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Whoa there Cowboy

The prepper wide comms system project has taken on a new lease of life and is progressing full speed ahead after a flurry of activity on the forums mainly driven by NorthernRaider. We have decided that now is the time to try again for this difficult technical project.

The initial discussion we had on the comms requirements that took place a while ago didn’t really take off and although it has been added to over the months it is not definitive. I stated my own requirements in the article ‘Communications Requirements’ although besides myself and LightSpeed there wasn’t that many who got involved in any way and it just faded away and we both did our own things. My own comms system is partially built.

Just to be clear we are not talking about your general communications but a prepper wide communications network on top of your individual comms requirements, possibly an addition rather than another use for existing kit. This will likely mean defined kit and the design and configuration of protocols. It depends what the choice is and if you have that kit already or not.

Now this isn’t a government project with tons of money stolen from hand working people. Thus it needs to be done right and the way to do it is;

  1. Define the requirements. This is where you come in.
  2. Design a system to meet those requirements. LS, TimeLord and anyone else capable.
  3. Build and test the network. This is us again.
  4. Open it up to preppers everywhere with a user pack

I’m concerned about the way this is being driven atm and we should call a pause and follow standard process. Find out where we are (Step 1), work out where we want to be (Step 2) and plan a path and purchases to take us to that place (Step 3). Although LS has indicated CB is the way to go and things are fast moving down that path it wasn’t that long ago it was PMR446 was the bees knees and so I don’t think we are at the stage where we should rule out anything. We seem to jump around reacting very quickly especially when we see something we think suits us. On the initial survey where LS tried to discover what the current situation was for everyone he ended up with a few responses. I would like to put a spanner in the works, slow LS and NR down and ask people to revisit that poll and answer it. It can be found here. If you don’t have a forum account then leave a comment on this article. At the end of this week, the 8th July, will then have input from all those interested on what they are interested in from a kit perspective and we can restart the process.

The solution can then be devised by our technical people followed by moving on to the specification of the kit we need to perform these tasks. We can then build and test the network.

On thing to be aware of though. This network will not be viable unless we have a good response from around the UK. We need nodes for the base stations and without them there will be large patches of open space. You may have all the kit and not be able to contact anyone.

If you are interested then now is the time to step up. I’m getting involved and we will create a solution this time so make sure you have your say. Let us know who is interested, your location and fill in the poll.

22 comments to Whoa there Cowboy

  • Northern Raider

    PMR 446 has very limited capacity, 8 channels, 1/2 a watt, many designed for local stuff like on a building site, if I understand that thing properly.

    BUT what is motivating me as much as LS’s articles is the discovery that many modern CB rigs can be eveey so easily erm ” Tweaked” for extra power and channels, equipment is cheap and plentyful, and componants readily available.

    However I am no expert on radio systems or anything else so i’m more than happy to sit back and slow down a fair bit in order to let everyone else catch up.

    What I’m not prepared to do is see this subject fade into obscurity YET again, it needs to go forward and I think our members with the technical expertise and the various forum and group owners must start to move this subject to a conclusion . I think time is running out and an economic or societal collapse is nearer than ever, and we will look bloody foolish if TSHTF and after decades of debate we do not have a working system of comms with commonality tween members.

  • Skean Dhude

    NR,

    It won’t be. We are chasing it up and LS has been pushing this off line for a while now. He is highly motivated.

    I used to use CB in the olden days, alpha channels, hidden channels and other work was done to these rigs. I used to mod them myself and still have some of the circuitry but two engineers were the brains. CB is a lot more flexible but I think we should let the techies look at it and just supply our input.

    What we can’t cover ourselves though is the other base stations we need to make it a wide network. That is out of our hands so no promises there.

  • Bug_out_Bag

    I’m in! I’m in! I’m in! Whatever frequency is decided I’m there! LS is aware of my interest and capabilities. Thankyou LS 😀

  • Lightspeed

    SD,

    Just a small correction: In a post SHTF world,in my opinion Pmr446 will be the most abundant wireless communications device. They are robust, resiliant and if chosen carefully, can be powered in the long term using fairly simple solar cell generators for example. However under normal circumstances, unmodified, and thus remaining legal to operate today, these devices have fairly limited range, which renders them primarily a tactical tool with a range of a few Kilometers. I see CB and PMR446 having different usages.

    CB 27/81 is an older technology, and is legal to use at higher power than PMR446 and also permits the use of external antennas. This means an expectation of greater range from the equipment. With the expected changes to legislation, the introduction of a 12w SSB allowance will increase range still further.

  • Northern Raider

    Aye LS and dont forget that hopefully within a few months the UK will adopt the new 12 watt output for 27 /81 SSB which will greatly boost our range.

  • Timelord

    According to SD, this network is to be one for prepper wide communications and not just your own general (local usage) network… Does this not mean one of the rig types that has longer range? PMR is defo out for this project according to the spec stipulated. Depending on how many confirmed nodes we eventually have will dictate to some degree the range needed for the rigs. Also on top of this, redundancy is required and so the number of nodes calculated into this might have to be halved or less. That will mean even longer transmission capability for each individual rig. If we are talking about a national network, then we need to know we have plenty of nodes with redundancy built in OR we need kit with longer range comms. Don’t forget, a lot of this range quoting is on a good day and line of sight.. If 75% of preppers are down & out in a major event, then how robust will the network be? How useful is it to spend prep time & prep money now on a system that may not serve our needs in a time of crisis? I doubt even with a list of plenty of nodes – that you would actually be able to use a lot of these after an event.. Also the chance of being able to synchronise comms at the right time & frequency etc makes this a whole lot more of challenge. If we are going to do this, then we need fairly simple, well branded, hand portable or mobile gear that has a serious range or the network could fall down at the first hurdle. Try removing 60% of the network and then another 20% for synchronicity/operator issues and then see how useful this project would be. For what we are proposing here, I know that the Raynet guys should have the answer because that is what they essentially do.. If we could access their knowledge and stipulate we don’t need all the techie functions they are able to play around with, then we might be on the right track – or simple morse kit for longer range comms. Thats my thoughts anyway. TL.

  • Skean Dhude

    LS,

    I’m curious then why your first option was PMR can you explain? I don’t have an axe to grind either way as my own preps cover most of the options.

  • The Local Ned

    For a workable nationwide network – I think CB may be ‘too available’ for the common man , after TSHTF we will probably see an upsurge in radio comms on these freqs which can mean ‘bleedover’ or channel jams as someone between youand your contact can jam signals both ways.

    Wasn’t there another freq made legal in the late 80s – 934 mhz or something which had miniscule aerial sizes and a decent range ?
    PMR I think might suffer from similar issues the CB freqs have , but should be better in the longer term.

    • Northern Raider

      Many ” Common men” may have rigs laying around at home, but how many sheeple will have considered supplying their rigs with power???, Few I’ll wager its mainly preppers and hams who will have back up power supplies I reckon.

  • martin hs

    As a ham as well as prepper I’ve been giving some thought to this issue too. I see PMR and CB having different functions – CB for the longer range comms with PMR for local comms such as hunting parties or lookout etc.

    Ham radios are great and a simple vhf rig with 40+ watts is cheap (about £40 on ebay) but of course needs licencing so out of the question for the wider prepper community. I am a Raynet member too and basically the standard is vhf fm on the 2m (144MHz) band, coverage is not bad but lower frequencies are better for long range.

    I see CB as the only realistic longish range option. If 12W SSB is made legal then range is increased but the cost of equipment goes up. I’d standardise on 27/81 fm since equipment is plentiful and cheap – if we want to build a network then we need to encourage as many people as possible to join in.

    We could build a 2 tier system with everyone getting an fm set but a sub set going for the SSB option so that messages could be relayed longer distances then disseminated over fm to local members.

    Another option could be to link in with Raynet, get Raynet to handle the long range comms and local preppers linking in to local communities. With my ham set I can reliably cover most of the uk and beyond, depending on conditions, many hams have similar or better capability. If a few preppers are also hams or have links with hams then comms should work under virtually any scenario.

    • Lightspeed

      Martin HS,

      I’ve played with VHF mobile and Portable on the backpacker competitions ( SSB of course) and know my stations can frequently get 50 miles range if I’m well located. But Raynet has to deal with down and dirty operating conitions at times. What sort of simplex range do Raynet teams expect to get with VHf at 40w? What are the preferred portable antennas?

      I know that there is no hard and fast answer to this but a good general idea of in th efield range might be intersting to the SUK members.

  • Lightspeed

    SD

    My view on PMR is that t will be the most prevalent wireless technology in operation after ane event in local communities. This is simply due to the high number of units currently in the community, and the simplicity of powering them up.

    As time goes on, the remaining survors will most often come across PMR devices when scavenging.

    PMR is self containes and of a single standard, so no setting up or tuning issues.

    Range is limited to 0.5km to 5km in normal circumstances, so a great number would need to be operational to ceate a countrywide net. Response from our community to use of this technology has been rather low. So low that I cannot see a way to get very wide geographic coverage. Also the sheer number of links neeeded to pass messages any distance down the line will have a high likelyhood of the “send three-and fourpence, we’re going to a dance” syndrome.

    No axe to grind here either SD, my view was, and still is, that PMR446 should be viewed as a valid long term communications device for preppers.

    The poll asking about what frequencies are being considered by preppers only had a small response rate and indicated a slightly higher number of CB capable preppers. This got me and a couple of friends to listen on the CB 27/81 frequencies…… almost nothing was heard, meaning that the frequencies are largely unoccupied at this time.

    Other criteria that I have considered are:

    Cost and availability: Cost and availability of equipment are important considerations

    Complexity: If solutions are too complex, the learning curve to master the complexity must be worth the performance rerurn gained from it. Amateur equipment is much more powerful and adaptable but is highly complex.

    Certification: While some on this site have already taken the plunge and obtained Amateur Radio licenses, there is also a level of concern at having to register personal details with government authorities, so I am working on the basis of using license free equipment in order that network construction and testing can take place right away, without risk of prosecution. It is almost no use owning ham radio equipment without having operating practice to understand how to use it. The ability to build and practice with our stations is most important.

    For sure Amateur Radio equipment, even when operated within Fouundation license parameters will be the best broad range solution.

    But working on the parameters of: Cost and availability, current legality to use at the current time, and highest probable range for each station, the solution has to be CB 27/81.

  • Lightspeed

    TL

    Good comment, and I agree with ALL that you have written, particularly about resilience and redundancy.

    As per my comments above, I feel that practice is the key to success in any communications network.

    Best range license free equipment at the current time is CB 27/81.

    Your comments on use of CW are spot on. With 2w to 5w power it is possible maintain reliable communication over many hundres of miles when selecting the correct frequencies and correct antenna configurations. Equipment to do this is relatively inexpensive, costing from GBP 70.00 . But to practice with it immediately, a license must be obtained and the code has to be learned. The license is easy and only costs GB 25.00 , the learning of the code is much more challenging, but will be an asset to you forever. Personally i would be delighetd if our group went down the licensed route. Have we ever asked how many of us would be prepared to do so?

    Until we have a backbone of prepper / SUK Licensed Amateur stations in place, we will only be able to legally make preparations using License free equipment.

    There is absolutely nothing to stop people purchasing amateur radio equipment of course, but its expensive and it would be a shame to spend lage resources on such gear and then one day find oneself unable to operate it, or worse still destroy it early on due to operator error.

  • I have found that pmr446 is perfect for the sort of activities I do as it has limited trans range(1 to 3 m) unless you buy the long range models up to 20 plus miles. As it is pest control I do a lot of, I only want to keep in touch locally on the estate and not talking to people 10 miles a way. 446 is ideal in a secure area with out giving your self away. As for cb, ideal for longer comms and for networking etc, but it’s pointless using ‘burners’ etc as you transmit 30 40 50 miles, other people hear you, but unless they have the ‘burners’ cannot reply. But we DO have to try and get ourselves organised on what cb we are going to use and channels.

  • Northern Raider

    Oh I do hope folks from other UK forums have this conversation.

  • Lightspeed

    Anyone serious about post event communications should be moving along the same path as us. Surely other groups have been here before us, and that others will follow.

    Its a really tricky balancing act to weigh up all of the costs and benefits, options and risks.

    Better we find a solution that we can control rather than let events force solutions upon us that we cannot…………….

  • Skean Dhude

    NR,

    They may well have had but without technical exopertise and a commitment to do something they all stall.

    LS,

    Many will have and some will have built their systems. They are not letting us know though because we have not heard about it. Regardless of the reasons we will define one. Some of us will set it up and we will produce a pack on how to build your own node to the network. People will then join in so we need to consider this. I’m already looking at the protocols involved which take into consideration OPSEC.

  • martin hs

    Blimey, quite a few comments to catch up on.

    LS,
    Raynet don’t usually look to work further than 40 miles on vhf, preferring to use relays on high ground to make the longer distances. Most Raynet activity is focused on setting up comms within a small geographical area, usually based on county boundaries, with local operators maintaining contact with a group controller and the group controller maintaining contact with other groups so that comms are managed effectively, avoiding mistakes or misinterpretation. I don’t see preppers needing such an organised structure but rather the availability to contact with people within the community or nearby. If everyone opted to go for high powered radios we’d quickly find the frequencies totally jammed up through sheer numbers. I can remember the difficulty finding a clear channel during the CB haydays of the 80’s.

    If we can encourage to people to get both CB27/81 sets and PMR446 sets then we have the best of both worlds without spending huge amounts of money.

    Longer distance communications between communities could be achieved if a smaller number of preppers invested in SSB sets with higher power and the ability to operate outside 27/81 to avoid the interference if the frequencies are busy. These sets are more expensive and I doubt you’d get many people to spend that much, even 2nd hand you are looking around the £100 touch.

    Whatever we decide, it has to be affordable and easy. A combination of 27/81 and pmr446 fits that bill, the hardest part will be getting people to invest in sustainable power options for powering the sets and recharging portable batteries when the electric goes off and there is no fuel left in the car.

  • martin hs

    LS,
    Regarding portable antennas, the Raynet approach is usually based on standard car roof antennae or a portable mast of some sort with a 1/4 wave vertical on top. In shtf scenario I doubt we’d be able to operate from cars or drag portable masts around so my thinking is along the lines of a simple dipole strung up between a couple of trees or hoisted at an angle with one end tied to a tree and the other pegged to ground (using nylon rope as an insulator), this makes it less directional.

  • Lightspeed

    Martin HS

    Thanks for your comments.

    Your thoughts tie in closely with my own. We restarted theses discussions to try and find a viablecountry wide prepper comms network.

    The more I look at it the more I think that even with SSB on CB frequencies, the license free route is primarily a local coms solution.

    I will be travelling until early next week and will be out of the reach of internet connections. I’ll use the time to ponder some more on options available to us.

    Thanks again.

    72 de

    Lightspeed

  • stevieblu

    Hi, I am also a Ham and a prepper as well as providing comms gear professionally. Have you considered Business radios? Business radios operate in different frequencies from all the ones mentioned here so far. you can get a set from maplins that include the application to the regulator (OfCom) for a license to use business radios. It is £70. Plan B is you can buy them and store them for use post event… Assuming regulatory issues and no longer the main worry! This would provide a much more secure (as they are more obscure) set of comms gear. People also talk about using marine band radios (illegal to use inland, but post event…).
    PMR are fine for local comms, low cost… but radios such as vertex standard (Motorola), in the business range, aren’t that expensive and much better quality.
    As regards VHF/UHF hand held, several Chinese manufacturers produce extremely capable units for under £40. Technically you need a basic Ham license for them, but post event…
    A small solar panel or two and a leisure battery (deeper cycle than a car battery). Would allow you to use / charge you radios for a considerable time.

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