FCC Reduces Vanity Call Fees

From the ARRL Letter, 9/7/07:The FCC will reduce
the regulatory fee to obtain or renew an Amateur
Radio vanity call sign by more than 40 percent starting
September 17. In a Report & Order (R&O)
released August 6, “Assessment and Collection of
Regulatory Fees for Fiscal Year 2007,” in MD
Docket 07-81, the Commission will cut the fee
from its current $20.80 to $11.70. This marks the lowest
fee in the history of the current vanity call sign
program. The FCC is authorized by the
Communications Act of 1934 (as amended) to collect
vanity call sign fees to recover the costs associated
with that program. The vanity call sign fee has fluctuated
over the 11 years of the current program — from a low
of $12 to a high of $50. The FCC says it anticipates
some 14,700 Amateur Radio vanity call sign
“payment units” or applications during the next fiscal year,
collecting $171,990 in fees from the program.

The vanity call sign regulatory fee is payable not
only when applying for a new vanity call sign, but
also upon renewing a vanity call sign for a new term.
The first vanity call sign licenses issued under the
current Amateur Radio vanity call sign program that
began in 1996 came up for renewal last year. Call
signs issued prior to 1996 are not considered vanity
call signs, even if the holder was able to request a
specific call sign.

Amateur Radio licensees may file for renewal only
within 90 days of their license expiration date. All radio
amateurs must have an FCC Registration Number (FRN)
before filing any application with the Commission. Applicants
can obtain an FRN by going to the ULS and clicking on the
“New Users Register” link. You must supply your Social
Security Number to obtain an FRN.

The ARRL VEC will process license renewals for vanity
call sign holders for a modest fee. The service is available
to ARRL members and nonmembers, although League members
pay less. Routine, non-vanity renewals continue to be free
for ARRL members. Trustees of club stations with vanity call
signs may renew either via the ULS or through a Club Station
Call Sign Administrator, such as ARRL VEC. License application
and renewal information and links to the required
forms are available on the

ARRL Amateur Application Filing FAQ Web page
.
The FCC’s forms page also offers
the required forms.

Amateur Radio – Art Or Science ? (Part Three)

The Art of Amateur Radio by Ron Hashiro, AH6RH and the (Emergency Amateur Radio Club) Wireless Dispatch.

This is the last of three articles on the art of amateur radio. In the first article, we took a look at the essence of radio waves. Last month, we looked at the similarity of radio waves and light and looked at ways to use reflections to enhance VHF/UHF radio communications. This month, we examine refraction.

Refraction occurs when a wave passes through materials that vary the speed of propagation. In effect, materials with more or less “densities” will slow down or speed up the wave. This causes the wave front to bend or refract. We see this when light passes from air to glass or from air to water. When the light wave encounters a material that is more “dense” the wave will bend towards the side that first contacts the denser material. The dense material “slows down” that side of the wave, causing the direction of the wave to shift.

An everyday example of this is a magnifying glass. The thick center causes light traveling down the middle to slow for quite a bit before it resumes normal speed, while the light traveling near the edges slow down only for a moment. This causes the waves to bend and come together at a focus.

Radio waves also bend. Recall our discussion that water absorbs and affects radio waves? Variations in water vapor in the air can bend radio waves and plays an important part in a phenomenon called tropo duct openings.

Normally, air temperature continuously decreases as one goes higher in the atmosphere. Occasionally, a weather phenomenon called a temperature inversion occurs that traps a pocket of warm air at higher altitudes. The warm air is sandwiched between two layers of cooler air.

Since warm air can hold more moisture, it has more water vapor than the surrounding cooler, dry air. Radio signals travel slower in the warm, moist air than in the cooler air. This causes the cool air to bend or refract radio signals towards the warmer air. In effect, the two layers of cool air now form a wave guide.

If a strong temperature inversion forms between Hawaii and California, it will form a natural wave guide over 2,000 miles long. This happens occasionally during the summer months of June to August and may last for a few minutes to a few hours. It was especially prevalent during July 1994 when an extra strong high pressure system dumped cool dry air from above and a lack of trade winds caused strong inversions to form below, causing the tropo duct to open for several days.

Another example of bending radio wave called knife-edging occurs near the tops of mountains. If the mountain top has a sharp ridge, the radio wave will bend down as it passes the top of the ridge, away from its original direction. In this setting, an antenna with low gain and a higher angle of radiation would work better than a high gain, low angle antenna.

This effect is especially pronounced and observable along the Koolau ridge line, where the top is often only a couple of feet wide topped with only grass and no trees. Vegetation such as trees and shrubs absorb the signal and ruin the effect. And a narrow ridge line would cause more of the signal to bend without impacting on a broad mountain top.

At the EARC meeting, Bob Hlivak, NH6XO brought out an interesting concept. An old-timer noted to Bob that trans-Koolau propagation is enhanced when there is good cloud cover and diminishes when skies are clear. Apparently, the clouds reflect the signal over the Koolau Mountains more than occurs through the knife-edging effect.

That evening, a quick test between myself and Bev Yuen, AH6NF showed the existence of radio paths that appeared to be enhanced by the complete cloud cover overhead. The signals could not otherwise be explained by the usual knife-edge model. This effect was observed that evening on VHF, and subsequently on UHF. Further tests are being conducted to further explore the concept.

The art of amateur radio seeks to explore and improve our knowledge of radio communications. This series of articles shows that amateur radio is an art built on science with practical applications. QSOs ranging from everyday contacts to critical emergency radio communications can be enhanced by leveraging basic knowledge of radio waves and creatively using any and all available opportunities that surround us in daily life.

I hope you’ll make time to exercise the art of amateur radio and explore the fun world of VHF and UHF simplex radio communications.

Amateur Radio Art Or Science ? (Part Two)

The Art of Amateur Radio by Ron Hashiro, AH6RH and the (Emergency Amateur Radio Club) Wireless Dispatch.

Last month, we took a look at the key element of radio waves…that the major component of a radio wave is really a spreading, magnetic wave and while it may diminish over great distances, it never really disappears. So, let’s see how we can apply what we’ve learned to further our enjoyment of amateur radio.

You might be thinking that radio waves is a kind of black magic that can’t be seen, and therefore can’t be well understood. That’s not really true. If you imaging and look upon radio waves as a kind of light wave, you’ll soon be able to anticipate and predict it’s behavior. It’s so much fun to work directly on simplex, trying out different things, and being amazed when the results are different than what you expected.

If you think of light waves, there are three basic things you can do to with it: radiate, reflect and refract it. The same is true of magnetic or radio waves.

First off, let’s take a look at radiation and the impact of water upon radio waves. The rate that water absorbs radio waves varies with frequency. On the VHF and UHF bands, surrounding vegetation absorbs and affects propagation. Imagine the antenna as a light bulb, and the surrounding plants as a shield blocking your bulb. As you scan around your neighborhood, you can visualize how many plants there are near ground level that affect your “lighthouse view”. Therefore, it is time and money well spent to get an antenna on the roof, or at least above the surrounding plants.

Now, let’s take a look at ways you can reflect radio waves in everyday life. The wavelength of a two meter signal is about six feet. Therefore, if you aim a signal at a suitable object at least six feet square, you can get it to bounce in a new direction. If the object is above you, you can use it to extend your communications range. In effect, it would be the same as if you had moved higher location with a less efficient radio. It can work to your advantage at times.

If you find that a tall building is blocking your signal, you can use it to your advantage. Just go to the other side of the building, and use it as a reflector! The taller the building, the better the reflector. Even if the face of the building is not perfectly aligned with your target, the building features such as windows and railings may reflect enough signal to improve the QSO.

One of my favorite amusements is to use overhead freeway signs to provide a momentary boost in signal. To see how well this works, have another person on simplex that is behind you transmit as you drive under the signs and watch as the signal on your S-meter rise and fall as you pass each sign.

You can amuse your counterpart by letting him/her know that you will predict when your signal strength will increase. The signal reflecting off the sign will be momentarily stronger than the direct signal, and after a while, you’ll get the hang of predicting when the signal will peak. If you use UHF, you can use even smaller objects as suitable reflectors.

Even the mountains that comprise our valley walls can be an asset. Much of our rock is iron-based minerals and can be used to bounce signals out of a valley.

If you can see large, flat objects as mirrors of varying size and quality and view each other’s radios as lanterns, you begin to see all kinds of opportunities around you to bounce radio signals and extend your range. That is part of the art of amateur radio that is built upon science. Next month, we’ll look at refracting radio waves.