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The History of Amateur Radio

Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.

Breakthrough of Japan know-how (XVI)

Since the end of WW II, the number of Japan amateurs increased steadily year after year, reaching about 1 million active amateurs by 1994 for over 3 millions licensee and 125 million inhabitants ! They are also very active on 27 MHz.

Regulation side, the Japan band plan is quite restrictive. In 1994 for example the segment of 3,747-3,754 kHz (80 m) was allocated to the amateur radio in addition to the segment 3,791-3,805 kHz, but not the all 80-meter band like in many countries.

Japan is also very active in space technology. In 1990, JAMSAT launched his second amateur radio satellite JAS-1B (Fuji-2) and put it successfully into orbit. In 1996, a third satellite Japan Amateur Satellite-2 (JAS-2) (Fuji-3) was launched with the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (AEO) and put also into orbit. 

Today, not only Japan amateurs are able to launch their own satellites from Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC), but Japan has become a true space Power through its JASCA agency. 

A strong or weak Japan ?

In spite of the fact that since 1952 Allied Powers waived all reparations claims from Japan for war damages, today Japan is became a major Power, remember how fast Sony got his leadership... The same growth is observed in the Golden Triangle of south India, in Taiwan and Shang-Hai, three megapoles accomodating up to 20 millions workers in the case of Shang-Hai, as many as in all Australia !

In all technical areas, from the underground railway to the spacecraft, the efficiency and reliability of japanese and alike components exceed by far the quality of most European or US product. Look around you. The most reliable cars are japanese or korean, some of the best transceivers are japanese too, and in all your home, if you look closely, most of your equipements are made in Japan or their vital components (chips, etc) are made in the country of the rising sun. The small country who so-called lost face is winning the economical war. 

At left, in incrustation in front of a microscopic view of an Olympus binary countdown integrated circuit, a major question that concerns today all japanese economy. Is it still able to support its growth ? Today indeed the sunny horizon of our friends-San displays some dark clouds. In 2010, the public japanese debt reached 200% of its GDP (against 102% in Belgium, 14% in Luxembourg and 11% in the U.S.A.).

HAREC and CEPT recommendations

Since the middle of the years '90s, CEPT was confronted with the consequences of the liberalization of the telecommunications sector and the harmonization of the regulation initiated by the European Union.

Time running, CEPT has grown, was reformed, and from 1991 gave birth to several additional European boards like ETSI, ETNO, PostEurop, ERO, etc, so many organizations that assist CEPT and its committees. These changes leaded the European national PTT administrations headed the Amateur radio Service to issue the Harmonized Amateur Radio Examination Certificate, HAREC, in accordance with the CEPT Recommendation T/R 61-02, a document that we will speak about again at WRC 2003. 

At that time, there were two types of HAREC certificates : HAREC A and HAREC B, corresponding to Class A (all privileges) and Class B (VHF and up) respectively, as defined in appendix II of the T/R 61-01 Recommendation (column 3). This HAREC certificate constitutes the true amateur radio license of all European amateurs. Do never loose it at it gives you the permission to receive a call sign to transmit on the air, the dream of all amateur radio.

Another effect of this European harmonization, if you have a valid amateur radio licence according to CEPT Recommendation T/R 61-01, you may use your amateur radio station temporarily abroad (for 3 months maximum) without having to request the national licence of that country; you can simply add the prefix on the visited country to your callsign, e.g. EA/ON4SKY.

Up to now these HAREC certificates are not accepted in the U.S.A. yet. Licenses issued by FCC are valid for operation together with the FCC public notice concerning CEPT-operation. But this public notice applies to US citizens only as there was no agreements yet between CEPT and the other non-European organizations. That means that non-US citizens carrying an US licence have to apply for a visitor license.

Birth of GSM

GSM, standing for Global System for Mobile Communication, is the last technology to date that comes in straigh line from the wireless discovery of Marconi and his mentors like Hertz and Edison. I will not extend too long on the history of GSM that is developed in depth on GSM World website. Recall only some major steps.

The first mobile phone using a cellular system was used by the Minister of German Post, Hans Hubert, on June 20, 1953. Made by Siemens, this "portable" weighted 16 kg and cost 8,000 Mark (~$4000) ! The communication cost 5,000 Marks to the citizen when a worker's annual salary was 7,000 Marks.

It is only in 1973 that Martin Cooper and his team from Motorola patented the first portable cell phone, DynaTAC. It cost 3995$. Its weight was 1.2 kg and had an autonomy of 20 minutes in conversation. But business men had to wait 10 years to purchase the first model. 

Then the GSM evolved, becoming smaller and lighter. It is only in 1999 that the first smartphone was manufactured by NTT Docomo.

At left, the first cell phone DynaTAC invented by Martin Cooper an his team from Motorola in 1973. At right, evolution of Siemens GSM between 1992 (GH172) and 2011 (A31).

Nowadays a smartphone is sometimes offered free with a promotional product and its weight has been reduced to a few hundreds grams... How are we reached such a sophistication in a few decades ?

Back to the '80s. At that time, it became obvious that wireless capabilities of cellular phones had to be improved. Several national telecommunication networks existed : NMT 450 in the Nordic and Benelux countries, Radiocom 2000 in France, TACS in the U.K.,C-Netz in West Germany, RTMI/RTMS in Italy, etc. If you could receive a call in your office even if you were at home (roaming capabilities), you were unable to receive a call from a friend or a client in another country due to the language barrier (protocols) between operators. You had to use your desktop phone and dial the international code, etc.

To solve this difficulty in an economy that became more and more global, in which the mobility was a leithmotiv, on February 1987 the CEPT established the "Groupe Spécial Mobile" (GSM). Its objective was to develop the specification for a pan-European mobile communications network capable of supporting millions of potential subscribers foresee in the forecoming years. 15 countries participated in this project among them Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Sweden.

From the start, the working Group wanted that the new GSM standard uses digital rather than analog technology, VLSI, and operates in the 900 MHz band. In 1987, the U.K. requested the access to a second band, on 1800 MHz. It was then decided that the GSM network must be ready for 1991. A pilot project was set up but the German D2 operator complained that there was no terminal available yet. Although the standard was no completely set at that time, a subset of parameters was validated so that operators could develop their first handheld terminals.

At the ITU's Telecom 91 exhibition in Geneva, a pilot GSM network was successfully demonstrated with around 11,000 calls made and no major problems encountered. In practice, the real launch of GSM occured in 1992.

The ZR-5800 Palmtop from Sharp. One of the first subnote taking advantage of GSM in 1996.

There was one or two operators in each involved country. Then on June, 17, 1992 the first roaming agreement was signed between Telecom Finland and Vodafone in the U.K. This time the vision of a pan-European network was becoming a reality. In early 2003 more than one billion people were using GSM phones and the growth is exponential !

Recall also that this is in 1996 that the first Pocket PC was connected to a GSM. It was the ZR-5800 Palmtop from Sharp displayed at left. It was connected to the GSM using a PCMCIA interface card inserted in the computer.

GSM is a success because, not only it allows roaming communications, but it is a very secure network; all communications, both speech and data, are encrypted to prevent eavesdropping. GSM subscribers are also identified by their famous SIM card (Subscriber Identity Module) to ensure security of authentication.

However, in some circumstances, the actual european network is far to be sufficient to satisfy all this growing demand of connection. At the New Year's Eve for example or during a strong snow tempest that jams all circulation, all people have the good idea to call their relatives at the same time. In fact, it is not a so good idea because most cellular phone networks become unreacheable during some hours... Usually providers do not like to speak about these failures of their "greatest success". But it is a fact that, in Belgium for example which is already well equipped, the GSM coverage could still be improved and densify.

The GSM gave birth to the GPRS, standing for General Packet Radio Service. GPRS is a digital mobile phone service allowing packet switched data transmission. It is backward compatible with GSM. Because telephone operators have priced GPRS relatively cheaply in some countries like Finland, the maximum speed of a GPRS connection (2003) is the same as a low speed modem, about 5 KB/s with a ping round trip time as slow as 1 second.

Today, GSM are used by some radio amateurs too, like Martii Laine, OH2BH who works at Nokia and who steers his antenna farm remotely through a GSM connected to his portable computer, nothing less ! And if you haven't noticed it yet, in several Nokia GSM sold since the mid '90s (3410, 6210, 6310i, etc), the ringing is in fact the letter V emitted in Morse code while others send "connecting people" and "SMS" in CW, conditioning by a strong passion, invading will say gossips, Hi !

Birth of DRM and Digital receivers

In September 1996s the Digital Radio Mondiale, DRM for short, emerged from an informal meeting in Paris (F), between some of the large international broadcasters and broadcasting equipment manufacturers. But as this standard only entered into force as of January 30, 2003, we will come back on this exciting technology in the course of the XXIth century.

WinRADIO G-303i GUI (9 kHz - 30 MHz).

In the same time, new manufacturers were involved in the digital technology as well. WinRADIO for example, an Australian company released the first digital radio receiver. G-303i for example is an interface card to install in a PCI slot of your computer. This is an HF card including a dual-conversion superheterodyne receiver with software-defined last IF stage and demodulator. Like all WinRADIO cards a DRM demodulator will be available mid 2000s.

Most if not all radio cards are today capable to receive LW, MW and SW in most modes (AM, FM, USB, LSB, CW) and soon in DRM mode, while the more sophisticated cards cover SHF frequencies up to... 4 GHz if necessary ! Refer to my pages dealing with DRM and satellite reception for more information.

Low power and private mobile radio

Since 1998s many manufacturers sold what we can consider as the new generation of walky-talkies, low power transceivers at free use and license free : the LPD and PMR transceivers.

These are handheld UHF transceivers working between 433 and 447 MHz. As usual, there are several standards :

- the Low Power Device or LPD system comes with 69 channels between  433.0750 and 434.7500 MHz, 10 mW output (the 3 models at left). Some models work in the range 433.0500 to 434.7900 MHz,

- the Private Mobile Radio or PMR system comes with 8 channels between 446.00625 and 446.09375 MHz, 500 mW output (the 2 model at right). Some PMR include also an FM radio.

- the Simplified Professional Radio or SPR system soon withdrawn offered 3 channels between 446.96000 and 446.98750 MHz and 500 mW out. 

These transceiver use a double conversion superheterodyne circuit. They work on F3E modulation (FM) with two intermediate frequencies, the first at 21.150 MHz (LPD) or 21.400 MHz (PMR), the 2d at 455 kHz. As you can see the first IF stage falls just in the 15-meter amateur band, in the digimode segment (see HF Bandplan). The double I.F. improves the sensitivity and selectivity of the receiver. As the radio system is responsive to any signal at the I.F. frequency, using only one I.F. stage it is possible for an unwanted signal at the input to cause an image response. To avoid this problem the double I.F. is thus used as in many desktop transceivers. 

These improved walky-talkies are as small as a GSM and weight between 120-450 gr. They display a tuning step between 12.5 and 25 kHz, a frequency stability of about 5 kHz, an intermodulation rejection better than 70 dB, and a reduction of spurious emissions over 70 dB below carrier. The LPD is capable to emit up to 2 km in an open field (land or water), to 500 meters in cities, and up to 200 meters in closed buildings. The PMR being more powerful and twice more expensive than the LPD, it can reach 6 km in open field, can include a CTSS scanner as well as an activation by voice (VOX), an adjustable Squelch, a jack plug, and a free-hand kit. These high-tech talky-walkies are powered by 3 alkaline batteries 1.5V. In standby they can hold between 10 and 40 hours. Some models are completed with a battery charger. As far as the regulation is concerned, these transceivers fall in the family of devices ruled by the European standard 0678 Class 2. They must be only used with the built-in antenna that cannot be dismantled and with the default battery (no external power supply).

About the potential interference in the 15-meter amateur band, these devices are of course in violation with the assignment of frequencies as defined by ITU at WRC conferences. However there is almost no risk of interference because the signal is first of very low power at that stage (a few picowatts) then it is not radiated as the antenna located at the end of the chain is tuned on 433 MHz. Even with a Motorola PMR that is 50 times more powerful than a LPD, there is no RFI at 3 meters away from the PMR, close to an amateur receive antenna tuned on 15 meters. It's a good news !

As these transceivers are free of use and cheap (between 30-120€ plus some accessories), there are first of all dedicated to all people working in team, and who desire to stay connected by a wireless system (doing sport or set up an equipment in large facilities, outdoor,etc), but also to the parents who want to watch their kids or to the man who want to know where could still be his wife going shopping, et, HI ! 

Note at last, that the 433-MHz band segment is already very sollicited by all systems supporting LPD-D, D as digital. It concerns mainly all automatic garage gates, the opening of car doors, the home weather stations, etc. (some of them, like car keys work on 405 MHz as well). If all these emitters display a low power and cannot disturb amateurs bands, some disrespectful people including some professionnals (truckers, etc) sometimes uses such devices with amplifiers and custom antennas. Consequently, they disturb amateur UHF bands in creating QRM up to several tens of kilometeres around their emitter in a bandwidth that exceed a few MHz ! It is time to stop that !

AMSAT's replicate of Sputnik 1

During the years '90s, AMSAT launched no less than 30 amateurs satellites in space on behalf of many foreign ham associations from Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, France, Portugal, Italy, Russia, Mexico, India, Thailand, Israel. Among them there was Radiosputnik-18/Sputnik-41 that was launched by hand on November 10, 1998 by cosmonauts aboard the Mir space station from an altitude of about 320 km (200 miles).

Radiosputnik RS-18, a 1/3-scale replicat of the first Sputnik.

The story tells that cosmonaut Gennady Padalka told his fellow space walker Sergei Avdeyev to "toss it gently toward the Moon.". RS-18 was the same size as Sputnik 40 (20 cm or 8" in diameter) and weighed about 4 kg (9 lbs). With its four antennas it was thus about a one-third scale replica of Sputnik 1.

RS-18 transmitted on 145.8125 MHz two pre-recorded voice greetings in English, Russian and French as well as a beacon tone. The messages said, "1998 was the International Year of Air and Space" and "International Space School Sputnik Program." RS-18 was dubbed "A Satellite for Education."

On April 16, 1999, at his turn, the French spationaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré, FX0STB, launched RS-19 by hand from MIR. But this satellite was more than probably built in a venture between the Russian Space Agency (RSA) and Swatch company (indeed, clocks). Before the launch the satellite had to be loaded with so-called non-commercial messages from Swatch, but under the protest from the ham community the project was cancelled.

Dave Blaschke, W5UN's DXCC on 2m EME.

AMSAT launched also four very small amateur digital communications satellites called MICROSATs along with two additional, albeit somewhat larger, amateur satellites into Earth orbit using the european rocket ARIANE 4.

W5UN's DXCC on 2 meters EME

Note that in 1991, Dave Blaschke, W5UN's "Mighty Big Array" was destroyed by a tornado. That looks futile at first sight if you are not concerned by this event, but I list this information because, undauted, Dave rebuilt his array of thirty Yagis so that he could achieve the first DXCC on 2 meters EME, award #1 that he sent me with courtesy and that I displayed at right. On his 2-meter EME Primer page, Dave will give you all useful information to build a low-cost but performing EME station operating on VHF.

New reforms at ITU

In 1992, ITU adopted structural reforms following the recommendations of the High Level Committee. The previous IFRB, CCIR, CCITT and BDT boards were dissolved. Their functions was carried out by three new Sectors : Radiocommunication (ITU-R), Telecommunication Standardization (ITU-T), and Telecommunication Development (ITU-D). 

In 1996, at the first World Telecommunication Policy Forum in Geneva, the members of the Union adopted the first international standard for universal international freephone numbers (UIFN). Now, in many countries, if you move from one city to another you can keep your phone number, whether it is customized or not.

In 1999 at last, ITU becomes founding member of the Protocol Supporting Organization of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN PSO). ICANN assumes responsibility for the IP address space allocation, protocol parameter assignment, domain name system management, and root server system management functions previously performed under U.S. Government contract by IANA and other entities. 

Thanks to ICANN, individual members of Internet communities worldwide have a voice in the selection of policies and policymakers that oversee Internet resources.

Next chapter

The 2000s : a new millenium, wireless and code-less

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