Have you ever wondered how a repeater gets its frequency? Some people probably assume the FCC handles that. I don’t know if that might have been true years ago, but these days repeater frequencies are coordinated by volunteer groups. Syracuse falls under the jurisdiction of a group called UNYREPCO, the Upper New York REPeater COuncil. If you’re interested in how coordination is done, and what the application looks like, you can poke around their site and read the information. That’s what I did back in early February when I decided to build a repeater.
You have the option of letting your coordinator select an open frequency, or you can do your own research and request a particular frequency. I decided to do the research myself, because I had a feeling that my own criteria for identifying an open frequency might be more stringent than that of the coordinators. It turned out to be true.
One of my frustrations with repeaters in general is that it is impossible to get an accurate list of repeaters that are currently on the air. Any list you find ANYWHERE is going to be full of errors. There really is no way to avoid this, because people move, people die, repeaters die, etc., and unless they tell someone, their repeater will still be listed. Some hams don’t even bother to work with the coordinators; they can, and do put repeaters on the air without telling anyone. So, the best you can do is do your research, work with the frequency coordinators, and hope everything works out.
The first thing I did was to make a list of all the known repeater frequencies for this part of the country. Next, I crossed off everything listed by UNYREPCO, then ARRL, and EVERY other online list I could find, whether or not it was known to be a current listing. I felt it was best to avoid any frequency that had been, could be now, or might be re-used in the future. That brought it down to only a handful of possibilities. Then, I crossed off anything that had an adjacent frequency in use within 60 miles or so. Finally, I started Googling the remaining frequencies, which turned up various web references that were not mentioned in anyone’s lists. Just to be safe, I crossed those off the list also.
Our monster antenna means that this repeater will likely have longer range than average, so I expanded the search all the way to northeastern Ohio, all of Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, and just about all of New England (except Maine). That may seem like overkill, but it made sense to give this repeater every advantage for long range without interference. In the end, this particular search pointed me toward 53.25 MHz. I dutifully submitted my application, and about a month later the offical coordination approval was e-mailed by UNYREPCO.
What happened next was a genuine, hard smack of the forehead moment! Literally minutes after I read the e-mail that contained the good news, I thought, “Wait a minute, I didn’t check Canada!” I don’t know WHY this didn’t occur to me before, and wouldn’t you know it, I found a 53.25 repeater in the Toronto area, and it even had the same PL I had requested! There was no doubt in my mind that someone in the Rochester area could easily bring up BOTH repeaters. Why did UNYREPCO approve it? Basically because it met their criteria for distance between co-channel repeaters, so there was no reason not to.
With heavy heart, and my head hung in shame because I hadn’t included Canada in my search, I started all over again. This time I ended up with 53.67 MHz. The closest repeaters on that frequency are in Oakham, MA (210 miles), Budd Lake, NJ (160 miles), Honeybrook, PA (195 miles), and NOTHING in Canada! There is a 53.69 in Elmira, and a 53.65 in Burdett (near Watkins Glen), but those are far enough away that it shouldn’t be a problem for an adjacent channel. I contacted UNYREPCO, modified my application, and a month later had my official notice that I was coordinated for 53.67 MHz. That’s a good thing, because the crystals for the GE Mastr II repeater had already been ordered by then!
So, it took longer than it needed to because of my ineptness, but we’re now “official” for 53.67 MHz (-1.000 MHz offset, and 103.5 PL if we choose to use it). I missed the ARRL Repeater Directory deadline by a couple of months, so it won’t be listed there until the 2013-2014 edition at the earliest (updates from our area are notoriously slow to reach the ARRL Directory). By the way, I don’t expect to be using PL on the receiver unless it is absolutely necessary to prevent spurious squelch opening; if it is needed, it will be 103.5 Hz.