5 May 2002
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SHORT NOTES: We are sneaking up on the 1St Annual PSK31 KONTEST. This runs
the six hours from 1900Z 11 May to 0100Z 12 May. Have fun but go
first to www.cqc.org/contests/psk3102.htm for details.
JD1 will operate RTTY and PSK beginning May 6. Go to
www.qsl.net/jl4cvb/ogasawara.htm for more. And, so will KH1. The calls will
be announced at the
beginning of the operation. K1B will continue. (I missed them on 15M PSK, but
they were very weak!). This is a big week in the Pacific. Don't miss out.
Aside from those brief notes, this is a single-issue issue of the newsletter.
Bear with me as we reluctantly open Pandora's Box and take yet another
grudging look at Pactor III and its ramifications. (If I had a choice I'd
rather review a book about 'How To Lose Ten Pounds Working 160 meter DX' or
to Win Friends and Influence People With HF Packet'-if someone would only
write them!). Be that as it may, the newest iteration of Pactor is now
released. This software can be run on most if not all of the SCS modems and
the signal will soon be visible to more and more CW and RTTY operators
around the world. This is indeed time to take a look, and I want to do so
from a purely personal standpoint-what it means to me as a plain vanilla
ham. I'll ignore the opinions of the multiple Emails, the movers and shakers,
the FCC, the ARRL, the IRU and focus on me and my small corner of the
spectrum. There is no more appropriate way to view the problem!
There are some things I know for sure. The signal does move a lot of traffic
in very short order. Even if the test claims on the SCS website are somewhat
overstated, which may or may not be the case, the product outshines most
other options available to the MBO operator. But, as is always the case,
are tradeoffs when it comes to signal content. All high-volume HF modes share
the same shortcoming. It's called BANDWIDTH, which increases in direct
proportion to the increased data transmitted. And, to me, this is the gut
issue regarding this latest development.
Pactor III uses a big chunk our precious bands, for its signal stretches to
over 2kHz. Please conjure up your own image of what such a signal means to
your operation on the digital or CW bands; try to estimate how far up and
down the band the MBOs will need to spread out in order to avoid serious QRM
if MBOs try to operate within restricted frequencies; and then try to guess
the final impact of this mode and its voracious demand for space.
I've reflected on my own recent experience, and I admit to being a bit
depressed at the thought. There has been for some time a reasonably effective
gentlemen's agreement between the MBO's and the PSK crowd. The narrow space
used by PSK on 15 meters, where I spend most of my radio time, has
been mostly free of MBO traffic. Oh, don't misunderstand me. You can see the
Pactor traces both above and below the PSK space so their scan
frequencies are very close indeed. But they are over there and I operate
here, for the most part, without being swamped by their much stronger, wider
signal. It happens on occasion, I merely swear a bit, move elsewhere and
quickly outgrow the irritation.
In a few weeks or months from now, though, I'll fire up the computer and rig
and view what happens when the trace turns out to be Pactor III instead of
of the narrower, earlier, friendlier versions. Simple! My PSK space gets
blown away by a single signal, is dead and buried if there are two adjacent
stations . . . and I will have one helluva time finding an empty slot to
renew any kind of on-air activity or to find a fellow survivor because there
'elsewhere' left. And that's when I begin to get emotional about the subject.
At that point, and it will apparently arrive sooner than later, I begin to
about how to slay the dragon infesting my turf. And I will joined by many,
I am not a lawyer and don't wish to delve into the intricacies of whether or
not Pactor III is a legal mode for amateur service, whether or not the mode
been documented for the communication authorities, whether or not it is legal
to page a scanning MBO without identifying the station calling, whether or
not the automatic response of the MBO which interferes with an ongoing
digital QSO is legal, whether or not it is legal to run two or even three
robot MBOs under the same callsign, whether or not a significant percentage
of the growing volume of Internet/MBO traffic is legitimate amateur radio
traffic and so on ad infinitum. Those questions are for the professionals and
not for those, like me, who deal in small signals and low power within our
Be that as it may, I then turn to Paragraph 'C' of FCC 97.221. Lawyer or not,
there seems to be a clear message here. If I am in error, please let me know.
The paragraph, after outlining frequencies for an 'automatically controlled
digital station,' (including 14.095-14.0995 and 14.1005-14.112 mHz), goes on
say that 'A station may be automatically controlled while transmitting a RTTY
or data emission types provided that: (1) the station is responding to
interrogation by a station under local or remote control; and (2) No
transmission from the automatically controlled station occupies a bandwidth
than 500 Hz.'
I helped lobby for that paragraph way back in 1994 because I felt that the
Winlink stations performed yeoman service during Desert Storm (the invasion
Kuwait by Iraq). TG9VT and many others devoted almost full-time effort to
move the traffic from the Middle East to the folks back home. They deserved
support and I do not in any way wish to alter my stance. But there is a major
We were talking then about supporting and believing in an operation that
provided an incredibly valuable public service and still fit within the
limitations and operating characteristics of amateur service. Surely there
was some interference to ongoing QSO's for, as a station interrogating TG9VT,
even though I checked to make certain the frequency was clear in my neck of
the woods, there was no predicting where my signal might go and whether
or not a QSO on the other side of the world would be degraded. But, even if
it was, the narrow bandwidths deployed made it relatively simple to move
over a few Hz to continue the QSO.
Imagine my problem now if my PSK conversation is blown away by a signal that
is 70 times wider than the 31Hz PSK signal my 30 watts is transmitting.
There is no recovery. There is no way for these modes to live together. There
is no room for Pactor III except in the 14.105-14.112 space. They are
welcome to it. Be my guest!
73 de Jim N2HOS: GAZETTE at www.n2hos.com/digital