Spectrum Protection & Utilization

Contact:

Rob Leiden, K1UI
21 West Woods Circle
Yarmouthport, MA 02675
robleiden@comcast.net

Assistant Director for Spectrum Protection & Utilization

Introduction

“My role is to bring hams together, with each other and with Headquarters to address Spectrum Protection and Utilization (SP&U) issues using tools such as Zoom and the SP&U and nemesh groups.io lists.

“The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) plans to release standards for power line noise. The ARRL will be heavily involved as well. My goal is to work with the ARRL Lab and Eversource, and provide information and resources to help obtain project funding.

“I am forming a working group including staff from the ARRL Lab, Field Services, a former FCC enforcement head, Eversource, and ARRL division leadership.”

Spectrum Protection

Noise Reduction

The average ham lacks the tools and assistance required to recognize, troubleshoot and eliminate noise that are becoming increasingly more pervasive. More sunspots will make this worse as bands get more crowded.

Noise Identification

The SP&U group will help identify sources of noise using specialized hardware and software. People and training will also be an important component in the fight.

Project Design

Develop an easy-to-use process for detecting, locating and eliminating noise that interferes with amateur radio signals.

Tool Acquisition

Hardware tools to detect, identify and locate noise may be as simple as AM broadcast receivers or as sophisticated as the Fluke 910 or the RF Engineering RF243.  The use of inexpensive USB software defined radio (SDR) dongles should be explored.  Directional antennas also may be easy to build wire loops or commercially obtained yagis.  Software tools may include audio and spectrum files to identify observed noise, software for SDR’s and databases of noise cases found and resolved.  A starter set of equipment including an Icom IC-705, an HF loop antenna and VHF yagis has been acquired.

Mobilization

The process needs to be staffed by both hams who can identify and correct noise in their own homes with simple tools and trained personnel that can assist them when needed using more sophisticated tools available to them.  These assistance teams need to have access to tool storage and may include section technical specialists and coordinators, club members and other hams willing to help.  It is anticipated that the needs for staffing may differ from section to section, and Section Managers should have an active role in determining how the process is implemented. All but 1 section has identified team members and all are actively searching for more team members.

Deployment

Web-based guidance that reflects the process, tools and teams will form the basis of the roll-out.  This will consist of a simple-to-use flow chart that hams of any experience level can use to find noise sources in their homes.  The flow chart makes provision for capturing and emailing the results to team leaders for further action by their teams as well as documenting any problems with the process itself.  The web-based process has been developed and is available.  The system has gone live and all but one RFI team is in place.  An RFI Team training page with links to training materials has been developed and has been made available to existing RFI Team members.  Additional training materials will be provided as they are developed. 

Lessons Learned

A process review will take place six months after deployment.  The process will then be modified to reflect all lessons learned.

Chart of the electromagnetic spectrumSpectrum Utilization

New England Mesh Networking

Several groups across New England are working on creating local mesh networks for ARES, experimentation and other uses that build on the availability of internet-based software.  We want to provide a way for each to understand the work going on in the other locations and eventually to find a way to link them into a New England-wide network. For the time being, this will rely on the commercial internet, but we seek to solve two issues:

  • How to establish a hardware link (backhaul) between networks that doesn’t cause interference to a mesh backbone and
  • How to define and coordinate an address space that prevents two nodes on different mesh networks from having the same ip address

A map of New England showing existing MESH sites has been extracted from the ARDEN world map showing all identified MESH network sites.

On 4/27/22 Bill Richardson and Jay Taft successfully tunneled between their NH and ME Mesh networks. This is the 1st time this has been done in New England and is a significant step towards getting the entire Division connected via mesh network.  Bill and Jay have proposed a naming convention for Mesh network owners in New England to use to tunnel between Mesh networks.

Maine

Contact:  Bill Richardson, NG1P

Maine is planning on deploying up to a 16 node 5 GHz backbone with 2.4 GHz downlinks to cover most of southern Maine. Bill presented the plan, Wireless Mesh using Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network for Maine, at the Maine State Convention in April.  Bill and Jay in NH recently demonstrated tunneling between the two MESH networks and now are connected to the K1NPT network in RI.

East Central MA

Contact:  Don Rolph, AB1PH

Walpole area ARES is experimenting with mesh networks to support fixed assets like hospitals during emergencies.

Contact: Dom Mallozzi, N1DM

Dom reports that a team in the Wellsley, MA area is deploying a fixed-asset 900 MHz mesh network.  Nodes are based on 100 mW Lora units that are physically small, require small amounts of power and reside in bird houses.  The group’s plan is evolving but we’re all sure the birds will be happy!  The simple network diagram shows the interconnection between the Lora units and the end user access devices, one of which is the gateway to the commercial internet.

Cape Cod

Contact:  Lem Skidmore, W1LEM

Cape Cod ARES has been deploying 5 GHz mobile mesh networks based on Ubiquiti routers for emergency exercises with portable tower-based node testing using data, IP phone and imagery in Sandwich, Dennis and Barnstable.  Their goal is to deploy a mixture of fixed and mobile nodes for ARES support. A block diagram of the planned network is provided courtesy of Bruce, WA3SWJ.  Recent testing has demonstrated ranges of 20 miles between nodes, over Cape Cod Bay, with sufficient bandwidth to support real-time video.

Rhode Island

Contact: Mike Cullen, K1NPT

Mike has a small mesh network deployed in RI, interconnected with others.  Mike has provided his MESH configuration so that others can see how this was accomplished.  Mike succeeded in tunneling his RI network into Maine and New Hampshire on May 14, 2022.

Contact:  Paul Fredette, K1YBE

RI is experimenting with mesh network technology using backbones as high as 10 GHz.

See:
* Scouts, Newport County RC Members Set Up Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network at Sites in Cranston and Warwick, RI
* Mesh Nodes Start to Grow in New England

Newington, Connecticut

Contact:

Ed Hare, W1RFI

Joe Garcia, NJ1Q

A mesh network centered at ARRL HQ is operating with plans for extension into the Newington area.

New Hampshire

Contact: Jay Taft, K1EHZ

Jay has a 3 node network in the Manchester area.  Jay recently demonstrated tunneling to the NG1P network in ME.  Jay has proposed a node naming system that would promote further interconnection and experimentation.  Jay and Bill, NG1P continue to explore the utility available through tunneling between New England MESH systems.  The status of Jay’s tunnel node as of 5/9/22 will be updated as he continues his investigations.  On 5/14/2022, Mike, K1NPT, tunneled his network to both the Maine and New Hampshire systems, bringing the number of interconnected New England states to three.

Pending FCC actions

Digital signal bandwidth – WT Docket 16-239

Tech digital privileges on HF – Docket RM-11828

80M band plan – Docket RM 11759

Spectrum Use Opportunities

New allocation @ 40 MHz? Experimental stations in operation

Mesh networking especially above 1 GHz (note 3.45 – 3.5 GHz loss, commercial pressures)

60 MHz joint exercises with government and military agencies

More spectrum allocation information

 A large chart showing frequency allocations for various services from 500 KHz to 4 GHz is available from www.fair-rite.com at no charge.

Spectrum-Protection-and-Use Meetings

A Zoom meeting was held at 7 P.M. on 2/18/2022 a second on 3/18/22 and a 3rd on 4/25/22. The 1st meeting was an introduction to the group.  The 2nd and third meetings dealt with the material below.

April 2022 Spectrum Protection and Use Team Meeting

A presentation by myself and Annette, KA1RFI at the August New England/Hudson Division Hamvention is planned. The topic will be the partnership between Eversource and amateur radio to fix power line RFI.

Web-based RFI Process

Rob, K1UI gave a brief demonstration of the web-based RFI elimination process being developed for use by individual hams and the RFI teams forming in each section.  Ed, W1RFI, noted that the sequence of opening and closing breakers for in home troubleshooting needed to be modified and Rob agreed.  A feature provided by Phil, K9HI, is a Google forms input for RFI information that is stored in a Google sheet accessible to the teams and to the ARRL Lab.  Rob continues to build out the web site with additional links to useful pages.  Additional team training material and RFI remediation material has been added.

RFI Team Formation

RFI Team formation was discussed.  There is now a fully-formed team in EMA, WMA, two in CT, NH and three in ME. The RI SM is actively seeking members.  Rob needs to follow up with the RI SM to understand his section’s needs.

3/8 EMC Committee Meeting

Rob briefly reported on the 3/8/22 EMC Committee meeting.  The LAX and Melbourne, FL teams made presentations.  The FL team is using many homebrew equipment items and the LAX team, focused on power line RFI, has used a grant to acquire Radar Engineering (RE243) and Fluke (II910) equipment and antennas for pinpointing and documenting cases of power line noise.

RFI Team Tools

Several different approaches for VHF/UHF yagis/log periodics and HF sense antennas were discussed.  Ed noted that log periodics don’t have the gain of yagis and that small HF loop antennas have the advantage of a sharp null for a point source but aren’t as effective when a line source is present as is the case with some power line issues.  Ed agreed that an arrow antenna would be a good VHF yagi for RFI-hunting but that polarization issues need to be considered.  Ed noted that tape measure beams such as those used for fox hunting were able to be attenuated by folding the elements in but that gain was sacrificed.  Step attenuators are an important accessory to maintain accurate hunting as the team approaches the source. HF loops and VHF yagis as well as an IC705 and a TinySDR have been obtained for use by the RFI teams in addition to equipment that Ed Hare will let them borrow from the ARRL Lab

Mesh Network Coordination

A discussion of how best to link the various mesh networks in New England noted that there were two additional networks, a 900 MHz network starting up in Wellsley, MA and a 2nd one in RI.

The question of how best to connect all into a New England facility was addressed.  Rob noted that, so far, research had determined that point to point and mesh network architectures were incompatible and that near-term, use of the commercial internet for linking appeared the best solution.  Research on alternatives continues.  One interesting paper on the design of Mesh Networks is: Mesh network theory.

Bill Richardson, NG1P and Jay Taft, K1EHZ made plans to connect their ME and NH Mesh networks by tunneling through the commercial internet. Though not a long term solution, this proof of principle and the facility it provides can allow many lessons to be learned before the creation of a fully RF tunnel.

The useful sources I’ve found so far are: https://www.arednmesh.org and Networking Overview — AREDN Documentation 3.22.1.0 documentation (arednmesh.readthedocs.io).  Bill Richardson, NG1P gave a recent presentation on plans for the ME mesh system that shows the potential for these systems.

The next meeting will be held in May.

May 2022 Spectrum Protection and Use Team Meeting

RFI Team status – especially ideas for recruiting in sections where there are less than 3 RFI team members.  All sections now have teams except for one.  Recruiting efforts there continue. It was suggested that clubs that perform fox hunts and/or radio direction finding would be a good source of recruits as the skills are similar.  Nancy, KC1NEK, noted that skills-based hiring may be a useful approach.

Creation of RFI audio and spectrum file library – is there an easy standard to use for recordings that we can include on the process? Steve, W1EMI noted that ARRL Audio file formats are specified on the ARRL Lab site – the recording method is included there.  Audacity software is used for analysis.  Waterfall displays are also useful.  SDR Sharp software is useful for for hunting in the field.  Carol, W1CSF, noted that the Artemis database of spectrum files is available and will email that link for publishing.

Reporting a noise issue on the RFI team page requires a Google account to use the form, due to the Google drive access needed for uploading spectral files.  We will create a separate form for spectra so reporting without spectra doesn’t require a Google account. 

Team experience so far – any process changes needed? Good contact experience has occurred with some mixed results. Teams of 2 worked well, with one driving and one searching.  Knowledge of the area is important;  engaging a local club should happen if needed.  Teams should look for recent changes in the RF environment. Tom W0IVJ, published a 2014 QST article and a u-tube video that should be included with the training materials. See TomThompson.com. SDR Play allows recording and playback for analysis. Tom W0IVJ noted that the interface with an RFI generator needs careful management.  This also suggests two team members are involved and any negative interaction needs to be avoided.

The group was asked to bring additional tools to AB1OC’s RFI Sunday, June 5,  at 11 AM in Hollis, NH  Please use cell phones to record as much as possible and mail to K1UI for collation and publishing.

In addition to TinySDR, RTL – SDR covers 25-1700 MHz with adapters for down-conversion. Less expensive SDR’s may need filtering to avoid overload. SDR Play has been found to be very useful. Price points for these are between $20 and $200, depending on range and sensitivity.

Creation of block diagram for troubleshooting RFI – check the NK7Z flow chart – see ARRL page for locating RFI.  This nay be a useful RFI Team training page reference.

Dom, N1DM, noted that ULS info for licensee contacts are available.  Licensed service interference needs to be addressed in the RFI identification process.  

Tom, W0IVF is aware of an RFI checklist that he will send to the team to include in the process. 

There was a consensus that clubs needed to be made aware of the availability of RFI identification and elimination tools on the nediv web site. Better links to the RFI Troubleshooting Guide were requested.  This has been done but additional links are being investigated and the use of NTS to further make club presidents aware of the tools is being investigated as well.