HAMNET Report 23 April 2017

From ITWeb, dated 20 April, comes news that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has signed a technical agreement with Mozambique’s communications regulatory authority, the Autoridade Reguladora Das Comunicações.

ICASA says it is an agreement of co-operation and co-ordination in respect of spectrum management for telecommunications and broadcasting services. This will see the establishment of a technical committee which will address matters of common interest between the two regulators on radio frequency co-ordination.

In terms of this deal, the regulators will work together to ensure, among others, co-operation on the co-ordination, control and management of radio transmission spill-overs, and exchange of information and expertise in the field of radio communications.

“It is our commitment as regulators to make expertise, infrastructure and equipment available to assist each other on regulatory matters, including radio frequency spectrum investigations, possible cross-border spill-overs, and of course, co-ordination of our services,” says ICASA acting chairperson Rubben Mohlaloga.

The technical agreement is a culmination of the memorandum of agreement entered into by the two governments in June 2015, aimed at finding new approaches and strategies for consolidating, expanding and deepening areas of economic development, industrial and trade co-operation between Mozambique and SA.

This seems to me to have value for amateur radio, in that cooperation between South African and Mozambican radio operators in times of disaster will be more streamlined, and less likely to incur the wrath of the authorities.

Dave Holiday, ZS5HN, from HAMNET KZN says that Comrades Marathon planning is going well with 24 confirmed Ham Stations and 4 CB Stations so far.

The Event is on the 4th of June. Their Target is 42 Stations in total. Many of the HAMNET operators will in fact be stationary mobile, manning the watering stations along the route. HAMNET does not patrol the Comrades route as much as it does in Cape Town during the Two Oceans. The work of picking up stragglers during the Comrades is left to the race officials. However, it is important during the Comrades to have radio stations well spaced along the route, because the race is a good 30km longer than the Two Oceans, and the watering spots are places where reports come in of runners further back who want to be fetched.

Also, because the communications along the Comrades route is easier than the Two Oceans, which hides partly around the back of Table Mountain, Ham frequencies are used between stations and the local repeaters are more than adequate to keep channels open along the entire route.

The reason why HAMNET Western Cape used the City of Cape Town’s TeTRA system radios and channels last week, is that parts of the route are very difficult to access with amateur frequencies, and repeaters don’t cover them so well. In fact, even TeTRA doesn’t cover some of the parts of Chapman’s Peak Drive well, and we discussed subsequently the possible installation of double cross-band repeaters temporarily from the far side of Constantiaberg, so that mobile stations could still get in to our 145.700 repeater on Constantiaberg without direct access, and particularly when the TeTRA system fails as well. We monitored the 145.700 repeater in the JOC throughout the Two Oceans, but didn’t use it much, because wherever the TeTRA system was inaudible, so was the 145.700 repeater! The Western slopes of Chapman’s Peak are very precipitous, and the way to get communications out of there, is by pointing your signals directly South, perhaps to a temporary repeater to the South, and from there back into the 700 repeater. Something to consider for next year.

We wish Keith ZS5WFD and Dave ZS5HN good luck in collecting together their volunteers and working their usual magic on the Comrades route in June. If you assist at the Comrades each year, and haven’t offered your services yet, please contact Keith or Dave through your usual KZN HAMNET channels? Thank you.

Amateur radio in the future is going to be significantly intertwined with Information Technology, if it isn’t already so. The young amateur of the future, and the next generation of HAMNET volunteers, is going to be attracted to the ways in which they can merge their IT knowledge with the need to convey emergency messages, or data and picture files during times of disaster. The modern HF radios that attract new blood will be those with touch screens, and interactive menus like one finds in all the smart phones of today. In fact, being able to get your smart phone to interact with your radio will make it all even more attractive to you.

So I watch with interest the development of apps for Android and iOS platforms which allow the operator to control his radio from the phone, or send messages from phone to radio or vice versa. I’ve noted that some radios have Bluetooth capability, and that the audio in both directions from the radio can be received via Bluetooth headsets. Also, the programming of the radio can sometimes be done via Bluetooth, although I think this is unsafe, in case the data transfer is garbled by some interference of sorts. More importantly, the radio can be controlled and configured by Bluetooth, such that your handheld can be carried in your backpack, for example, while you operate it via your cell phone.

Digital Mobile Radio, or DMR, will have this capability, Android software can be used to drive the Digital Position Reporting System on D-STAR on the ICOM D5100, via Bluetooth, and AX-25 packet can be monitored off the Kenwood TH-D74 using iOS and an iPhone. These are encouraging advances, and I hope the systems will become more and more integrated, to allow data and pictures to be sent from cell phone sources at scenes of disaster, where a Laptop installation and USB connections to a radio are cumbersome. Let’s hope so.

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