back to article Radio hams unite to fight off new powerline comms standard

The Radio Society of Great Britain is mobilising Europe's radio hams in protest against the forthcoming standard for powerline networking, predicting dire consequences if existing standards aren't applied. The society has issued a call to arms (PDF, lots of details) in protest at the new standard for powerline telecommunications …

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Anonymous Coward

RSGB have a point.

HAMs are far too useful when you need them most to fob off like ofcom and its PLT friends are doing. Time to support this, even if you're not a HAM.

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Re: RSGB have a point.

Totally agree, I will be watching out for a petition, I hope the register gets behind this too so more of us get involved than would otherwise!

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Joke

If Hams were to embrace powerline kit then they could just Skype their "friends" from their attic like the rest of the geeks

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Anonymous Coward

IF there was a disaster (natural or otherwise) in the area where our skyping geek lived, he might want to contact a ham who might be able to deliver a message to his mother that he was ok. Considering that if the power lines would be down, the internet would be down, and skype does not work too well under those conditions.

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Mushroom

Mmmm... HAM.

...the internet would be down...

Well, there's 1x major design goal of the whole thing down the drain for you.

<== Supposed to still work after some of these.

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If the power is out, then the HAM radio wouldn't be intefered with by a device that requires power to transmit, surely?

In my honest opinion, Powerline adapters have a long way to go yet anyway, I keep considering them as a viable alternative to running cables around the house or Wireless but the tech isn't quite there. It's an asshole move, but if the tech could be there, then I really don't care about HAM Radio.

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Facepalm

@Maxson

You have heard of this new technology called "batteries", I take it? Ham radios work just fine off them, even if the power is out for miles around.

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Re: @Maxson

His point, self-admittedly assinine, was that with the power off, there wouldn't be interference from PLT, not that the HAM radios wouldn't work. Of course if it ONLY works when the power is out, there's not much point in being a HAM in the first place.

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@Intractable Potsherd - Re: @Maxson

It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant a certain subset of IT types are with respect to electronics. They've an interest in computing, IT and the Internet, which all vitally hinge on electronics working working efficiently and without interference, yet they're totally clueless about the subject, and even more so about the electromagnetic environment in which electronic equipment must work, whether it is a radio receiver or a network switch. The paucity of their education in such matters is overwhelming, so is their selfishness and lack of consideration for others--it's a matter of "use any spectrum we need and to hell with all other legitimate users and services".

When it comes to terms such as RFI/EMR, Radio Frequency Interference / Electromagnetic Radiation, interference coupling factors, co-siting, protection ratios, intermodulation, dynamic range, blocking interface, CCIR, ITU, spectrum management etc., etc., then their jaws just drop and they start to dribble. They even fail to realise that the term 'bandwidth' comes from the halcyon days of radio when it was about the only form of electronics around.

They've no idea, that the interference protection that amateurs and most other RF spectrum users seek and demand from regulators is also integrally linked through the same physical mechanisms as is the shielding and interference protection as is used on everything from their motherboards to their WiFi. If, for example, someone ever jammed their petty HomePlug systems by zapping some RF down the line from a nearby power plug, then they'd be totally flummoxed.

Trouble is that once we had good spectrum management but that in recent years governments have devalued it and or often outsourced its management. With such a lack of interest in spectrum management by the regulators then it's little wonder that the RSGB has taken matters into its own hands.

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well...

i have a sinking feeling that us radio ham-types will be quietly ignored and classed as out-of-date beardy types while the PLT vendors get their way.

All we can hope for is that some clueless soul joyfully plugs in their new PLT devices and happens to live somewhere that causes mayhem at some government installation - then we *may* see some action.

Until then OFCOM will wash it's hands of the whole thing.

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Mushroom

Re: well...

I would have some sympathy except that in the past some (not all I'll admit) radio hams weren't exactly too bothered about their transmissions messing up other peoples TV reception back in the days when TV pre amps weren't very selective about what they pulled in. As long as they were following the law to the letter, if not the spirit then they didn't give a monkeys if half the street couldn't watch Crossroads because Brian was talking to Eric about his prize cucumbers. It does seem to me a case of the boot being on the other foot now.

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Re: well... what a load of rubbish

So viewers affected were too scared of those psycho radio amateur serial killers to just go and knock on their door and tell them their kit was causing TVI - an offence under (I think) the Wireless Telegraphy Act or similar?

All the radio amateurs I have known ( I was in a club in early teens) cared about TVI to the point of paranoia.

What does "As long as they were following the law to the letter, if not the spirit " mean, exactly? We are talking about measurable phenomena here, not opinion after all.

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Re: well...

As I said when O£COM initiated the free-for-life amateur radio licence: You get what you pay for.

O£COM is largely an agency dedicated to extracting the last possible penny out of everything it can.

Doubtless a survey of where its staff work after leaving said agency would be illuminating.

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Re: well...

Not much you can do to limit interference if the television was using an antenna amplifier that amplified from dc to several hundred MHZ.....

Little can be done if the tv user wants to receive a distant station using stacked antennas....and the tv cannot stand several volts on its input.

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Re: well...

A few decades ago I was informed of a TVI problem by my parents' next door neighbour, her elderly mother had an ancient TV set in her bedroom and it was upset by a few watts of VHF SSB.

I built and tested an appropriate filter and fitted it to her TV feeder. More tests revealed that it cured the problem completely, I even borrowed a linear amp to check it at 10x the power I was using, all interference was gone.

A few weeks later we had another visit from the old lady's daughter, she was terribly sorry but her mum was complaining again and could I come and see what was wrong. The solution was simple, I simply plugged the filter into the feeder again and this time used some cable ties to make sure it was difficult to remove. It seems that the old lady wanted to know if I was still interfering, so she took out the filter and discovered that I was!

Modern TV equipment is much less susceptible to interference that the old valve TVs were, and the modulation schemes also resist it rather better. Radio amateurs as a breed are very concerned not to upset their neighbours TV watching, preventing interference is a condition of the licences we have and a lot of effort is made to ensure that we do just that.

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Re: well... what a load of rubbish

"So viewers affected were too scared of those psycho radio amateur serial killers to just go and knock on their door and tell them their kit was causing TVI "

And if the guy says "its not me" what were they supposed to do about it? Sure, cal the IBA or whoever was in charge back then who come around when he's not on air, find nothing and go home again.

"All the radio amateurs I have known ( I was in a club in early teens) cared about TVI to the point of paranoia."

As I said, it wasn't all , but there were plenty of rogue operators who didn't care. I know - I used to live near one.

"What does "As long as they were following the law to the letter, if not the spirit " mean, exactly?"

It means so long as they took measurable measures following the legal guidelines then as far as they were concerned they'd done their bit and if there was still interference , weeeell sucks to be you Mr TV Viewer.

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Re: well... what a load of rubbish

Mostly you will find it was rogue CB users with burners that caused TVI not the radio hams. Although my CQ days are behind me I do remember getting blamed for TVI when my kit wasnt switch on. The neighbour appologised profusely and went off to the spar car park over the road to have a chat with the various cars that sprouted antennae

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@Chris N - Re: well...

Perhaps OFCOM might stop washing its hands of the matter if PLT devices didn't work because someone had plugged a jamming device into a nearby GPO.

It's only through the good grace of radio amateurs and other radio spectrum users that HomePlug/PLT/BPL/PLC hasn't been nuked by unwanted power-line interference long ago.

HomePlug/PLT/BPL/PLC users are living on borrowed time, methinks.

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@JohnMurray -- Re: well...

...or what they were qualified in, or what work they did before joining OFCOM.

(Knowing who has infiltrated and subverted an organisation is always useful.)

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Mushroom

Re: well...

Back in those days of "crappy pre-amps", I voluntarily kept my beam away from the local communal antenna (which was also getting messed-up TV when a cop, ambulance or the local taxi drove by!), for one month, to give the owners of the communal system plenty of time to replace the "DC-to-Light Blue" pre-amp with something that was designed for TV frequencies.

I also supplied a band-pass filter to a couple of my neighbouts whose Band 2 antennas and TV front ends were receiving 145MHz and/or 432MHz - as well as Band 2.

My own transmitters had been checked by a friend who worked for BT (now Ofcom) and was completely clean - the problem was always poor (cheap) design or manufacturing fault in the affected equipment, and my interest was to solve tehse problems, despite them not being caused by any fault of my own.

More than could be said of some of the illegal (in those days) CB operation which was often carried out with illegal (even now) levels of power and poor knowledge of how to keep transmissions "clean"

Stu

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Unhappy

Not Just Radio Amateurs

The muddied spectrum will not just effect radio amateurs but anyone or system relying on low level signals on radio frequencies up to around 200MHz. This includes FM broadcasting, radio astronomy, aircraft voice communication, dock, estuary and coastal communications.

The over-riding problem, one that I don't expect a solution for, is that the radio spectrum is seen merely as a commodity which is overseen by a technically ignorant government .

Charlie.

M0WYM

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Re: Not Just Radio Amateurs

The government needs to be convinced that the HF spectrum is a valuable commodity to those who use it for its unique properties, even if it hasn't been "monetised". There are laws about noise pollution and leaving rubbish in your garden, even though it doesn't cost your neighbours anything; PLT interference is a nuisance in the same way, just not so obvious. MPs may be ignorant of technical matters, but they are very used to dealing with complaints about nuisances. They need to know that by letting this slip, they are contributing to the degradation of the radio environment for its responsible users in the same way that nuisance neighbours degrade the aesthetic environment.

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Re: Not Just Radio Amateurs

Ham radio is wonderful for inspiring teenagers at school who may be genuinely curious how their mobile phones work. Most of us built a crystal AM receiver as a child. Some of us take that further and start to learn about Morse Code, inductors, capacitors, amplifiers, and more.

I think it is important to ring fence and preserve this spectrum for the hobbyist and curious. It's like having parks available for children to play in.

I use the Internet prolific ally. Turns out I am a much better programmer than electrical engineer. But I am very thankful for my younger years learning about electronics from articles and ham club members. And I am firmly against power line Internet that uses unshielded wire for transmission. Ethernet is a superior solution.

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In fact the big problem is...

...that you cannot use any frequency range other than 0-30 MHz for broadcast properly. If you use higher frequencies you won't be able to profit from the ionosphere. Higher frequencies are only useful to local stations and communication links.

On the other hand, there are multiple solutions for LANs, from WLAN to cheap Ethernet. LANs don't need to use that frequency range.

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Unhappy

Re: Not Just Radio Amateurs

"a technically ignorant government ."

Has there ever been any other sort?

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Paris Hilton

Re: Not Just Radio Amateurs

And a technically ignorant regulator who cares not a fig for anything but money.

Paris Hilton for the new Ofcom Boss please.

She could do a much better job than the inept nitwits running it now.

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Megaphone

Re: Not Just Radio Amateurs

I'd say that the coalition in power during WWII was anything but technically ignorant, led by WSC.

Indeed, they sought out the very best people and actually listened to them. Mostly. It was a vital factor in our victory.

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Stop

By the end of the day

We will have a bunch of self-interested, self-informed experts in here, all praising the progress of this half-arsed technology, bemoaning how the technically inept cavemen of the ham field are holding us all back.

Do yourselves a favor and don't do that. This is horrible, careless design and you're not the smart expert you think you are.

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Re: By the end of the day

Couldn't have said it better.

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What people forget is that us hams can communicate semi reliably around the world antenna to antenna. No infrastructure in between is needed. And as another poster said, there are a great many other users of the radio spectrum who can have problems caused by noisy devices.

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Black Helicopters

Tin foil hat time ?

you have just neatly encapsulated all the reasons why governments around the world would rather radio hams weren't allowed.

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Boffin

Re: Tin foil hat time ?

Er, actually amateur radio exists precisely because of inter-governmental agreement and international treaties through the ITU. Countries that don't want amateur activity make it difficult to get a licence and/or equipment.

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Also remember that most of the spectrum used by radio hams is shared in one way or another. Even if the hams are officially the "primary user" there are still designated "secondary users" who will suffer from this interference. In other cases it is the hams who are the secondary users. It isn't just a minority of geeky types who'll be affected.

Case in point is the Olympics, where part of the ham radio VHF spectrum is being used by the secondary user (with Ofcom/RSGB agreement) for the duration of the games. Any PLT that upset radio hams in that range would also screw up communications for the games.

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indeed. I shudder to think the amount of noise a PLT wielding tenement block would create.

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Mushroom

When the end comes and technology is no more, we'll need the skills of those HAM's to keep in touch!

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Anonymous Coward

Quote: "When the end comes and technology is no more, we'll need the skills of those HAM's to keep in touch!"

Except that barely one in a hundred (or even one in a thousand) of them could actually build a working rig from the scraps lying around in the wastebins of this post technological world. When you can build a complete station from scrap, you might be worthy of special consideration. The rest just buy and use an off the shelf unit with no greater knowledge of its operation that the average iPad user.

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Stop

Ahh the Anonymous Coward again.

"Except that barely one in a hundred (or even one in a thousand) of them could actually build a working rig from the scraps lying around in the wastebins of this post technological world."

Perhaps so, but I'll bet that you'd be lucky to find one in one hundred thousand iPhone users who could give a comprehensive explanation of the working of an iPhone. Let's begin with an easy point--the first of many hundreds of questions: what's the typical bandwidth, sensitivity, selectivity and intermodulation characteristics of a smartphone's GPS system? If you don't know then someone must, otherwise there'd be no working system.

The fact is that the world is becoming more and more deskilled in hands-on electronics, nevertheless you'd be much better off betting on an experienced amateur than a green electrical engineer just out of uni. It's often forgotten that many amateurs are already technicians, engineers and scientists and that amateur radio is the hobby extension of their work. (You'd be very surprised as to the extent, sophistication and exotic nature of some of the technologies that experienced nerds get involved with.)

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Black Helicopters

Radios from scrap?

There's still quite a lot of us left who cherish our "old boat-anchors" and still prefer to use them, or who have modified old "junkers" to work on ham frequencies, and to use modern transmission protocols.

It's not all "buy the gear and transmit", and even when it is, there's some of us who remember the Cold War times, when we kept even more technically obsolete radios ready for use if "something" destroyed power cables and land-lines (those of my age will understand and recognise the "something")

The same hams often have generators, and/or standby batteries, often backed by solar, in case of severe floods/winds etc taking out landlines and power lines. They're a volunteer ham group called in England "RAYNET"

Stu

Southport Raynet Controller

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Trollface

This thread smells of stale bovril, burnt electronic circuit boards, sandals, mouldy lofts and pipe tobacco.

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Mushroom

You smell that? Knowledge, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that.

I love the smell of knowledge in the morning. You know, one time we had to actually learn tech to use it. When that era was all over, we walked the malls. We couldn't find a one, not one stinkin educated user. The smell, you know, that clean cubicle smell. Smelled like... bullshit.

Someday progress is gonna end.

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Great reply. I totally have respect for the knowledge of radio hams, and any garden shed scientist, but absolute disdain for their unyielding and cantankerous lack of humour. Wherever there is a radio ham thread, there are angry old men, but if they were REAL radio hams they shouldn't be on the interwebs, they should be expressing their indignant rage on shortwave, tootling and beeping frenzied morse to whoever may be listening on another side of an ionosphere bounce.

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Actually, they're doing both

Look who's never heard of packet radio...

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WTF?

"but if they were REAL radio hams they shouldn't be on the interwebs, " Good job we DO have sense of humour with silly comments like this flying about!

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-10 = point proven

humourless and angry. I'm deliberately installing powerline adaptors from now on wherever I can, for no other reason than to interrupt these obnoxious old farts

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@Mike G

Only one angry, humourless person 'round here, mate, and it seems to be you.

Disclaimer: I am not, and never have been, a radio ham, but I do use licenced two-way radio equipment for my hobby.

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Meh

@Intractable Potsherd -- Re: @Mike G

It's pointless mate, arguing with the absolutely clueless takes time off your life, increases blood pressure, and takes you down to their level.

Anyway, these cretins are only buying an argument. (The first clue is that they're totally clueless on RF and anything to do with spectrum management.) ...And I'm not into world DXing either.

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Anonymous Coward

"If you tolerate this..."

Who writes these? Made me laugh. Believe it or not I was actually downloading the very Manic Street Preachers album this was on!

Sorry to hijack your thread - please continue.

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Joke

I don't really care about some guy's walkie-talkie,

but if this stuff interferes with my ADSL then I'm blowing your airport sky high.

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Re: I don't really care about some guy's walkie-talkie,

Oh it does that too!

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Unhappy

If you want to do something about this then....

...look for the contact details of the UK's CENELEC National Committee man here:

http://www.cenelec.eu/dyn/www/f?p=104:16:4209864994242452::::FSP_ORG_ID:0495

and write an email to him with your concerns.

I did so earlier and received a response within half an hour.

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