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By Guy Kewney  |  Posted 2005-01-18 Print this article Print

: Hams Vs. Broadband?"> "Radio amateurs are not opposed to broadband services. On the contrary, they tend to be early adopters of new technology. However, there are ways to deliver broadband that do not pollute the radio spectrum as Broadband over Power Line [BPL] does," the ARRL says in an educational article about the subject. And Hilary Claytonsmith in the U.K., speaking on behalf of the International Amateur Radio Union, pointed out the life-saving value that shortwave radio has, citing the ability to set up instant comm-links to tsunami-affected regions after the disaster in southeast Asia. Click here for a column on tsunami warning systems.
But it isnt all that clear-cut. The problem with shortwave radio is that it is an anachronism. Its use goes clear against all of the trends of wireless in the past couple of decades.
Initially, advances in radio communications were achieved by getting a signal to travel farther. When I was a boy, DXers (long-distance amateur radio operators) used to boast about their farthest contacts. Legends tell of an amateur in London linking up with a "radio ham" in the Falklands when Galtieri invaded, keeping Her Majestys government informed when all other links were down. And there are hundreds of such tales, most of them probably true. But since the creation of cellular radio networks, the technology has focused on reducing, not increasing, the range of radios. Restrict your radio to the power needed to reach the next cell mast, and suddenly a thousand people can use the same frequency, where before only one could operate. Today, if I need to reach an area devoid of broadband, using a car battery and a shortwave transceiver isnt the only way of doing it—but it is definitely a cheap solution. That is, compared with hiring bandwidth on a satellite link, its cheap. Next page: How to tackle the problem.


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