FUTURE OF PACTOR IN HAM RADIO
Originally touted as the ultimate in Ham Radio digital communications, it has migrated into a wireless internet substitute. Most of the PACTOR signals that you hear on the air are dedicated to data transfer, including text, pictures, and FAX copies. Gone are the days of keyboard to keyboard QSOs.
As previously mentioned, use of PACTOR-4 is questionable within US jurisdiction and is primarily used to send traffic files (email, pictures, etc.) to private or public mailboxes. Much use of PACTOR today borders, if it doesn't actually cross, into commercial activity. Frankly, PACTOR-4 remains an internet substitute for those unwilling to pay for mobile offshore internet.
The continued claims PACTOR-4 serves ECOMM (Emergency Communcations) is a ruse, a falsehood. There are so many alternate 'free' commerical communications paths available that it renders the argument that "Ham Radio is a viable alternative for emergency communication" a joke. Much more reliable communications alternative are available today.
The use of PACTOR for direct real time communications is rare. and the number of PACTOR QSO's is small. Overall PACTOR use is down slightly (as measured by traffic volume reports) with most units communicating with other newer communications protocols with Mailboxes (as mentioned).
And the cost of PACTOR has not decreased significantly. There is a marked increase in other modes, such as PSK-31, JT-65, and others. Most are involved in direct QSO's, speeds that are slower than PACTOR. What these modes have in common is that the cost is mostly FREE. What does this show? Namely, as these speeds increase some of the newer "FREE" modes rival PACTOR.
WILL PACTOR SURVIVE? Probably, but not much in Ham Radio. Even now internet access is rapidly increasing worldwide which continues to replace PACTOR operations at a much lower cost.
P.S. I still keep my PACTOR PTC active. I don't call mailboxes, but I do call CQ on 20m regularly .. usually on weekends. I'd love to chat .. if only someone would answer.
RM-11708 and 2016
Meanwhile, the use of PACTOR-4 outside US jurisdiction continues to be used primarily to send traffic files (email, pictures, etc.) to private or public mailboxes. Much borders, if it doesn't actually cross, into commercial activity. Frankly, PACTOR-4 is merely an internet substitute for those unwilling to pay for mobile offshore internet. The claim PACTOR-4 serves ECOMM (Emergency Communcations) is a ruse, a falsehood. There are so many alternate 'free' commerical communications paths available that it renders the argument that "Ham Radio is a viable alternative for emergency communication" a joke.
The use of PACTOR for direct communications is rare and the number of PACTOR QSO's continues to drop. PACTOR use is up slightly (as measured by traffic volume reports) with most units communicating with Mailboxes (as mentioned). The increase seems to be more questionable content (sail-mail, ham email, etc.) that appears to be more cost avoidance than anything else. Primarily, it bypasses the internet for free. Of interest, is that many store-and-forward mail boxes that handle a lot of traffic are switching away from PACTOR to 'allow' the use of other (cheaper) high speed modes as well.
Yes, the cost of PACTOR keeps going up and there is a marked increase in other modes, such as PSK-31, JT-65, and others. Most are involved in direct QSO's, at a speed that's much slower than PACTOR. What these modes have in common is that the cost is mostly FREE. What does this show? Namely, a speed increase in "FREE" modes will one day, rival PACTOR.
FCC whole battle of RM-11708 is to allow PACTOR-4 into the US Ham Bands. The "powers that be" continue to face plenty of objections from CW and RTTY users. What will happen with the FCC?
PACTOR AND 2016
The ARRL proposal RM-11708 remains untouched, at the FCC, and it remains OPEN. Prehaps it stays "frozen" in the hopes it will be withdrawn or just go away. The Ham Radio community continues to use PACTOR-4 outside US shores with the primary use to send traffic files (email, pictures, etc.) to private or public mailboxes. Much borders, if it doesn't actually cross, into commercial activity.
The use of PACTOR for direct communications is rare. The number of PACTOR QSO's has dropped drastically. PACTOR use is up slightly (as measured by traffic volume reports) with most units communicating with Mailboxes (as mentioned). The increase seems to be more questionable content (sail-mail, ham email, etc.) that appears to be more cost avoidance than anything else. Primarily, it bypasses the internet for free. Of interest, isthat many store-and-forward mail boxes that handle a lot of traffic are switching away from PACTOR to 'allow' the use of other (cheaper) high speed modes as well.
Interestingly, as the cost of PACTOR keeps going up, there is a marked increase in other modes, such as PSK-31, JT-65, and others. Most are involved in direct QSO's, at a speed that's much slower than PACTOR. What these modes have in common is that the cost is mostly FREE. So, what does this show? Perhaps a speed increase in "FREE" modes one day, to rival PACTOR.
The battle(s) do continue behind the scenes to allow PACTOR-4 into the US Ham Bands. So far the "powers that be" face plenty of objections from CW and RTTY users. What will happen to PACTOR in 2016?
WHAT's NEXT FOR PACTOR
While the ARRL proposed RM-11708 continues to languish, untouched, at the FCC, one can only assume that it remains OPEN without progress because there is no interest (one way or the other) to do anything. Meanwhile, the Ham Radio community itself (from a majority of the comments given) just want to be left alone. There are plenty of digital operations (CW included here) on the Ham bands. However, the continued use of PACTOR centers about the ability to send traffic files that often boarder (if not actually crossing the line) on commercial activity.
The use of PACTOR for direct unit-to-unit communications is rare. Yes, there are a few PACTOR QSO's, but most of the units on the air today communicate with Mailboxes (either small personal individual or large traffic handling types) that pass or leave messages. Most of the traffic on message passing MBX's is of questionable content (such as sail-mail) that could be better be handled on the internet, if there wasn't a cost involved. Store and forward mailboxes merely mimic the internet for free.
The argument can be made that store and forward activity augments emergency preparedness. Considering that emergency traffic nets already exist on both the internet and satellite service, it's a poor premise. Does testing the ability to pass traffic on the Ham Bands prepare for emergency operation? Doubtful !!
So, what is the real answer? Why cost, of course. Why pay for communications channels that bill for service when you can bypass the paying route by misusing Ham Radio. Let's be honest, emergencies on Ham Radio are few and most amateur operators can volunteer when necessary, but sending batch messages day and night (and pretending to prepare for passing emergency traffic) is self serving and only serves to trample on Hams who merely want to be left alone to pursue two major purposes of ham radio, enlightenment and enjoyment.
Do store and forward mailboxes have a place? Probably ... but not on the Ham Bands. That's my opinion !!
Of course, Ham Bandplans are voluntary; HOWEVER, the ARRL is attempting to get the changes they want by making them part of a new bandplan. Toward that end the ARRL has established a web site to "ELICIT COMMENTS" to support their plan.
Based on what is best for the RTTY contesting and general QSO community vs ulterior motives that might exist. You
can 'look' at the ARRL survey at:
Perhaps any response should just be "NO" to every question!
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.
THE WAIT CONTINUES
Some have speculated that the FCC is in no hurry to address this issue. Others believe the ARRL is reluctant to pursue RM-11708 further, having been surprised by the resistance -- much of it by their own members. So, now we wait on the FCC to take action. Presently there is no indication how soon any action will be taken and the FCC may not act at all, hoping this affair will merely fade into a distant memory.
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.
THE WAITING GAME
The ARRL, anticipating an adverse reaction (no matter the outcome), has embarked on 'face saving' measures such as:
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.
DECISION 2014 ?
What is the mission of RM-11708? It has become a hotly debated question, which has encompassed two opposing points of view:
The FCC assigned a posting as RM-11708 and requested comments about this proposal. About 900 comments and reply comments were received. Some were terse (we need it, we love it, it proposes no ill) and others went on for page after page of technicalities. The two camps were well represented. Some comments were technical and well thought out while others were strictly emotional.
Some commenters claimed that many of the comments came from by non-hams, solicited by commercial interests, wanting to use Pactor 4 as a lower cost email alternative. Others said that objections to RM-11708 were based on not understanding its true beneficial purpose.
In the meanwhile, PACTOR NEWS has received several emails asking that we promote one of these particular views. I have already offered comments that advised acceptance of RM-11708 should be limited by the following:
Now it is up to the FCC and their staff to wade through the diversity of comments and determine whether RM-11708 should be adopted or rejected. There has been no particular time frame established for making this decision.
Regardless of the FCC decision, the battle lines have been drawn. Both sides are marshalling their forces to continue the struggle.
So as 2014 rolls on, the PACTOR community awaits the next step from the FCC. More will be posted later as developments unfold.
Have a HAPPY and HEALTHY 2014.
WHAT CAN WE DO IN 2013 TO PROMOTE PACTOR ?
TOPIC ONE: PACTOR has changed from an HF digital mode of choice to a means of specific high speed communications.
The use of PACTOR by boaters, by those participating in MARS, and by auto mailbox (Store and Forward) users has grown while the
number of 'others' is not growing as rapidly.
ANSWER: The expanded use of PACTOR should be the goal of most PACTOR users. That means if those in the 'other' catagory are to grow, then PACTOR should be used more often, much more often, by this group. Perhaps even a PACTOR contest can be started to help increase PACTOR awareness.
TOPIC TWO: In the past PACTOR modems were multipurpose. They did CW, RTTY, AMTOR, PSK-31, WEFAX, etc. Today
PACTOR modems are pretty much limited to PACTOR mode only.
ANSWER: SCS, the maker of PACTOR, has promised to address this issue in the future; however, results are needed. There should be an ongoing communications issue to remind SCS that PACTOR continues to be used by a number of non-commercial users. Perhaps we can request a date to expect an update which should be sooner rather than later.
TOPIC THREE: The cost of a PACTOR modem has gone up so much that it is beyond the means of the average Ham
ANSWER: As previously reported, SCS has said that the number of general Ham Radio users has declined to the point they are a minority of SCS business. As a result, there is little incentive to create a bare bones PACTOR modem. When the only 'cheap' PACTOR-4 modem is high priced box and the 'regular' PACTOR-4 modem is even far more expensive, here's what to do:
Now, of course, a new lower priced PACTOR modem may be wishful thinking, but for SCS to even consider creating such a device we should let SCS know there is a market for making it. We should remind SCS that Ham Operators were the initial prime supporters of PACTOR -- the main beta-testers of their products -- and the promoters of future sales. Now is the time for SCS to return the favor and support their original base of users.
Frankly, SCS has not been paying attention recently to Ham users. With little to sell and few to buy, is it any wonder? Now is the time to change that equation. If there was a new modem available from SCS with more modes and at a lower price would you purchase it? I certainly would. Yes, now is the time to let SCS know that !!
Have a HAPPY 2013.
PACTOR IN 2013
With respect to Amateur Radio it can be claimed that using PACTOR for QSO's is on life support. Yes, there are a few 'die-hard' hams trying to preserve the originial purpose of the mode. But today, the primary day-to-day operation of PACTOR in the Ham Bands is as a store and transfer mode used by automatic mailboxes -- and even that use is not exclusive. Of course, PACTOR is also used for other non-Ham purposes, such as MARS and Marine.
As previously mentioned, the deterioration of Ham Radio support by the sellers of PACTOR and the ever increasing cost of the product explains our 2013 predictions. Yes, FREEWARE SOFTWARE and the much higher cost of using PACTOR means that fewer Hams will bother with PACTOR.
Meanwhile, please have a HAPPY NEW YEAR. I hope to have a QSO with many of you and I do have a PACTOR TNC. I still call CQ with RTTY, but I am not a contest player -- I like to chat.
WILL HAM QSO USE OF PACTOR SURVIVE THE ECONOMY OF FREE?
What happened? As mentioned previously, there are two main reasons. First, a deterioration of Ham Radio support by the sellers of PACTOR and the second is the ever increasing cost of the product. Yes, the automatic mailboxes still exist and they are the primary Ham Band PACTOR use. The appearance of FREEWARE SOFTWARE and the much higher cost of using PACTOR means that fewer Hams bother with PACTOR.
In addition, PACTOR use is touted for "OUT-OF-THE-HAM-BAND" use. PACTOR-4, the latest release, is not permitted on the USA Ham Bands, yet ads for AUTO MAILBOX use, MARINE BAND use, MARS use, and OUT-OF-USA use are the sales and marketing efforts. When was the last time there was a PACTOR ad in a Ham Radio publication? Is it any wonder manual PACTOR QSOs are on the decline?
PACTOR USED ONLY INFREQUENTLY FOR QSOs
So, what been happening? According to many sources there are two main reasons. First, a deterioration of Ham Radio support by the sellers of PACTOR and the second is the ever increasing cost of the product. More on these items to follow shortly.
AUTOMATED MAILBOXES UNDER THREAT?
In addition, so-called "Homeland Security Concerns" may exist where "codes and other means of obscuring the meaning" of messages may be a significant problem.
While directly there is no tie to PACTOR-4, the use of PACTOR-4 on Store and Forward operations is seen as adding to the problem rather than correcting it. Meanwhile, my sources report there are some 'bottlenecks' in the process to allow PACTOR-4 to legally operate in the US Hambands. Some progress has been made, I was told; however, there are some issues about commerical conflict and whether PACTOR-4 (being called a closed protocol designed for commercial use) merits use on the ham bands when royalities are involved.
More on this topic later as further news is released.
PACTOR-4 RAISES QUESTIONS FOR USA HAMS
Much as PACTOR-2 and PACTOR-3 were challenged as being 'non-compliant' with FCC Rules and Regulations, time has shown that novel digital modes do take time to 'shake-out' and their later adoption has been credited to technical standards. However, PACTOR-4 uses a challenging modulation scheme and unlike previous PACTOR modes, the signal is so complex so as to render obsolete many existing FCC Amateur Band standards. While the idea of rapid data transfer appeals to many hams, there is great objection to the growing bandwidths of new modes. The preference is for digital signals to be contained within a 500Hz bandwidth -- and -- the narrower, the better.
Some of the objections to PACTOR-4 are logical and based upon existing technical standards. However, others object to PACTOR (no matter the bandwidth) based upon purely personal motives. These objections fall into three areas, technical, financial, and personal. The technical objections (as with PACTOR-2 and PACTOR-3) can be addressed by the process of acceptance and changing of the existing rules. It is more difficult to deal with the financial and personal areas. The high cost of a PACTOR TNC has always been the source of frustration for those who might otherwise be very interested. Unfortunately, the Amateur Radio crowd would rather get something for nothing -- hence the preference for software driven applications. The personal aspect of objecting to PACTOR has its roots in the licensing and control of the mode. Back in the days of PACTOR-1, past licensees and builders of PACTOR-1 TNCS (AEA, MFJ, KAM, etc.) took shortcuts that cheapened the product and undermined the original specifications to the point that some TNCs were so inferior as to hurt the reputation of the mode itself. Many articles of the time were devoted to the inferior performance of the PACTOR-1 mode itself, when in fact the units under test themselves did NOT meet and undercut specifications.
Is it any wonder that SCS (makers of the PTC) clamped down on letting others make inferior copies of their products? The bad experience of marketing PACTOR-1 led to the high cost (for a fantastic unit) for newer products to grow even higher. In addition the tight control of the source code and the shielding of technical aspects caused the 'freebee' software writers to be 'shut-out' of attempting to write inferior copies of software only applications of PACTOR-2 and more recent upgrades. So, the financial and personal objections have pretty much combined to avoid SCS products.
The current challenge is two-fold. First, to compare the actual results achieved with PACTOR-4 and secondly to see if the PACTOR-4 can be effective in the the ham radio arena. Meanwhile, PACTOR-4 needs to be tested in the USA and elsewhere to determine if the rising price of this newest mode is justified. Only time and experience will tell if PACTOR-4 can work in the ham bands.
The best digital ARQ (linked) mode on High Frequency ( 3 to 30 MegaHertz ) Amateur Radio is called PACTOR.
It transfers text, files, and graphics quickly and without error. Pactor was invented in Germany and is quite popular among
hams who communicate by radio with computers. PACTOR NEWS is an online source
dedicated specifically to PACTOR.
Click here if you would like to read my biography or for information about Clayton, Ohio.
Thanks for reading.. this is Phil Sussman - N8PS - 73's
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