Onega has its own radio station.
This is installed in our office and allows us to talk to the world (or indeed beyond with the International Space Station if they happen to be overhead). It is an Amateur (ham) radio setup and can be operated by any member of the company with a suitable licence (or an unlicenced operator may pass messages under the supervision of a full licence holder).
Currently licenced operators in the company include:
Ben - M6CXP, 2E0TBW, M0LGN
Matthew - M6URX
What is ham Radio?
What kit is currently in our 'shack'?
An Icom IC-7100, ATU
Yaesu FT-101ZD MKIII (pictured in the page header)
Diamond X-510 Antenna
Isotron HF Antennas
RigExpert AA-600 Antenna Analyser
Why do we have this and how does it relate to our work?
Here at Onega, we are big believers in understanding not only the mechanics and practical sides of how things how work, but also the deep theory of how and why things tick at different levels. This is the difference between a mechanic and an engineer, or working in triage vs being a surgeon etc. Wireless is one of the technologies that is now not just your granny's tranny (or more likely a nice new DAB radio), but used now in so many parts of life and business that we take it for granted but gain advantage from thorough understanding of. The skill of being able to visualise and empathise with how things work is often key to rapid problem root source identification and thus onto formulation of a solution.
Radio is all around us:
- Car keys, locks and Garage Door Openers
- Oyster and other NFC contactless payment cards
- PAC Cards / Tags for use with Access Control Systems for access in buildings.
- GPS in phones, cars, cameras and satnav units
- Radio that we tune into for FM, AM, DAB radio to listen to
- Freeview and Satellite TV transmissions
- In our phones for voice calls and accessing the Internet with GSM, GPRS, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G
- Keeping us safe when we fly with RADAR (and catching us on camera and giving us fines if we drive unsafely!)
- Connecting devices in your computer and in your home with Wi-Fi.
- Coordinating air traffic control for planes and maritime control for shipping.
All these devices have different penetrative properties, protocols, reach, frequencies and intensities, interference properties etc. The air and space around us and passing through us carries so much information on so many channels that if they are all considered it most impressive how everything co-exists so efficiently on the whole.
Onega, as part of our work, install and maintain wireless networks and having a good understanding of how these work, how one device (access point) hands over to another in a multi zone network, how interference can occur and be cured, what causes drop out etc. are valuable skills. We use and support a wide range of wireless equipment from vendors including Ruckus, Watchguard, Cisco, Buffalo, Microtik etc. depending on what is the right tool for the job.
Who have we talked to?
Some of the interesting contacts that we've had on the radio recently (2015) have included:
- The Cosmonaut Training Centre at Star City outside Moscow in Russia,
- Marconi's Private Yacht Elettra (now preserved in Italy for historic importance) but live on the air again invoking the memory of the great man.
- The station of an Eastern European Nuclear Power plant.
- HMS Belfast which is moored just up the river Thames from the Onega office at Trinity Buoy Wharf.
- The National Radio Centre at Bletchley Park (where many of the wartime signals message interceptors and code-breakers worked).
We've also sponsored the communications server installed at the heart of the D-STAR repeater (global digital radio access node) installed at the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker - http://www.secretnuclearbunker.com . The site is obviously not so secret now having been in use from 1952 to 1992 and is open to the public to tour and see how the local government would have run in case of a nuclear war. Well worth a visit and reminds us we are all very lucky that it was never needed. If holocaust came to pass it would have been inside: grim, outside: grim reaper. This bunker was in military service from 1952 to 1992 and has since been superseded by the newer generation facilities.
The radio coverage from the repeater covers a large part of Essex including Brentford, Chelmsford, Ongar, Billericay and into East London including where Onega's offices are based. You can see full details of the repeater callsign GB7KH at www.gb7kh.co.uk/
Lighthouses and LightShips on the Air Weekend.
Being at Trinity Buoy Wharf, which is still owned as a site by the Trinity House Company but leased for artistic purposes to the management of Urban Space, we have a lighthouse and a lightship onsite. The lighthouse is London's only 'real' lighthouse and it used to be used for training lighthouse keepers before they went to the darkest parts of the country, seas and oceans to man and maintain their essential beacons to keep shipping safe. Every year there is an International Lighthouses and Lightships on the Air Weekend - http://illw.net/ (typically in the third weekend of August) and then we enjoy activating the GB2TBW station with our friends at the Loughton and Epping Forest Amateur Radio Society - http://www.lefars.org.uk who also do one of the best amateur radio training weekends in the country for anyone interested in learning and earning a radio licence.