Diversity in amateur radio

| December 19, 2018

But that’s not real radio!’ It’s not a new cry directed at FT8, DMR or Network Radio, but much older than that and often made whenever someone practices a version of amateur radio different from theirs. I suspect there were similar cries when SSB was first introduced, and before that AM by the CW diehards. Radio amateurs are an inventive bunch, but paradoxically many don’t like change and are set in their ways.

In the UK we are blessed with large allocations of spectrum and there are many different modes and frequencies we can experiment with. Yet many radio amateurs never stray from their preferred version, often established early in their amateur radio journey. ‘Use it or lose it’ has been voiced many times in the past and generally ignored as scaremongering. Ask yourself this, what is the justification for having all this spectrum if we just use a tiny part of it on a limited number of modes and frequencies?

The recent 147MHz allocation was granted on the basis of promoting innovation and not just ‘more of the same’, with some success. At Ofcom’s request, the RSGB recently demonstrated to the business radio user community one of those innovations, reduced-bandwidth amateur TV. Traditionally this type of application has been a heavy user of radio spectrum and is another example of innovation, developed by radio amateurs, which has the potential for commercial use. Whilst not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, FT8 is another amateur radio-inspired innovation that shows that communication can be possible even under adverse band conditions. It is a useful tool as part of our repertoire of communications modes and is most definitely every bit as much ‘real radio’ as our traditional modes.

As part of the RSGB’s Strategy 2022 priority for Diversity, a number of YouTube videos featuring different aspects of amateur radio have been published and are receiving regular large audiences. Through collaboration with special interest groups these videos have been created to promote and encourage amateur radio diversity by showcasing what’s available. You may be surprised how much is. You can enjoy these at https://rsgb.org/video

Home construction is another key objective towards encouraging diversity in amateur radio and, at the 2018 National Hamfest, we held a very successful Buildathon for inexperienced constructors. It is hoped that this will be the first of many similar events that will help promote and support this aspect of amateur radio.

An RSGB awards scheme aimed at newly-licenced radio amateurs will be introduced during 2019. Delivered through registered clubs, it is designed to support and encourage those newly-licenced amateurs to enjoy the hobby to its greatest extent. It is also intended to nurture those individuals wishing to progress on their journey at any level from Foundation through to Advanced and beyond. This will be complemented by another initiative that will consist of a wide range of self-administered tasks aimed at furthering knowledge and breadth within the hobby.

During 2019 I hope to get out of my usual amateur radio comfort zone, to try something different and enjoy more of amateur radio’s rich tapestry of modes and frequencies. I hope you will join me.

If you have an idea to help encourage diversity in amateur radio, I would love to hear from you. You can email me via gm0onx@rsgb.org.uk

Priorities for 2019

  • Continue to build the catalogue of special interest videos. Requests for particular subjects are welcome
  • Closer working with special interest groups – supporting the appointment of the RSGB National Affiliated Societies Honorary Officer. Simon Taylor, MW0NWM will be working towards closer relationships with the diverse interests of all specialist groups in order to promote interworking, collaboration and building shared cases for mode and frequency use
  • Support and develop further Buildathons and similar practical skills events
  • Recognise the wide diversity of interest within amateur radio and avoid criticism of specialism. Over many years it is those specialists who have given us many of the technically-rich opportunities that make amateur radio of interest to so many today: SSB, DMR, FT8, NBFM, NBTV and many others

Len Paget, GM0ONX, RSGB Board Member

Continuing priorities

  • Through the Spectrum Forum and regular dialogue with Ofcom, continue to present evidence of experimental and novel research by radio amateurs in more efficient use of our allocated radio spectrum
  • Continue to take up opportunities of presenting to the wider public the rich skillset within amateur radio. Many of our volunteers are working within Government, regulatory or advanced commercial, scientific fields
  • Develop our influence within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) – linking our skills with those of the National Curriculum and the wider personal development opportunities of amateur radio

Category: RSGB Strategy 2022