PB2T, IARU Region 1 President: “Is HF dying? That’s not the case for the Amateur Radio Service”

It’s not every day you can put your own questions to the President of IARU Region 1. DXCoffee has had this opportunity and has sought to take advantage in doing so, of asking Blondeel Timmerman, PB2T, questions which play an important part of the future our hobby. We recall that the “International Amateur Radio Union” is the Federation of associations, which, in the various countries of the world, represent the OMs. Region 1 is one of three conjoined territories of the organization and takes in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and northern Asia.

Hans’ ham radio background is quite respectable. The first license came in 1980; the upgrade to the highest operating privileges in 1985. And since 2000 he’s been engaged with various organizations, first as HF Manager, then as Vice-president of VERON, one of the larger Dutch ham associations. Then, from 2002 to 2008, he was member of the Executive Committee of IARU Region 1, where he became President December 31, 2008. Additionally, since 2004 he has served as President of EUDXF. And thus a person with whom, when all is said and done, it is a pleasure to work with in dealing with issues which we ham operators share in common.

It’s known that lobbying from IARU Region 1 led to the ham allocations of 30, 17 and 12 meters. Are you currently concentrating on other spectrum segments?
Here I would like to add recent accomplishments like the extension of 7 MHz and a secondary allocation at 2200 meters.
On the agenda for World Radiocommunications Conference 2012 is a secondary amateur allocation around 500 kHz. Our complete spectrum “wish list” can be found at http://www.iaru.org/ac-09spec.pdf
Bare in mind that new amateur allocations are not easy to achieve as other parties are also interested to get their share of the spectrum.

In addition to “Intruder Watch,”  you’re also committed to monitoring electromagnetic interference. What’s your advice on the PLC issue? Why don’t some governments seem to consider this matter more?
The commercial lobby pushes PLC/PLA techniques. In my opinion these techniques are not compatible with radio services and should not be allowed.

Let’s talk about license reciprocity. On this ground significant steps ahead have been made, especially thanks to the HAREC recommendation. However, in particular, between one Region and the others, the situation doesn’t look so easy. How much road do we still need to cover in this field, and what instruments will allow us to achieve the desired results?
In Europe we are doing pretty well. The most recent additions to T/R 61-01 are Montenegro and the Russian Federation.
Outside CEPT several countries are in line with T/R 61-01 and we are working on an agreement with CITEL (Americas), so that both regional telecom organizations will recognize each others roaming agreements.
Our ultimate goal is a worldwide recognized license like the international drivers license.

How do you judge, from your privileged viewpoint, the healthiness of amateur radio? Why, in your opinion, is there a mixed trend, with countries like the US, where licenses are increasing, and others, in Europe, where our activity isn’t as popular as it should be?
The decline in Europe is not alarming yet. The average age however is high and goes up. This can mean that not too long from now in Europe there will be a dramatic drop in membership. There is a great potential for growth in Asia and Africa. Because the youth is our future we need to work on multiple fronts to interest young people in amateur radio.

Telegraphy has been deleted as a requirement to become an amateur operator. IARU still supports it, by organizing High Speed Telegraphy competitions. What are your thoughts about CW, and on the fact it isn’t an exam element anymore?
When the professional world did no longer require Morse code proficiency for access to shortwave there was no longer a reason to have the same requirement for the amateur service. Now CW is one of the many modes an amateur can use. HST as one of the aspects of radiosports is very popular in Eastern Europe and therefor is supported by IARU Region 1.

IARU isn’t involved in contesting, but back to the HST competition that I just mentioned.  IARU promotes an HF World Championship.  What’s your judgement on this initiative and what are yours expectations for the upcoming edition?
IARU Region 1 is very much involved in contesting. During our general conference to take place in South Africa in August this year the HF and VHF/UHF/MW committees will dedicate a substantial part of their time on the subject of contesting. From my participation in the most recent edition of the IARU HF Championship I got the impression that the event attracted the same number of participants as it always does.

PB2TAmong IARU tasks, a particular area is devoted to emergency communications. How many OMs, in the world, are conscious of the basic role they can play in such a scenario? What can be and has to be done to increase their self-awareness?
In the past ten years Emergency communications has become increasingly important. Work has to be done that all amateurs are aware of the fact that in case of an emergency they may be required to take their responsibilities.

In the US, hams can use the 222 and 902 MHz bands that aren’t allocated in Europe. Vice-versa, in some European countries, we’re allowed 70 MHz, restricted in parts of the USA just south of the Canadian border. Do you believe that in times of economic crisis, these discrepancies can turn into a problem for ham equipment manufacturers?
I do not share this concern. Modern radio’s can be programmed to accommodate regional and national frequency allocations.

I will bring back a question that has been the object of a huge debate in the past, but the opportunity to talk with you is unique.
“Echolink”, and all the other VOIP based technologies, for many people, aren’t forms of ham radio. What’s your point on this?

We live in an era where everything is connected to everything, so it is not more than logical that radio amateurs participate in experiments interconnecting devices, networks and systems and running applications over it.

In my opinion, ham radio can find a big ally in the internet. Bulletins like “DX Coffee”, club sites, and even clusters are precious tools in our everyday activity, especially as information sources, and information sharing technology. Do you agree with this vision?
I can easily just confirm this with a simple “yes”. In my days of editor of DXPress in the Netherlands I converted this paper weekly into an online magazine called iDXPress. At that time this was a major step. Looking at it now it was just one option amongst a multitude of information sources on the web.

What do you say to people who say that shortwave is dying, especially, since many international broadcasters, some very significant, are leaving the airwaves?
When IARU was working on the extension of 7 MHz we already explained that the use of HF for broadcasting could no longer be justified. So when we just focus on broadcasting one can say that the shortwaves are dying. This is definitely not the case for the amateur service.

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10 Responses to "PB2T, IARU Region 1 President: “Is HF dying? That’s not the case for the Amateur Radio Service”"

  1. Very interesting….let’s keep shortwave alive so 😉

  2. Tom Kolbe says:

    I hope, that the broadening of the frequency range at 40 mtrs happens in the forseeable future. Would be great…

    Interesting interview! THX es 73 de Tom DL1RTK 🙂

  3. W0BG says:

    Let’s keep ham radio alive. We need to focus on teaching ham radio classes and reaching out to young people. I have taught 3 or 4 ham radio classes per year for the past several years and act as “elmer” to young hams.

    • Good job, youth is needed nowadays in our hobby, Im now 16 years and i rarely meet a youngster on the air. Go on and i hope to meet you or the youngsters on the air,

      Best 73’s de Florian PD0MP

  4. 007J, Christoph says:

    Great interview ! I can agree on all points made by Hans, including the VoIP issues. Unfortunately, one reality that many hams face, especially in urban areas, is a more and more restricted approach to allowing antennas, fuelled by hysterical press reports about “radiation disease”. Of course the poor neighbours can’t know the difference between HF and microwave, and will believe that the bigger an antenna looks, the more dangerous it is. Local authorities will bend down to the pressure and demand removal of the antenna structures. I know quite a few ham friends to whom this has happened. For them, VoIP (well, any form of interlinking) is the only way out, even though frustrating.
    Many greetings Hans, hope to see you soon,


  5. Frenchie says:

    Why many countries in europe dont respects CEPT recommendations for a HAREC novice licence ?
    Exemple France dont want to respect this recommendation. REF and French administration are against HAREC cept novice licence. IARU and CEPT cant force the French administration and REF to apply this recommendations. They are only 14000 amateurs radio in France for a population of 65 000 000. In uk they are 60000 hams for same population. I have talk to CEPT and they ask me to contact IARU. I have contacted Hans by phone and he was nice to answer to my call, he told me that it is not possible for IARU or CEPT to force France to respect the CEPT recommandations. A lot of hams in France are old and only few amateurs radio joint the hobby. So i think in few years Franch amateur radio will be only a souvenir…

    • Damian M0SFX says:

      Hi Frenchie, its interesting that you had these concerns as well, when I was a 2E0 (Intermediate/ Novice)I asked the RSGB why was it that a lot of European countries allowed other novice and USA General to operate in there countries but not UK, I was told that European Novice was not at the same standard as UK novice and it was reccomended to Ofcom NOT TO ALLOW them to operate in the UK therefore they didnt sign up to the reciprocial agreement preventing the UK Novices from working in Europe, maybe the French authorities are of the same opinion so why not bring them into line, PS strangley the Canadian authorites if you apply will let you operate as a Novice.

  6. Frenchie says:

    Is amateur radio dying ? In France only 5% of the 14892 amateurs radio are 10 to 35 yo.
    Also in UK amateurs radio is a hobby for old people and like france 2% are womens…

    RSGB try to make actractive the hobby with a foundation licence but i think youngs peoples prefers computers and vidéos games. Amateur radio was actractive 20 years ago, in france many cber’s, swl was interested by radio and DX. But in france dxers on 27 mhz dont try to be F1 or F6 because level of techniques questions is too high and CW nessecerary for HF bands.

    So amateur radio dying ? I think yes. But this depend of administration and organisations like RSGB and REF. I think in 20 years they will be only 5000 amateurs radios in France and 20000 in UK.

    Excuse my poor english !

  7. Frenchie says:

    No more new novices amateur radio in France for 2012. Incredible news but true, the French administration have decided to stop examination for the French novice licence in 2012. Actually they are 500 novices and they can use only 2 meters band with 10 watts. No il someone want to become amateur radio he must the classe 2 F4 with a very difficult technical exam. Can you imagine we are only 14000 hams in France and 60000 in UK. You are very lucky with foundation licence in UK. In France many peoples prefer to make DX on 27 Mhz… Even you are novice you cant go on HF…

  8. T. Noel, Thompson. G4AVN. says:

    Due to serious health problems, I have been QRT for some 7 years. I have by pure chance, come across this web site and absolutely aghast that another Radio Amateur has died on an expedition, Yuri, YA9YAB. Its now over 6 months since this unfortunate accident, is there any other news?. I most humbly apologise if my question is inconvenient.

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