Barnstable ARC Hosts Big E Amateur Radio on Massachusetts Day, September 22, 2022

It was a rainy day to be at the Big E but four of the Barnstable’s (Cape Cod) club members enjoyed their day of meeting with the public and operating FT-8 via Remote Ham Radio and 70 cm FM on the D-Star HT and Icom transceiver.  It helped that 10 meters and 15 meters were open and stations from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia and all over Europe got into the log. 

Larry, W1AST, was there to greet us in the AM and got us started.  Many thanks go out to Larry and his support team for organizing the amateur radio demonstration booth at the event. 

Amateur radio at the Big E will also host the “Space Chat” the afternoon of 9/27 with hams and their families getting in free that day (bring a copy of your license). 

Barnstable ARC club members staffing the ham radio booth at The BIG E
L-R: Rob, K1UI; Chris, WA1CMR; Jake, W1JKM; and Mark, WA1EXA.  Photo courtesy Chris, WA1CMR

New England Division Receives ARDC RFI Equipment Grant

ARDC has approved a request for RFI hunting equipment for each of the seven sections in the New England Division.  The funds should be received in the next few weeks and orders placed for the equipment soon after.  Included is both an antenna set and an HF/VHF/UHF transceiver with a spectrum scope.  Distribution to each section will accompany training on the equipment.  In addition, some high-end equipment will remain in the custody of the Division for sharing when needed in addition to any the ARRL Lab will provide on loan.  Any questions can be directed to Rob, k1UI, Assistant New England Director, Spectrum Protection and Use.

NEDECN and Merrimack Valley Mesh Network Pilot

The New England Digital Emergency Communications Network (NEDECN) operates an extensive system of DMR repeaters connected through the commercial internet.  Some sites utilize mesh network nodes for repeater control and monitoring.

Bill Barber, NE1B and Jay Taft, K1EHZ are working on a pilot to interconnect 5.8 GHz mesh nodes between the Merrimack Valley mesh network and NEDECN mesh nodes in NH to demonstrate that use of NEDECN sites provides an effective way to expand both networks with the following benefits:

  1.  Enhanced remote site visual and spectral monitoring
  2.  Expanded network footprint for increased reliability
  3.  Better backup of internet connections between NEDECN repeaters
  4.  Potential high site paths to connect geographically separate mesh networks.

The first pilot is expected to be performed in September/October 2022. 

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RFI Team Experience – Some Lessons Learned

The RFI Teams are starting to gain some experience with use of the on-line troubleshooting guide to help hams experiencing RFI issues.

One common problem is hams not using the guide and decision tree to eliminate RFI sources in the house by opening the main breaker. 

Another is contacting the team lead without completing the form that the team uses to help troubleshoot. For the teams to be effective as well as to build a useful body of case information, the process needs hams to do the pre-team investigation.

Hams that have questions about the process after starting their investigation can email me at k1ui@arrl.net so we can help you and/or improve the web pages.

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Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) Web-Based Help to Roll Out in 4th Quarter

Every new power-dependent technology has also produced an ever-increasing number of RFI generating devices.  Solar generators, LED’s, power line faults, charging devices and many other sources pollute the amateur radio spectrum and impact its effective use.  The New England Division, with the cooperation of Ed Hare, W1RFI and Steve Anderson, W1EMI at the ARRL Lab, has created a program to assist hams to identify and eliminate or reduce RFI in the ham shack.

The final phase of a project to provide a web-based RFI troubleshooting process is planned for the fourth quarter of this year.  The web pages are in place and the teams to assist New England hams to use them have been established in each section.  The pages feature:

and many other references that help hams identify RFI sources,

To use the process, a ham first performs the checks outlined in the decision tree.  If that doesn’t identify the noise source, the ham then fills out a form explaining what was done and sends it to the section RFI team together with a spectrum file if available.  The RFI team then works with the ham to help identify and eliminate the RFI.  If necessary, the case is forwarded to the ARRL and then, if still unresolved, to the FCC.  

Two RFI-related forums are planned for the Marlboro HamXposition in late August.  Annette, KA1RFI and Rob, K1UI will discuss the partnership between radio amateurs and Eversource of New Hampshire to identify and correct power line – related RFI.  Rob will then lead an RFI team forum where RFI team tools will be available for demonstration.  Some of these were evaluated by the RFI teams at their June meeting. 

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Rhode Island Team Completes RFI Team Staffing

With the addition of the Rhode Island Team of Keith, W1KJR, Scott, WX1X and Norm, W1NEP, all seven New England sections now have RFI teams to assist hams having RFI issues in their shacks.  Most sections would still welcome volunteers to serve as members or alternates if needed so, if interested, please contact your Section Manager or Technical Coordinator.  The team members and contact information for your section can be found on the New England RFI Team page.

RFI Team Equipment Tookits are Defined

At a June 5, 2022 New Hampshire meeting of the New England RFI teams, a set of tools obtained for team use was demonstrated, along with some more sophisticated equipment available for loan, brought by Steve Anderson, W1EMI, of the ARRL Lab.  The teams evaluated these and selected those to be obtained for the use of each team, to be loaned from the ARRL or loaned from a New England division inventory as needed.  These may now be seen on the RFI Team Toolkit webpage.  Action is in progress to obtain funds to procure this equipment for each team and for sharing within the New England Division.

RFI Teams Meet in New Hampshire

RFI Team members from Eastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts and Maine met on June 5 in Hollis, New Hampshire with the New England Director Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC; Rob Leiden, K1UI, Assistant Director for Spectrum Protection and Use; Anita Kemmerer, AB1QB, Assistant Director for Mentoring and Ham Development and Steve Anderson, W1EMI, from the ARRL Lab.  Also at the meeting were: Stephanie, WA1YKL; Dan, W1DAN; Dom, N1DM and Najm, AB1ZA,

An IC705, DXE HF loop and an Elk VHF/UHF Yagi, obtained by the Director for evaluation, were demonstrated and team members had an opportunity to try them out.  Steve demonstrated the RE240, a high-end RFI analyzer suited for power line noise location and an MFJ ultrasonic detector and dish that are available for use by the teams should the need arise.  The RE 243 is the newest version of this instrument.  Team members also brought along some homebrew and commercial tools they use.  Najm showed the others a pocket RFI guide that is still available for purchase.  Steve noted that the ARRL RFI guidebook is being revised and will be in print when the Lab update and review is complete.  The ARRL Lab is updating its website to reflect solar energy RFI and other recent developments.

The teams selected the tools that will be obtained for use by the section teams. Some of the tools already purchased for evaluation were the Elk VHF/UHF log periodic, the IC705 HF/VHF/UHF transceiver and the DX Engineering HF Loop, Steve Anderson, W1EMI, brought additional tools available to loan to the teams as needed.  These included an ultrasonic dish and detector, a Radar Engineers RE240 and VHF yagi for hunting power line RFI and a handheld circuit “sniffer” for finding local sources, especially in the home.

The need for additional web process material was identified to:

  • Better define the role of the teams,
  • Outline anticipated communications between the teams and hams with pending RFI issues and
  • Ensure all the information required by the ARRL Lab is recorded and transmitted to the ARRL Lab when required.

New Quicklink for RFI Troubleshooting Now on Division Home Page

Some hams have had trouble finding the troubleshooting guide.  A Quicklink is now on the Division Website home page that will take hams directly to the guide.  There, hams will find a process for finding and fixing RFI, links to places to buy or build equipment, power company contact information, teams in each section that will assist when needed and videos and slide decks that discuss RFI finding techniques and experience.

RFI Troubleshooting Guide Adds Power Company Contacts Page

The RFI Troubleshooting Guide RFI Troubleshooting Guide – ARRL New England Division now has a list of the power company contacts for hams to report power line noise-related issues.  Hams are encouraged to contact New England Division RFI Teams prior to doing so to make the team aware of the issue, so that they can follow up if necessary.  Noise thought to be coming from power company hardware may actually be from another service on a power pole, like a leaking television cable, so try and gather as much information, with the help of the RFI team if needed, to understand the source of the noise.  We expect to need to update the maps and contact information from time to time as service areas and company relationships change over time.  If you see that we need to change some information, please let us know at k1ui@nediv.arrl.org.