Pella is sharing in a communications project that was developed and implemented by other amateur radio operators.  We refer to it as the “Fiber Link”.  In a nutshell, this refers to several repeaters, throughout Iowa, that are linked together, via the Iowa Communications Network.  The Iowa Communications Network (ICN) is a fiber optic communications line that branches throughout the state of Iowa and travels through every county in the state.  I believe that nobody in the state of Iowa lives greater than 15 miles from an ICN Room, which is a room built for education via multimedia.  In other words, many satellite classrooms can join together with a single educator and everyone can interact with each other, across the state.  The ICN is capable of self -healing, which means that if the fiber line is cut or destroyed somewhere, it automatically reroutes the signal to complete its destination. Consider the impact that this system would have on adult education or skywarn communications.

 Since some of the techs that helped develop the system were hams, and since fiber optics provide great speed, bandwidth, and space, amateur radio was given permission to share some of the space for experimental communications.  All ICN lines terminate in a Fiber Optic Transmission System Room (FOTS Room).  Our city has five of them: Pella Community High School, Pella Christian High School, Central University of Iowa, The Pella Public Library, and the Pella Police Department.  Our communications equipment needed to be installed at a FOTS Room site and since one of our local members is a teacher at the Pella Community High School, this site was selected, with total support from the Superintendent.

The following shows you what we have and how we set it up. The following map indicates repeater sites that are connected to the ICN. Each site is showing a 50-mile radius (may or may not be accurate). Participating repeaters are: Bedford, Davenport, Des Moines, Lamoni, Moravia, Mason City, Storm Lake, Pella, and Waterloo.

This is a photograph of the West Wing of the Pella Community High School, which houses the ICN Room, FOTS Room, and our amateur radio communications equipment.

This is what the inside of an ICN Room looks like. The instructor would be visible on two monitors placed in the front of the classroom and each student has access to a desk mic. Pressing the PPT button will cause one of three cameras to zoom in on you and let everyone see and hear you. This permits several classrooms to be taught by a single instructor and one moment. A class that is taught 200 miles away can be taken in my own city.

Just about all ICN Rooms look just like this.

This is inside the FOTS Room. These are actually the brains for the ICN and connects the ICN Room to the fiber optic line. It is pretty basic video and telephone equipment but notice the UPS battery backup on the right. I have no idea what the power consumption would be on this system.

This is the Telco Systems, Inc. Model 6000-04-3 telephone equipment that connects our amateur radio signal to the ICN. Front view on the left shows our 6040-60-2 card (third from left). Rear view on the right shows the blue cord that carries our audio to and from our amateur radio equipment.

The junction box on the left is a midway point between amateur radio and ICN. The blue wire connects to the ICN and the gray wires connect to the Vega panel.

Environment control of the FOTS Room is achieved with this small air-conditioning unit on the right.


Our ARRL Section Manager, Jim Lasley, N0JL, donated the Hewlett Packard 5061-3171 power rack (left) to mount our equipment. This equipment comes with filtered AC protection but we added more filtering and transient voltage protection (right).

Our rack plugs into a Tripp Lite Isobar Ultra Diagnostic Surge Suppressor, model Isobar 8 Ultra. This system got hit by lightning a while back and the insides of the Isobar 8 Ultra literally exploded! Nothing got past this unit and all of our communications equipment was saved. The Isobar was sent into the factory and a new one immediately sent back. The Isobar works and so does their warranty!

The Hewlett Packard cabinet has a ground lug on the back and we have a heavy duty, braided copper wire attached onto the lug and is attached onto a #6 solid copper wire. This wire goes through the outside wall and attached to an 8-foot ground rod (right).

We use a Tripp Lite Power Verter DC-to-AC Inverter / Charger, model APS 1012, connected to a marine, lead/acid battery. This will keep us going for the majority of power failures and pending on the situation, will give us plenty of time to install a generator.

Our 2-meter rig is powered by this Astron RM-35M power supply. During transmit, we probably pull about 4 amps so the Astron is overkill for power. This was done because we don't know what equipment will need to be added to this system in the future. What ever it is, we are confident that we will be able to handle the power requirements.

The Aerotron, Aerocom Six was selected to be the 2-meter rig for this system. Most internal curcuits are separated on individual plug-in boards, which makes it very easy for making modifications. Controls are simple with on/off, volume, and squelch. The back has 12 VDC in and antenna jack. Front of rig on the left and back of rig on the right.

The Aerocom Six puts out about 30 watts. Considering a 4:1 duty cycle, we had great concerns with transmit times of three minutes on and 2 seconds off during typical nets.

To solve this problem, the transmit power was reduced to about 5 watts. Then we attached a 1-inch PVC, 90- degree elbow to the rear/side of the rig. A 2-inch to 1- inch reducer was attached and a muffin fan glued into the reducer. A 2-inch PVC pipe was attached onto the reducer (shown left). 1/4-inch holes were drilled in the rear cabinet (right) and if 12-VDC is applied to the transceiver, the muffin fan is on and pulls air through the holes, across the output transistors, and exits the warm air out the rack via the PVC pipe. I believe we have 100% duty cycle now and even after an hour of transmit time, have never felt more than tepid temperatures on the cabinet or the exhausted air.

This is what the Aerocom Six looks like, installed. The PVC sticks out past the bottom so the rig needed to be installed upside down.

The Aerocom Six is connected to a quarter wave mag mount antenna. Attached to RG-58U, the antenna is stuck to the compressor of the FOTS Room air-conditioner. The antenna is looking directly at the repeater antenna, about a half mile away and 380' HAAT. We have absolutly, no RFI of any kind with this set up.

Above is a top view of the Vega Panel. All the cards are plug-in which makes it ideal for building your own circuits.

Terminals are easily accessable out the back (below). Notice the wire terminators attached on the right.

14-gauge wire was soldered to each connector which makes it easy to attach allagator clips for attaching

test equipment. It worked so well, we just kept them attached (you know how home brew equipment is).

This is the total Vega Panel. The cord on the right plugs into 110 VAC and the cord on the left, plugs into the microphone jack on the Aerocom Six.

Left is a photograph of the completed ICN assemblage. After everything was put into operation, the room was converted to the cheerleader coach's office. Now our equipment is operating, cosmetically, incognito.