To boldly go…

What’s the next step in your emergency preparedness? Back in my father’s day (early ‘60s), you were considered reMinolta DSCady to respond if you had an 2-meter AM (amplitude modulation) rig (remember the Heathkit Twoer?) and a BIG gasoline generator to power the Hammarlund HQ-170 and Viking Ranger CW (Morse code) rig. Oh yeah, they both used tubes…lots of tubes. There wasn’t much single-side band on the bands and AM was king even on HF (high frequency).

Boy have things changed in 50 years. Here’s a YouTube video (use the HD version) of the Coquitlam Amateur Radio Club’s…wait for it…satellite communications trailer!!!4177

Here’s what organizer Neil King, VA7DX, had to say about the setup:

“I will be updating the video next week to include footage of additional equipment installed the day after and of its first use coming up at the Vancouver Sun Run on Sunday April 19th. Local Ham Clubs provide course communications for this event which will see over 55,000 runners this year.

We installed a bunch of other equipment in the trailer the following day including a portable backup PMBO to the VE7SCC EMCOMM PMBO servicing BC and the Pacific North West with Winlink/Airmail services on HF (40 & 80m). In addition we installed a full complement of VHF/UHF radios for provision of voice and packet services including PACLINK.

We are strongly committed to the concept of multiple layers of communications capabilities to support disaster communications. Therefore this vehicle will also integrate into the BCWARN system backbone ( www.bcwarn.net ). BCWARN provides a high speed (11mbs) digital backbone throughout the high density population areas of the Greater Vancouver Area and as of last weekend a link over to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island to link into the Island backbone network we expect to evolve over the next couple of years.

The satellite Internet feed will provide a minimum of 4mbs download and 1mbs upload speeds and will have a CIR – a committed information rate that guarantees we get contracted bandwidth in an event that can’t be taken by CNN or Fox etc…such as happened to the folks using consumer internet sat systems for EMCOOMM during Katrina.

The real benefit to our Sat system is that it can stand on its own and provide essential communication services even if the complete telecom infrastructure is gone.

In addition to HF/VHF/UHF/SHF voice services the prototype will provide VOIP telephones service to the outside world as well as via BCWARN to any fixed locations or incident command sites that are serviced by BCWARN. Imagine pulling up to an incident command site and handing out a bunch of wireless phones with dial tone to key people when conventional phones and cell phones don’t work…..pretty powerful stuff…..

This vehicle will be able to create a Wi-Fi bubble around an incident site or ESS centre……it can also be installed at a high point to function as a communication hub for providing high speed Wi-Fi backbone services to LOS accessible areas in entire communities in addition to VHF/UHF/SHF voice repeater and dig-peater services.

This is a prototype built with grant funding and tremendous support from the City of Coquitlam and from Russ Montgomery, President of DishPro Media Service who have provided the technology advice and crafted creative solutions to bandwidth packages that make it possible for us to gain access to CIR protected bandwidth.  DishPro provide similar solutions to the movie industry and have leveraged that knowledge to provide an optimal solution for providing stand-alone cost effective emergency communication services.

We believe this project will demonstrate that Amateur Radio can provide cost effective and innovative solutions to the provision of essential communications in times of disaster with a full suite of options. Our intention is to prove the concept, introduce other clubs to the value proposition it provides and promote them to work with their municipalities to fund and commission similar vehicles. There is no question that the more of a critical asset you have spread over a wide area, the stronger the likelihood that some will survive a major disaster like an 8.0 earthquake…something we face in SW BC. 

The side benefit of this use of advanced satellite and digital technology in innovative ways is that it’s attractive to younger people who may not realize that Amateur Radio does in fact cover a wide range of exciting areas of interest and is relevant in today’s “Internet Age”.

How cool is this?

(If you or your club have special events or new projects in the works, why not tell the world. Email information to Peter West, VE3HG, at ve3hg@rac.ca

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