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Pactor 4 is illegal in the United States! ARRL Tries to Legalize PACTOR 4 with FCC RM-11708

Don Hamrick
Don Hamrick Member
edited February 2017 in SmartSDR for Windows

I almost made my decision to buy one of the new SCS PACTOR-4 modems until I researched the legality of PACTOR 4 (Googled). The following is what I found:

FCC RM-11708
Amendment of Part 97 of the Commissions Amateur Radio Service Rules to Permit Greater Flexibility in Digital Data Communications

Date Created (Filed?): November 20, 2013
NOVEMBER 21, 2013: Delivered to the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau as a PUBLIC NOTICE.

October 21, 2015:

From my brief search of ARRL website the following was the last mention of RM-11708. Is the ARRL giving up on RM-11708?

ARRL Executive Committee Presented with Draft Enforcement Improvement Plan
. . .

"Imlay also reported on several ongoing FCC proceedings, on which no action has occurred since the Board last met in July. He said there has been no indication from the FCC as to when to expect a Notice of Proposed Rule Making in response to the ARRL’s petition (RM-11708) asking the Commission to replace the existing symbol rate limit on HF data transmissions with a bandwidth limit."

Now read this:

PACTOR NEWS: An online source dedicated to HF communications and PACTOR
by Phil Sussman - N8PS ( Formerly, KB8LUJ )

(Rev: 16-JAN-2016)

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016. With the dawn of another year, what's going on with PACTOR and Ham Radio?

The ARRL proposal RM-11708 remains untouched, at the FCC, and it remains OPEN. Prehaps it stays "frozen" in the hopes it will be withdrawn or just go away. The Ham Radio community continues to use PACTOR-4 outside US shores with the primary use to send traffic files (email, pictures, etc.) to private or public mailboxes. Much borders, if it doesn't actually cross, into commercial activity.

So, If I understand correctly, PACTOR 4 remains illegal in the United States because the FCC is sitting on their posteriors. I thought the purpose of amateur radio was for the advancement of communications technology? Isn't that what PACTOR 4 is? But there are a bunch of amateur radio operators who advocate CW, RTTY, and other narrow band modes. They are in an uproar over PACTOR 4. There's the rub and the stall!


  • K6OZY
    K6OZY Member ✭✭
    edited March 2018
    This is not new news. This proposal has been in the works for quite some time. Those who oppose it do so because they fear that Pactor 4 will make the bands worse promoting sailors who are too cheap to pay for SailMail. Pactor 3 uses the same bandwidth as Pactor 4 but P4 will get it done twice as fast, plus the legitimate ham is penalized because of the fear that something bad may happen. The USA is the ONLY country who limits baud rate. All other countries limit by bandwidth. There are also other modes blocked by this silly rule. My MARS mil modem is much faster than any mode we have in the amateur space and uses the same bandwidth as Pactor 3 because it can use > 300 baud symbol rate.

    Regarding the P4 modem, I think it's still worth purchasing. I sold my PTC III and picked up a P4 7400 and 7800 modems last month. The dragon's have better p3 performance and can very noticeably hold links much deeper into the noise than my prior SCS modem. As a MARS operator, I can use Pactor 4 on all of the MARS WinLink nodes and other data practice we do. Plus I can till use P4 on anything above 10 meters. I've done point to point tests using 1200 baud packet vs pactor 4 on 2 meters, and the p4 modems DESTROY 1200 baud packet in speed, especially when FM fails to reach the destination and the sideband P4 modem works. Pactor 3 and 4's dynamic speed switching makes it a fire and forget appliance. The modems worry about adapting to band change conditions while the link is in progress instead of the all-or-none approach of other modes.

    The 6000 series radio works fine with these 3 modems. I purchased them to validate claims from some other users who were having issues on the flex. I confirmed that those were user errors and have been thoroughly enjoying my dragon modems on my 6300 / 6700 for WinLink, Pactor ragchew on 20M/40M, and point to point file transfers using the SCS Transfer utility.

    I will be posting extensive videos on configuring these modems for use on the 6000 series soon. I'm hoping for a realization of this silly stall tactic and that the FCC gets it's tail in gear and let's us digital nuts enjoy new modes too.
  • Michael Coslo
    Michael Coslo Member ✭✭
    edited May 2016
    There could be an issue because of the ill manners used by some of the Pactor people in the past, and still exists to an extent today. I've had a number of communications distrupted when a PACTOR station opened up on a frequency and blew away a lot of ongoing QSO's. Being unattended PACTOR stations, we just had to take it, and many PACTOR users response was "No one owns a frequency, so if we transmit over top of you, then just deal with it. Which seems a lot like declaring ownership. Sometimes playing the emergency card as well, our QSO's are not important, so clear the frequency.

    Speed is nice, but PACTOR users declaring eminent domain isn't.

    I suspect that some new rules/guidlines/equipment /software/attitudes are in order. Even aprs packet software has a feature that won't allow it to transmit if other stations are. Not rocket science

  • K6OZY
    K6OZY Member ✭✭
    edited February 2017
    Winlink does not allow unattended checking on ham frequencies. That option is restricted in the ham bands. You must manually initiate every connection.

    Winlink also will warn you with a pop up that the channel is in use if it detects anything but noise. The interference may not be deliberate.

    This goes both ways too. I've seen ongoing transfers be obliterated by foreign voice SSB on 40M. I'm not convinced they could hear the data though because I'd think they wouldn't want to start a Q with this in their ear. Perhaps that's how it is both ways?
  • Michael Coslo
    Michael Coslo Member ✭✭
    edited May 2016

    I am certain that I am wrong, but I've had a fair number of PSK31 transmissions destroyed by a PACTOR station opening up on us. A good signal can wipe out a fair portion of the 3 KHZ, a ratty one will disrupt the entire segment. 

    Digipan may have even contributed to this error by allowing users to ID the PACTOR stations to file complaints. 

    Anyhow, I'll bow out of this one, because the arguments always end up the same way.
  • K6OZY
    K6OZY Member ✭✭
    edited February 2017
    Agreed, but inside the USA no WinLink gateways are coordinated to sit under or near the top edge of the JT65 area. Obviously this wouldn't apply to point to point transfers. And without a modem to decode the signal, you have no way of knowing if that was for WinLink or just a random person doing normal stuff.

    Yes Pactor3 is 2.4khz wide and should be kept above JT65 and under voice areas of a band. I'm a CW Op and wouldn't want that down low either. By restricting baud rate, they people against it are hurting the progress of amateur radio tech. Their real beef is wide digital in the low parts of the band. Let's deal with that kind of restriction then, not baud rate. There are some amazing narrowband modes that exist that we can't use beause of the baud restriction.

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