HAM Radio 101

Ham Radio Word of the Day: ATV—Amateur Television

“I want my…I want my…I want my ATV.”

Okay, so that’s not exactly how the lyrics to Dire Straits’ hit “Money for Nothing” go, but there are still some hams who might subconsciously change the words in this manner to highlight their favorite, if not less popular, operating mode.

Earlier this month OnAllBands featured the new Icom IC-905, an all-mode QRP transceiver covering 144/1430/1200/2400/5600MHz and 10GHz, including the D-STAR DV/DD mode and FM ATV (analog Amateur Television) with included AV input/output ports. You can make your IC-905 reservation today at DXEngineering.com to be one of the first to own this groundbreaking rig, the first of its kind to offer the capability of operating up to 10 GHz with the optional CX-10G Transverter (sold separately).

With the introduction of the IC-905, we thought this was a good opportunity to briefly discuss a partner of Amateur Radio known as analog Amateur Television, also called HAM TV or Fast-Scan TV. This ham radio mode has been around for decades (early experiments can be traced back to the mid-1920s). It uses the amateur bands to send and receive video/audio transmissions. The IC-905 is suited for FM ATV, which is typically used on frequencies above 1.24 GHz—the mode’s wideband transmissions can be handled there thanks to the sufficient bandwidth. ATV signals are more commonly transmitted in AM or vestigial sideband NTSC (North American analog TV broadcast modulation standard). Popular operating bands are 2m, 70cm, 23m, and 33cm, which is the lowest frequency that will allow for quality FM ATV operation.

The Fast-Scan (FSTV) type of ATV enables hams to send short-distance, real-time video and audio transmissions on UHF and microwave bands. FCC regulations forbid FSTV transmissions below 420 MHz. The good news: only a Technician Class license is required to send ATV transmissions.

Slow-Scan TV (SSTV), accomplished on the HF bands, is limited to long-distance still-photo transmissions of, well, less-than-glossy-magazine quality. Here’s an example of an extremely cool SSTV image sent two years ago from the International Space Station:

Over the years, hams have found a number of uses for FSTV, from showing off their shacks to discussing homebrew projects in full color with sound. EMCOMM applications include transmitting pictures of impending storms or damage. You’ll find a great deal of information online about what you’ll need to assemble an ATV setup. Experienced ATVers will tell you that you can get on 70cm ATV for a modest investment if you have a keen eye for bargain-hunting.

While ATV represents a small niche of ham radio, there are a number of operators dedicated to promoting this aspect of the hobby, including those in the Amateur Radio Television Network. The network started as a single repeater in Southern California and branched out to other states. Visit their website for a list of member chapters, repeaters, videos, events, and useful links to other ATV groups nationwide.

Also check out this link to a video from the 10th DATV QSO Party from August 2022. DATV stands for Digital Amateur Television, which we’ll spotlight in a future post.

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