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Amateur Radio Page

Dilbert Ham

Amateur Radio is the wonderful hobby of experimentation and fun in the area of electronic communication. Every Government across the world have allocated frequencies for the amateurs to use. So if you want to transmit on these bands, embrace amateur radio! Amateurs are very very skilled in operating in tough communicating conditions. When everything else fails, Amateur Radio works just fine. Testimonies are the services of Amateurs during Sept-11 disaster, Gujarat Earthquake etc to name afew. Amateurs (HAMs) are so called not because they are not professionals at it, but because they don’t do it to make money or not have any monetory interests in it. Amateurs are usually the most knowledgable in the area of Communication and Electronics compared to even PhDs from Academic Institutions when it comes to practice. If in doubt, ask a graduate engineer about Antennas and about what frequency one should transmit during a particular period of an year. Ask same questions to an Amateur and judge yourself.

People come into the hobby of amateur radio for different reasons. It can be for social reasons, for fun, for technical joy etc etc. I am interested in the hobby purely because of the technical enjoyment of it (also known as hack value) and for learning and advancing the radio art. I hope I will be able to contribute something to it in the future.

If you are new to Amateur Radio, I highly recommend reading this comic book from Icom and this nice website called “Hello Radio“.
Here is what the famous hacker Bruce Perens (K6BP) says about amateur radio:

A lot of people who are interested in technology become ham radio operators. Ham radio can be very educational in a way the Internet can’t touch: you can learn about analog electronics, and about the synthesis of analog and digital that is wireless data communications. You can build your own equipment from the ground up, while most computer folks only get to plug cards together. You can communicate around the world without an Internet – with nothing but air between you and the person you’re talking to. You can even call up Mir or the Space Shuttle, or operate one of many satellites that hams have built and had launched as “hitch-hikers” along with commercial space payloads.

ASOC Examination

Before you read the rest of the page, go straight to the wikipedia entry on amateur radio in India, which will answer most or all of the questions and doubts one may have. NIAR is the national institute supported and funded by the Govt of India to further the art of amateur radio. They are silently doing a lot of work for the advancement of amateur radio and also in the disaster management. But ARSI is the National Association of Amateur Radio in India and is a member of IARU.

There are 4 classes of licenses in India. The Restricted grade license, Grade-II license, Grade-I license and the Advanced grade license.

The ASOC exam has generally two parts. Part I is theory which is divided into two sections: Section A is Radio Theory, Section B is rules and regulations. Part II is Morse Code sending and receiving.

For getting restricted grade, one need to pass only the Part-I. Grade-I and Grade-II differs only in the Part-II, i.e Morse Sending/Receiving speed. Grade-II requires only 5 Words per Minutes (WPM), whereas Grade-I and Advanced Grade requires 12WPM. Also Advanced grade has a bit more electrical engineering theory in the exam. Every genuine amateur enthusiast aspires to get the advanced grade license, which is not very hard to get.

License Process: A Brief Walk Through

Getting an amateur radio license in India is a difficult process, as far as I have understood. Wireless Planning and Coordination Office or WPC, a Govt of India wing, is the central body which issues and manages licenses. The Amateur Services are mentioned under the COP category in the WPC Website. [Did you observe that DoT is a dotCom organisation ?? :-) - Update: They have switched domains to http://www.dot.gov.in ] Contrast this with what FCC has in its Amateur Section!! But don’t be discouraged yet. I got discouraged on many occasions and have finally realised that if one is determined to get a license, there is no one who can stop it. WPC conducts ASOC exams at various state capitals. The frequency of exam varies according to the place. In Bangalore, they conduct exams four times an year, I heard. You need to read the Indian Wireless Rules (1978 & 1984) to get an idea of the fees etc. They are very nominal, probably the lowest in the World. I have a copy of ASOC application down in this page. Please take a printout and fill it out and send it to the nearest WPC office (listed below). Once the exam is over, you will be notified the result. Once passed you will undergo a police verification, as it is the case with getting Passports. This should happen within six to twelve months after passing the exam, I am told. If not, you can probably follow it up with the WPC office. Once this is over, the long wait begins and you may get your license depending on…pure luck. Your milage may vary depending on luck!!!

Preparing for Amateur Radio Examination in India

These are the set of documents to prepare for the Section B of ASOC examination conducted by WPC:

Important WPC Documents

Learning Morse Code

Much has already been written about learning Morse Code. Some people say that Morse should be taught by a teacher. But one can practice listening part without the aid of a teacher. Even sending can also be mastered without a teacher, thanks to modern electronics. Also the first thing to do while learning code is to throw away all charts. Morse, like any other language, has to be learned by hearing and remembering sounds. Do not think in terms of dots and dashes. I know, it’s difficult if you already learned bits of code from elsewhere. But if you use Koch’s method, you will gradually learn code the above way.

The most efficient way of learning morse and also increase the speed of operation is by Koch’s method. On a GNU/Linux system, there are quite a lot of programs to do Morse. Alan Cox himself has written a morse code program. Also the 2.5.x (which will be future 2.6.x kernel) version of Linux Kernel has a way to enable error messages and panic messages to be conveyed to the user in Morse sounds, rather than in text !!! Don’t you think that’s cool ??

On Debian GNU/Linux system you can use

apt-get install cw cwcp unixcw

To use Koch’s Method with this software, you can download this script. See the comments for recommended usage and sequence of letters.

Practice plays key role in mastering the code. Fortunately, the above computer programs are very good and are the best way to learn code. For those in the North America, ARRL runs a W1AW station which sends out code at various speeds. Fortunately for the rest of the World, ARRL puts them daily on the web. Thanks ARRL!

[Update - 9th June 2007] I am trying to improve my CW skills and this time I am using the K7QO v2.1 code course CD prepared by Chuck Adams, K7QO. This is probably the best recommended way to learn the code particularly for first time learners. Check for newer versions of the course on K7QO webpages.

Books available for self study

Various clubs across India offer short courses for amateur radio theory and Morse Code at nominal cost. There are atleast two books, that can help in self study, though. One is ABC of Amateur Radio by Rajesh Verma. Another is an electronic book published by Vigyan Prasar called A Comprehensive Study Material for the Ham Radio Enthusiasts.

Amateur Radio Organizations in India

Just like the ARRL in the US, the central organisation which deals with WPC and IARU in India is the Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI). Every Amateur in India should be a member of this organization. There is a mailing list which is located at this website. There are also some old question papers in the files section for prospective amateurs. To become a member of ARSI, please download this form and follow the instructions in there. I am a member of ARSI (Membership No: A-0736). ARSI brings out a nice quarterly, Ham Radio News (HRN) for its members. Please support ARSI. Your support goes a long way in getting things done for amateurs at the WPC and in forming policy decisions related to amateur radio in India. Only strong organisation can be “heard” at the Govt level.

Another organization which is doing a lot of work in popularising and developing amateur radio in India (with funding from Govt of India) is the National Institute of Amateur Radio, located at Hyderabad, AP. A brief look at their profile, will speak for the work they have done/are doing.

Contacting WPC

There is an excellent page at NIAR which explains the ways to contact WPC. It is futile to contact WPC via email, they do not read email and whatever is sent to them bounces!

Mailing lists connecting Hams in India

  • VUHams – a very active list of hams in India and the most important among all the lists.
  • VUHams – a list dedicated to QRP operations in the Indian context.
  • CQ_VU – another group for Hams in VU Land.
  • Hambrewers – a group dedicated to homebrewing. If you are technically inclined, this is the place to be in.
  • vusat – List which discusses the AMSAT-India satellite programme.

If you know any other interesting mailing lists specifically for Indian Hams, please let me know.

Other Websites of interest

Time and Location – afew links

A Request to Radio Amateurs worldwide

As we all know, amateur radio is a great asset to any nation. Most of the amateurs are in this hobby for want of learning and/or service to humanity. It will be great if in the same spirit of Amateurs, we also publish all the software we write, as Free Software. Free Software doesn’t simply mean giving away software for zero cost. Free Software means, giving away the source code of the software so that others can copy it, modify and improve it and also redistribute this improved version. There are already quite a bit of Amateur Radio tools as Free Software, but that number is very less. For example, we have propagation prediction software which runs on Windows, but those using other OSes cannot use them as the sources are not available and those who bringout those software haven’t ported it. Had they published the source code, someone could have taken it and ported it to which ever Operating System they use. Thus users lose freedom if you just give away only the binary or the executable. Also Free Software lives for ever, as users and other developers are constantly improving it. So evenif you lose interest in a particular project, there are many others willing to use it and improve it. These facts coupled with the fact that there is a sizable population of amateurs in the Free Software World, makes a marriage between Free Software and Amateur Radio, heavenly!! Here is a presentation by former DPL Bdale Garbee, KB0G about Debian GNU/Linux and how it can be used effectively by Hams.

Free Software has a long association with Amateur Radio. Many Debian developers are Hams (including former Debian Project Leaders, Bruce Perens, K6BP and Bdale Garbee, KB0G). Alan Cox, the linux kernel hacker, is a Ham. My fellow Debian friends Raghavendra Bhat (VU2RGU), Maitland Bottoms (AA4HS) and Aaron M Ucko, are Hams.

Engineering is all about building things and the best way to learn build things is to take already built things apart. You can do this for any gadget or amateur rigs you own. Most manufacturers provide technical manuals for their rigs which gives detailed circuit diagrams. But software manufacturers don’t do that. They do not give their users a chance to fix the problems with the software or change it to suit a particular need, by not providing access to the source code of the program. Free Software is all about changing this scene and give users maximum freedom. Interested? Please read the GNU Website with emphasis on the Philosophy section.

Some of the software like propagation prediction software (VOACAP for instance) is difficult to write independently because of the high amount of research that goes into making it. But one can do their bit by persuading organisations and Governments to publish such software as Free Software.

Manufacturers like TenTec and Elecraft, publish the protocols of their computer controlled rigs, which is good news for the amateur radio community. But technology like DRM (both Digital Restrictions Management as well as Digital Radio Mondiale) are designed to restrict people. Amateurs should never be caught in the web of proprietary technology. Digital Voice is great, but giving every amateur an opportunity to decode Digital Voice is the responsibility of every amateur. For that one should rely on well documented algorithms, protocols and standards. Internet is what it is today only because of its well documented interfaces and adherance to standards. Let’s adopt the model of Internet and Free Software into the Amateur Services.

Homebrewing links

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my elmers, Prof T K Mani (VU2ITI), Raghavendra Bhat (VU2RGU), Sandeep Barua (VU2MSY), Gopan (VU3HPF) and Raj (VU2ZAP) for their constant encouragement and support. I would also like to thank Shri Satyapal, Indian Institute of Hams, VU2IIH for helping me write the exam. I hope to interact with more hams, once I get the ticket.

Addresses of Wireless Monitoring Offices (WMO)

[Note: Some of these are collected from posts by Jose Jacob, VU2JOS in the vuhams list. If you know of any change in address, please help me by sending me the address. It will benefit a lot of people trying to enter the hobby]

Here is the WPC Amateur Wing address:
Asst. Wireless Adviser
Government of India
Ministry of Communications & Information Technology
Department of Telecommunications
WPC Wing, Amateur Section
521, Sanchar Bhawan
New Delhi 110001

Mr. Irshad Ahmed is the Engineer in charge and Mr.Chandrasekharan is the Asst. WIreless Advisor in the WPC, Amateur Radio section.
His phone no is : 011-2303 6181
Fax No. is 011-2371 6111

The new wireless Advisor is Mr.R.P.Agrawal.

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
Kotra, Pushkar Road,
Ajmer-305004.
Tel# 2425641, Fax# 2634583

The Officer-in-Charge
Wireless Monitoring Station, D. O. T,
Ministry of Communications & I.T.
II Floor, Channammanakere Telephone Exchange
II Cross, IInd Main, Vidyapeetha Road,
Bangalore 560085
Karnataka
Tel# 26690102, Fax. 26790300

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
E3/39, Arera Colony
Bhopal 462016
Madhya Pradesh.
The Tel.No.is 0755-2464653
The Office in Charge is Mr.Anil Kumar Soni

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
International Monitoring Station
Village-Gopalpur, P.O. Sarkarpool
24-Parganas,
Calcutta-734352 ,
Tel# 24012960, 24010151, Fax. 24589407

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
Kandanchavadi,Perungudi,
Chennai-600096
Tel# 24960234, 24960811, Fax. 24960235

Officer-in-Charge,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
International Monitoring Station
Ghatorni, PO Mehrauli,
Delhi-110 030,
Tel# 26802380, 26986226

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
7, Oak’S Bank,
Holding No-560,
Darjeeling-734001
Tel# 252383

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
Girdharilal Sardarmal Building,
Mancotta Road,
Dibrugarh-786001
Tel# 221238

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
Opposite Jagatpark Society,
Ahmedabad, GUJARAT
Ghatlodia-380061
Tel# 27484444, Fax. 27433011

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
Sylvia Building, Chogm Road,
PO Alto Porvorim,
Goa-403521
Tel# 2217245

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
Gurauli Buzurg Chhapia,
Khajani Road,
Gorakhpur-273001
Tel# 2333709

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
Telecom Engineering Centre Building,
Charlapalli,
Hyderabad 500051
Tel. 040-27261516, 27261517, 27261518
(The Officer in Charge is Mr.S.K.Chauhan)

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
Main Garha Road,Hardyal Nagar,
Jalandhar-144022.
Tel# 2225210

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
International Satellite Monitoring Earth Station
Indewadi Village,
Ambad Road,
Jalna-431203.
Tel# 230201, Fax# 232200

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
Fathima Mansion, Pintos Lane,
Bijai PO, Mangalore – 575004
Tel# 2493960, Fax# 2494249

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
International Monitoring Station, Gorai Road,
Borivilli (West),
Mumbai-400 091
Tel# 28677307, 28672351, Fax# 28672351

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
Chindwara Road, PO Koradi T.P.S.,
Nagpur-441111,
Tel# 262114, Fax. 2581807

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Statio
Harmu Housing Colony,
Ranchi – 834012,
Tel# 2203823

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
PO Umpling, Lapalang, Rynjah
Shillong – 793006
Tel# 2230113, 2230893, Fax. 2233727

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
H.No. 41, Sector-I, Lane 2
Nanak Nagar-180004
Tel# 2430064, Fax. 2433557

Officer-in-Charge,
Wireless Monitoring Station,
Ministry of Communications, GOI
Kachani Post,Nettayam,
Trivandrum-695013.
Tel# 2373202, Fax. 2364333

39-27-41, Madhavadhara
VUDA Colony
Visakhapatnam 530018
Andhra Pradesh
Tel. 0891-2539365
Fax: 0891-2542402
(The Officer in Charge is Mr.T.Srinivasa Rao)

My Amateur Radio History

It might probably read like my own history, but yes, amateur radio had been part of my thoughts ever since I discovered it.

  • Circa 1988: First read about Amateur Radio on a Sept 15th Malayala Manorama Newspaper.
  • 1989: Build my first tri-band radio using the then-popular L-board PCB.
  • Circa 1992: Read about a club called Ham Radio Guild in Cochin and contacted them to get study materials for amateur radio exam.
  • Circa 1994: Read another article in Malayala Manorama about four hackers from Cochin, one of them was described as Radio Amateur. Later we met through another common interest, Free Software. The person I read about and later met is Raghavendra Bhat, VU2RGU.
  • August 1994: Joined Govt Model Engineering College affiliated to CUSAT for four year B.Tech Program in Electronics Engineering Course.
  • 1994: Met Prof T.K.Mani at MEC and found out that he is a Radio Amateur (VU2ITI). Then I didn’t know his contributions to amateur radio. Later I took courses under him, did our mini-project and main-project under his guidance. Now he is much more than my teacher and is a great friend.
  • 1995: Formed Model Amateur Radio Club (MARC), which is now defunct (I think) under the guidance of Prof Mani. We conducted morse code classes, but the numbers waned after the initial euphoria.
  • 1996-1998: College exams and project pressures gave way (and also I discovered Unix in 1996 and was hooked into it) and amateur radio took a back seat.
  • August 1998: Joined Dept of Electrical Engineering at IIT Madras. Met hostel mate Mohammed Rabeek (VU2RBK) and tried to revive the IIT-Madras Amateur Radio club functioning in the basement of Brahmaputra Hostel. We setup a 40m dipole. The club had excellent equipments. From the amount of QSL cards gathering dust in the room, we could guess the rich history the club had and also the neglect of this great hobby by both students and authorities of India’s premier technology institute. Again, I couldn’t appear for the exam due to various reasons.
  • Dec 1999: I joined TI and relocated to Bangalore. Bangalore had one of the largest amateur radio populations in India. I also discovered that a club called IIH is operating in Kanteerava stadium.
  • April 2002: Went to DC Area in the US and met afew free software hackers who were also radio amateurs.
  • July 2003: Bought a used Sony ICF-SW7600GR Shortwave Reciever capable of recieving SSB (LSB/USB) and also with an external antenna connector. Turned out to be a great way to monitor those 40m amateur radio nets and conversations.
  • Sept 2003: Heard from a Ham, Gopan, VU3HPF on email. We had an eye-ball a week later. One of the best persons I have ever met. He is my local elmer and above all, a great friend.
  • Sept 13th 2003: Appeared for ASOC Grade II exam.
  • Nov 3rd 2003: Got the pass certificate from Wireless Monitoring Centre, Bangalore.
  • Dec 5th 2003: Met another great amateur radio satellite hacker, former Debian Project Leader and HP Linux CTO Bdale Garbee, KB0G. It was a dream come true.
  • Feb 2005: Waiting for the police verification of shack address and identity to be completed and hoping and hoping and hoping that the license will come soon. Watch out this space after six months or so.
  • March 10th 2005: Got my license, callsign is VU3RDD. See this page if you are more interested on my thoughts when I went through the process.