NSF/Mozilla contest awards $400K for HF linked EMCOM cell net idea

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by W0PV, Oct 1, 2018.

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  1. W0PV

    W0PV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Last week winners of the Wireless Innovation for a Networked Society (WINS) Challenge were announced in several outlets of the tech press. Here is a link to the story at ZDNet and IEEE Spectrum.

    One of the top prizes went to the developers of HERMES, or High-frequency Emergency and Rural Multimedia Exchange System. The team is centered around an organization named Rhizomatica.

    If you don't want to read just watch this video.

    Some items in the description of their HERMES system caught my eye relative to amateur radio.

    See bullet 2 / The Idea (click the "read more" down arrow),

    "The solution, which integrates GSM and HF backhaul technology, can provide connectivity to places struck be natural disasters or populations living in remote areas. As the system does not rely on cables or satellites, it could also be used as a backup system for primary communications systems. ... We have essentially married VoIP, GSM and HF so that users can send a text or voice message from their phone across the world without the need for a satellite."

    Also bullet 4 / Resources ("read more" down arrow), Documentation,


    Transmission mode: Single Side Band
    RF signal path: Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS)
    Channel width: 2.5 kHz
    Frequencies: between 5 and 7 MHz
    Power output: 10 W – 100 W adjustable
    Adaptive digital modulation modes: 4FSK, 4PSK, 16QAM, ranging from 1 to 10 carriers and different symbol rates, all with Reed Solomon Forward Error Correction

    COMPONENTS - HERMES EQUIPMENT LIST (all commercial products primarily for AR)

    HF Radio
    ICOM 7100 – HF Radio transceiver
    Buddipole – Portable HF antenna OR MFJ-1778 – Wire Antenna
    Astron RS-35A – Power supply (not very portable) for HF radio OR 12V 50A Switching PS (much more portable)
    MFJ-941E – HF Antenna Tuner, Coaxial RF cables with PL-259 connectors

    MFJ-1926 – Telescopic fiberglass mast
    DX Engineering DXEA15 – Guying Earth Anchors
    DX Engineering DXEGR – Guy Rings

    Software components from at least two licensed Hams are also referenced here, the ARDOP (Amateur Radio Digital Open Protocol) TNC implementation by John Wiseman (GM8BPQ) and D-RATS is a free, easy to use, multi-platform program for data communications with D-STAR devices by Dan Smith (KK7DS).

    Successful tests and demonstrations of this system have apparently occurred in Latin America

    To me the HERMES system is an intriguing proposition, a clever and useful if disruptive technology systems integration; a tip of my hat to the hands-on developers.

    However, I have concerns about how the activist styled Rhizomatica organization intends to deploy it within international and domestic regulatory frameworks, especially in regards to the HF spectrum mentioned, and the rest of it if ever used within the USA.

    Appreciate any informative comment the Zed audience can provide.

    73, John, WØPV

    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
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  2. KQ6XA

    KQ6XA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Interesting project.

    It is certainly a step up from "The Jungle Telephone" which has been the HF SSB lifeline for remote rural communities in Latin America and Africa for the past 50 years.

    I wish them good luck and success.

    There are still villages out there with no hope of getting traditional commercial methods of cellular or internet service in the near future.

    History of the Jungle Telephone... what they had in these areas before:
    With the old Jungle Telephone, each remote village or large farm has an HF SSB frequency that it monitors for calls.
    Usually during daytime from about 3 MHz to 10 MHz.
    To call that village, you dial up their frequency on your VFO, whistle into the mic, and repeat the name of the village a few times. Eventually, someone will answer, and you can often get them to send a runner to find the person you want to talk with to come to the radio.
    Alternatively, you can have them write a message "telegram" and pass it on to them.
    The cost is very cheap and affordable (less than $1 per message when I used it during Andes/Amazon expeditions in 1999 and 2004) .
    Many of the old Jungle Telephone HF stations technically operate without a license, some are licensed, some not... but it is not enforced, because there really hasn't been any alternative... the business and lifeline of those areas would grind to a halt without them.
    Bussiness people in the village often have the jungle telephone HF frequency printed on their business card.
    The old Jungle Telephone is still in use to this day in some areas, but cellular with satellite backhaul will eventually make it extinct.

    Here's an old receipt from my 1999 expedition, where I deposited 20 peru sols (1 sol = $0.30US) to a Jungle Telephone station that monitored a 5.7 MHz frequency. This was enough for 20 "telegram" messages or voice calls to anyone in the village.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
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  3. KQ6XA

    KQ6XA Ham Member QRZ Page

    P.S. As you can see in the above receipt, the callsign of the jungle telephone station was "Delta".
    Note the "X.A." as the "Lugar" or location (for OA8/KQ6XA and OA9/KQ6XA).
    I monitored a 7 MHz ham radio frequency during the expedition (there were hams on the expedition, we used Vertex VX-1210 manpack and some Mizuho 7 MHz SSB HTs).
    Delta called me on HF to coordinate with our pack train guy and also for food supplies :)
    The medical clinic in the village had another HF frequency that they monitored at specific times during the day, that they told us we could call if we needed medical assistance.

    Also in a lot of remote places, there is a jungle telephone system on VHF FM in the 149-160 MHz range.
    Each place monitors a specific frequency, and you just dial up that frequency and holler for them.

    I found some early youtube videos on Rhizomatica in Philadelphia, PA, which seems to have some connection to the folks who developed the HERMES system and got the grant award.
    It looks like they've been building remote community comms for quite a number of years in rural Mexico and elsewhere.

    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
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  4. KQ6XA

    KQ6XA Ham Member QRZ Page

    A small GSM Community Cellular Network (CCN) usually utilizes 2 main components:
    1. Base transceiver station (BTS) as the GSM "tower" station.
    2. Base station controller (BSC) to interface with a SIP or IP-based backhaul.
    An example spec sheet for a GSM base with BTS and BSC within a single system, intended for sat backhaul: with 7 simultaneous call capacity, expandable to 28.
    RF Bands:
    • GSM 850MHz
    • EGSM 900MHz
    • DCS 1800 MHz
    • PCS 1900 MHz

    An article about CCN:
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  5. N1SCA

    N1SCA Ham Member QRZ Page

    very interesting story hope you all well out their and thanks for sharing.
  6. K6CLS

    K6CLS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Gosh, I hope they didn't exceed 300 bits per second! (Yes bits, not baud, dumb FCC.)
  7. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for sharing the videos. About the content of the 3 rd videos:

    On one hand the project staff seems to complain about the large telcoms, yet ii is because cell service in so universal that the equipment is available, let alone inexpensive enough o put up a cell or pico cell site to service a community. Off-the-shelf no less. They are also completely dependent on centralized electrical service and ditto for internet connectivity. It would seem battery backup is not affordable as yet.

    This path (HF to satcom to cell service) was followed in Alaska, but thru subsidy and not self-reliance, so it is neat to see locals trying to support themselves - and to pay for the service they use. The fellow in the first video makes a critical point - the people using the service must pay for it, otherwise there will be no maintenance, upgrades, etc...

    Finally, if you are wondering why the German music is being played, that area of Mexico had a large in flux of Germans - esp Veracruz.

    That omm-pah-pah style of music is refereed to as norteño

    see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Mexicans for more.

    Also thanks to the OP for this, I'll be certain to share this on other boards.
  8. W0PV

    W0PV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well they probably are not paying much attention to current Part 97 rules, which may be OK where they are currently deploying. Not sure what international regs they may bump up against though. That is part of the bigger question I posed.

    Deploying in the USA, like in remote disadvantaged under-served Native American tribal areas, or even for temporary EMCOM situations, would seem problematic, unless they can work something out commercially with the FCC, or if for the latter, some how legally incorporate AR licensed privileges (at higher bit rates ;)) to perform the HF link for a ARES / HERMES type system.

    I imagine this would have been handy in KP4 during the acute phase of the Maria storm disaster. Wonder if / when the ARRL would consider partnering up with them? Or would they view it as "not-invented here" competition for their future EMCOM system plans. :(

    After all, this project is now being funded by substantial USA tax dollars too :eek:
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  9. K6CLS

    K6CLS Ham Member QRZ Page

    well I feel dumb... just realized they may not be deploying in the US so the dumb FCC 300bps limit may not apply.

    I am glad to read about their successes!

    yes maybe that will encourage some flexibility on the part of the ARRL EMCOM guys ... and maybe some ammo to revise the 300bps HF rule.
  10. KE8AQW

    KE8AQW Ham Member QRZ Page

    A correction to the original post, the Telescopic Mast is MFJ 1916. The MFJ 1926 is a screwdriver antenna controller.

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