January 2018 51
specific purposes. The FCC (Federal Communications
Commission) rules allocate privileges or access to those
bands and signal types by license class. Table 1 shows how
With the entry-level license (Technician Class), you
can participate in local and regional relief and recovery
efforts using the VHF/UHF/Microwave bands. You will
have all amateur privileges on those bands. Many hams
stay with the Technician license since short-range and
local communication is all they need. Most such operation
takes place on the 144 MHz and 440 MHz bands using
handheld or mobile/base transceivers and basic antennas.
Most communication of this type is line-of-sight over
several miles or repeater-based around a wider area. If your
community still has Internet service, you may be able to
access the long-distance Winlink email network through
gateways known as RMS (Radio Mail Server) stations that
operate on these bands.
If you want to communicate beyond the local region,
you’ll need a General Class license to use the HF bands.
This is where the classic long-distance communication
occurs via skip propagation as I described in the Ham’s
Wireless Workbench columns in the May 2016 and July
On those bands, you’ll find well-known on-the-air
organizations that provide service in the form of nets. The
Winlink RMS stations can be accessed here, too, often
over very long distances. The General Class license opens
the door to all of ham radio for you.
With all these privileges, your propagation know-how
will help you choose the right band at the right time to
make the contacts you need. This is where ham radio
meets the natural world — especially on the HF bands
where propagation depends on the day-night cycle,
sunspots, and other such things. When you know how the
bands change, you can literally hear the world turning!
There are some very cool systems that hams have
devised to move digital data around via radio. If you’re
into wireless data, networking, or programming, these
systems are really interesting. During disaster response and
recovery, they’re invaluable. If you can put such a system
on the air, feed it data, and keep it running, you are in
demand, my friend.
Here are two such systems you’ll find really useful
when communication services are down:
Email — The Winlink system ( www.winlink.org)
mentioned previously uses an Internet-linked system of
hardened servers to move email around the world. Ham
stations connect to RMS gateways which relay email to and
from the Winlink servers. Connections are made on the HF
bands using the PACTOR or WINMOR protocols — you’ll
need your General license for that. Locally, a Technician
licensee can access the network through VHF and UHF
PRACTICAL TECHNOLOGY FROM THE HAM WORLD
Post comments on this article and find any associated files and/or downloads at
n FIGURE 1. Ham Radio for Dummies explains the basics
of amateur radio, including how to get a license, what
you can do with it, basic communication skills, and an
introduction to some of the technical elements needed
for a useful level of effectiveness. (Available in the NV Webstore)
Casting Your Net
Nets operate using voice, and are used to pass
messages and coordinate long-distance relief efforts.
Two of the busiest in the past few months have been
the Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325 MHz (www.hwn.
org) and the Salvation Army’s SATERN net on 14.265
MHz ( www.satern.org/en/HomePage.html).
The Caribbean Emergency Net operates on 7.188
MHz as well. Nets need competent operators to act
as net control stations (NCS) and keep things running
smoothly whether the net covers just your local area or