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Communications

Ham Radio Fills Communication Gaps In Nepal Rescue Effort 141

itwbennett writes: Amateur radio has stepped in to fill communication gaps in Nepal, which is struggling with power outages and a flaky Internet after a devastating earthquake on Saturday killed over 5,000 people. Though 99 persons have ham licenses in Kathmandu, about eight use high-frequency (HF) radios that can transmit long distances, while another 30 have very high frequency and ultra high frequency sets for local traffic, said Satish Kharel, a lawyer in Kathmandu, who uses the ham call signal 9N1AA. The hobbyist radio operators are working round-the-clock to help people get in touch with relatives, pass on information and alert about developing crises.
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Ham Radio Fills Communication Gaps In Nepal Rescue Effort

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  • Mesh networking (Score:5, Informative)

    by havana9 ( 101033 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @11:19AM (#49577387)
    When a disaster happen, that disrupts communications, the amatueur radio operators give help even in 2015 when cellphones are ubiquitous. This runs down on some peculiar aspect of the hobby:
    • amateur radio operators are traind and know how they gear works so they can repairo or adapt the system to work, for instance a spool of wire, a fishrod and and some coax cable could be use to make a temporary antenna
    • old, proven, patent free analogue and digital transmission modes: old tube radios could interoperate with new and shiny software defined radios
    • reliability: some ham radios are built like a tank, because were designed to be used in a tank
    • almost standardized power suppy permits to power the radio with flexibility even with a bunch of D cells or a lead-acid battery
    • mesh networking: no central control system: all communications are set up freely an could reconfigure on the fly
    • Re:Mesh networking (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @11:46AM (#49577705) Homepage

      No, the real benefit from amateur radio operations is that they are trained to work as a team. The reality is that the vast majority of the gear used in emergency communications are modern, reliable, commercial rigs that the operators could no more fix internally than you can fix your computer. They don't train to McGuyver the radios, they train to set up command and control links and practice working with interfaces with the Internet and government systems.

      That way, when the shit hits the fan they can plop down in their chair and do something useful. Yes, you can get a field station running with a length of wire and a car battery and there are lots of ham radio operators who delight in that sort of thing. But organization and teamwork is the real key to effectiveness and that is why amateur radio has been embraced by governments world wide.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        RaDAR - Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio.

        we make a game out of it by having impromptu events where a large group goes out and tries to get to a hard to reach location without power or anything else, erects antennas and then tries to contact as many other members on that event. It's great fun.

        That game Saves peoples arses during emergencies.

      • The reality is that the vast majority of the gear used in emergency communications are modern, reliable, commercial rigs that the operators could no more fix internally than you can fix your computer.

        It is questionable if the "vast majority" of the gear in use is commercial gear. I'd bet that the majority is amateur gear, just because it is so much easier to deal with than the commercial gear. For example, most commercial gear requires programming software just to change the frequencies in the radio, while ham gear allows user selection much more easily. Yes, many hams, especially in the US, buy used (or new) commercial gear if they are involved with public safety groups, just because it is easier to c

        • by jerel ( 112066 )
          I think his point was that the majority of new hams no longer construct their own radios from scratch. They buy them commercially made, and the new radios are no more serviceable than your cellphone or any other modern surface-mounted-components electronic device. I don't think he meant commercial as in, commercial band radios. But I could be wrong.
          • I think my point was that it is pretty much irrelevant if the ham can make complicated internal repairs to his radio, it is the fact that the ham can make repairs to large scale infrastructure. When the ground shakes really hard, it won't shake the itty bitty surface mount resistors off the circuit board in any of my radios, but it may knock the tower over and break the antenna and cut a feedline. I have spares for both, and if it does shake the resistors off the radio in any of the repeaters I run, I have
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A hundred elderly Indian hams received emergency relief shipments of Geritol. A hundred more Indian hams were complaining about the sense of entitlement the lower castes had for expecting any emergency relief at all, while another few hundred Indian hams jammed the nets because it happened to be a day of the a contest and they were yelling at the emergency nets for operating on "their" frequency.

    • All of which had nothing to do with an earthquake in the country of Nepal. Nepal is not India. Go look at a map!

  • Be careful if you're a HAM, locally I was able to find the name, address, and other information of callsigns with a simple look up.
    In this case not a big deal but be aware that anyone can look you up via your callsign.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    Interesting, see which country has the most.

    Other than that kudos to these people as they are often the last working line of communication.

  • Ham [static] Fills [static] Gaps

    It sure does.

  • Folks, someone mod the OP as troll and lets move on....
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @12:40PM (#49578257) Homepage

    Ham radio fills in the gaps for ALL natural disasters. Katrina it was a huge aspect of communications.

    This is not new, this is what ham radio does.

  • Surprising that so few hams in Nepal are setup for HF operations. I wonder how many HF ham stations there are in the U.S. One can't tell by license class. I know that in a real emergency my QRP FT-817 is not going to be the most reliable but until I can fork out for some bigger solar panels and batteries to run an amp, 5 Watts is going to be what I've got. With morse code that's enough to work the world, sometimes. Beats the hell out a walkie talkie.
    • by CQDX ( 2720013 )

      According to a US ham who was operating in Nepal a few years ago, the government wasn't issuing ham licenses for at least 10 years and ham equipment is very difficult for the locals to get. It's not like here where there is a local VE exam almost every week and a basic HF rig can be bought for $600 and delivered in a week.

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      Surprising that so few hams in Nepal are setup for HF operations. I wonder how many HF ham stations there are in the U.S. One can't tell by license class. I know that in a real emergency my QRP FT-817 is not going to be the most reliable but until I can fork out for some bigger solar panels and batteries to run an amp, 5 Watts is going to be what I've got. With morse code that's enough to work the world, sometimes. Beats the hell out a walkie talkie.

      I've been a licensed ham for almost 20 years and don't do HF because I don't find it to be very fun or interesting - making a contact 1000 miles away has lost its allure (to me) in the internet age. I do participate in local disaster drills using VHF/UHF, but am not really interested in HF to get out of the area. Though my club dues do help pay for their HF equipment, and I'm glad that we do have members interested in HF. I can run a VHF/UHF crossband repeater from my car for an unlimited time thanks to so

      • by jdigriz ( 676802 )
        Hey VHF and UHF are cool. Not saying anything bad, about them, just a matter of range. In fact, you could make long-distance contacts with the right antennas by using amateur satellites, or with a lot of power, the Moon. And then there's these crazy guys. http://www.df5ai.net/Material/... [df5ai.net] I'd hate to have to rely on that for comms, but it's remotely possible. My first cross-pond QSO was via Packet on 2M connecting up to an HF gateway to London in '92. Back then it was pretty impressive, I didn't get my
  • Although everybody appreciates the amateur service's value in disasters, ham is slowly dying in the US because it is perceived by the public as falling behind compared to the more popular commercial communications technologies. What I would like to see is for ham to be assigned a legal commercial niche that it can occupy as an incentive to buy gear and revive the experimental edge that the service has long been renowned for.

    How about Internet service in rural areas? Allow hams to offer commercial interconne

    • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:34PM (#49579875) Homepage Journal

      There are more licensed hams today than ever before. Part of that is because we modernized the licensing rules and don't have a Morse code test any longer (for which I take partial credit). And they already have a commercial niche. Most of them have jobs. Many of us got those jobs because of the skill we developed through Amateur Radio. In general they pay as well or better than offering ISP service to the boonies.

      We don't want to see commercial use of those frequencies, even if such use would help some folks get more equipment, because if that happened, there would not be room for Amateurs any longer.

      You should consider that all of the ham HF frequencies together are smaller than one WiFi channel. And they have global range. So, if you offer a good bandwidth signal to some home in the boonies, you have potentially used up that freuquency for the whole world!

    • What I would like to see is for ham to be assigned a legal commercial niche that it can occupy as an incentive to buy gear and revive the experimental edge that the service has long been renowned for.

      What possible commercial activity using ham radio could trigger experimental activities? Given the ability to experiment now, how could allowing commercial ham usage improve that?

      How about Internet service in rural areas? Allow hams to offer commercial interconnect from fiber and other wired broadband to the scattered users who have difficulty getting ISP service any other way.

      Cool. Consume the available ham frequencies with people selling ISP services. What a great way to promote ham radio.

      The connectivity we would get from this type of commercialization is, furthermore, exactly what would help the most in time of disaster.

      I hate to tell you, but infrastructure in the ham radio world requires a great deal of dedication and commitment. You will find a few people who will do it for fun, but a lot more hams USE the infrastructure than

    • Although everybody appreciates the amateur service's value in disasters, ham is slowly dying in the US because it is perceived by the public as falling behind compared to the more popular commercial communications technologies.

      Homeowners' associations trying to eradicate it with antenna bans don't help either.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        With the rise in satellite television and the appearance of eight zillion satellite dishes, I thought that local regulation of them got slapped down because they fell under the FCC's domain and were exempt from local regulation.

        • I believe the issue is the FCC regulations regarding antennas apply to governments, but not private agreements with HOAs. Basically, if you signed the contract saying you can't erect an antenna, that's your problem.
        • What tweak13 said: gubmints can't shut down hams, but contracts can. And if you don't like the provisions of the contract, you have the option of building your house in a subdivision where they don't have an HOA. I believe there are some in Mississippi.

        • http://www.arrl.org/hr-1301

          I attempted to bring up this issue for discussion but it got turned down. The HR-1301 Bill addresses the rest of antennas that weren't covered by the prior bill which allows satellite dishes and OTA antennas to be erected in restrictive HOA lands.

          Amateur Radio operators really need this bill in order to work with the HOA powers that be in order to work out a compromise concerning HF/VHF/UHF antenna restrictions.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Allow hams to offer commercial interconnect from fiber and other wired broadband to the scattered users who have difficulty getting ISP service any other way. HF radio would be a candidate technology.

      HF frequencies would not only suck at this due to their wildly-varying (by time of day, solar activity, weather, etc.) propagation characteristics, but they wouldn't get you enough bandwidth to support anything recognizable as internet service. Seriously, the various HF bands are on the order of a couple hundred kilohertz each. A single Wi-Fi channel is 22 megahertz wide. Just how well would a single worldwide shared-media 128K wireless network work?

      Besides, interested parties can already do this with Wi-Fi

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