04 Aug

145.490 Repeater Back On Air from North Dartmouth!

2015-08-04After a 2-year hiatus since having to move the 145.490 repeater from its long-standing location at Boston Hill Road in Fairhaven, MA, the 145.490 repeater is now on the air at its new location on Wilbur Avenue in North Dartmouth, MA.  The repeater was put on the air at 8:38 PM on Friday, July 31st, 2015.  The following is the current status on the repeater and its current capabilities.  Additional adjustments to the repeater will be required in the weeks ahead, in order to get it to be the fully capable system we had intended.  This is due to issues found at the current site that we will be accounting for and adjusting to in the coming weeks.

The current configuration of the repeater is that we are running 160 watts.  We have two antennas at the repeater site and currently we are using the higher antenna for transmitting and the lower antenna for receiving.  When the issues we found at the site and installation are resolved, the repeater will have the ability to link to other repeaters via two remote base radios, one on 2m and the other on 440 MHz.  The remote base radios are currently disconnected due to the split antenna use for the current repeater configuration.  This is the most optimal configuration for usage we can provide at this time, but we’ll be striving for further improvements in the coming weeks.  These improvements will allow one antenna to be used for the repeater and the other for the remote base radios.

The issues found at site install include a high noise floor, which is affecting people’s ability to get into the repeater.  This is especially true from HT radios, as well as longer distance locations particularly to the east of the current site.  This means that the repeater is transmitting out to areas better than it is able to receive stations.  We are finding that the coverage is outperforming our expectations to the west and southwest based on Amateurs who have come on to the repeater.  The goal is to reach or exceed our expectations based on the coverage plots we have for the current site.  Also, during the initial site install, a couple fuses blew affecting the repeater pre-amp and this was addressed and fixed on Saturday, August 1st when the repeater was changed to its current configuration.  We hope that these issues can be addressed in the coming weeks.

The repeater will also have EchoLink/IRLP capability.  Due to the site location, it is more difficult to get Comcast Xfinity Internet to the site location, though there may be some creative ways to do it.  The current Internet configuration is using a Verizon Wireless Air Card with an Air Card router system known as an EVDO router.  On Saturday Evening August 1st, this was utilized to participate in the VoIP Hurricane Prep Net, an EchoLink/IRLP based net that occurs weekly during the Hurricane Season months of June through November.  The speed of the Internet connection, which was one of our concerns, was quite good and very usable.  Our other concern is that the router/air card may have issues with dropping Internet and may need a reset.  This was an issue, as we lost Internet connectivity during the net and the node currently doesn’t have Internet connectivity.  We will be looking at either a way to reset the router/air card system remotely when this occurs as a short-term fix.  Long-term, we will look for a creative way to get Xfinity Internet to the site as the ultimate solution to the issue.  We may reset this condition by going to the site occasionally for now, but the node capability will be intermittent until we either get a different Internet connection or a way to remotely reset the router/Internet functionality.

We realize that it has been a long time since the 145.490 repeater has been put back on the air since the decision to remove the repeater from the Fairhaven site.  Initial delays during 2014 were due to having to wait to get the antennas installed at the new site.  This was after discovering in late 2013 that the current antennas at the site were not working well with the repeater system.  This work was completed in September 2014.  Following that installation, the remaining delays were due to personal and work commitment issues for Rick-W1RJC, who has done the primary wiring and programming of the repeater, and Rob-KD1CY, who spent several months caring for his sick mother who passed away in March 2015.  Over the course of the spring into the early summer of 2015, significant work has taken place to get the repeater back on the air.  Finally on Friday, July 31st, 2015, the repeater has been placed back on the air with some of the limitations as noted in this press release.

With the largest amount of the work completed, we anticipate that the remaining work that is left to adjust to the conditions of the new repeater location will be able to be completed over the next 1-2 months.  There would be three caveats that may extend the timeline; 1) the technical nature of some of the issues may be more difficult to debug; 2) adjustments may need to be made to the antennas and feedline at the site location, and; 3) an unforeseen personal issue or item for the key technical team members that reduces available time to resolve the remaining issues.

We will provide another update when additional adjustments are made to the repeater system.  Signal reports both of how the repeater is getting out and how you are able to get into the repeater, in addition to constructive comments on any other issues seen with the repeater system are welcome.  We appreciate everyone’s support and patience on this project and are glad to at least have the 145.490 repeater on the air after a very long hiatus.  Thanks to the general Amateur Radio Community for their support on this project and their patience in waiting to get the 145.490 repeater back on the air.

Respectfully Submitted,

SCMARG Repeater Technical Team

W1RJC-Rick Cabral
N1ZZN-Jeff Lehmann
N1XRS-Tony Duarte
KD1CY-Rob Macedo