act [of 1934] or any rule pertaining thereto," but "in order to comply with the...Citation, the City of Lubbock files this response." As a result of the Citations issued by the FCC, LP&L's Response stated that representatives from "Lubbock Power Light met with Paul Leonard, P.E., Area Engineer with Xcel Energy to discuss the alleged findings regarding harmful interference to the reception of amateur communications by amateur licensee W5KFT in Lubbock, Texas."

Xcel's Response, submitted via their attorney, pointed out that the Citation acknowledges "that the source of harmful interference to amateur licensee W5KFT is emanating from more than one power company." Xcel also alleges that it "has been working with amateur W5KFT for a number of years in an effort to identify the source of, and a possible resolution for, the harmful interference he is experiencing. Xcel Energy has a good working relationship with the licensee and has coordinated with him on numerous occasions in attempting to resolve his interference problems."

Xcel goes on to assure the FCC that it will "retain an outside technical consultant to provide an unbiased assessment of whether the harmful interference to W5KFT is attributable to Xcel Energy's power system and if so, what corrective measures would be required." Edwards reported that on Thursday, August 30, he received a phone call from Paul Leonard, head of Xcel Energy in West Texas. Edwards said he was told that Xcel has contracted with Mike Martin, K3RFI, to come out to Lubbock in October to work on the line noise. "Leonard said they tried to get LP&L to participate with them and Mike, but they refused to do so," Edwards said. Martin owns and operates RFI Services, a firm dedicated exclusively to RFI locating and training. He has been locating interference sources for more than 25 years, solving an average of 500 complaints a year, according to the ARRL Lab. Martin has also given power line interference workshops at ARRL Headquarters.

ARRL Lab Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI, said, "I am pleased to see the FCC taking a strong enforcement step in this case. It has gone on for a long time, and this Citation should serve to finally get things resolved. It is unfortunate that some of the power line cases the ARRL is handling can't be resolved without the FCC taking formal action, but I expect that electric utilities across the country will now take notice of this case."

-- ARRL Bulletin ARLB020

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After waiting more than an hour and a half for her date, the young lady decided she had been stood up. She changed from her dinner dress into pajamas and slippers, fixed some popcorn and resigned herself to an evening of TV.

No sooner had she flopped down in front of the TV than her doorbell rang. There stood her date. He took one look at her and gasped. "I'm two hours late, and you're still not ready?"

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