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[liberationtech] Can HAM radio be used for communication between health workers in rural areas with no cell connectivity?

The Doctor drwho at
Thu Mar 7 08:36:56 PST 2013

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On 03/06/2013 05:41 PM, Sky (Jim Schuyler) wrote:

> The Byzantium Project folks (wi-fi mesh) have some amateur
> operators among their numbers and might also have opinions on how
> easy it is to

We do.

> get folks licensed, and also on "edge" connections of mesh and
> other

I can't speak for Haxwithaxe, but I took two weekend classes for the
Tech class licensing exam (total time: sixteen hours) and re-read the
course materials twice (, and passed
the exam on the first try.  I'm friends with a couple of hams in the
DC metroplex who aced all three exams (Technician, General, and Extra)
in one shot and know more about amateur radio and RF theory off the
tops of their heads than I do.

> networks to amateurs (which is severely limited by law). My take is
> that even though hams tend to think it's easy to get a license,
> there are significant (maybe psychological) barriers to entry.
> Maybe it's just

I think it depends on the ham you talk to.

Before taking the exam I studied the ARRL's official Tech class study
guide off and on for a couple of years (and did the practice sets for
every chapter) and it was easily the most difficult exam I've ever
studied for.  Then again, I'm a coder and not particularly skilled
with electronics (I thought operating systems and compiler theory were

That one has to study to take the amateur radio licensing exams puts a
lot of people off.  They just don't want to put in the effort "to sit
around talking to people."  I got that a lot from non-hackers when I
was studying for the exam in late 2011 and early 2012.  There is also
the (largely correct) perception that amateur radio equipment is very
expensive.  A lot of it is.  HT's (hand-held portable units) are much
less expensive (and getting cheaper - thank you, Baofeng) but the
common response is still "I don't want to sit around studying when I
could just talk on the phone."

> that mobile phones provide so many of the same benefits without
> the licensure hassle?

One definitely has to put in much less work up front to be allowed to
chat on a cellphone.

> Some of the people on this list know how wi-fi can be provisioned
> over fairly long distances using high-gain antennas and mesh
> software. It

Project Byzantium does.  We've done it around DC and in New York
City.  Do you have any specific questions on this topic?  Do you have
any specific questions pertaining to amateur radio and wi-fi (because
there is a bit of overlap)?

> seems to me that this might be an interesting way to go about
> getting real Internet connectivity. I've been on the list a couple
> of years and

That may be why so many community wireless projects in the States draw
fire from telecom companies, but that's a rant for another mailing
list (such as IS4CWN).

- -- 
The Doctor [412/724/301/703] [ZS]
Developer, Project Byzantium:

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On the Internet, nobody knows you're a Perl script.

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