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Richmond’s 145.43 repeater migrates to mixed mode FM/P25 system

untitled1 untitled4The Metropolitan Repeater Association (MRA) is chartered as a nonprofit
corporation by the State Corporation Commission under Virginia law. The MRA’s mission is to own, operate, and maintain repeaters supporting the amateur radio community. The MRA was established in 1981 and deployed it’s first VHF repeater, W4SQT (now known as KG4MRA) on March 6, 1982. The W4SQT repeater has been in continuous operation and is located at the WRLH tower in Midlothian, Virginia.

The MRA’s VHF repeater has evolved over the years The latest repeater was a
General Electric Mastr II station controlled by a CAT 1000B controller. The Mastr II has served the MRA well! As technology has evolved, so has the amateur radio community. There are now many types of digital technology commonly available to the average ham: P25, DMR, NXDN, System Fusion, and DStar for example.

The MRA decided at a 2013 board meeting to explore options to expand, enhance,
and benefit the amateur radio community. There were a few constraints mentioned and
diligently followed:

● Do not duplicate existing functionality in the coverage area meaning
we don’t need
another 2m/70cm FM repeater!
● Try to be thrifty!
● Minimize tower climbing if at all possible
● Add functionality that does not exist in the coverage area
● Consider the cost impact upon an average amateur radio operator

A small team of MRA members began researching the available modes, bands,
and cost impacts. The MRA team was presented with an option which met all of the
constraints of the MRA board a Motorola Quantar VHF, multimode (P25/FM) repeater.  The Quantar would allow the existing infrastructure to remain intact no tower climbs, no recabling, duplexer reuse and added an additional capability (P25) which did not exist within the coverage area! While one may argue that new P25 equipment is not cheap (and that is a fair argument!), used, reasonably priced equipment can be commonly found on eBay. A Motorola XTS3000, which is P25 and FM capable, can be purchased for approximately $250. A used XTS3000 is half the cost of a DStar ID51 ($515) and 60% of the cost of a Yeasu FT1DRB ($400). Again, while not “cheap”, certainly in the range of reasonable for digital gear.

Additionally, there is a lot of interesting P25 activity in the Software Defined Radio
(SDR) world. Some enterprising amateurs have developed a software suite which can
decode P25 digital packets for under $100. Check http://op25.osmocom.org/trac/wiki for
more information. Again VERY experimental, but isn’t experimentation part of the
amateur radio community spirit?

The MRA board agreed in March, 2014 to replace the existing GE Mastr II with the
Motorola Quantar. The Quantar was acquired, configured, and deployed on March 28,
2014. There was an initial week of “FM only” testing; used to ensure the coverage would
be equal or better than the prior repeater. P25 mode is permitted on April 4, 2014. Multi
mode P25/FM was now fully available to the amateur radio community within the MRA
repeater’s coverage area!

The repeater installation crew (from Left to Right): N4MW, K8OI, WB4KXS, KD4BPZ) not
shown KD4RJN.   The Quantar is in front!  If you are ever driving up/down I95
through Richmond, VA give a CQ on 145.430pl 74.4 FM or P25!

73 de K8OI
Jim Bates

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Me at 199lbs after losing 100lbs.


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New repeater buildout in progress

photoDoug and I have been working on building up a replacement for the KG4YJB repeater system that we have been assisting with for a while now.  The 1970′s vintage Mastr II is proving to be more challenging to maintain each day.  Here is the current state of the replacement system.  Tx/Rx will be surplus CDM750′s (thanks Darren) and the VHF link radio is a Radius M216 (thanks Brad P).  Rob provided the Arcom controller, and Doug and I are handling wiring, programming and other setup.  Nothing fancy, but it will ensure that this system remains available for all to enjoy.  Stay tuned for full deployment information in the spring.


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First Richmond NXDN Repeater Is On The Air

Richmond’s first NXDN repeater is on the air.  It is a digital/analog mixed mode Icom IC-FR6000 repeater located in Ashland, VA.  This repeater is coordinated by the SouthEastern Repeater Association.

Input: 448.1375 MHz
Output: 443.1375 MHz
RAN 1 / PL 100.0
NBFM Analog
VNFM (6.25 kHz) NXDN

It is connected to the worldwide NXDN network.

Posted in Digital ops, Life above 30 MHz | 1 Comment

Field Day 2013–The Results Are In!



The ARRL has posted the results from the 2013

Field Day, and WA4FC did well!

Officially, our station achieved a score of 3380 points, with 1373 QSOs.

How did that rank? Here’s some analysis:

ALL USA/CANADA: 466th of 2548 stations, #221 in QSO count.
ALL ARRL ROANOKE DIV: 46th of 202 stations, #28 in QSO count.
ALL VIRGINIA: 18th of 80 stations, #12 in QSO count.
ALL 2E STATIONS W/VE: 9th of 30 stations, FOURTH in QSO count.

What if we ran as a 2A station, one of the most popular station classes in the contest? There were 398 entrants in that category, and we would have ranked 63rd in QSO count. Our score would have been #102.

Clearly, we were a contender in terms of QSO count. There are things that we can do, to improve the overall score. This includes making more CW or digital contacts, making a satellite contact, copying the W1AW bulletins, sending NTS traffic, and more. If we get together again for 2014, we’ll work on taking advantage of more of those bonus points.

I am really proud of our result, and once again, I want to thank everyone who participated in the event, and to the trustees of WA4FC for letting us invade the shack for the weekend. I hope you had as much fun as I did.

I will repost this article in the forums. Please go there, and share your comments and experiences.

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The second Richmond 900 MHz Repeater Is On The Air

(from richmond-900 yahoo group, courtesy of WB4KXS)

The second 900 MHz Richmond repeater is on the air from south side right now. It is on 927.0250 / 902.0250 MHz.  It is a mixed mode repeater, that is it can work in analog mode using 100 Hz PL, OR it will work in P25 digital mode using NAC $293.

The repeater output (after the duplexer) is 60 watts.  The antenna is fed by about 500 feet of 7/8 inch hardline.  The antenna is one that was already mounted on the PBS tower.  However, it is NOT a 900 MHz antenna. In fact we do not really know what the antenna is, but we suspect that it is a UHF (450 MHz) antenna.  We have a 900 MHz Super StationMaster antenna ready to go, but are trying to find a way to cover the cost of having a commercial tower crew (that is approved by PBS) put the 900 MHz antenna up on the tower.  When the Super StationMaster antenna is in place, this repeater’s range should improve greatly.  Then again, even with the current antenna, it works surprisingly well.

If you have one of the Kenwood TK-981 radios that N4MW and I have set up and distributed in Virginia, mainly in the Richmond metro area, this repeater is just two channels down from the downtown Richmond repeater you have been using.

If you have one of the P25 EFJ 5100 handheld radios that were recently available on eBay, you are ready to go on analog.  You will need to get the very latest version of the software configuration for it to work on P25. Any 5100 programmed at the last Tailgate Fest (or since then) is programmed for P25 on this repeater.  If you need a 5100 update, let me know and we can fix you up with the newest configuration.

Thanks to N4MW for the engineering, metal work, duplexer, time, and sweat to put together this repeater, a Motorola Quantar.  Thanks to K3WRY for the Bird meter panel we are using in this repeater.  Thanks to RATS for getting permission to put this repeater at the PBS site, and thanks to PBS for giving that permission.


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Yaesu Announces Digital Voice Repeater at the @ARRL and TAPR Digital Comms Conference

It’s mostly depressing.  Another digital mode, that isn’t interoperable with any of the others.  Lets all go back to AM.

Posted in Digital ops | 4 Comments

Birds eye view of the shack

shack 1bombshack 2For those of you who haven’t seen the shack lately (or at all) here is a view of what you would expect.  If you look closely, you’ll see my shadow in one of the pics.  In the other, you can clearly see how the two yagis are offset currently due to the wind we experienced a while back. Yes ladies, it sounds as good as the tower looks.


Posted in WA4FC Shack | 1 Comment

Video Beacon Report

This report came to use yesterday from Roger, W4MW (EM96) near Charlotte, NC on our 6 meter beacon station.  On a related note, the 10 meter signal is way down and we will be troubleshooting next week.

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