<i><b>BeachNet</b></i> Repeater System

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Pacific, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Thurston & Wahkiakum Counties, Washington

145.170 |  145.310 |  145.390 |  147.020 |  147.180 |  147.340 |  224.040 |  224.820 |  440.675 |  441.675 |  442.675 |  444.050 |  444.200 |  444.400 |  444.500 |  444.700 |  444.800 |  444.925 |  444.950
 

 

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What is BeachNet? BeachNet is an open system of linked Amateur radio repeaters located in Coastal Southwest Washington State.
What is Amateur radio? Amateur radio is a non-commercial radio service in which federally licensed Amateur radio operators, using a mix of commercially manufactured and home-made or modified equipment communicate amongst themselves for fun, self-training, experimentation or for the benefit of the public in a disaster or communications emergency. These radio communications can take place over distances from local, to inter-continental. Amateur operators are known for innovation and a remarkable ability to provide Emergency Communications when all else fails, due to this self-training, tinkering and experimentation, which allows them to recover from equipment failures better than most commercial or governmental radio systems. The term "Amateur" refers to the fact that these radio operators do it for the enjoyment, and may not charge or receive monetary compensation for their on-the-air activities. They are amateurs in the same way that Olympic athletes are amateurs. For more on what Amateur radio is, and why you might be interested in getting involved, follow this off-site link. Use your "Back" button to return here.
What is a Repeater? A Repeater is an automated radio station that receives on one frequency and simultaneously retransmits on a second frequency. The purpose of a repeater is to extend range, particularly on the VHF and UHF bands which tend to have line-of-sight propagation. Repeaters are usually installed at elevated locations that afford line-of-sight radio coverage over an expansive area, or they are placed where they can serve a smaller but particularly important area. Where two Amateur operators equipped with low-power hand-held radios might only be able to communicate directly over a mile or two, if they can both access a repeater, that range can extend to tens of miles or farther.
What is a Linked Repeater System? When it is desirable to cover an area too large for a single repeater, two or more repeaters can be interconnected such that whatever is heard on any one is retransmitted by all. The links that carry the signals between repeater stations can use radio, microwave, wire line or the Internet. The effect of linking individual repeaters together is that they operate as if they were a single repeater. BeachNet uses radio links in the UHF (400 MHz) part of the radio spectrum to link the network together.
What is an "Open" Repeater System? Amateur radio repeaters constitute private property. They represent a sizable investment in both time and money to construct and maintain on the air. Most are owned by individuals, groups or clubs. An "Open" repeater is one which is available for any licensed Amateur to use, regardless of any membership or monetary support. By contrast, a "Closed" repeater is one which is only to be used by members of an organization that supports it. Other Amateurs are excluded. The FCC has affirmed this practice as perfectly legal, although it is not particularly common. BeachNet is an Open repeater network.
What is a Repeater's Coverage? A repeater is a radio station, and like any other, it has a maximum range over which it can receive or transmit a signal. The area over which a particular repeater can satisfactorily receive a typical user's signal is defined as the Receive Coverage. The area over which the signal transmitted by the repeater can be received by the user's station is the Transmit Coverage of the repeater. If properly engineered, these two areas will coincide, but whichever is smaller will define the Repeater's Coverage.
What is a Repeater's Site Plot? Using a computer program, with detailed topographic data about the terrain of an area of interest, and details regarding the repeater station operating particulars, it is possible to produce a mathematical approximation overlain on a map depicting the repeater's predicted coverage. This pattern is called a Repeater's Site Plot. It is very useful to a user in estimating the probability that a particular repeater will be useable in a particular area. Site Plots are used extensively in the engineering of a repeater, aiding in the selection of the site, antenna type and location, power level and a number of other critical parameters. An example of a site plot is shown at the bottom of this page, far left, and we include a site plot for each repeater (or receiver) on the associated web page.
I hear the repeater just fine, why are people telling me my hand-held is scratchy? Hand-held radios are very convenient, but their performance is severely limited. Their antenna is small, usually with negative gain, and not very high. Their ground system is comprised of your arm (not a very effective ground). They put out a few Watts of power at most. Our repeaters put out between 50 and 75 Watts to a high-gain antenna usually located at a significant altitude. It is possible to use an HT (Handie-Talkie) effectively with our system, but to do so requires the operator learn how to use their tiny radio in the most effective way they can. Hold the antenna vertical at all times. Stand still. Moving around will cause phase shift making your signal change strength at the repeater site. If you are in a vehicle, hold the rubber-duck antenna against a window. The signal (on VHF particularly) has a hard time leaving the metal box of the vehicle cab, and laying the antenna against a window is as close to "outside" as practical. Opening the window will introduce wind noise, a bad idea. Invest in a magnetic mount antenna for your vehicle. This will greatly improve the mobile performance of the HT. Or better yet, install a mobile radio in your vehicle. Their higher power, and more selective receiver, coupled with an effective antenna provides vastly better performance for day-to-day utility communications. The difference can be critical in an emergency.
What kind of equipment comprises a repeater? A repeater at its most basic is a receiver and a transmitter, interconnected and operating so as to retransmit what is heard by the receiver. Because of the presence of the transmitter on a nearby frequency while the receiver is operating, that receiver has to be highly selective. The transmitter must also be chosen for low noise. In addition, filters may be needed. One specialized filter used at many repeater sites is a "duplexer", a very highly selective filter which allows the transmitter and receiver to operate simultaneously from a single antenna. The antenna may have to withstand the harsh environmental conditions at a high elevation, remote radio site. The feedline running to the antenna has to be well shielded and low-loss, so generally semi-rigid solid copper shield cable, called hardline, is used, most commonly the 7/8-inch diameter size. In addition, an Amateur repeater requires a "controller" that can provide the audio processing, switching, identification, remote control and other supervisory functions required by the Amateur Rules. A repeater must have a power supply to run all its equipment, usually backed up by some sort of emergency system (batteries or a generator). All the equipment must be capable of operating for long duty cycles, since repeaters can see nearly continuous use over extended periods of time.
What brand of repeater equipment is best? A repeater can be constructed from any of a large assortment of radio and other support equipment. The best results come from commercial equipment that has been designed to operate in an environment of high Radio Frequency (RF) noise. Beyond that, there will be as many opinions as to which is "best" as there are repeater builders. BeachNet is comprised almost entirely of GE Mastr-II commercial equipment. For more information about this equipment line, and why we use it, click here. There is a picture of a typical repeater at the bottom of this page, second from the left.
What is "PL" or "CTCSS"? The most common form of receiver access control is Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System (CTCSS). The various radio manufacturers each had a trademark name for this, and Motorola called it "Private Line", or "PL" for short. With CTCSS access, the receiver incorporates a decoder circuit that looks for a specific sub-audible tone in the range of 67 to 210 Hertz. Unless the transmitter continuously sends this specific tone, the receiver will remain muted. If two recei vers use different CTCSS tones, then a transmitter can determine which receiver will respond by selecting the appropriate tone. The use of different CTCSS tones allows repeaters sharing the same frequency to be placed closer together without interfering with each other. At one time, CTCSS tones were used to "close" a repeater. Today, most repeaters use a "PL" tone, to allow more repeaters to share our limited spectrum. BeachNet uses several "PL" tones, mostly 118.8Hz and 82.5Hz.
What is the "diddle-de-dah" sound I hear periodically over the voices? That would be the repeater identifying itself in Morse code. Every Amateur station must identify itself every ten minutes while in use, using its FCC-issued call sign. Repeaters are no exception to this rule. A voice station, such as a repeater, must be identified using voice (live, recorded or synthesized) or in Morse code. In the case of repeaters, the call sign of the owner or trustee is used. Some repeaters only use Morse code, while some use a voice, which reverts to Morse if a user keys up while the repeater is trying to ID. Although the ability to copy Morse code is no longer required, those who have the skill can read the repeater call sign and know who the owner is.
What License do I need to use an Amateur radio repeater? In order to operate any Amateur radio station, including a repeater, an individual must posses an Amateur radio license of the proper class. Amateur radio licenses are earned by passing a multiple-choice examination, and are issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The license is issued for a term of ten years and must be current for the licensee to transmit. To operate on the VHF and UHF Amateur bands, where repeaters are generally found, the operator must have a Technician or higher class of license. There are a few repeaters deployed on the 29.5 to 29.7 MHz portion of the ten-meter band (none on our system). Using these requires a General Class license.
Are all repeaters on high mountains? Although the range and performance of a repeater are greatly enhanced by locating it at high elevation, some repeaters may be located at low altitudes for spot coverage. One case is the BeachNet 145.170 Ocean Park repeater, which is located at the Ocean Park Fire Hall, to provide local (3-4 mile) coverage around town. In this case, the mission of the repeater is to provide hand-held coverage in an area where several surrounding repeaters are easily accessible, but their use requires a mobile station. The antenna, as shown in the second picture from the right at the bottom of this page, is only ten feet or so above the roof.
Are these repeaters ready for disasters? Nearly all the BeachNet repeater equipment is firmly bolted to the building floor and ceiling in heavy duty relay racks, to withstand earthquakes. The sites are well grounded to survive lightning strikes, and the power supplies are backed-up, with generators in most cases. In those few instances where a generator is not available, batteries are installed with dedicated charging equipment. The links between the various sites are made using UHF radio, so as to be independent of the telephone or Internet infrastructure, which has shown itself to be vulnerable in the past. The links have all been built with multiple alternate paths available, so the connectivity can be maintained by routing around any failed site. The network was designed with overlapping coverage to allow for the failure of several repeaters without loosing communications functionality. The vital command and control codes are held by multiple Control Operators who are trained and authorized to reconfigure the network as necessary. These preparations have been tested on several occasions, both with preparedness drills and actual emergency events, and the BeachNet system has worked well throughout.
What are "Bells and Whistles", and which ones does BeachNet have? Bells and Whistles are added functions, beyond the basic job of extending the range of mobile and hand-held stations, which some repeaters incorporate. They are usually considered "toys" or at least equipment for special purposes. Some examples are, Autopatch, Remote Base, IRLP or EchoLink nodes or access to weather broadcast information. BeachNet includes these to some extent. The use of these functions is strictly secondary to the normal operation of BeachNet and is to be conducted on a not-to-interfere basis. Our biggest feature is the wide-area coverage made possible by linking multiple repeaters together. Our focus is Emergency Communication. With that in mind, it makes little sense to spend our limited resources on features that do not support that mission.
What is an Autopatch? An "autopatch" comprises the equipment needed to interconnect the repeater with a telephone line, in order to place a call. Thirty years ago, having a hand-held radio on your belt with which you could place phone calls was very exciting. Many repeater systems charged "autopatch dues" which supported the entire repeater operation. Today, the cell phone has largely supplanted the need for an autopatch. Of course, in some rural areas, like the BeachNet coverage footprint, there are a number of areas without reliable cell service. BeachNet does have a basic autopatch, for emergency use. It can be brought up by a Control Operator when necessary.
What is a Remote Base? A Remote Base is an Amateur radio transceiver, located at a repeater site, that can be remotely controlled through a repeater. This provides long range simplex communications, or can be used to access distant repeaters. the range can be quite good, due to the elevated location of the station antennas. BeachNet has several Remote Base stations. The KO Peak 441.675 repeater incorporates a Remote Base station that can dial up virtually any frequency in the 29.5-29.7, 50-54, 144-148, 222-225, and 440-450 MHz Amateur bands and operate FM voice. The Naselle 440.675 and Long Beach 444.800 repeaters each support a Remote Base with 144-148, 222-225 and 440-450 MHz radios. The 224.820 South Bend repeater incorporates a channelized Remote Base radio on the 6-meter band. These Remote Base stations are used to automatically link to other repeaters for various Nets and other activities, or they can be brought up by a Control Operator when desired.
What is IRLP and does BeachNet have it? Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) uses a combination of hardware and software to send digitized voice and control signals over the Internet (Voice over Internet Protocol, "VoIP"). While traditional radio or microwave linking is limited to about 100-miles or less per link, IRLP can be used world-wide. This is a popular way to link Amateur radio stations together. IRLP is the brainchild of David Cameron, VE7LTD, in Vancouver, BC. IRLP is only used to link radios together, although some of the radios are very limited in range. The software is Linux-based, running on a dedicated computer to provide the Internet connection, and is stable enough to run for months at a time, unattended. The radio portion can be a repeater or simplex radio. BeachNet supports a dedicated 444.925 IRLP node repeater in the Long Beach/Astoria area. The station is available for any licensed Amateur to operate and control. Connecting the BeachNet system as a whole to IRLP, would completely tie up the entire network. This would be undesirable.
What is EchoLink, and does BeachNet have it? EchoLink is a Windows-based software application used to send digitized voice and control signals over the Internet. This can be used to link Amateur radio stations together. The software is not particularly stable, running on a home computer to allow connections with other EchoLink nodes over the Internet. EchoLink can be used with a computer headset and microphone, or with a radio. When used, the radio portion can be a repeater or simplex node. BeachNet does not support EchoLink connections. Some EchoLink nodes are radios, and others are not. Wanting to keep the "radio" in Amateur radio, BeachNet is not accessible from EchoLink.
What weather information is available on BeachNet? Several of our hilltops report the temperature. This can reveal when VHF/UHF ducting may occur. Frankly, we have tried more elaborate weather reporting equipment for wind direction, speed, and other parameters, and the sensors never survived a winter. The FCC regulations allow the retransmission of ". . .weather forecast information intended for use by the general public and originated from United States Government stations. . ." {97.113(a)(5)( c)}. Most modern Amateur equipment readily monitors the NOAA Weather Radio transmissions, making retransmission unnecessary. BeachNet incorporates the ability to retransmit the Aviation (AWOS) weather from the Astoria Regional Airport in Warrenton, Oregon. This service is appreciated by the several pilots who use the network. A Control Operator can bring the broadcast up on request.
Who does all the work? All the work done with the BeachNet repeater system is done by radio Amateur volunteers, without remuneration. The equipment is obtained, refurbished, modified, installed and repaired; the towers are climbed to install antennas and feedlines; and in many cases hours are spent traversing rough logging roads (or worse) to get to remote sites. For a peek at the mileage and hours devoted to construction and maintenance, check out our Maintenance Log. This Log only itemizes the trips to and from the repeater sites. For every hour here there are usually more than ten hours spent in the shop. The picture, far right at the bottom of the page, shows a couple of our crew at the top of an 80-foot tower, on top of a 15-foot building, on top of a 3000-foot mountain, replacing an antenna at the KO Peak 441.675 repeater. It took over two hours each way just to drive here, the last 12-miles up a steep, rough gravel logging road. Now, that's what I call fun!
Who financially supports Amateur repeaters? Amateur radio repeaters are generally supported by clubs, groups or individuals. In the case of BeachNet, the two owners provide most of the money to build and maintain the network. BeachNet receives no regular support from any club, organization or other entity. We rely on our users to recognize the value they derive from the system, and support us when they can. Regarding Amateur radio repeaters in general, donations are always welcome. Amateurs are precluded from charging money for their communications, and repeaters can be expensive to operate. Most Amateurs use repeaters as a frequent part of their activities. If all Amateurs supported the repeater they use the most, it would ease the burden on the owners considerably.
Are there policies to which users are expected to adhere? All repeaters have policies, some unwritten, some written down, to which users are expected to adhere. These policies differ from one particular repeater to another. BeachNet is no exception and has operational policies posted on this website. Click here to view these Operating Policies. When in doubt, or in the absence of guidance to the contrary, keep your content and language "G-Rated", and avoid politics, religion or anything that sounds like commercial activity.
What if I have a question not covered here? If you have a question that was not answered here, or in the rest of our website, feel free to email Frank, the BeachNet "Chief Engineer" by clicking here. We value your input, and want BeachNet to be an asset to the Amateur radio community.

 

 

 

 




 

145.170 |  145.310 |  145.390 |  147.020 |  147.180 |  147.340 |  224.040 |  224.820 |  440.675 |  441.675 |  442.675 |  444.050 |  444.200 |  444.400 |  444.500 |  444.700 |  444.800 |  444.925 |  444.950
 

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This Page Last Updated: 11/05/13.