Archive for August, 2007

How Big is the Worldwide Market for Ham Radio Gear?

Ever wonder how much amateur radio equipment gets purchased each year? I was looking at some information on the new Kenwood TM-D710, including a press release on the Kenwood (Japan) web site.

The Kenwood press release includes some background on the ham radio market:

The global amateur radio equipment market is estimated to be worth 16 to 17 billion yen today. In the FM mobile transceiver segment, the dual band type, which was once considered a luxury model, has been gaining market share every year, accounted for about just over 50% of the amateur radio equipment market in sales value on a global basis and for almost 100% in both sales volume and sales value in Japan in the fiscal year ended March 2007.

Let me try to interpret this data. Since the Japanese yen is trading at around 115 yen to the US dollar, 16 Billion yen is equivalent to $139M. So this means that $139M in new ham equipment is purchased each year. The next statement is really interesting…I think it says that 50% of the dollars being spent on FM mobile transceivers are used to purchase dualband radios. And the final statement says that in Japan almost all of the FM transceivers sold are dualband. Clearly, the price of a dualband FM transceiver has come down over the last decade, especially those that have a single receiver in them. So it is believeable that dualband rigs cover a large piece of the FM transceiver market.

73, Bob K0NR

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Pikes Peak Report – Colorado 14er Event

Every morning (assuming clear skies and a clear head), I can look out my front door to see Pikes Peak towering over the horizon to the west. For an amateur radio operator, Pikes Peak is a convenient way to obtain awesome Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT). They were even nice enough to build a road so you can drive to the top. If that doesn’t work for you, then take the train (Pikes Peak Cog Railway).

You can talk me into going up Pikes almost anytime, but during a VHF event it is even more attractive. One such radio event for mountaintop operation is the Colorado 14er Event. This is an annual radio even that I have blogged about previously. Chris K0CAO put some video of his hike to the summit of Mount Harvard on the web which shows the event from the hiking/climbing viewpoint.

Four of us had a great time operating from Pikes Peak this year…that story is told on my website and can be found here.

73, Bob K0NR

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VHF Contest Survey -N5AC

Steve N5AC recently completed a survey of amateur radio operators about their thoughts on VHF contesting. The results are now published on the web at http://www.n5ac.com/VHFSurvey.pdf

In the forward of the document, Steve writes:

I love VHF and microwave contesting and I know many of those that read this feel the same. And although I’ve only been doing it a few years, I’ve formed some strong opinions about what I like and don’t like and even how I think others should behave while contesting. But why is this — why can’t we all just have fun? As I tried to understand what I took issue with and why others had issues, I came to realize that even though we are all “playing together,” we are each playing for different reasons and with different goals. Some want to accumulate band-grids for VUCC and the contest, itself, is not terribly important. Others are in a dead heat in their category trying to beat out known opponents. Personally, I enjoy working long, difficult microwave shots with my friends, but I like to see a high score at the end of the day too. And all of these different goals and many others combined with how we were trained as operators, our local culture and our personalities all affect our on-air behaviors and how we operate a contest.

If you have an interest in VHF contesting, this survey report is good reading.

73, Bob K0NR

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Video from Colorado Mountaintop Event

The 2007 Colorado 14er Event was held on August 12, 2007. During this event, amateur radio operators make radio contact from the summits of the state’s 14,000 foot mountains. Chris K0CAO made a short video of his hike up Mount Harvard and some of his radio action on the summit. The video also shows Chris using a signal mirror to flash operators on nearby mountaintops. Mount Harvard is the 3rd highest peak in Colorado, at 14,420 feet above sea level.

See the video at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6446083004152361265

See my previous post on the 14er event.

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Grumpy about QSL Cards

I tend to let my incoming QSL cards pile up for a while and then fill them out in a batch. I don’t actually get all that many QSLs unless I am doing something special like a mini-DXpedition or activating a rare VHF grid.

Last week, I decided it was time to catch up on my QSL responses, so I fetched the small pile of cards and starting working on them. The first one came with an Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE) and I was able to find it in the log right away. A minute later, my QSL was filled out and ready to mail. Now that is the way it is supposed to work!

The next card in the pile was just a bare QSL card sent as a postcard, with no SASE included. This always makes me a little grumpy. My general policy is to respond to cards sent via the QSL bureau and cards sent direct that include an SASE. Everything else gets ignored. I’ve had to take a hard line on this when doing DXpeditions, otherwise the work just gets way out of hand. Everyone else needs your card but you probably don’t need any of theirs.

So I looked at the second card and thought “sorry, guy, but if you need my card you need to include an SASE” and I set it aside. I picked up the next card and it came inside an envelope but without an SASE. But this one was a grid on 6M that I needed, so I am looking at it a bit more graciously. Should I send my card back to this guy? Wouldn’t I just be encouraging bad QSL habits on his part? Judging by the information included on the card, this ham has probably been licensed for at least 10 years…he should know better. OK, maybe I’ll make an exception on this one since I really need his grid.

Here’s another card with no SASE. This time it is obviously a new callsign, so I am tempted to have pity on him. Didn’t anyone teach him to QSL properly? Perhaps I should ignore the lack of SASE and just send him a card. Is it my job to teach every ham QSL courtesy? Or maybe I need to lighten up?

Mostly, this just makes me grumpy. I am probably thinking about it too hard.

73, Bob K0NR

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How Many Amateur Radio Operators are there in Japan?

I recently came across a web page maintained by Ryota “Roy” Motobayashi, JJ1WTL / AC6IM that explains the Japanese amateur radio callsign system. I used to hold a Japan amateur radio license (reciprocal, based on my US license) with callsign 7J1AUE. I was traveling to Japan on business at the time, so I wanted to do some radio operating while I was there. I have since let the license lapse as it is expensive and a hassle to renew each year.

This web page had an interesting chart of Japanese amateur radio station licenses by year, showing a steep decline starting in 1995. (Click on the graphic to the left to make it larger.) Historically, Japan had more amateur radio licensees than the US but this appears to have changed. According to this chart, the number of station licenses in Japan has dropped to less that 534k last year while the number of US licensees is around 655k (according to the AH0A web site).

This is a bit of an apples-to-sushi comparison since the Japan system includes a station license and an operator license. However, the simplest reasonable comparision is to compare Japan station licenses to US operator licenses. Japan station licenses have a 5 year renewal term while the US licensees are valid for ten years. This increases the difficulty of a comparison as it affects the statistics in an environment where radio licenses are not being renewed. Actually, there are other issues identified by AH0A that need to be considered when making these comparisons.

Of course, most of the major amateur radio equipment manufacturers are located in Japan, so the Japanese ham market has an effect worldwide. Some examples: There has never been much 222 MHz radio equipment available, because there is no 222 MHz band in Japan. Ever notice that the CTCSS tone defaults to 88.5 Hz on Japanese radios? That’s the de facto standard for CTCSS in Japan. The “call” button on most Japanese FM rigs comes from the fact that in Japan there really is a calling frequency that you call on and announce that you’ll be listening on another frequency. (So you want to be able to QSY quickly on/off the call frequency.)

Anyway, the decline in Japan ham licenses is probably a leading indicator for the rest of the world, including the US. It also seems in line with general indications that the R&D investment into ham radio gear is slowing, with fewer rigs with fewer innovations being introduced each year. In the business world, they call that “a mature market.”

73, Bob K0NR

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