REPORT 13 November 2016

News from Glynn Chamberlain ZS6GLN is that on Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th November, Hamnet Gauteng South assisted with radio communications at the Carnival City MacSteel Cycle races held South of the Carnival City Casino. This is organised annually by the Germiston Rotary Club and the Germiston Wheelers.

The Saturday consisted of a 30km and 60km Mountain Bike Race from Carnival City South into the rural areas bounded by the R23, R550, and “North Boundary Rd” in Springs. Due to terrain and arguably the largest mine dump in Gauteng shielding a large part of the course from the nearest repeater, it was necessary to deploy the 70cm portable repeater in a suitable position in the field which was eventually near water table 1. The Hamnet trailer was set up as the VOCC / JOCC next to the support services of Helivac and Road Rangers. Communications on the day were excellent and the team was able to get help to affected persons or areas very quickly. In total, 15 HAMNET members assisted on the day.

On Sunday, the road race, a pre qualifier for the 94.7 cycle race, was held. This comprised 65km, 103km and 125km races on the roads mentioned above as well as into Heidelberg, past Nigel and back to Carnival City. The event turned out to be quite eventful for the Hamnet members with a number of issues needing to be addressed during the course of the event. Very unfortunately, there was one fatality due to natural causes, which required Leon (ZS6LMG) to be in constant attendance to arrange the necessary paperwork and transfers.

At the end of the day, 23 operators worked at the event, again providing assistance and passing critical information. Thank you Glynn for that contribution.

The dawn of so-called “smart” — or cognitive — radio has presented Amateur Radio with an opportunity to regain the leading edge in radio technology in the near future. It will also alter our view of spectrum as a limited resource. Those points and others were part of a Sunday Seminar presentation, by Michelle Thompson, W5NYV, and Bob McGwier, N4HY, at the 2016 ARRL and TAPR Digital Communications Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. Thompson heads the AMSAT Ground Terminal Team, a component of the Phase 4B geosynchronous satellite project. McGwier is chief scientist at the Hume Centre for National Security and Technology at Virginia Tech.

Thompson said cognitive radio technology will alter the paradigm of treating spectrum as if it were land. “Spectrum is immediately reusable, and land is not. Regulation and spectrum allocation have been necessary to manage interference among services, but smart radios can avoid collisions amongst users,” she said.

“It has only been fairly recently that we’ve been able inexpensively and quickly to reconfigure a radio,” she said. Thompson’s Phase 4B project will take maximum advantage of cognitive radio technology, which can — amongst other things — determine an optimal clear frequency, mode, and path on the fly, transparently, and without human intervention.

McGwier called the computer “the tidal wave that has swept over Amateur Radio.” And, he predicted, “It is going to bring us back to becoming technical innovators.” He said radio amateurs “are uniquely situated to be the leading edge in radio again.”

McGwier said the innovation needed in Amateur Radio will come about through what he called “Amateur Radio freedom,” that encourages experimentation and thinking outside the box. “It’s the ultimate democratic assignment of frequencies in the world,” he said.

He painted a picture of intelligent radio technology that will operate like the human brain. “It’s going to design the radio on the fly, from scratch, without a subject-matter expert involved,” he said. “The communication activity will be done by artificial intelligence, from beginning to end. The object becomes not the radio, but the activity it allows.”

Responding to a question, McGwier conceded that today’s hams may balk at this sort of paradigm shift, since it’s far removed from how most Amateur Radio communication takes place today. But, he said, embracing smart radio technology is what will attract a younger generation of new hams.

“We must not limit what young people can do with Amateur Radio,” he maintained. “They are going to outdo us, if we only allow them. We can’t limit them, because this is a fundamental paradigm shift.”

Thank you to the ARRL Letter for this excerpt.

In a message from Grant Southey ZS1GS, Regional Director of HAMNET Western Cape, he says ”We are coming up to the busy period for rescues and, with it being holiday period, many people go away at this time of year. There are times when we will require operators to respond to rescues and so we are asking that anyone who has possibly become dormant try to get involved again.

“If you are considering joining WSAR or are in the process of doing what is required please contact me so that we can see how to speed the process up.”

Grant says “I am updating the operators details with WSAR so if your details have changed of late please let me have the new cell numbers etc. Please also let me know if you are going to be available for call outs over December & January so that I can gauge our numbers. If you are away for part of the time it would also be good to know.” Thank you for the reminder, Grant.

HAMNET South Africa notes with regret the resignation from the SARL of Vonnie Oelofse, admin officer at SARL headquarters, thanks her most sincerely for all she has done to facilitate smooth functioning of HAMNET in the regions, and wishes her well in the future. We will surely miss her.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.