[Linux-ham] High speed amateur radio

Kevin Otte nivex at nivex.net
Fri Mar 12 16:49:57 EST 2004

A long time ago, the packet radio network was one of the newest, latest,
greatest, neatest thing.  It was 1200bps, half duplex, but we could forward
mail from one end of the country (or even the globe) in a matter of
hours/days.  Then, consumer modems got faster, the Internet grew, and now
anyone can get a 33.6Kbit connection for peanuts and cell phones abound. 

What ever happened to that packet radio network?  Most of it died, and the
few remaining nodes are mostly at 1200bps.  APRS sprouted up to reuse some
of that 1200 baud gear.  It is innovative for sure, but even that has been
gated to the Internet.

In 1999, the ARRL created the Technology Task Force, whose task was
basically to bring Amateur Radio into the 21st century by using the latest
technology.  Sadly, we (or at least I) haven't heard much out of these
folks.  Most everybody I talk to still uses 2m/70cm or HF analog.  There's
been some work done in HF digital... at a whopping 31bps.  That's where
these guys come in: The ARRL High Speed MultiMedia project (HSMM).

The HSMM folk have, in a nutshell, begun to take commercial 802.11b gear and
modify it for use in the ham bands.  Interestingly, not much modification is
required as channels 1-6 occupy FCC Part 97 spectrum.  Hams in small areas
of the country are now enjoying voice, video, and data, all simultaneously
in the 2.4GHz ham bands.

Now, if you're saying to yourself, "That isn't ham radio, that's just
playing with some fancy off-the-shelf crud.", then maybe this isn't for you. 
Then again, when is the last time anyone built their 2 meter rig from the
ground up.  Hams these days buy their rigs pre-built.  I personally find in
interesting that technology not directly marketed at hams is being taken and
used to further the hobby.

Icom has also entered the foray of high speed digital networks for hams with
their D-Star system, but the price tag for the base unit, the ID-1, is about
$1400, and only gives a data rate of 128Kbps.  When you compare that with
the prices of off-the-shelf 802.11b gear, the latter starts to sound awfully

I look forward to hearing the comments of my fellow hams on this list about
my ramblings, and hope that we might begin to lay the groundwork of an
high-speed network by hams and for hams here in the Triangle.

Kevin Otte, N8VNR
nivex at nivex.net


"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 
-- George Santayana

"It seems no one reads Santayana anymore."
-- Cdr. Susan Ivanova, Babylon 5

More information about the Linux-ham mailing list