GW4ALG's 136 kHz Pages

[ GW4ALG went QRT in February 2007 ]

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Steve says 'farewell' to 136 kHz

Steve GW4ALG was active on the 136 kHz band from March 1998 through to October 2001. 

For Steve, the arrival of the first RSGB 136 kHz repeater on 10th October 2001, located in southern England, took away the main attraction of the band.

Steve announced his departure from 136 kHz in the following Email addressed to the LF Reflector:

Subject:   LF: Farewell, LFers
Date:      Sun, 14 Oct 2001 22:21:17 +0100
From:      Steve Rawlings
Reply-To:  rsgb_lf_group@blacksheep.org
To:        LF Group <rsgb_lf_group@blacksheep.org>


Hi All,

It sure has been fun on 136 kHz over the past three and a half years, but I
now know that it's time for me to QSY.

For me, the recent introduction of repeaters on 136 has completely changed
the band. I refer, of course, to the 136 kHz to 144 MHz repeater that has
been installed in the south of England, relaying the 136 kHz band to 2
metres.

As well as wondering whether the recent pirate activity on 136 was in some
way precipitated by the presence of the repeater; I have learned today that
at least two operators who 'worked' MB2HFC over the past weekend were
unaware that their 136 kHz signals had, in fact, been relayed to MB2HFC via
a repeater, located several miles away from the demonstration station.
(The operators concerned had, not unreasonably, believed that their signals
were received via a conventional signal path - without the assistance of
relay equipment.)

Being a simple fellow; the attraction of 136 kHz for me was always the
simplicity of the station equipment, and the reliance on one's own efforts
to communicate by radio. For this reason, 136 often felt like an amateur
band 'frozen' in time - a sort of refuge: where one might get a taste of
what it was like to be a pioneer in the 1940s.

But, as operation on 136 now takes on a new dimension: adopting all the
trappings of the black-box era, I have decided to dismantle my LF station.
For now, I'll go back to constructing and operating HF QRP equipment. I
very much hope to see you there!

Naturally, I will be unsubscribing from the LF Reflector - just as soon as
I can figure out how to do it!

Regards to all,
Steve GW4ALG



Frequently Asked Questions

Many people were surprised by Steve's decision to leave the band after putting so much effort into experimenting on 136 kHz - and encouraging others to do likewise. 

Below are answers to some of the questions that people have asked about Steve's decision to go QRT.

Q1. Why has the installation of the RSGB repeater on 136 kHz caused so much upset?
Q2. Why do you think that the RSGB is using the term 'transponder'?
Q3. What do you dislike most about the RSGB repeater?
Q4.  What else do you dislike about the RSGB repeater?
Q5.  Isn't this going to be short-lived problem, until the pirates get bored?
Q6.  Have you complained to the RSGB about their repeater?
Q7.  Don't you think that you should support your national society?
Q8.  What is the RSGB is trying to achieve with 136 kHz repeaters?
Q9.  Would you advise others to give 136 kHz a try?

 

Q1. Why has the installation of the RSGB repeater on 136 kHz caused so much upset?
A1.  "I think that this is because the decision to install the repeater was taken by people who do not actually use the band.  There was no consultation with the LF community; no analysis of the advantages vs. disadvantages; and no opportunity for individuals to 'opt out' of having their LF signals relayed to 144 MHz."

Q2. Why do you think that the RSGB is using the term 'transponder'?
A2.  "I don't know.  Everyone else is correctly calling it a 'repeater', which means 'a radio station that receives stations on a certain frequency, and simultaneously re-transmits them on another frequency'.  On the other hand, the term 'transponder' was originally used to mean 'a device that is interrogated (or polled) for specific information'. 'Transponder' is a contraction of the words 'transmitter' and 'responder'."

Q3. What do you dislike most about the RSGB repeater?
A3.  "Users of 136 kHz have lost control of how their transmissions are used.   In the case of VHF repeaters, for example, I can decide not to use them - simply by avoiding repeater frequencies.  But the only way I can prevent the RSGB re-broadcasting my LF signals, is by going QRT.  It is as if someone steals a little of my soul each time my 136 signals get re-transmitted on 144 MHz."

Q4.  What else do you dislike about the RSGB repeater?
A4.  "As with VHF repeaters, they encourage pirates and poor operating practice.  The installation of the first repeater has already precipitated pirate activity on 136 kHz, such as the sending of random morse letters, and intermittent carriers (presumably, so that the pranksters can listen for their signals coming back on 2 m).  Another worrying trend is the use of the repeater for 'dodgy' 2-way contacts on 136 kHz - leaving the other station to think that the QSO was completed successfully via a conventional signal path."

Q5.  Isn't this going to be short-lived problem, until the pirates get bored?
A5.  "Apparently not.  Co-incident with the appearance of the repeater, a lid operator started regular periods of 'beaconing' in the narrow CW segment of the 136 kHz band.  Recent enquiries have confirmed that the person concerned is not interested in having 2-way QSOs, but continues to operate the beacon.  Repeaters have always been a magnet for those poor chaps who are not quite in tune with the rest of the world."

Q6.  Have you complained to the RSGB about their repeater?
A6.  "No, I haven't.  Partly because I'm not a member of the RSGB, but mainly because the RSGB has very weak links between 'grass roots' amateurs and its policy-making machine.  It would appear that nothing is going to deter the RSGB from its dubious attempts to increase, by whatever means, the number of amateur radio operators - even if this means re-defining the meaning of 'amateur radio' to do it."

Q7.  Don't you think that you should support your national society?
A7.   "I was a member of the RSGB for many years - both as a SWL, and as a transmitting radio amateur.  My wife and I resigned from the RSGB several years ago, as a protest action (on another matter!).  But I do try and put as much back into the hobby as I get out of it - mainly by helping others; and I am a Life Member of the ARRL.  We must not forget that the RSGB failed to carry out any consultation about the repeater - they neither sought the views of existing LF experimenters; its membership, nor the wider amateur radio community.   Being a member of the RSGB would have been of no advantage in this case."

Q8.  What is the RSGB is trying to achieve with 136 kHz repeaters?
A8.   "The RSGB seems to be very confused on this matter.  To begin with, the 'RSGB News' web-page identifies the current  repeater as GB3LF, and other sources quote MB7LF.  Perhaps there are two repeaters - who knows?  Some RSGB sources state that the repeater was set up because of noise problems in Crawley; others say that it was set up because of noise problems in Windsor.   Some sources state that it is a short-term local 'experiment'; others say that the repeater will run for at least 12 months, having a range of about 40 miles.  It seems to me that the policy; objectives; callsigns; and locations are still being determined."

Q9.  Would you advise others to give 136 kHz a try?
A9.   "No - definitely not.  There is now too much uncertainty about what the RSGB will do next.  A significant amount of work is required to design; develop; construct; operate; and maintain an effective LF station.  So it's important to know from the outset how RSGB policy will influence the way in which the band develops.  Unfortunately, it appears that the RSGB is going to further promote more 'dodgy' 2-way QSOs (i.e. the use of relay techniques for both transatlantic, and intra-G contacts); as well as the increased use of data modes, and erosion of the CW segment.  Of course, if you're keen on repeaters and data modes, then this might be the band for you."