Recently the Western Cape Repeater Working Group (WCRWG), the group that is supposed to serve the Cape Town radio clubs by installing and maintaining the repeater system in the Western Cape decided that they wanted to convert the existing wide-band (25 kHz FM deviation) repeaters to narrow-band (12.5 kHz FM deviation). There appears to also be some local Hamnet support for this.
The two largest clubs in Cape Town, the Cape Town ARC and the Oakdale ARC lodged a complaint with the WCRWG, for the following reasons:
- The repeaters in the Cape Town area are becoming less used than they previously were as our Amateur population in the area gradually ages and diminishes. Some repeaters go more than a day without any use. Therefore there is no reason to convert the existing repeaters to narrow band, which will only be necessary if we are going to add more repeaters.
- The WCRWG is continually seeking donations in order to maintain our existing repeaters. In fact, reports over the past few years have indicated that the WCRWG is operating almost hand to mouth and does not even have funds to properly repair a repeater building that is leaking rain into the building, let alone install (and maintain) additional repeaters.
- With the aging Amateur population in the area, mostly using reliable but older VHF equipment, having to convert their equipment to narrow-band is beyond the financial and technical abilities of many. Narrow-banding most of these older receivers is unfeasible. A substantial number of Radio Amateurs will then be off the air.
- The conversion to narrow-band will result in less available Radio Amateurs being able to assist in the event of a disaster, not more.
- There is no justifiable reason to convert the area’s repeaters to narrow band at this time.
Special General Meeting with SARL President
A special general meeting of the major clubs, WCRWG and the SARL president took place on 23 November 2013 to discuss the narrow-banding issue. It was noted that the SARL held the licences of the WC repeaters, although they had been financed by the clubs and individuals in the WC.
The SARL President stated that the conversion to narrow-banding the Western Cape repeaters would take place even though it was pointed out that this conversion was NOT a requirement of ICASA.
It was stated from the floor that this forced conversion would cause a loss of membership in SARL. The SARL president’s response was “They always say that”. Is that not shocking arrogance from our SARL President?
The SARL president also informed us that ICASA will not issue repeater licences to clubs or individuals that the SARL has not approved and the SARL will no longer approve of wide-band repeaters. It came out later in the meeting that these changes would be concluded by 2017, only three years away.
The Cape Town ARC and the Oakdale ARC have opposed the move to narrow-band at this time.
Regardless of the five very valid reasons set out above, the SARL intends on forcing us to convert. We believe there could be a hidden agenda behind these discriminating actions. We find their condescending behavior towards our members regrettable.
Noel / ZS1FW, Chairman Cape Town Amateur Radio Centre
Dirk / ZS1VDB, Chairman Oakdale Amateur Radio Club
21 January, 2014