2023 Q1 W8CMN Network Update

While it may have been a while since we have posted what we have been up to at W8CMN we haven’t been relaxing or hibernating.  Let this post be the “First Quarter 2023” W8CMN Network report.  It will cover items related to our grant project and unrelated to the grant.  Nothing will be in a particle order.

We have brought online a new site in Shepherd.  This site has Mi5 and Mi6 networks currently active.  Mi6 is fed via microwave point-to-point to Midland 18.84 miles away. The Mi5 pair is the same as our LIN machine on 442.01250.  As the site is right along US-127 we have installed a few cameras which can be viewed from the links above in the menu.

We have made two more work trips to the Pinconning site.  Bringing online the 26.18-mile point-to-point link to Midland. The 7 Mile point-to-point link to Standish. The 22.21 point-to-point link to Bay City. Point to Point antennas was also installed towards West Branch and Gladwin sites. 2.397Ghz PtMP Access Point was installed. VHF and UHF antennas were installed at the top of the site to support the installation of Mi7 and analog voice networks. PTZ camera was installed and is viewable from the menu above.  All of this goes along with the Mi5 machine that was installed on New Year’s Eve.

Around the first of the year, the Bay Area Amateur Radio Club spoke with our directors if we would be interested in acquiring the 145.31 repeater in Quanicassee.  This repeater is the primary District 3 asset and needed an organization that specializes in maintaining and repairing it for years to come to serve the community.  Once the Bay Clubs members made the decision to go ahead with the transfer we worked with the tower owner to secure a proper lease and visit the site to survey what was needed.  It is determined that the antenna is damaged and needs to be replaced.  As this commercial site limits what can be installed and by who we have to use specialized climbers that are approved by the site owner.  This cost along with the antenna purchase costs have been worked into a Grant request that is currently pending.  We installed an RTCM voting/simulcast controller to replace the old RLC-2A controller.  A full-sized enclosed rack was also installed and all equipment was moved from the wall-mounted box to the proper housing.  A temporary LTE uplink was installed while we working out the proper microwave connections. This connected the repeater to our VHF Hub.

While we are waiting for the grant to be approved and processed we looked at options to provide a band-aid of sorts to bring the machine workable.  Our Gilford P25 site was only 2 miles away. While the ground is flat between the sites there was a row of trees between the two that prevented us from having a proper line-of-site between the locations.  We are limited to where we can mount additional antennas at each location due to tower loading and site agreements.  Both sites are able to see a number of farming grain elevators and we worked to secure a lease with one of the farmers. This is our new Gilford3 site. Gilford3 has a 13.5-mile point-to-point connection to our Gera site and a 12.93-mile point-to-point connection to Bay City.  These two connections provide the uplink to our Mi6 network. Then from Gilford3, we have two point-to-point connections to Gilford1 and Gilford2.  This provides the low latency connection to support the installation of an additional VHF receiver for the 145.31 at the P25 site.  While that antenna is at 700’ AGL vs 940’ AGL it is outperforming the damaged antenna on the 145.31 main site.  This was all done as a stopgap to bring the machine fully workable while the grant was secured and then executed. 

We installed equipment in Burt at a new site to us. Currently, we have installed an 11.71-mile point-to-point link to Harrison and an 11.87-mile point-to-point to the Frankenmuth site.  We have plans to add a 19.52-mile link from that site to Owosso site in the future.  Thus providing another path from north to south.

Frankenmuth site was visited and received some updates along with cleaning during a semi-above-freezing spell. A new router new 48volt and 24volt PoE switches were also installed removing the legacy routers and cluster of PoE injectors that had been added over the years to the site.  The 11.87-mile point-to-point link to the Burt site was installed and brought online.  We also installed the new UHF Lora APRS gateway.  This is currently running on 430.250Mhz and look for more information coming on this project soon.

A new Mi Network?  As Auxcomm is more than just ham radio some of our members/directors looking to add support for another communications tool in the toolbox and reach out to others who are not amateur radio operators yet have started deploying and linking GMRS repeaters. We are calling this network Mi8.  We currently have a linking hub online with repeaters in Detroit and Mt.Clemens.  You can find more information in the menu above or by visiting http://mi8.systems . We are working to add repeaters in Bay City, Saginaw, and Flint shortly as well. Look for announcements of those coming soon.

We started working with the Flint F.A.I.R. group on acquiring the 147.38 and 444.600 repeaters as well.  Following along with what we did with the Bay group the owners of the machine wanted to see the continuation of the great 38 many years into the future and keep its mission going of supporting area communications.  After all the paperwork was completed we worked with the site owner to continue a lease at its current location and worked to start the upgrades.  The 444.600 repeater was off the air and a temporary machine was installed while we waited for its permanent upgrade to arrive. 444.600 is now back on the air and linked full-time with our UHF analog network hub. A PL of 151.4 is now required for this machine. As for The Great 38 we have upgraded it to a Motorola Quantar with RTCM for voting. The repeater is connected to our VHF hub unless it is needed to support the county Auxcomm program.  We are currently using LTE for IP uplink while microwave links are figured out. Once microwave links are installed we will be adding remote receivers to this machine around Genesee County.

On the topic of Genesee County we were contacted by the Office of Emergency Management and their new Auxiliary Communications Manager to support their new Auxcomm program with different technology needs that we have deployed for other programs around the state. We have brought Mi6 online in the Genesee County EOC as well as a full Mi7 node.  The VHF port being on 145.090 currently supports 1200Baud ax.25. Also a UHF DMR radio was installed in the EOC to allow access to the Mi5 Network.

Using our contacts with McLaren we worked with them to secure an agreement to bring a technology plan to Flint.  This is our 5th McLaren site that they support us at and we are grateful for all of their support around the state. We have spent a few days now removing old unused legacy equipment and starting to install the foundation for the items to be installed at that site.  

We currently have Mi6 installed with a 15.4-mile point-to-point link to our Holly site. Backhaul radios were installed towards Flint3 and Flint5 sites. VHF and UHF antennas are installed to support other networks as well.  We are currently limited on the roof to certain areas due to migratory birds nesting and their protection.  But when more services are brought online we will make the announcements for sure. 

We have also been slowly adding more content to our website.  From Mi6 client radio lists and configs to coverage maps.  The Mi5 and Mi8 maps are what we are planning to update all networks and repeater pages to  here going forward. Just takes time and now that the weather is starting to hopefully trend up to above freezing we can get more weekends of work done building networks across our great state.

Would like to thank the following people who showed up to help over the past few months at one or all of these sites.  Getting to the sites early and staying well past bedtime to get things done.  

In no particular order:

Brad, W8QPO
Chris, KD8BMB
Cameron, N9KOP
Courtney, No call yet
Dan, W2PUT
Dan, No call yet
Dave, N8ERL
Fred, KC8UMP
Jacob, KD8ZFC
Jeff, KB8SWR
Jeff, KC8PUN
Loren, KF8F
Matt, N8SHA
Michelle, KC8UMO
Mike, N8OBU
Mike, KB8RVP
Paul, KC8ELQ
Phil, No call yet
Randy, N8VDS
Randy, WF5X
Tom, N8IES
Tim, WM8A

Shepherd Site at Night
Frankenmuth Topside Update
Dan working at Gilford1 installing 31 remote rx
Back of Gilford1 rack
Gilford2 rack - New 145.31