An Amateur Time Service?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KK5JY, Aug 26, 2018.

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  1. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    With the real possibility of a WWV shutdown in our near future, I started thinking about what would be needed for the amateur service to stand up a service of similar utility. It's not something that I'm considering doing tomorrow, but it does seem like a reasonable thing to think about if WWV shuts down.

    Technically, the WWV and WWVB transmissions are quite simple. Keeping them synchronized to UTC should also be simple, via NTP and a good local clock. Achieving the same level of frequency and time accuracy as NIST is probably not realistic, but getting within a few msec is certainly possible.

    Then again, are the WWV* formats the best? They require full-time transmission, but they could be compressed into shorter transmissions if higher bit-rates were used, which might also allow higher power without higher power cost. WWV uses AM, but would SSB be better? Or FSK or PSK?

    From a regulatory standpoint, an amateur version of WWV might require some minor rule changes. Broadcasting is specifically disallowed, but since W1AW regularly broadcasts "code practice," we are probably not far from finding a lawful way to do a WWV clone on the ham bands. WSPR already transmits data regularly for propagation research, so perhaps something similar could be done with a time encoding? That might get two birds with a single stone?

    So I'm curious what people think about that idea in general, and what issues (and associated solutions) might be encountered.

    Some fuel for the thought experiment fire:
    • Power levels? Hams do reliable, low-data-rate communications all the time with 100W and even lower power levels. Since increasing power means increased equipment and operating costs, what would be a good power target?
    • Location? Locations?
    • Frequencies?
    • Format(s)? I'm thinking both base transmission mode and data encoding, as well as timing (full- vs. part-time transmission).
    • Content? What would you put in such a service besides just time?
    • Regulatory challenges and minimum changes to fix them?
    One other thing that might be interesting to discuss is the uses. A couple come to mind:
    • Propagation information.
    • Amateur-specific timing source (for you FT8 people :D).
    But there could easily be more uses for such a service, to make it more worth the effort.

    I'm mostly thinking blue-sky at this point, but feel free to be brutally practical -- if you were going to start a new HF time service from scratch, for amateur and SWL use, what options would you pick?
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2018
  2. N1BCG

    N1BCG Ham Member QRZ Page

    Accurate time can be provided from satellites directly or from cell towers indirectly. Either method eliminates issues with transmission, propogation, and licensing.

    Mobile devices such as phones could provide ultra accurate time for other devices.

    Ironically, it’s likely that transmitted time/frequency standards would use satellites and not their own cesium atomic clock.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2018
    WA7PRC likes this.
  3. N5PAR

    N5PAR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Or you could’ve just look at your cell, smart phone, or computer clock, they are all synchronized through the inter web to the correct time.

    Sorry N1BCG didn’t see your post while I was posting mine. So there you go two people with similar ideas.
  4. K1VSK

    K1VSK Ham Member QRZ Page

    IMG_0536.JPG For what purpose?
  5. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Frequency, too.
  6. W5BIB

    W5BIB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    AD5HR likes this.
  7. W4ZD

    W4ZD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Seems to me that such a service-- if it is intended for general usage -- would have to use a voice mode (AM/SSB). Not everyone is set up to work digital modes, and not everyone is proficient with CW, for example. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with implementing multiple modes on multiple frequencies.

    I would think that, if the service were to operate in the ham bands, you would want as much power output as possible. There would always be some yahoo trying to call CQ on your frequency.

    Just my 2 cents. :)
  8. N1BCG

    N1BCG Ham Member QRZ Page

    Another option would be to set up a Go Fund Me account, buy WWV, and run ads for Gigaparts and Icom to pay for it.

    Portuguese Books On Tape and brokered pharmaceutical programming are also options for revenue.
    KK4CUL likes this.
  9. ND6M

    ND6M Ham Member QRZ Page

    No, but I just might operate split 5 down
  10. VK4HAT

    VK4HAT Ham Member QRZ Page

    GPS locked WSPR?

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