The hidden costs of amateur repeaters

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From time to time we hear about the funding difficulties experienced by clubs who run a repeater often not for the benefit of their own members, but for the wider amateur radio community.

In New South Wales the Lands Department is continuing on its campaign of introducing high site lease charges all in the name of cost recovery and getting a commercial return for access to sites.

Similar things are happening in other parts of Australia which are making repeater operators very anxious. Amateur Radio Victoria funds and licences most of the repeaters in its state, the annual ACMA licence fees are nearly $4000. Many sites where we have equipment are now controlled by third party entities. This makes it necessary to enter into new lease agreements to use what were previously rent free sites.

An example of this is Mt William repeater VK3RWZ in Western Victoria, the site fees for this repeater are around $2,100 a year. The last upgrade to VK3RWZ rigging costs alone were in excess of $5,000 for that job plus the new feeders, aerials and radios.

A considerable number of complaints were received when the repeater was not on air, most came from non members of Amateur Radio Victoria and since it has been returned to service only a couple of loyal and understanding members have expressed their thanks.

Another major new cost for repeater operators is the ongoing monthly cost of Internet access. At the ARV site at Mt Macedon both our DStar and DMR repeaters are able to share a common Internet gateway at a monthly cost of $50. Not all sites can avail themselves of existing Internet infrastructure provided by others, particularly at our more remote sites.

Most amateurs don’t understand the amount of effort made by a small number of dedicated people to continually upgrade installations to meet new commercial technical requirements and the continual replacement program for obsolete equipment initiated by Amateur Radio Victoria.

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