High frequency radio (commonly known as short wave radio) is a means of communication in which a radio wave signal is transmitted from one point to the ionosphere, where it is reflected back down to another point on earth. HF radio is suitable for communications over long distances because it transmits sky waves which are reflected off the ionosphere. However, this characteristic also limits its usefulness for inter-community communications because of atmospheric disturbances. Nonetheless, HF radio was considered appropriate because it has a greater range than VHF or UHF communications equipment. Also, HF is less subject to blockage by terrain obstacles. VHF and UHF radio waves need a line of sight path.
Moreover, there is a need for trail communications equipment especially in northern Canada. In the north, people must frequently leave their communities to hunt, fish and trap. When people leave in small parties, there is a need for trail communications. This refers to radio communications equipment which is light enough in weight to be easily transportable.
Trail communications equipment includes a transceiver, antenna and power supply. In order to allow portability, the transceiver should be small in size and light in weight. The antenna is frequently a vertical whip type, or simply a long wire. The power supply consists of batteries and must also be light in weight. Trail communications equipment are intended for use in situations in which persons are away from their base community for extended periods of time and are travelling in areas that do not have communications facilities that permit contact with the base community. They are needed when groups of people go hunting, trapping or fishing at sea and are away for days or weeks at a time.
In 1974, a conference was held on communications in the north. This conference resulted in a request from the Northern Quebec Inuit Association for CRC to work on a rugged trail radio system to meet the needs of people working in northern Canada. The Department of Communications sought to create a combined short range relay system and a longer range, higher-frequency radio system for providing reliable low-cost trail communications. In 1976, CRC had completed an initial system design. A repeater was installed along with a transceiver in the area of Koartac, Quebec. The project was meant to demonstrate the feasibility of such a system. Field trials began in 1977.
This unique project underwent trials throughout 1977. Inuit hunters used this trail radio system throughout the Fall and Winter to provide communications between a base camp and hunting parties away on snowmobiles. The test program was extremely successful. In one case, the use of HF equipment resulted in locating a lost hunting party, probably saving several lives.
In 1979, research continued on the concept of low-cost VHF and HF trail radio. This work led to the concept of adding a radio-to-telephone interconnection facility to the existing system. This concept was meant to allow radio users on the trail or in a remote camp to dial and speak directly to anyone with a telephone in their base community. This research eventually led to the development of the RACE (Radio-Telephone with Automatic Channel Evaluation) system and Syncompex. The HF trail radio system eventually became part of field trials in these related technologies. Industry contracts were awarded for development of a frequency control module, as well as technology to provide automatic connection for long-distance phone calls.
Annual Reports 1974-75 to 1979-80. Ottawa; Supply and Services, 1975-1980.
Meagher, J.E. Inter-Community Communications in the North: Requirements and Alternatives. Ottawa; Communications Canada, October 1974.
Page created on August 14, 1997 by Cynthia Boyko
Last updated on February 6, 2001 by Stu McCormick
Copyright © Friends of CRC, 1997