Most of us have not used specialized repeaters that provide fill-in communications when normal duplex repeaters don't cover an area or are out of service. SIMPLEX communications suffer from limited range and may not be effective in an emergency or Public Service event. In the summer of 2008 we did some experiments using CBRs to extend range of communications. Further information can be found at: http://www.robin-wood.com/Ham/Mine/Crossband/cross_band.htm.
Emergency or portable repeaters fall into two classes:
Of course you could attempt to build a portable full duplex repeater
but the main hangup is the duplexers size, bulk and criticalness of
set-up. In short, they are impractical for portable use.
Some have built UHF portable units but fewer amateurs use these
frequencies. Building highly selective duplexers is easier as you
go up in frequency but you need critical test equipment and the
knowledge to properly use it.
Approach #1 is the most
straightforward approach and requires nothing
than a recording memory along with a transceiver. First,
the receiver listens for the signal and then when the squelch drops, it
plays back the recorded transmission into the transmitter.
but operators have lots of trouble understanding its operation because
few have been exposed to it. It ends up being confusing and
organizations get discouraged and drop its use.
Approach #2 is much more
practical because it works nearly identical to
a normal repeater. Rather than having duplexers, it uses two
bands such as 144 MHz and 440 MHz with transmission between them
in both directions. Many multiband mobile style radios have a
crossband setting and are easy to set up and can work with full duplex
repeaters as well.
Now lets take a look at the above diagram to see what we mean by "the hidden transmitter" effect. Notice that station "A" and "B" are separated by terrain that won't allow RF propagation at VHF/UHF frequencies. It will also be assumed that station "C" cannot communicate with "A" because of this same restriction. If the important path to maintain was between "A" and "C" then we could use a CBR between the two of them. Lets put "A" on UHF and "C" on VHF going through the CBR. Station "B" and any others not shown, must be able to communicate to the network also. If we put "B" on UHF then "B" and "A" cannot communicate directly to each other because the CBR only relays to station "C". We're forced to put "B" on VHF because thats the only way we can reach "A" . This requires that "B" and "C" have a direct path to each other so they can communicate since they will not involve the CBR in their point to point communications.
It becomes obvious that CBRs do well when one or two stations are
hard to reach but the rest work well together on a normal full
duplex repeater channel. The most common use of CBR's is to
extend the range of 1-2 stations and this works well with repeaters
like Stripped Peak, 146.760 MHz which we tried on Feb 24th and
again on March 10, 2009 for ARES net checkin with excellent
Other stations didn't even know that we were using CBR
until we told them. It's important to understand the extension
possibilities of a CBR since
its battery operated and can be set up in a matter of minutes at
strategic points in the geography. You have eliminated the
"hidden transmitter" problem on the VHF side in this configuration.
An even more interesting effect is linking two full duplex repeaters
, one VHF and one UHF using a CBR. This is done in
Victoria. The "hidden transmitter" problem is totally eliminated.
I thought that we could try an experiment during the April Dry Hill Downhill Bike Race. I'll have a CBR set up at my home QTH to see if we can improve communications? In the past, FINISH had trouble hearing the START station.
On the map to the right is shown the terrain of the Dry Creek Downhill Bike race. In particular, the START and FINISH along with my home QTH, Robinwood, which is about three+ miles to the north. The red lines show the radio path from my home to those operating positions. Although they're less than one mile apart, its heavy vegetation so signals are spotty. By placing a CBR at my home which is nearly 4 miles away, we should be able to solve this problem. The START would operate on UHF and the FINISH on VHF. Even though the distance is much further to my QTH, its open terrain with few trees as the location of the race site is on the side of a hill facing North. The overall path loss is much less than through the trees. Problem solved....well not quite!
We also have stations between start and finish that need to be part of the communications. Ideally, we should all be able to hear and reach each other. If a station just North of START were to operate on VHF, then he would have good communications to START by CBR. However, FINISH may have difficulty hearing him because he is not repeating through the CBR to FINISH. Remember, FINISH was assigned to the VHF channel. This puts both stations on the same band, VHF, and separated by a forest that may block the signals.
If one or more stations can't hear the rest in a simplex (or Duplex)
move them to a secondary band (UHF) and use a CBR to reach
However, any stations moved in this manner must be able to hear each
other w/o the use of the CBR.
In other words, all stations on a given band must be able to communicate directly with each other (SIMPLEX) on that band since the CBR is not used in in-band communications.
Back to the race: With all this in mind, START and the upper course station, JUNCTION will probably operate UHF simplex and the rest will stay on VHF simplex. This will also depend on who has UHF and we might have to move people depending upon handheld capability.
If anything goes wrong, we will just meet back on the VHF frequency as we have in the past.
One note that should be made is that if participants of an event had Cross Band Handhelds, you could operate with this system in a full duplex mode. That is , you can transmit at the same time that you are receiving. The problem is, most amateurs don't own full cross band HT's, only dual banders which does not allow for this mode of operation.
Set up details for future events will be posted at sign-up postings.
Neil Robin, WA7NBF