Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Narrow minded

Due to having been banned from using the software I have not been keeping up with what is going on in the development of the ROS digital mode. However there have been a few interesting postings about it. In the digitalradio Yahoo group Skip KH6TY has posted the results of some tests conducted with ROS on 432MHz which appear to show that it suffers badly from the effect of doppler shift and flutter experienced at those frequencies, failing to decode over paths where Olivia was successful and even SSB was readable.

This has prompted a rebuttal from the ROS author, which however seems to overlook the problem of doppler distortion encountered by Skip. He has posted a series of comparisons between ROS 2250/8 and Olivia 32/1000 which purport to show that ROS holds up while Olivia prints garbage. He concludes: "The difference between both systems is about 5dbs (3.16 in natural units). This means that ROS8 need 3.16 times less power than OLIVIA 32/1000 to establish a QSO to 150 characters/minute."

Assuming that this is true, I nevertheless feel that a tradeoff of bandwidth for power or speed is inappropriate in the context of the narrow HF band allocations for digital modes. Most amateur QSOs do not need to go at 150 characters/minute (most people can't type that fast). On the other hand the 2250Hz wide ROS transmission blocks three channels that could be used for Olivia 32/1000, and even more channels that could be used for a narrower mode. The use of 2250Hz ROS effectively limits the number of people who can simultaneously hold a digital QSO.

Even if it is true that Olivia needs 3 times the power than ROS to get through, Olivia is still a better choice of mode in the real world, because it is easier to increase the power 3 times or to switch to a slower mode than to find extra space within the HF allocations to accommodate the use of such a wide mode.

ROS would be less of a problem if people used it only in circumstances where it would not be possible to communicate using a narrower mode. Unfortunately that discipline does not exist among today's radio amateurs. People are using ROS to make contacts with others whose signals are strong enough that 30Hz wide PSK31 could be used. This is just selfish, and it is the reason why I feel that such a wide digital mode should not be permitted on HF at all.
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