VA3ODG and the Ottawa Amateur Radio Digital Group
Background and Overview

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As originally stated in 2006, the Ottawa Amateur Radio Digital Group (OARDG) was an ad hoc group of radio amateurs located in the Ottawa area who felt that it was an opportune time to evolve the 40 year old analogue fm repeater technology to state-of-the-art digital radio technology, which was more closely aligned with the internet and modern computers.

Following on this page, is a little history, for those of you who are interested.

The project was conceived by Ken Asmus (VA3KA) and Rick Bandla (VE3CVG), in the spring of 2006. The objective was to find a way to deploy a full complement D-STAR system in Ottawa, that would include a digital repeater on 2m, 70cm, 23cm and 23cm high (ok, medium) speed data. Icom Canada had an assistance program in place to provide 23cm equipment, if the VHF and UHF systems were purchased. However, in spite of the assistance from Icom, the project still priced out at well over $16K. Rick and Ken decided to explore the New Horizons grant program as a possible source of funds. The New Horizons program dealt with networking and communications amongst seniors, and this looked like a very good fit for our amateur radio project, so a submission was made in the summer of 2006. There was virtually no feedback from the federal grant organization until just before Christmas, when word was received that the submission was approved and funds would be available in January 2007.

The group was called together, and the project went into high gear instantly. An official Request For Prices was put out in January and based on responses, the equipment was ordered and was eventually received in early March 2007.

A very real problem was the lack of a repeater site. With security concerns post 9/11 and Ottawa being the nation's capital, with most of the tallest buildings being federal government locations, it was not easy to find a good high site that would provide a 24/7 equipment room and roof top access. Camp Fortune was already jammed, and not all that accessible anyway. We were stuck.

The YMCA-YWCA Headquarters people came to our rescue and agreed to let us use their premises. This site had some great attributes and a couple of real problems: there was no internet access; we had to provide our own antennas, feedlines and filters; and it was smack in the middle of intermod alley.

A condition of the grant, required that the project be communicated to as many local amateurs as possible, with particular emphasis on seniors, and encourage as many as possible to use the new facilities. Every club in the Ottawa area was contacted in early 2007 and presentations were made to well over 400 amateurs. In addition, presentations and displays were available at several local ham fests.

A handful of hams provided a huge amount of time and effort to turn up the repeaters by the end of March. This initial installation worked, but was less than ideal and we quickly learned that the Icom equipment had no filtering and no front end gain. Over the spring and summer of 2007, preamplifiers and filters on RX and TX (2m filters thanks to Norm VE3LC) were added and reasonable performance was finally achieved. Unfortunately, the team was seriously lacking technical expertise with linux and networking. Also, the site still did not have an internet connection and the funds were exhausted. However, as is typical of Amateur Radio Projects, we found more generous people to help out.

In 2008, Ying Hum (VA3YH) agreed to provide us a 2 km remote internet feed via wifi, to the rooftop of the Y. It is through this feed, that all linking took place for several years, and without it, VA3ODG would only have been another local repeater with no connectivity to the world. Also via this connection, we (support people) were able to remotely maintain the D-STAR gateway server, from the comfort of our homes. This free feed was not always perfect but it was not bad and very much better than nothing. Ying spent many hours helping to improve the linux gateway and to keep it working.

Throughout this project, Dale Hennigar (VE3XZT) has provided ongoing support both financially and through the resources of his electrical contracting company. Dale has provided the physical resources to wrestle the cabinetry up to the 17th floor, done all our electrical work, helped install an ethernet feed from the 2nd floor, and rebuilt the antenna mount, just to name a few of the challenges. Without his help we would be nowhere.

There are many others who have helped in various ways. I'm not going to name them all here, but thank you all very much.

VA3ODG and the Ottawa Amateur Radio Digital Group, which has mostly now faded, has no funds. We are always looking for help and financial donations. We have not charged any dues or fees to offset costs. A few clubs and a few users have donated funds from time-to-time to help us, when it was needed. You and I know who you are. Thank you.

VA3ODG can function like a standalone repeater, standalone closed internet Access Point, or a node of a huge communications network. I am very proud of what the many hams who worked together, were able to accomplish!

Rick (VE3CVG)

This page was updated on October 25, 2020 and is Copyright © 2006-2020 by VE3CVG and OARDG