GB3ZB is a 'repeater'. It is part of the GB3FH repeater group. Repeaters are relay stations enabling reliable contact between radio amateurs over long distances using small portable radios and antennas. The repeaters in the GB3FH group use VHF and UHF frequencies that communicate over 'line of sight' paths from masts on hill tops. Their radio contact is limited by hilly terrain and the curvature of Earth. Besides each having its own local coverage area they are linked, by the internet, to other repeaters in SW England and can be accessed by repeaters in other countries. They are managed via their internet connection.
Repeater use is limited by the same regulations that apply to all licenced amateur radio ('ham') activity. They are maintained and funded by voluntary contributions by their users and in the UK they are 'open'.
'Open' means free for all to use. Radio Amateur repeaters in the UK are not permitted to use selective identification or access codes. GB3ZB is a voice repeater. (Other repeaters handle video and data.) Repeaters are communication devices. Their function is not to provide entertainment and the relaying of music is prohibited. Amateur Radio Broadcasting other than by the special Notice of Variation for GB2RS operators is not permitted.
Repeater users become a community of individuals and groups who share the same air space. They acknowledge each other but tend to form separate groups. It is very like a public lounge bar with tables. There is no real privacy but one respects other people's space. Everyone knows that everything they say can be heard by everyone else, that is the point of a repeater! Conversation topics are somewhat limited and some are off limits. It is unusual for legal calls to be unanswered. The repeater is automatic, but the operators are not. We are people. We have limitations, minds of our own and free will. Good behaviour is required and generally rules.
I say 'legal call' because it is required. I have mentioned the 'licence'. All governments, world wide, issue licences for amateur radio communication. It is managed, world wide, for the benefit of all and is (in theory) a truly international activity. If you have a licence you have a legal callsign. It is a licence requirement that you identify yourself. The amateur radio licence only permits communication between licence holders. If you do not use your legal callsign you will not get replies.
GB3ZB is currently suffering from the attention of an individual who appears to have no licence. We have no way of locking him out. However, we can shut the door to everyone, at will, remotely. Only a very few of us have the necessary permission to manage the way the repeater works. We are using it. Very few regular users will be aware of this, but he probably is. We don't like having to do it.
We think the individual invading our radio space may be a legitimate user of a UHF portable radio. His work radio may have been programmed to function on amateur frequencies (channels) both transmit and receive as well as authorised private channels. For us, receive is not an issue but transmit is a serious problem. Having a total stranger breaking into our chat, triggering the procedure signals and asking for attention is really annoying and could be considered as a threat to our licence. Its like 'photo bombing' and its not funny.
The same radio could probably be used on licence free channels if the user needs to chat with someone. GB3ZB is not the only amateur repeater suffering from his attention. The repeater automatic response may be some sort of company. Perhaps help is needed. Human resources at work could address a problem. There are clubs in the Bristol area that could point an interest in radio communication in a more constructive direction.
If you know who this individual is, please do something about it. Have a quiet word. Explain the problem and how it affects the GB3ZB users. Perhaps he needs a break. We need a break. Some good could come out of this.
If you are the individual responsible, please stop. A lot of time and a significant amount of money is needed to keep a repeater on air. We are self funding and provide free emergency services with communication for events where there is poor mobile coverage. Some of our regular users are house bound. Reliable radio communication is their lifeline and window onto the world. You are upsetting legitimate users who don't cope with gratuitous aggro very well. We have enough problems without you rocking the boat. Have a heart. Please leave us alone... or make yourself known, get a licence and join us.
I don't like to use the 'P' word. You know what it is! When I was at school, seventy years ago, I made a radio transmitter to go with my receivers and talked, late at night, to school friends who had done the same. Many current licence holders did the same sort of thing, and AM CB was almost a rite of passage. We don't hold grudges against illegal operation but we resent deliberate interference. I kept the interest in electronics but dropped amateur radio. It took me twenty five years to get a licence.
Reader... Do contact me if you have anything to say, or think I should know.
While the interference we are experiencing is, thankfully, mild, it is hard to ignore. The perpetrator would be difficult but not impossible to identify. Official action would be difficult to engage and slow to implement. We are all hoping that the problem will fade away if we continue to ignore it, on air. The only sure way for the unlicenced operator to avoid detection is for him to stop. This would be best for all parties and is the thinking behind my producing this page. I have appealed to the better nature of operators who deliberately cause interference before, with good results. This is the traditional time of the year for increasing good will and understanding. I hope that I am not disappointed.
A case of deliberate interference was reported recently on GB2RS for 26th. November 2023. You can hear me reading it as part of the regular 9.30am Sunday broadcast by clicking here...
GB2RS report of prosecution for deliberately causing radio interference.
Here is the full link to the report on the OFCOM web site...
This is not a trivial matter. When engaged, the law takes it seriously enough to invoke a custodial sentence. Nobody wants things to escalate to this level.