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17 July 2011

HAMNET News: 17 July 2011

Much is currently being discussed around the current sun spot cycle, cycle 24, which in short is not delivering!

This cycle will peak around 2013 and the new cycle will peak around 2024, but will this happen? Many physicists around the world are currently a little perplexed by the phenomenon and it is also being suggested that the 11 or 22 year cycle as we know it, may disappear altogether! Maybe not immediately but are this signs of this happening already out there?

In an article published in “Sky & Telescope” dated June 14 this year, this phenomenon is discussed at length and although no consensus was reached, there are many points to ponder.

From an amateur radio point of view, this presents either problems or opportunities especially looking at emergency communication. Over the years, many institutions around the world have become very reliant on the amateur fraternity to assist ‘when all else fails’. Since the tsunami of 2004 and subsequent disasters, amateur radio emergency communication has grown out of all proportions.

But what if ‘normal’ communications is hampered by a lack of good propagation? Well, this is where our ingenuity and initiative has many opportunities.

The upcoming GAREC conference at Sun City in South Africa next month already has Digital communication on the Agenda and we will be taking a good look at expanding this means of communication in all its facets!

Obviously the Internet is also available to us and has been used extensively during recent post disaster communication where ‘normal’ communication due to a lack of propagation has been a problem.

Spread Spectrum is in its development stage with many countries already experimenting with this type of communication. Is this another avenue we should be looking at?

But what about existing established platforms, how can we enhance and expand these communication areas to adapt to changing circumstances!

I personally feel there is much to be gained from this propagation problem and it is a case of sitting down and having a look at how we can overcome the shortfalls we may be faced with right now.

Is the sun spot ‘hiccup’ a temporary phenomenon or is it a long term challenge that we need to tackle and overcome.

Emergency communication will always be with us – and it appears more so in the future as man made and natural disasters tend to be on the increase.

This is a golden opportunity to have a look at and start developing alternatives to meet the challenges in the future.

Reporting for Hamnet, this is Francois Botha – ZS6BUU.