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By: Paul Toth -- NA4AR - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Beginning on January 1, 2013, all commercial two-way radio operators using frequencies between 150 MHz and 512 MHz must begin transmitting on 12.5 KHz channels using either analog Narrow Band FM (NBFM) or Digital emissions.  This mandated change is the result of a Report and Order issued by the FCC in 2004 that is aimed at creating more radio channels in the VHF and UHF bands.

Now, before I go further, let me make it clear that R&O 04-292 does NOT apply to the Amateur Radio Service.  Amateur Radio, as far as the FCC is concerned, is under no mandate to move to 12.5 KHz or even 6.25 KHz channels.  However, other organizations, including the Florida Repeater Council which coordinates Amateur Radio repeaters in the Sunshine State, have started slicing and dicing Amateur Radio bandwidth to make way for D-Star and other digital repeaters.

FCC R&O 04-292 is forcing many Public Safety agencies and those in the commercial sector who operate VHF and UHF two-way radio systems to modernize.  Those legacy radios from Motorola, GE, MA-COM, EF Johnson, Kenwood and ICOM that have served so many so well are being replaced with new, more spectrally efficient technology.  The 2013 mandate calls for 12.5 KHz channelization.  However, many organizations are using this opportunity to upgrade to 6.25 KHz digital radio systems that bring improved voice quality as well as texting and other data capabilities including GPS location.  The digital offering include Motorola’s MotoTRBO (TDMA), NXDN from ICOM and Kenwood (FDMA) and APCO 25, a unified digital standard that offers the promise of “interoperability” and includes encryption and a number of other security features.

So, with all this new two-way radio equipment being installed, is there a silver lined opportunity for Amateur Radio?  It’s no secret that many of the Wideband FM repeaters currently in use on the Amateur Radio Two Meter and 70 Centimeter bands had a previous life on the commercial bands.  Many of these venerable radios found their way into Amateur Radio service when their previous owners, many from Public Safety, upgraded their radio systems in the late 1980s and 1990s.

That may not be the case this time around.  Many of the Wide Band systems that are coming out of service have been in continuous service for twenty years.  That is a lot of stress and wear and tear.  Finding spare parts for these units is a problem.  The technology going into new systems is different and will not work on the older equipment.  If you can find more than one repeater in reasonably good condition, you may be able to cannibalize parts from one radio to repair another.

But the technology is not the only thing that has changed in twenty years.  This is not your Father’s Ham Radio.  Many Hams have not only seen the future but work with it every day.  Thanks to digital Cellular and PCS, cell phones, Blackberries, iPhones and dozens of other 3G devices have put digital voice, digital messaging and surfing on the Internet into hundreds of millions of hands worldwide.  Yes, there is more to two-way radio than just voice.  Attracting new operators in Amateur Radio may depend on those individuals and clubs who operate repeaters to replace their current technology with digital technology that is capable of doing more.

Most Ham gear, including mobile and portable transceivers, manufactured since 2000 are NBFM or Narrow Band FM capable.  Many new Amateur-grade analog repeaters will also operate NBFM.  Some new commercial repeaters, like ICOM’s iDAS, will operate WBFM, NBFM and 6.25 KHz NXDN Digital in the Amateur Radio bands and pass all three type of signals (but not D-Star).  D-Star mobile and portable radios can operate both analog and D-Star digital.  D-Star repeaters, however, are digital only.

So, is Narrow Band two-way radio is your Amateur Radio future?  WBFM commercial repeaters will no longer be manufactured after January 1, 2011.  So, unless you can find something on the surplus market, it is likely a NBFM or Narrow Band Digital repeater will replace that Motorola or GE Mastr repeater you are using.

For more information about some of the NBFM and Digital systems that are now available, click on any of these links below:





More Articles...

Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
The New CARS Repeater System 
The Clearwater Amateur Radio Society VHF-UHF Repeater System will soon be getting a much needed facelift. Work is progressing on the installation and configuration of three new ICOM repeaters and a new, multi-port Repeater Controller that will power the K4JMH Repeater System.

Click here for the full article!

Posted: Friday, January 18, 2013
BSA Amateur Radio Operator Rating Strip 
The BSA has just announced the Amateur Radio Operator Rating Strip for wear on youth and adult member uniforms. All registered youth members and adult leaders who also hold a valid amateur radio license are eligible to wear the rating strip.

You can read more and see the rating strip at http://www.k2bsa.net/operator-rating/

They should be in stock at the Supply warehouse in about two weeks. It will take longer for them to reach the stores.

Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Major Solar Flare Erupts from the Sun 

The sun unleased a powerful solar flare late Monday (Oct. 22), releasing waves of radiation into space that have already caused a short radio blackout on Earth.

The flare erupted from the sunspot AR 11598 (short for Active Region 11598), and reached peak brightness at 11:22 p.m. EDT (0322 GMT this morning, Oct. 23), according to scientists working on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a space telescope that constantly monitors the sun with high-definition cameras. It ranked as an X1.8 solar flare, one of the strongest types of solar flares, according to the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) run by NOAA and the National Weather Service.

The same sunspot produced three strong flares before this one in just the two days since it became visible from Earth's perspective. "This means more flares are probably in the offing, and they will become increasingly Earth-directed as the sunspot turns toward our planet in the days ahead," astronomer Tony Phillips wrote on Spaceweather.com, a website that tracks skywatching and space weather events.

Solar flares are caused when magnetic activity ramps up in certain patches, called sunspots, on the surface of our star. Scientists measure the strength of solar flares in terms of energy classes, with X-class flares the most powerful sun storms. Moderate flares rank as class M storms and can supercharge Earth's northern lights displays when aimed at our planet. Class C solar flares are the weakest of the bunch and have little effect on Earth.

Monday's solar flare was captured in photos and video by SDO, and appears as a bright white flash coming off the sun. The flare was a short-lived type of solar eruption called an impulsive flare (as opposed to the other type, called a gradual flare).

"Impulsive flares aren't generally associated with severe space weather, and additionally, this region is still several days away from directly facing Earth from center disk," SWPC officials wrote. "Nonetheless, the potential for continued activity remains, so stay tuned for updates as Region 1598 makes its way across the visible disk."

Solar flares often release bubbles of charged plasma (called coronal mass ejections) into space that, when they impact Earth, can cause geomagnetic storms that disrupt radio communications and power grids and create especially beautiful displays of the northern and southern lights (auroras). This flare, however, did not unleash a coronal mass ejection, so it is predicted to cause little disruption on Earth and no special auroras. Its powerful radiation was enough, though, to briefly disrupt radios here last night.

The sun is getting more and more active lately as it approaches an expected peak of magnetic activity in 2013. This activity naturally waxes and wanes on an 11-year weather pattern. The sun's current cycle is called Solar Cycle 24.

Posted: Monday, July 05, 2010
The Right Band 
Written by Paul Toth - NB9X
President – Clearwater Amateur Radio Society, Inc

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2010
Article featuring your webmaster and CARS Board Member Craig Shapiro - KJ4BYK 
Article from the Osperey Observer, a local news paper sent monthly to residents of Brandon and the surrounding area.  The article pertains to my involvement with the National MS Society. 

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2010
Vintage CARS Article from the St. Pete Times  6/23/1976
I found this article while searching Google for news stories that involved CARS.  This story was printed 4 years BC (Before Craig).  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Posted: Sunday, March 15, 2009
Portable APRS Kit With New Power Supply 
A couple of old R/C battery packs, a D7A, a GPS and a backpack make for a portable APRS tracker suitable for hiking.

Posted: Monday, March 19, 2007
Mobile Noise Problems 
Here is a thread from the CARS email reflector from  March 2007 that deals with the question of mobile radio noise.  The discussion is quite good, and there are several links to additional helpful information

Posted: Sunday, March 12, 2006
Tips for Learning the Morse Code 
One of CARS resident Morse Code experts and enthusiasts, Scott, O’Keefe – N4RI presents some tips for those wishing to learn to operate CW.  Whether you goal is to upgrade to General, or to enjoy this time honored method of communication, this information will be very helpful.

Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2005
6 Meter Band 
Spring 2005 saw some incredible activity for DX on the 6 meter band.  Here are some questions put to local 6 meter enthusiast Bruce Mallon, WA4GCH.

Posted: Friday, March 12, 2004
Top Mount for your "Yellow Stick" push up pole 
Steve Foy shows off his "Yellow Stick" push up pole with a top mount for his antenna.

Posted: Monday, February 23, 2004
A mount for your "Yellow Stick" Push-up Pole 
Frank has put together an easy to assemble mount for attaching his "Yellow Stick" push up pole to his RV.

Posted: Sunday, February 01, 2004
A peek at the N5PB Shack 
Ed: This starts our series on Shack Pics. This month we highlight the N5PB shack, a sterling example of neatness and order (the antithesis of most ham-shacks).

Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2004
Solar Powered Digital Relay Design Considerations 
I recall a time when Mike, K9WLD, was considering a solar powered repeater. No coax runs, as the repeater wound be solar powered, and tower mounted. He considered that with the right height, he could run about 1/2 of 1 watt output. The only loss would be the cans (duplexers). He considered putting the receive antenna up above the "Box" that the repeater would be in...

Posted: Monday, November 17, 2003
IRLP - Working DX on an HT 

Using IRLP you can work stations in other countries using just your HT.

Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Radio / Battery Cart for Under $10.00 
OK, you bought batteries, you have a radio.  How do you put it all together without going broke?   Here is an alternative to wood or Star Board.  Feel free to copy or improve.  Please share your design!

Posted: Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Anderson PowerPole Basics 

The 30 amp Anderson Powerpole connectors are quickly becoming the standard in amateur radio applications.

Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Every Day is Field Day! 
How to take Ham Radio with you & put out a good signal.

Next club business meeting:
Thursday Feb 11 at 7:30 P.M.
Next club social meeting:
Thursday Feb 25 at 7:30 P.M.
Next Clearwater Amateur Radio Exam Session: Monday Feb 8 at 7 PM

As of February 12th, 2015, CARS has saved the local Ham Community $10,920 by offering FREE Testing.

All meetings and exam sessions are held at the Clearwater Fire Training Facility (1716 N Belcher Rd, Clearwater, FL.)
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