Repeater System News, Events and Information
You Can’t Beat
The Laws Of Physics
By Paul Toth-NB9X
In our last post, we discussed some of the basics of
buying your first radio. On the commercial side of Land
Mobile Radio, that mobile or portable rig is known as a
“Subscriber Unit”. Having a good subscriber unit, one
that has a good receive sensitivity and selectivity,
good audio and is feature rich is one of the building
blocks of operating a good two-way radio system.
Many commercial two-way radio operations are built
around one or two “subscriber” radios, usually from the
same manufacturer. Analog systems readily allowed mixing
radios from more than one manufacturer. But more often
than not, commercial operators stuck with a single
manufacturer. And now that many commercial Land Mobile
Radio systems have gone digital, this axiom of truer
Ham Radio is much different. On any given repeater
system, you will hear radios from nearly every
manufacturer. Old radios, new radios, multi-band radios
(something that is rare in commercial Land Mobile
Radio), radios that require an after-market CTCSS tone
board, some radios from manufacturers that are no longer
in business. Many operators own radios from more than
one manufacturer. And every size, shape and variety of
radio comes with its own feature set, technical
specifications and operating parameters.
Operating a Ham Radio VHF/UHF repeater system becomes a
lot more challenging because the infrastructure needs to
accommodate a much greater number of variables. In
year’s past, Ham Radio repeater operators will able to
tap the used commercial Land Mobile Radio equipment
market for radios, RF amplifiers, filtering and some of
the other building blocks that make up a repeater. The
onset of Narrowbanding, mandated by the FCC, along with
the migration of Land Mobile Radio to digital modes is
having an impact on the surplus equipment market. The
days of the purchasing or inheriting a wide band capable
analog repeater are coming to an end. Most new analog
repeaters will only operate in Narrowband (12.5 KHz)
mode. Using these repeaters on the Ham bands will force
the obsolescence of older, Wideband (25 KHz) radios.
Some new wideband analog repeaters are available for
Amateur Radio use only. But you have to know where to
If you want to operate a Ham repeater in one of the
available digital modes, you will almost certainly
purchase new equipment. The one exception to this is
with P25 where some early Public Safety adopters are now
replacing their first generation P25 gear with newer
Building a strong, solid repeater infrastructure is
essential to accommodate all the different equipment
Hams use. How Ham repeater operators use a repeater
system is even more of a challenge. Most Ham repeaters
are built for mobile radio use where the subscriber
radio is capable of a fifty watt transmit power. That
means portable users must live closer to the repeater
site to be heard (one of the Laws of Physics). Another
consideration for repeater operators is RF congestion.
Operating a repeater from a site where there is no other
RF emitters is more the exception than the rule.
Cellular transmitters are everywhere. Hospitals, which
have been a popular location for Ham repeaters, are
becoming less so to protect the integrity of
RF-sensitive medical monitoring equipment. And other
building rooftops are now off limits as building owners
have discovered there is a gold mine waiting to be
tapped up there.
When you are lucky enough to find a site for your Ham
repeater, grab it. But also be mindful that with the
explosion of RF emitters comes the need for tighter
filtering to prevent Intermod or unwanted signal mixing.
The presence of other nearby RF sources may prevent the
addition of a Receive Pre-Amp to your repeater or
require tighter filtering that may not be in the budget.
One more challenge for Ham repeater owners is “limited
quality control” over the subscriber radios that use the
repeater. In a commercial Land Mobile operation, the
same folks that maintain the repeater are also
responsible for preventive maintenance on the subscriber
radios. In Ham Radio, each operator is singularly
responsible for keeping their radio(s) on frequency and
within the manufacturer’s published specifications. A
radio that is off frequency, has modulation that is too
“hot” or is weak or has a weak signal into the repeater
are things the repeater operator has no control over but
is usually blamed for the anomaly.
More on this in our next posting…..
Pinellas County APRS Digipeater
County once again has an APRS Digipeater on the air. The
NI4CE-14 Digipeater was placed into service from a site
in Northeast St. Petersburg on April 1, 2015.
This station will make it easier for Pinellas County
Hams to get into the APRS Network from the West Side of
Our thanks for Cox Media Group-Tampa for allowing the
West Central Florida Group, Inc, to use their facilities
for this APRS digipeater.
Your First Radio
By Paul Toth-NB9X
It is a big day in your
life. You have just passed your Amateur Radio license
exam. You are about to embark on a journey that will
allow you to communicate with many other people in your
area and possibly around the world. And, for once, you
will not have to worry about burning up those precious
cellular minutes or incur long distance charges because
“Ham Radio Is FREE”.
Well, Ham Radio is not FREE as some folks may have led
you to believe. You will discover this when you go
online to purchase your first radio and accessories. In
fact, your Ham Radio investment that could total five or
six figures, several radios, antennas, power supplies,
lightning suppressors, cable, you know, all the tools of
But today is the first day of the rest of your Ham Radio
life. Let’s talk about expectations and setting
realistic ones for your first VHF-UHF radio. There are
two classes of radios – five watt portable units (called
“portables” or “H/Ts”) and mobile radios that generally
operate with up to fifty watts. There are analog radios
(the most popular). There are lots of manufacturers of
analog radios, Alinco, ICOM, Kenwood, Yaseu, Vertex to
name a few. And there are a plethora of new digital mode
radios. Some of them are Ham Radio only (like ICOM’s
D-Star and Yaseu’s Fusion). Others like P25 Phase 1,
NXDN (Icom’s IDAS and Kenwood’s NEXedge) and DMR
(includes MotoTrbo, Hytera and Vertex) are actively used
in Part 90 Land Mobile communications. Most digital
radios operate in analog mode, too, but may not be
capable of 25 KHz wideband FM operation.
Some of your Ham Radio buddies may have told you about
Bao-Feng, this new radio from China that cost less than
fifty dollars. WOW! Just remember, all radios are not
But let’s get back to expectations. If you live thirty
miles from the repeater you want to talk through, a five
watt portable radio should probably not be your primary
radio. “But I can hear the repeater. I should be able to
talk into it”, you think. You may be able to hear the
repeater just fine because it could e running up to one
hundred watts output power. That is twenty times the
power of that portable radio you are looking at. Unless
the repeater has a high gain Receiver Pre-amp to make up
the difference, you are just not going to be able to
talk reliably through that repeater (if you can open it
Antennas can have a HUGE impact on how well as radio
works. Most portable radios come with antennas that are
worse than dummy loads. An aftermarket antenna that
offers some gain is an accessory to seriously consider.
Selecting an antenna for your HOME station (usually a
mobile radio with an external power supply) can also be
the difference between being heard and being heard well.
Don’t skimp on the coax cable. Belden 9913, Times LMR400
or LMR 600 or half inch hardline is where you want to
start. And remember, this is Florida, lightning capital
of North America. A PolyPhasor and good grounding is
Here is one final tip about operating your first radio.
VHF and UHF repeaters use VERTICALLY polarized antennas.
Your radio’s antenna should MATCH that polarization to
maximize your signal. Operating with an antenna that is
not vertical may look cool but it comes with a loss of
Still have questions? Drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NI4CE - 10 Weather Station Off The Air
The NI4CE-10 Weather Station at our Verna
(Manatee Co. repeater site) is temporarily off the air.
The weather instrument package suffered a catastrophic
failure and will need to be replaced to re-start
transmitting weather data. We do not have an
estimated on how long it will take to replace the
equipment and return the station to service.
In the meantime, NI4CE-10 remains on the
air as an APRS Digipeater.
Comments On Amateur Radio
following are excerpts from informal comments by Riley
Hollingsworth, Retired Special Counsel, FCC Enforcement,
speaking at the Forsyth Amateur Radio Club in Winston-Salem,
North Carolina, in early November 2014:
often asked what you can do to help Amateur Radio and help
enforcement. There's several things you can do. One is,
don't engage people and don't humor the idiots. We have a
certain number of idiots, just like the legal profession
does, the plumbers profession, medical, whatever. It's just
our society. But, stupidity can't be regulated, no matter
how good the rules are. The thing you do to help the most,
is to just turn the big knob. Every rig has one. Whether the
transceiver has 20 buttons or 77, it has one big knob."
"You'll hear somebody tuning up and it's automatically
assumed it is a deliberate tune-up. At the FCC, we knew from
monitoring that 90% of what was being argued about on the
bands was accidental interference. With the rigs you have
today, it's very easy to get them screwed up. So, most of
the interference is not intentional."
society assumes offense. It wasn't like this 20 years ago.
We are insistent on rights over responsibilities, and it's
just the nature of our times. People are thin skinned. A lot
of these people, on 75 meters mainly, are the same way.
They're narrow-minded, they're grouchy, they don't like new
ideas, they're ungrateful for what they have. And you can
hear this on 14313 as well. If they won the state lottery,
they would probably bitch about how it was paid out! So, the
main thing you can do to help: don't add to the problem. Be
part of the solution, even if it means not engaging. If it
is a continuing violation, report it to the Commission or to
the League. But mainly, don't add to the problem. And,
you've got to know what the issues are. Whether its
interference from grow lights, or BPL (which has fortunately
gone by the wayside we think and we hope.)"
got to keep up with the issues. Early on [in enforcement], I
would try personal contact with some of the people we were
really having trouble with on the bands, who were causing
problems but weren't directly in violation of the rules. One
group, I was saying "Look, if a recording of your
conversation on 75 meters ever went before a Senate
subcommittee that was considering BPL, we're going to lose
that hands-down.", because they're going to say "Why protect
this type of service'". And, they didn't know what BPL was!
During the height of the BPL, that worried me more than
anything else, I thought that was very much of a danger to
us, I think that was the biggest danger to us since World
War II, to our bands. But, a lot of people didn't keep up
with the issues, they didn't know what it was, they had no
idea how dangerous that was. This group on 75 meters and
14313, they're being thinned out."
"A lot of these
conduct problems, are from the guys who are getting up in
age. They are getting old and grouchy, and the Grim Reaper
is going to take care of some of them. Every year we get
some big enforcement action from the Grim Reaper. And I
notice nobody at the FCC wears black armbands over it. So,
in a sense, that's going to take care of itself, I think."
"But, it's not the no code people. I could not see any decline
in compliance with the rules after they eliminated the CW
requirement. It's never the new people. It's the older
people that have Extra Class licenses, and they think they
know everything. They've been on the same frequency for ten
years, using 1200 Watts to talk across the state, and they
don't like new ideas, they don't like new people. They
haven't done anything new in Amateur Radio in a decade.
That's the ones that don't know what they don't know. They
are thinning out a good bit, but that still worries me. I
saw no decline after the elimination of CW. In fact, as far
as CW goes, there seems to be more interest in CW than ever.
The best way to ruin a good book in high school was to put
it on the required reading list. It could be that requiring
the code turned some people away from it. It seems to be
more active than ever."
"One thing that's causing a
huge problem, and this is also a sign of our times: I
understand some of the state and federal agencies have this
problem, but it's the problem of people firing off nasty
emails, not only to Laura, but to the enforcement bureau
chief, and to the chairman, about amateur radio situations
that they think the FCC should attack. I'm talking about
horrible emails, threatening emails, threatening to the
degree that quite often the security office gets involved.
We've got to stop this, it's giving Amateur Radio a black
eye. Some are so threatening that the security staff might
not let Laura travel, and you notice that she doesn't travel
much, partly because of the budget, but partly because of
this problem. There are obscene, threatening and stupid
emails by people who are hiding behind the anonymity of the
internet. I'm sure state senators get them, US senators get
them. But when it comes in specifically to the Enforcement
Bureau about an Amateur complaint, it's bad for all of us.
It's giving some people in the Commission a bad taste in
their mouth about Amateur Radio. They sort of understand
that they are sent by fruitcakes, but amateurs are very
quick to fire off an email about a complaint or about a
situation they hear on the bands, and they don't know the
full background of it. This is a time when we are
hyper-sensitive about security issues. It's just a big
problem, I don't know the solution."
"I think as far as the biggest threats we should be more
worried about is the RF junk that is out there. One of the
big problems of interference to Amateur Radio right now is
from grow lights. People are growing marijuana and that's
becoming a little more legal every day, it seems like. Some
of these grow lights are really junk. The League has worked
countless hours on that, and talked to the manufacturers,
and gotten a lot of cooperation with some of them and not so
much with the others. It is the RF devices. I think that is
more of a threat than conduct on the bands right now."
"A lot of the local jurisdictions changed the code about
which breaker switches you can use in a house. You have to
have what they call arc-faults. When those first hit, just
normal amateur radio RF would trip the breaker. Within 300
feet. It caused a lot of problems in new housing. A lot of
people were really mad at amateur radio operators in some
areas because every time they got on the breaker went off.
The League worked with Eaton company, and they recalled a
lot of those."
"That's the kind of stuff that worries
me more about amateur radio, assuming we keep our numbers up
and we stay relevant, and maintain our proper role in public
service communications, and keep the public aware of what
Amateur Radio is, I don't see a threat to our HF
frequencies. At the upper edges, of course, we will have
some chipping away with science and medical equipment and
"But, mainly it's the junk that's coming out
there. It's simple to fix these. It costs five or ten cents
more to make a grow light so it doesn't cause interference
on our frequencies. It's not always amateur frequencies,
it's just that we hear it first, we know more about how to
find it. A lot of people can't listen to AM radio because of
some interference, but they don't have any idea what is
causing the signal or where it is coming from, but we tend
to find out, and so we squawk more. Really, I think we are
the canary in the coal mine. But, you have bureaucrats that
don't want to do anything they don't have to do, and they
say "Why worry about amateur interference? We don't
guarantee them a pure spectrum anyway, so let's go on to
something else." But, if it interferes with us, it can
interfere with aviation communications, public safety
communications, or whatever. So, they've got to listen to
you people because you are the canary in the coal mine."
"I used to be asked if Amateur Radio could survive the
internet. I got that question many times in the early days.
I think we've beautifully survived and blended and enhanced
the internet. So, I think we've answered that question very
well. Computers have become a great asset to Amateur Radio.
We've integrated them into everything from logging to
"We live in an age where
there is a technological breakthrough every month. Not only
that, but we've come to expect it. We live in a herd
mentality. We rush out and buy the latest and greatest
thing; and on the way home, is when its obsolescence starts.
You can see that with the cellphones and iphones, we run for
the latest thing and as soon as we get it, it starts being
obsolete. Our responsibility is awesome, because we've got
to keep Amateur Radio from becoming obsolete. I hope we're
up to it. It's time for us to leave a legacy to this
avocation. It's hard but you can do it. This whole radio
thing is our passion and our gift."
New Lake Placid
Repeater On The Air
UHF Repeater has been added to the NI4CE system. 443.950
MHz (+) CTCSS 100.0 is now on the air in Lake Placid
(Highlands County). This new NI4CE repeater enables Hams
in DeSoto, Glades, Highlands and Polk Counties to better
access the NI4CE system.
Special thanks to John-KK4LI for helping make this new
Lake Placid repeater a reality.
73 e Paul-NB9X
WCFG Helps Bring
Emergency Communications to North Pinellas County
Harbor Fire Station #52 is now equipped with Amateur
Radio communications, thanks to a Scout Explorer
Leadership Project. The effort, spearheaded by Explorer
Scout Parker Mitchell-KI4YAV (pictured center), will
support disaster and emergency communications from the
Fire Station located in Palm Harbor in North Pinellas
County. Also pictured is Parker's father, Eric-AI4WY
(left) and West Central Florida Group, Inc. President
Paul Toth-NB9X (right), who were on hand to help install
the VHF station equipment. A VHF radio and Power Supply
were donated for the station by the West Central Florida
NI4CE Back At
Full Strength - Dec. 19, 2013
NI4CE Repeater System is back at full strength with the
relocation of the 442.825 repeater to a new site in Polk
County and the return of the 443.450 Holiday repeater to
The 442.825 repeater had been operating
from the WMOR-TV tower at Pebbledale where it was put on
the air in 2005. WMOR-TV recently advised they will be
demolishing the tower and transmitter building in early
January. The analog TV operation there was terminated in
2010 when commercial television went digital. The West
Central Florida Group, Inc. would like to thank WMOR-TV
and Hearst Communications to allowing the 442.825 to
operate from the Pebbledale site for the past eight
The 443.450 repeater in Holiday has been off the air
since mid-November to make way for WCIE-FM�s new
transmitter and antenna. The repeater was brought back
online with a new 8 bay Telewave UHF antenna at 1,100
feel AGL and shares a transmission line and filtering
system with our site host, Clear Channel Broadcasting.
We would like to know how you are receiving the 442.825
and/or 443.450 repeaters at your location, send us an
email at email@example.com with your callsign, location,
repeater and signal strength.
Central Florida Group, Inc., in partnership with Cox
Media Group has launched the NI4CE-13 APRS Weather
Station in Pinellas County. NI4CE-13 is located in
Oldsmar just North of Old Tampa Bay. This new APRS
Weather Station will provide LIVE weather data 24/7/365.
To view NI4CE-13 weather data, go to
station joins NI4CE-10 in Verna (Manatee Co.), NI4CE-11
and NI4CE-12 at Riverview (Hillsborough Co.)
In case you
missed the NXDN Forum at TampaBay Hamfest
Central Florida Group, Inc. and NI4CE presented a NXDN
Digital Radio Forum at the 37th Annual TampaBay Hamfest
with over 60 people in attendance. The NXDN Forum
featured a LIVE demonstration of NXDN Digital Radio,
Radio Programming Tips and information and a Question
and Answer session.
NI4CE operates a dedicated
NXDN Digital Repeater on 444.425 / 449.425 MHz - RAN 1
from our site in Riverview. NI4CE-NXDN Riverview is
connected to the NXDN Worldwide Network. NXDN mode is
also available on demand through the NI4CE 442.950 /
447.950 MHz repeater at Verna and the 443.450 / 448.450
MHz Holiday repeater.
presentation is available here in case you missed the Forum.
To join the
NI4CE-NXDN-Users Google Group, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to
request membership. It's FREE!
The West Central Florida Group, Inc.
Interference on the NI4CE Repeater System
may know, the NI4CE Repeater System has recently become
the target of one or more individuals who are
interfering with the normal operation of the system.
These transmissions have included extended periods of
kerchunking, DTMF tones and audio not authorized for
transmission under Part 97 rules. In all cases, the
person(s) responsible refuse to identify their station,
also a violation of FCC rules.
The target of
these illegal transmissions has been the 443.450
repeater in Holiday. The frequency of this activity has
noticeably increased since the 146.64 repeater was
removed from service earlier this month.
you to know this activity has been brought to the
attention of the FCC Field Office in Tampa. A case file
has been opened by the Enforcement Division at our
request. At the same time, our technical crew has been
collecting recordings of these malicious transmissions
and other data that will assist the FCC with locating
and prosecuting the individual(s) responsible for this
These illegal transmissions have made it
increasingly difficult to monitor the NI4CE system as
well as use the system for legal two-way communications.
Please know if the end game for this individual(s) is a
termination of service on 443.450 to the Amateur Radio
community, it is not going to happen.
item�.there has been a swirl of rumors predicting the
imminent loss of the Holiday site for the 443.450
repeater. We have had two lengthy discussions with our
host, Clear Channel Communications, Inc. They have
indicated they have no current plans to ask the West
Central Florida Group, Inc, to turn off our repeater and
vacate the tower site.
West Central Florida Group,
Repeater now in service
A new, fulltime
NXDN Repeater went into service on Sunday, March 11,
2012 on 444.425 MHz (RAN=1). This new NI4CE Digital
Repeater replaces the NI4CE D-Star repeater which had
operated from the Riverview site for several years. At
the same time, the NI4CE 442.550 MHz repeater at
Riverview becomes a fulltime analog-only voice repeater.
The new 444.425 repeater provides fulltime NXDN digital
voice and text service to operators in Hillsborough,
Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk Counties.
Additionally, on-demand NXDN digital voice and text
service is available via the 442.950 Verna repeater and
443.450 Holiday repeater.
NI4CE Supports SKYWARN
Repeater Network continues to support the National
Weather Service SKYWARN severe weather spotter program.
Join the weekly SKYWARN Information Net each Tuesday
evening at 9:00 PM EDT. SKYWARN Severe Weather Nets will
be conducted on the system whenever severe weather
threatens the NWS-Ruskin Operational Area. These Nets
enable the timely issuance of severe weather warnings
and the delivery of spotter information directly to
WX4TOR at the National Weather Service.
Get your questions
answered about the NI4CE System's new digital mode, NXDN,
by signing up for the NICE-NXDN-Users Group forum on
Google Group. It's Fun! It's Informational! And it's
FREE! To find out more about NXDN digital Talk, Text and
Track, join now. Send an email to
email@example.com and get
answers to your NXDN questions on the ARRL West Central
Florida Section Tech Net, every Thursday evening at 9:00
PM ET on the NI4CE Amateur Repeater Network.
You can either
use this link or the link from the Contribute Funds
navigation link above.