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is an informative, cynical and sometimes humorous look at what is happening in the world of amateur radio.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Riding the ROS roller coaster

Over the last few weeks I have been ‘otherwise engaged’ and my blogs have been sadly lacking in content. There have been plenty of things to write about but I have had to set them to one side while I get on with ‘real life’ issues. I often say to my wife that radio is not a matter of life and death to me, it is far more important, but even radio has to be put aside every once in a while.

One of the things I have failed to write about is the saga surrounding the new ROS data mode, fortunately other great bloggers such as Julian G4ILO and Anthony K3NG have kept the world up to date by putting their own inimitable spin on the latest bizarre events surrounding this new mode.

To try to bring those who have been living under a rock up to speed on the subject this is roughly the list of events so far.

1. A message on QRZ.com announces the introduction of a new shiny data mode with a link to a free download on the authors website.
2. Visitors to the website see the new mode described as ‘spread spectrum’ by the author.
3. Forum members question if this new mode is quite legal.
4. Timothy N3TL writes to the FCC asking if ROS is legal to us in the USA.
5. The FCC reply that if the mode is truly spread spectrum then it is not legal but they do not know enough about it to say if it is or it is not true spread spectrum, putting the ball at the authors feet by saying he should know what he made.
6. The program’s author declares that his program is not spread spectrum by the terms of the FCC’s definition.
7. The word goes out that ROS is okay to use.
8. The author threatens legal action against Timothy N3TL for asking the FCC for clarification.
9. The author threatens almost every amateur radio blogger that has been covering the unfolding mess and anyone who questioned the programs legality in various forums that their use of his programs by them would become illegal.
10. A ‘persona non grata’ list of thos no longer permitted to use the software is posted on the ROS blog listing K5OKC, AA6YQ, M6RDP, PE4BAS, KQ7W, ZL4PLM, DL4PLM, GM4PLM, NN4RH, and G4ILO. Impressively Simon ZL4PLM / DL4PLM / GM4PLM managed to get all three of his calls in the list.
11. Julian G4ILO receives an apology from the author after spotting his post of 2nd March saying ROS is now legal in the USA.
12. The ‘persona non grata’ list disappears from the ROS blog but not before many potential users have uninstalled ROS in disgust at the authors reaction to those simply reporting the latest news about the mode.
13. Julian G4ILO writes to RADCOM suggesting that band plans include areas for experimental modes and that the use of such modes is restricted until they are evaluated by an international committee which would take into consideration the benefits of the mode, the amount of bandwidth it occupies and decide what frequencies it may be used on.
14. Just when I thought it could not get any more confused and bizarre, it does. As G4ILO has just posted…
On March 3, Dave AA6YQ called the FCC to confirm whether the statement that ROS was now legal for use in the US which had been posted on the ROS website and which I wrote about on Tuesday was true. The FCC advised that the information (which has since been removed) was not true, and that the matter was still under review. Dave was told that the ARRL was involved and would publicize the outcome. This they have now done, and the outcome is that ROS remains illegal for use in the USA on frequencies below 222MHz.

It would seem that I still have time to get on the banned list and that this little lot is going to drag on.

Paul PC4T posts …I tried to get rid of the ROS 'sh*t on my computer, But the program doesn't have a normal uninstaller. So the software developer must take care for a proper way to uninstall the software. Now I have to remove the software in the register of the computer. Aaargh...

Very soon the list of those allowed to use ROS will be smaller than those not allowed.

Personally I do not care too much about data modes until they start up over my SSB QSOs with a low power station on a mountain and then I might turn on a decoder so I can capture the call sign and send them a horses head by return of post, but the ROS saga has given me hours of chuckles and the occasional sharp intake of breath.

From what has come out of this I believe approval of new modes is essential to avoid us breaching our licensing conditions. Let me explain! If I write software for a new data mode and only give it to a few of my mates we are effectively using an encrypted signal, which is not permitted. Packet radio was seen as illegal when it first appeared on the amateur bands and a change in the licence was made before the law abiding amongst us gave it a try, however new data modes seem to surface regularly these days and it appears that ROS is the first one were anyone questioned its legal position.

So we can note that whatever happens in the US ROS remains legal to use in the rest of the world until such time as someone decides it isn’t. However I question if any new data mode can be considered legal until such time as is declared so by our country’s authorities and nation radio society.

Latest news

In the last few minutes this statement has appeared on the ROS site...

I have created a new narrowband digital mode for Ham Radio Operators. The wideband of this mode is of 500 Hz.
Technical description will be sent to FCC with the aim that they give their approval for this new mode. Until then, the author will not make public any technical explanation about this mode.
5 March, 2010 by José Alberto Nieto Ros

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