Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Amateur Radio in Canada. What It Is, And What It Isn't.

The statements and comments in this post are the opinions of the writer. If I'm wrong on important details please correct me. If you have your own 'opinions' feel free to express them elsewhere, this is my blog hi hi.

So many repeated threads online related to the hobby. Sometimes I have the patience to answer the same questions over and over, and sometimes I wish people would search or scroll down and find the same questions answered over and over in the previous posts.

1) An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' is issued to a person by the Canadian Government department ISED (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) formerly Industry Canada. 

  • Many Amateurs refer to this as a 'license' which technically it's not. I'm one of those people that doesn't mind the term license as it's easier to say and remember.
  • An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' is issued when you pass the multiple-choice test with an Accredited Examiner. These examiners are volunteer Amateur Radio operators of a high knowledge level in the hobby who had been certified to run exams on behalf of ISED.
  • Passing the Basic exam with a score of 70% or higher is a pass. You will be issued the Basic Certificate of Proficiency in Canadian amateur radio and a callsign. You will be allowed to operate radios in the 6M band and above (VHF, UHF, Microwave).
  • Passing the Basic exam with a score of 80% or higher earns you the designation Basic with Honors. You will be issued the Basic with Honors Certificate of Proficiency in Canadian amateur radio and a callsign. This unlocks HF band privileges combined with 6m and above. So you can use ALL of the Canadian bands and frequencies allocated for amateur radio use.
  • Once you have your Basic Certificate of Proficiency you can stop, or continue to study and take the Morse code add-on (5 WPM in CW plus exam), or take the Advanced test and try for your Advanced Certificate of Proficiency in Canadian amateur radio, which grants some additional benefits like building your own radios and operating and maintaining repeaters.

2) An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' DOES NOT allow you to operate in other radio-related modes and systems in Canada including;

  • Marine radio (required to operate boats)
  • Aeronautical radio (required to operate planes)
  • Land Mobile radio (used commercially between work vehicles and office base)  
  • Rural Route radio (used on rural & logging roads to call out traffic locations)
An Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' is only for use in the spectrum of radio assigned to the Amateur Radio hobby. Yes, this is a lot of bands and frequencies, but there is little to no overlap and one 'license' does not replace or substitute for another.

3) I'm an avid offroader and I was told Amateur Radio is an excellent way to communicate off the beaten path and utilize mountain top repeaters where the cell phone is out of range.

  • Yes, you can utilize amateur radio this way. You must follow the amateur radio rules and share the bands and frequencies with others. You cannot claim a frequency as your own, or tell others to get off your frequency.
  • Keep in mind if it's multiple people in your party, and each has a radio in their vehicle or on their person they ALL need an Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency' to communicate with one another.
  • You can't use your amateur radios for other purposes (like rural route radio communication on logging roads for example).
  • There are alternatives to Amateur Radio for offroading. Look into https://vernoncommunications.ca/4wdabc-gets-bc-wide/

4) What does it cost to get an Amateur Radio 'Certificate of Proficiency'

  • Typically it should cost $100. Radio clubs run courses that typically cost around $100. These will typically include the coursebook from Coax Publications with a value of $50 and will also include the classroom teaching and the final exam all together in that $100 bundle.
  • There is free course material online on the internet, the quality of that material varies, where the Coax Publication coursebook works on being up to date to match the current government exam.
  • If you chose to self-study you will need to find your own examiner and that might also include a small fee as examiners are allowed to charge for their expenses if they wish. 
  • If you research online well, you can find all the materials you need to study for free, you could also find an examiner for free, so potentially the cost could be nothing. More often people don't mind the $100 investment in getting classroom learning, a good book to keep and study from, and the convenience of an examiner-led scheduled exam at the end.
to be continued...



Sunday, January 10, 2021

Antenna SWR Chart

 

Click on chart image for a larger view

Spent some time in the shack this weekend moving cabling around and inserting the new LDG auto tuner in the previous blog post.

Whenever I make changes like this I like to test everything on the antenna analyzer to make sure the SWR doesn't change and also refresh my memory on which HF antenna provides the best SWR on each band.

As part of the process, this new chart was made and will be printed and placed at eye-level from my main operating position.

Key information presented in the chart;

  • Tuner input by name
  • Antenna assignment in the tuner
  • Antenna by name
  • All HF bands that are workable on either antenna.
  • All SWR levels from the approximate center of each band,
  • Color coding, green for SWR of 1 to 3. yellow for SWR of 3 - 5, orange for SWR of 5 - 10
  • In the blue cells, I identify the bottom and top frequencies for each band.
  • And finally, the grey cells identify the center band frequencies that I use when testing the SWR on each antenna with the antenna analyzer.
Happy to confirm that with just 2 HF antennas there are 8 HF bands that I can operate on with an SWR of 2:1 or lower. And I can push that up to 10 bands with the help of the tuner.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

New Year & New Wiring Configuration


With a new year comes a new purchase and a re-wire of the shack. 

The new purchase is an LDG AT-200ProII antenna tuner. Some nice features of this unit include two antenna inputs and a 200-watt max power handling with SSB and CW signals on most bands. Another great feature is the versatility of this model line from LDG allowing them to work with almost any transceiver instead of some of their other models that are designed to pair with a specific model of transceiver (for example my Yaesu FT-847 transceiver and it's matching LDG YT-847 auto tuner).

The new wiring layout suits my operating style, one operator using one radio at a time. It will allow me to have up to 4 of my HF transceivers wired into a grounded antenna switch. I can select one radio at a time to operate on. Typically the other radios are turned off when not in use.

After deciding the radio to operate with, and switching to that radio on the switch, my signal will pass onto a nice large display HF SWR Meter (Daiwa - CN-801HP) before passing into the new auto tuner (LDG AT-200ProII). In the tuner, I can select either one of my HF antennas (dipole or beam) to transmit & receive on. Each antenna has a high-quality lightning arrestor installed and proper grounding of all the equipment and antennas (safety ground, lightning ground, & rf ground).

I know this isn't rocket science and I'm not inventing something new here. For my solo operating style this is just a new versatile configuration that supports all of the following;

  • Four (4) transceivers wired in and available for use (always just one at a time).
  • A manual switch that also supports a straight to ground position when no equipment is being used.
  • An investment in a nice big & well lit SWR Meter that works with any radio selected in the configuration.
  • An investment in a nice Auto Tuner that works with any radio selected in the configuration.
  • Two HF antenna choices that can be easily selected on the Auto Tuner.