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RE: Going Digital... Ham Radio?

> I have experimented with digital communications including 
> packet, PSK31, and 
> APRS.  I have found them to be fascinating from a hobby/experimenter 
> standpoint, but like many others aspects of ham radio, of 
> limited practical 

Of those, I see a lot of value in APRS myself, especially when adding
satellite capabilities into the mix.  I guess, coming from a large country
full of wide open spaces, I can immediately see how satellites can open up
APRS, as well as the utility and even potential life saving value of such a
system in the Australian outback. 

> value.  I'm not saying that anything is wrong with that.  
> It's just that 
> sometimes we like to make an argument for an application with its 
> practicality in mind and as soon as we begin to do that, it 
> naturally gets 
> compared with a similar commercial service.

One thing about ham radio is it doesn't have to have more practicality than
the curiosity of a sufficient number of people to want to try it. :-)

> I was wondering how hams could use our operating privileges 
> to take advantage 
> of high speed wireless connections.  One compelling 
> application that comes to 
> mind is wireless Internet surfing.  But would there be a 
> problem with that?  
> For example, much of what you can do on the Internet has a 
> commercial nature. 

I see lots of potential problems with this application, and down here, it
would never fly.  Our limitations are more restrictive than those in the US.
However, I do see the potential for medium to high speed data networks that
tie in with existing packet and analog systems.  There is currently, for
example, a lot of voice over IP technology out there, some of it is open
source.  Multicast voice over IP on a network designed for that purpose
could have some interesting applications, such as ad hoc, remotely
configurable repeater linking.  

> Even though wireless Internet communications would be a compelling 
> application, is it even possible to put up the infrastructure 
> to make it 
> work?  It might be easy enough to do it on a local scale, but 
> suppose I 
> wanted to access the service from the back country in 
> Colorado or even 

These are issues we have to deal with.  Perhaps, we might have to accept
that we can't do everything on an amateur budget.  Afterall, the issues down
here are much more severe (low population density and very large distances
between sites).

Satellites certainly offer some things, and for intermittent use
applications such as APRS, LEOs are a good way to go, especially if we
could, in the long term, get a constellation of LEOs all running on the same
frequency pair.

For the "heavier duty" data transmission, things get somewhat more complex
and we run into the limitations of an amateur budget.  Does this make it
unfeasible?  Not necessarily, if someone finds a creative solution, but for
the moment, some things will remain a pipe dream until someone finds a way
that is practical for amateurs.

Mind you, in a country like Australia, the value of HF cannot be overlooked,
to provide limited service to remote areas.  Again, let's use all that we
have to our advantage.

> Granted there are already non-licensed Internet appliances 
> which operate on 
> ham frequencies, but with the restrictions of low power and 
> short distance.  
> What can we do with the extra power and antenna privileges we 
> have that 
> cannot currently be done with the unlicensed devices?

A couple of us down here are trying to get more info on these devices to
look at the feasibility of adapting them to ham use.  However, it is very
much a background project at this stage.  Sort of an "any interesting info
appreciated" basis, at this stage.

> We sometimes look around the hobby and wonder why more people 
> are not taking 
> advantage of all the technologies we have available to the 
> ham community.  I 
> think it's because we are all waiting for the next 'killer 
> app' to come 

I guess that's part of modern life.  We've become so used so some corporate
giant offering that killer app, we've forgotten our own imaginations and
resourcefulness and got lazy. :-)

> that, the first round of packet arrived before pervasive 
> Internet connections 
> and made email and BBS applications practical.  In a way, it was the 
> predecessor to the Internet.  

Indeed.  I was having international chat via packet a few years before the
Internet became popular.  Mind you, it did rely on the Internet (wormhole),
but at the time, it was something most people could only dream of.

> What can the ham radio community do for an encore?

Time will tell, but just quietly, I feel we will come up with something. :-)
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