Network Radio, September 2018

| August 8, 2018

These letters were received for publication in the September 2018 RadCom but pressure of space meant they could not be included in the printed edition.

David Lees, G0PDL
The reason Network Radio is worth a try is simply because it isn’t like anything else. If it was, it wouldn’t be so popular. The combination and timing of the introduction of the Network Radios channels AND the number and UK availability of various new models means we have had an explosion of new users. Add to this the fact that you probably already have a phone that you can use, this is one of the few new ways of communicating without the need to purchase new equipment to try it out.

Geoffrey Stainton, G1MQQ
When asked what’s so special about amateur radio, my answer is simple: AUTONOMY. If all the existing communications infrastructures failed tomorrow, mobile phones, voice over IP, Network Radio etc would all fail with it, but radio hams would still be able to operate – as has been proved time and again when we have been the only communications available in times of disaster.

Ray J Howes, G4OWY/G6AUW
Yes, there have always been attempts by private commercial enterprises to grab ham radio frequencies for profit. But to date, these interests have not been entirely successful. Due, mainly, to the IARU and others to prevent it.
Although I understand G4BUO’s misgivings regarding Network Radio, methinks he is jumping the gun a bit. Yes, “EchoLink and D-Star Dongles” are a potential danger to traditional ham radio. 2m FM was perceived as a real danger to ham radio too, once upon a time. Ditto, SSB. OK, not quite a correct comparison, but an appropriate one, given the reaction when Network Radio hit the ham headlines. No, “chat channels on the internet” are NOT a form of radio. It’s mere communication via different means. Perhaps G7DDN was being a touch economical with the definition of ‘radio’ to deliberately attract attention to his article? If so, his ploy worked.
Luckily, and sometimes under extreme pressures from commercial ‘predators’, most Governments worldwide still believe that ham radio has a valuable purpose. Let’s not get rattle our cages too much when something new pops up that, superficially, is a novelty. The clamour for Network Radio will fade. Its apparent golden lustre will lose its shine, when the marketplace moves on to the next ‘new’ thing to bedazzle a few hams who have to be seen to be on the cusp of the next thrilling wave of communications technology.

Tony Falla, VK3KKP/G8HIM
I think radio retailers must be fearful that there is going to be a downturn in sales of radio equipment so are trying to diversify into repackaged phones. Forgetting for the moment the apps that already exist (Echolink, Hamsphere etc), we are experiencing a push from the Network Radio lobby to convince licensed radio amateurs that our activities could all be done on cut down mobile phones fitted with PTTs. I’m told this is just another step on the way to a new ‘golden age’ where we wouldn’t have to listen carefully to our conversations with each other, erect an antenna or face atmospheric noise. And best of all is that we don’t need a licence to participate or to study to avoid interference with Essential Services. Ultimately, we’ll have no need for bands of frequencies to be reserved for us to use in our experiments – and no need for national bodies to protect those rights.
It’s clear that some of the push for this change to happen is coming from those who believe a Baofeng in the back pocket is all that there is to amateur radio. I’m partially to blame for that. The young people I have been helping to get their licences think a walkie talkie is terrific, as I did as a teenager, but we need to follow up Foundation call holders and help them to overcome the more difficult yet rewarding aspects of the hobby.
To divert them so they get to phone a stranger in America is not the same as helping them transmit low power radio signals around the world.
Nearly all the arguments I’ve read for amateur radio enthusiasts changing from communications by using radio signals to using a telephone network are clearly false and sometimes laughable. I really feel any enthusiasts of converting the activity of amateur radio have no real idea what amateur means to its proponents. Using a Wikipedia definition to ‘prove’ that using Wi-Fi to get your voice out is somehow the same as using SSB on 20 metres displays this. Or that “propagation” could equally mean though a fibre optic cable as the ionosphere.
Sure, some people have complained about developments in radio over the years, but they were all developments using radio none the less. To equate that with complaints about changing the activity completely, to a simulation of that activity, is false.
There have also been sly digs at older people hanging on to old fashioned technologies out of habit. It’s people of that age who were active in hanging on to frequencies so you could continue to use them and not abandon them.
All these phone technologies are great fun. Many radio amateurs have and are working on developing new apps and systems in their professional life. I enjoy using FaceTime and Skype to communicate with family and friends but I see no need to pretend that I’m using a walkie talkie to do it.

Bill Kitchen, G4GHB
I too, read with some dismay about Network Radio. How can it be described as ‘radio’? It’s a contact down a phone wire. We may as well pick up a phone and randomly call numbers to see if anybody will talk to us. Or are the bands going to be so clobbered by QRM this will be the only way to go?
I will not use repeaters either as I think if we can’t get out from a particular location then we’re using the wrong frequency.
As communication distance records get broken at UHF and microwave frequencies we should also look how much power is used as well. A long distance contact with maximum power can be great but a shorter distance using QRP can be just as big an achievement. I like the idea of contacts based on miles per watt. I find it very satisfying to regularly get into Europe with wire aerials and a maximum of 6W, homebrewed.

Category: The Last Word