What's yer 20, good buddy?
April 5, 2007 11:38 AM   Subscribe

HamRadioFilter: I've looked on the internets and I can't find a pig-simple answer.

With an entry-level Technician license can I talk to my high desert Brother-In-Law from a location 143 mi. away in a valley? In cost and complexity, What kind of a rig would I be looking at? I'd ask BIL but he just started studying for his license. I live in the Pac NW if clouds make a difference. Try trying to see if this worth pursuing.
posted by codswallop to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total)
I don't have an answer myself, but I'm sure the folks at the ARRL (nat'l ham radio organization) would love to talk to you about this. You can e-mail or call them.
posted by deeparch at 11:51 AM on April 5, 2007

They say you can work the world with 5 watts, if you have the right equipment.
Technician license doesn't get you much in the HF bands. Unless there are repeaters you can use, the 6m, 2m, and 70cm bands aren't going to be much help. Those bands are mostly line-of-sight except for some rare Sporadic E and backscatter events. You might get EME (earth-moon-earth) but you're looking at more power there, and fewer chances to connect. There is a small allocation for Technician in 10m for RTTY or SSB voice limited to 200W, which would probably get you that far under most solar conditions during the day but isn't going to be useful at night. If you want to try CW, there are more allocations on the lower HF bands for novices, and those will have better propagation. See this PDF for more information on the band plan.
How much equipment you need (and how much it's going to cost you) really depends on what you want to do. Do you want CW only? Do you want to get a transceiver that will let you work more bands once you get a General license? What about FM, digital voice, image (ham TV), RTTY, PSK31 or other exotic modes?
Whether or not you'll be able to talk to your brother-in-law depends on a lot of variables, many of which are not under your control. Time of day, solar activity, local zoning restrictions, the amount of backyard you're willing to sacrifice to an antenna, local interference, etc.
posted by leapfrog at 12:18 PM on April 5, 2007

It depends on the repeaters in the area, some in the elevations get great coverage and some systems are linked. When I was a licensed ham as a kid in NY, there was a repeater in westchester that was part of the Northeast connect, a repeater network with microwave links stretching a couple of hundred miles. I understand that the same concept has moved to the internet in VOIP-styled method of linking repeaters. If all this pans out, you can just use a run-of-the-mill HT with a decent antenna.

Google for the local radio clubs, they usually run their own repeaters and will be a great source of information.
posted by dr_dank at 12:20 PM on April 5, 2007

With a Technician-class license, you're generally limited to the 10M and up bands if you want to do voice. 143 miles is a long distance for a VHF signal to haul, especially without line of sight. Given line of sight and powerful enough signals, it could certainly be done, but it's unlikely in your case.

If you wanted to do this, your best bet would be to put out a signal on 10M through a decent directional antenna. You'd want reasonable power -- you can get some bounce on 10M, but most of your signal is going to be ground-wave, if you want any reliability.

Based on my own (limited) experience with sub-VHF groundwave communications, with a decent antenna and at least 100-150W of power out (which you can get with a 10m mobile transceiver and a small power amp, or a more expensive and powerful all-band HF rig) you'd have a fairly reasonable chance of having *some* communication, though it might not be easy or reliable.

As a disclaimer, while I've been licensed for about 15 years, I haven't seriously operated in almost 10, so my memory of some of the technicalities are a bit fuzzy. ;)

posted by jammer at 12:23 PM on April 5, 2007

If one of you is in reach of a repeater, and it's on the echolink network, perhaps that's what could hook you together. The one who isn't in range would use the VoIP side to get to the repeater.

The answer to "which rig" would be largely influenced on what, if any, repeater fits the bill.
posted by Steve3 at 12:42 PM on April 5, 2007

"It all depends" as they say.

I have a Tech+ license and have used my 10m voice rig (an old radio shack htx-100) at 100w to talk from San Francisco to the Mohave Desert, South America and the east coast.

It does depend on conditions, the sun spot cycle really can help or hurt you.

There is some software you can download that will give you estimates on whether you can 'work' a location or not on a certain frequency. Check out "amateur radio propagation software"

I justlooked to find good map based propagation web sites and was surprised I could easily find one. I used to use one that allowed you put put in your location and band and it would draw circles around your location with expected maximum communication distance.

With "Line of sight" bands, like 2m, I've been able to talk very far away from mountain top to mountain top 10s of miles, but that was under perfect conditions.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:52 PM on April 5, 2007

Pig simple? Upgrade your license and get a 40 meter rig.
posted by kc0dxh at 1:05 PM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

As others have said, if there's a UHF/VHF repeater that each of you have line-of-sight to, then it'll be easy. Since you're at the bottom of a valley, look for ones on the hills separating you from him. Using IRLP or Echolink to tie two repeaters together is an option, too.

FWIW, The FCC just changed the rules regarding morse testing. You can now get a General (or higher) license with just a written test. ~150 miles on HF sideband is pretty simple, and you could probably study and pass the General test with a week's work.
posted by toxic at 3:16 PM on April 5, 2007

yeah 40 or 75 mtrs on HF will work (but you'll need a General or higher license) or

find a repeater.

Google to find your local ham radio club and they should be able to help you with repeater questions and all else.

Good luck and 73
posted by birdsong at 4:00 PM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

it'd be a lot easier to get a general class license or whatever is up above technician

i think i got mine when i was 16, it's not too hard....

at least not as hard as doing it on 40 or even 10 meters

then you can do it all oh HF
posted by Salvatorparadise at 4:51 PM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

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