Club Repeater in Southern Benton County Take 2

Continuing the discussion from Club repeater coverage of Southern Benton County:

I hate to branch this off into another topic, but I want to clear the threads for aditional conversation.

I’ve had a few conversations with some new operators lately (especially those that are HT only with a rubber duck) and there seems to be a common consensus amongst all of them. People much farther south than Mercy Medical Center in Rogers are having difficult times getting into the club repeaters. While I agree that operators should learn about how an antenna will affect your ability to transmit and receive signals, I think it’s also important that we get new operators on the air, in any way we can.

This all being said, I’d like to propose some observations. Currently the repeaters are in the far North Eastern Corner of the county, and kind-of midwest part of the county. You can see the locations on this map I plotted.

I think if we were able to place a third repeater in the far south kind of Mid South (Callahan Mountain maybe if there is a tower), we could maxamize our coverage for our new operators, and have more area covered for events and weather spotting.

I know myself and at least two other members (whom I won’t oust) would help cover most of the cost for adding a third repeater to our system, but we would need the expertise of our more experienced operators and repeater trustee.

If we can, let’s try to keep this particular thread to the pros and cons of adding a third repeater to the club system and not jump off on other tangents.

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Hello all. Long time listener first time caller (…or forum reply-er?)

I’m the owner/trustee of the 147.315 in Bethel Heights (Dodd MTN. Look up K5DVT-16 on APRS.fi) Anyone is welcome anytime to use it. As of the moment it is stand alone but with it’s web connectivity it plays weather alerts and can link to other repeaters, such as those in Little Rock.

I’m building a UHF “remote base” so I can link to what ever I would like in range of the Repeater. While I wouldn’t mind linking up to the BCRO Repeaters for nets(with permission of course) I’m uncertain if I would want to keep it linked full time.

It has coverage to most of the East-West and gets down to Fayetteville okay, but does have some shadow spots around MLK. (But that’s a hole anyways. North is uncertain, Signal reports are greatly appreciated) the Repeater puts out 100 watts continuously and has a battery back up of 14 hours.

It’s food for thought, it sits there quietly for the majority of week days and gets some activity with the Saturday night Campfire net.

73
Jon K5DVT

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Jon, welcome to the forums (finally)!

Thank you for offering up your repeater for our net operations. I think this is potentially a great solution at least temporarily, and I totally understand not wanting it to remain linked at all times. We can continue our conversation on this through messenger and hopefully work out a game plan to test this out with club approval.

For everyone else that thinks the answer to this topic is to improve your station (HT) you are both right and wrong.

I know a half dozen or more people who are interested in amateur radio now that the entry fee (radio costs) have become more affordable. Every one of them is eager to hear something over the air to see if it is worth taking a test to get licensed. I encourage them to tune into the local nets to hear and get to know some of the active hams in the area. Many have had me assist with programming so I am putting all the local repeaters in for them so that they have access to the link system and the BCRO link as well as several standalone repeaters (K5DVT-16 on Dodd for example).

When one of the new hams gets interested and wants to listen our answer should never be “oh sure you just bought a radio now you have to do these other things to actually make it useful.” Our answer should be “okay, here are your limitations with that equipment so you will probably need to focus on these repeaters from your home” and show them how to look up repeater locations (repeater book) so they know which ones to move to as they are mobile. Insisting that they need to modify something, buy more gear, or buy a different radio all together should be the last step once we identify their location as the main limiting factor of their equipment. Sometimes that can’t be avoided and that is fine. Use it is a learning opportunity once you have highlighted the limitations of their equipment.

Once we get them convinced that they should get licensed and start participating then we should start asking what they want to do next. Home fixed antenna? Help them pick their first base station? Upgrade to a true mobile unit? Or go into more mods for their current HT antenna situation.

Don’t get me wrong, suggesting that they improve from the factory rubber duckie antenna on an HT SHOULD be one of the first things suggested, but telling them they should throw up a pole of any size should not. Assume you are talking to someone that lives were that isn’t an option.

One of the guys that was fired up discovered that he was in a little bit of a weak area at home even for the link system. He upgraded his antenna, but even then was only reliably listening to the link and was never able to hear the BCRO nets/repeaters. He ended up tossing his radio in a drawer for the last 6-8 months because it seemed useless to him. He is now excited and ready to test again as he is starting to participate in a lot more outdoor activities, and sees where amateur radio can become useful to him again. Two of the other guys still have their radios stashed. Maybe the will come back maybe they won’t.

The amateur radio service isn’t as easy of a sell as it once was. We are very fortunate to have the repeater system that we do as well as a solid group of Elmers eager to share knowledge. We still gotta get 'em in the door first though. We do that by providing reliable coverage to the entry level.

Updating to add that I know radio isn’t easy and getting it right takes effort. We should use the resources available to reduce that effort to new operators as much as possible, and we are lucky to have some seriously great resources in NWA.

@KI5FAQ I agree. Most hams (especially young hams we try to attract to the hobby) are budget limited. I used to be in those shoes (could argue I still am :grinning:) and for me experimenting and making the most out of what I have was the challenge.

However I have mixed emotions when it comes to my inner repeater owner/trustee. Some repeaters are designed to have HT coverage and some are designed for maximum mobile/base coverage. It seems counter intuitive but there is a big difference. Just because a repeater has been built to maximize coverage doesn’t mean it has great HT coverage. Repeaters like the Huntsville Airport and Beaver Lake are such of these “HT” designed repeaters. You can’t hit these probably more than 15/20 miles away, but when you get inside that circle, it is extremely easy to hit on just about anything. Mean while repeaters like the 145.310 in Green Forest can be hit from Siloam Springs on a typical mobile setup but has a “blind spot” at HWY 412 and 21… Just 10 miles from the repeater.

All that being said, my point is that their comes a point when users can’t get into a repeater really just need to improve their station some how, or change to a different repeater if they can. In a lot of cases of “blind spots”,“shadows”, and “holes” they are just that. It’s only natural for their to be radio holes. I’m not going to answer the question of whether or not the club should put up another repeater… I’m not a member and that’s not my place but are these blind spots, shadows, and holes AND the amount of users in them enough justification for setting up another repeater? Repeaters are a lot of money, time, and troubleshooting.

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Jon, your last paragraph sums up exactly why we are encouraging this discussion. Are we actually providing coverage to the county we serve, and if so what can we do to really encourage prospective new licenses to improve their reception.

Thank you, I really appreciate your input on this topic btw.

K5DVT Jon W. has really laid out some salty techno repeater gospel. We do have Steve Werner also, who flies at Jon’s altitude, he is our club repeater ‘fixer dude’. Steve can make thoughtful equations on this topic. Jon W. has had his stethoscope on the heart of local repeater activity for a long time and his points are so valid, and insightful. Our club, with it’s modest growth is severely challenged by geographic suburban distance between members and repeaters. We are in an awkward situation when we encourage participation and stations with limited resources are left to disappointments, especially when dollars become the pivotal issue to join club conversations on VHF / UHF. We must begin the proverbial “out of box” thinking here. I am not the biggest advocate of things like Echolink, Allstar, DMR, or Green Eggs and Ham modes but at some point we must gain connectivity outside our current range and remain budget friendly. Could a Blow Torch at Whitney mountain help ? Could VoIP linkages bring in folks legit, by way of cell, and computer ? Let’s use our imagination first. Then take a closer look at budget to participation ratio next. We have fantastic new members outside the clubs RF footprint. We can not hard sell participation without addressing this. 73

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I think it’s a good idea, but just depends on club resources, time etc. But I would be in favor of expanding the BCRO repeater footprint.

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