Amateur Radio and Pagers

BR850-Motorola-Pager.jpgThe topic comes up now and then – pagers on the amateur bands. It’s a fine idea on paper, but unfortunatley some of the ‘old guard’ declare it illegal and blasphemy against ‘all things ham’. It’s an issue that will be debated until the end of time (or ham), and those brave enough to put such systems up endure the hang-wringing and cries of those who don’t like to hear ‘nuthin’ but code and voice’ on the bands.

Pager comms come in a variety of flavours and types – it can be as simple as DTMF or QuickCall to more exotic digital signalling modes such as MDC-1200, FLEX, POCSAG and GOLAY. Unfortunatley, some hams still consider digital modes on ham to be verboten (friends experimenting with digital voice on ham have run into this problem), so paging will never gain hobby-wide acceptance (unless it’s SELCALLs oh-so-familiar to our resident Motorola geeks)

A few years ago I attempted to set up an incident alerting system on the ham bands – the plan initially called for incidents (to be sent via e-mail from a protected system) to be read over the air by a computer. While the plan seemed simple in it’s concept stage, it ran into some friction from some local hams. Most of them weren’t too pleased with such a new concept on ‘their’ airwaves, while most weren’t considerate enough to even give me a reason. The project was eventually scrapped, but not before I learned a few valuable lessons about my local hams: If it’s new and never been done before, it isn’t welcome.

pagerfig1.jpgThankfully, not all hams are as closed-minded to the idea. In the world of ARES and incident activation, it seems that some are realizing the potential for paging over the amateur airwaves. A recent article written by Bob Cooke VE3BDB on the Radio Amateur of Canada website described a nifty little invention by Bob Simpson VE3ODR and Jim Robinson, VE3JPR. Using the (more-or-less) already accepted mode of DTMF, this unit allows mutiple and specific alerts to be broadcast over existing airwaves using existing equipment. (click in image to see bigger)

While not exactly portable (it requires an external power supply and speaker for audio alerts), it’s a step in the right direction. Another option some hams have toyed with is using existing commercial pagers in the ham bands. Some transmitters and receivers are able to be set to operate in the ham bands – getting a community already set against commercial equipment in the ham bands to accept it is a whole different story.

We here at Hamsexy support efforts to bring paging into the forefront of amateur radio. While we like VE3ODR and VE3JPR’s efforts, we feel the unit should be re-designed to fit the true needs and priorities of today’s radio amateur:


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11 Responses to Amateur Radio and Pagers

  1. kc0jar says:

    I swear to god, sometimes I come here only for the hilarious photoshops!

  2. grinthock says:

    I saw their little invention a few years ago when they demo’d it at the CANWARN training.

    Cute idea, unfortunate that they don’t use their skills for something more useful, rather than “Amateur Voicemail”

  3. k6mfw says:

    I have got to get me one of those! I’ll have to put labels on my current pager, though not functional but good conversation piece.

    Regarding the ‘old guard,’ all kidding aside one thing I say that gets people steamed is, Pop quiz: what is the primary piece of emergency communications and if you answered LMR or ham radio, you answered wrong. It is the cellphone.

    Why? Many hams begin contact on VHF/UHF by calling their buddies on the cellphone. Repeater takes a dump, they cellphone the new freq to use. Well, sorry guys but that is my Gripe Of The Month.


  4. va3igd says:

    I like this.
    This is what the Amateur Radio Spectrum is supposed to be used for, experimentation and entertainment.
    It is a far better use for us to be alerted for food specials and maybe some female rentals than weather whacking and “emergency” whacking
    There are enough professionals working in media and in real emergency servies for the governments for that, and they have radios too!

  5. What about using 33 cm. (Atleast in the US anyway.) Most paging transmitters operated at 929 or 931 MHz and could possibly be moved to the amateur band between 902 to 928 MHz. I run a 33 cm repeater and have found gear to be rather inexpensive since most paging companies have gone under. Our feedline and antenna were left on the tower from a defunct paging company. All we had to do is build a repeater and plug it in. The best part of 33 cm is all of the old farts want to have nothing to do with it since they can’t just run out and buy a transciever for the band. You could set it up and the nay-sayers probably wouldn’t even know it was there until they saw someone using it and see its advantages.

  6. richard says:

    I would love to set up a 900 mhz amateur pager. I think it would be slick.

  7. alex says:

    I’ve used and worked to help build a system that used older advisor pagers and a 900mhz ham frequency. Worked well on a college campus, until we just had too many problems tracking down what we needed in order to properly generate a POCSAG packet. We didn’t have the cash to go out and buy one of the fancy Kantronics boxes that did this for us already.

    Eventually through another project, we found a couple of companies that would do refurb and crystal changes for around $40/pager. This got the pager retuned, crystal, retagged for our use. Small price to pay.

  8. n0xmz says:

    VE3HBD – So why did you end up scrapping the plan? Please don’t tell me it was because some old farts didn’t like it.

    We have thousands of frequencies that go unused every day and if I want to do something (legal) on a freq. and you don’t wanna hear it – SPIN THE VFO.

    I’m one of those few hams who belives in ADVANCING the radio art instead of keeping it in the 1930’s.

  9. VE3HBD says:

    No no no… I ended up moving out of my nice 16th floor apartment and didn’t have the time to continue the project.

  10. zerobeat says:

    Cool! If we keep bringing technology into ham radio from other services, then pretty soon, it will be indistinguishable from other services and absorbed within them!

    I’ve been advocating two meter FM rigs with “numbers”, so you just dial up your buddy’s two meter rig like a cellphone!

  11. n3jfw says:

    Cool! If we keep bringing technology into ham radio from other services, then pretty soon, it will be indistinguishable from other services and absorbed within them!

    I’ve been advocating two meter FM rigs with “numbers”, so you just dial up your buddy’s two meter rig like a cellphone!

    We already have that-dtmf paging. Kenwood and Icom both had that in the early 90’s.

    Technology does frighten people. I understand that, however I have zero sympathy for it.

    Go digital or go home.

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