Pactor 4 - ARRL Petition

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DaveK
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Pactor 4 - ARRL Petition

#1

Post by DaveK » Fri Dec 27, 2013 6:42 pm

As many know, I use Airmail extensively whenever we travel beyond cell phone range. For those that don't know, Airmail is a communications program that uses Ham radio frequencies to both send and receive regular email messages, as well as pictures. Because it uses the HF bands, there are virtually no places where it will not work. In the deepest canyons, in the most remote locations, and under very noisy conditions, Airmail works. There have been many ocassions where Airmail worked where Sat phones would not!

In order to make the most efficient use of this program, it is necessary to use a modem made by the SCS Company (Germany) utilizing their Pactor technology. The current Pactor offering in the US is Pactor 3 and when used strictly for text email messages, it is not quite as fast as regular email. All things in the Ham radio world progress and Pactor is no exception. The SCS guys have been busy and about a year ago they introduced the Pactor 4 modem. By most reports, it is 2-3 times faster than P3 and now offers about the same speed as regular email.

Without going into unnecessary detail, the problem with P4 was that it exceeded the FCC limited symbol rate, thus making its use in the US, illegal. Enter the ARRL. Some months ago, the ARRL stepped into this issue with a Petition for Rule Change, requesting modification of the current symbol rate. This change would allow the use of several new technologies, including Pactor4. They noted that:
The symbol rate restrictions were created to suit digital modes that are no longer in favor,” the ARRL noted in its petition. “If the symbol rate is allowed to increase as technology develops and the Amateur Service utilizes new data emission types, the efficiency of amateur data communications will increase.


This move by the ARRL is a tremendous boon to the effort to support increasing efficiency in Amateur Radio data communications. Very interestingly, the issue surrounding the changes which the ARRL has proposed, have proven to be the most active proceedings ever. From the ARRL:
The League’s petition now tops the FCC’s “Most Active Proceedings” list. As of the December 23 comment deadline, more than 850 comments had been filed.
For those who support this advancing technology, you will be pleased to learn that the majority of the comments support the symbol change.

For those who have or would like to have one of the most efficient wilderness communications devices, the SCS Pactor4 modem is at the top of the heap. They offer two models, both capable of delivering the same performance - the Pactor4 7800 and the Pactor4 7400. Cost and features differentiate the models, but the performance is identical. I will post the final ruling by the FCC when it comes down.
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DaveK
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Re: Pactor 4 - ARRL Petition

#2

Post by cruiserlarry » Fri Dec 27, 2013 7:01 pm

It will be great to see regulating bodies, such as the FCC, finally get to do what they were designed to do - protect those who utilize the services offered, while adapting those services to rapid changes in technology.

This is especially beneficial in areas such as Amateur Radio, where licensed users have the opportunity to experiment with new technology, potentially leading to further advances or more efficient / cost effective equipment inspired from home-brew projects.

Now, lets hope there are some folks whose sense of logic and reason is still intact at the FCC, and that they allow for the implemetation of policies beneficial to Pactor 4 and other digital modes coming up on the horizon...
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Re: Pactor 4 - ARRL Petition

#3

Post by DaveK » Fri Aug 17, 2018 11:46 am

This notice may be a little late to the game, but rumors have it that the FCC is about to make a final decision with regard to the ARRL's Petition. Caution is urged here, however, not to read too much into my comment concerning how quickly the FCC will act.

As I mentioned previously, the ARRL Petition was submitted in 2013. After 3 years, the FCC issued what they call a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking", or in FCC speak, a NPRM. In short, they agreed with the ARRL's Petition (at least in most respects) and proposed that rules be adopted that would allow the use of the P4 Pactor modems. The NPRM was issued in 2016 and clearly signals their intent to change the rules. It's now been two years and we are eagerly awaiting final notice of the rule change.

Here is the NPRM" in PDF format (and thankfully, it is only 11 pages):
FCC- - NPRM rm-11708-1.pdf
(196.09 KiB) Downloaded 3 times
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Re: Pactor 4 - ARRL Petition

#4

Post by DaveK » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:02 am

UPDATE

The debate over changing the outdated FCC rules, which prevents the use of Pactor 4 modems, often involved a discussion of the use of this technology for emergency communications. While some may have denied the value of Pactor 4, current circumstances have not only validated it, but we may now have a signal from the FCC regarding how soon we may see a welcome change.

For those who are familiar with one of the underlying justifications for Amateur radio, you will remember that it is to provide for communications in disasters and emergencies. The recent emergency in Hawaii, due to hurricane Lane, resulted in a request to the FCC for a temporary waiver of the rules regarding Pactor 4. In granting the waiver, the FCC acknowledged the need for a change in the symbol rate (the reason why Pactor 4 is not legal.) The ARRL recently posted the following information regarding the waiver (http://www.arrl.org/news/fcc-grants-tem ... ef-efforts.)


The FCC has granted FEMA, working in conjunction with ARRL, a request to waive current Amateur Radio rules to permit data transmissions at a higher symbol rate than currently permitted to facilitate hurricane relief communications between the continental US and the islands of Hawaii, in response to Hurricane Lane.

This temporary waiver is limited to Amateur Radio operators in Hawaii using PACTOR 4 emissions, and to those radio amateurs in the continental US who are directly involved with hurricane relief communications involving Hawaii, the Commission said.

The waiver petition was a cooperative effort of FEMA and ARRL and represents the strong working relationship the two organizations established following their efforts with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017.
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