The 8th IEEE Radio and Antenna Days of the Indian Ocean (RADIO) 2023 was held in Balaclava, Mauritius, from 1st to 4th May 2023. It was a face-to-face event because COVID-19 restrictions were lifted by Mauritian authorities in an effort to revive tourism sector at the island that had been badly damaged during early pandemic years. Nevertheless, potential visitors were still required to fill in an online form confirming health condition.
Besides a single-track paper presentations, the RADIO event hosted invited talks every conference day, as well as a dedicated amateur radio program. The first part of it, entitled “Radio Amateur GEO Satellite Communication for Emergency Communication and Education,” was performed by Jean Marc Momple, 3B8DU, the acting president of MARS (Mauritian Amateur Radio Society). The speaker and his team performed an amateur radio test by establishing a real radio link with another amateur enthusiast abroad, by using satellite dish antennas for the QO-100 satellite. It was a nice presentation of domestic efforts among Mauritian “hams” — particularly because a female radio operator, Chong Manly “Mary” Chong Shin Sen, 3B8BBI, was the main actor in that test.
The second part of the amateur radio program, entitled “Advantage of Winlink Global Radio email infrastructure and APRS positioning tool from Mauritian coastal perspective” was delivered by Miroslav Skoric from IEEE Austria Section. Winlink (also known as Winlink 2000) is a well-matured amateur radio service that helps people in need to communicate by email when Internet services are disrupted due to natural disasters or made-made calamities. The main motivation for the speaker to present opportunities of that email system at Mauritius was a fact that most of the countries surrounding Indian Ocean do not have active Winlink RMS (Radio Message Server) stations. In return, the lack of such resources prevents local amateurs to communicate by exchanging non-voice content (E.g. text messages, diagrams, Word documents, spreadsheets, etc.) Next to that, there was a talk and display related to APRS (Amateur Packet Reporting System). The primary goal of APRS is to collect valuable information alongside the road — sent and received by “mobile” amateur radio operators who travel across unknown territory (say a foreign country or a remote part in their own country) to feel comfortable by having weather-related and other information displayed by their mobile (vehicle) transceivers (or even hand-held amateur radios) — without a need for cell telephony or Internet providers. The system uses a single VHF radio frequency across a continent, so there is no radio channel change after crossing national borders. Mauritius belongs to Region 1 of IARU (International Amateur Radio Union) that includes Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Russia, where a single frequency is used by the whole region.
Besides the amateur radio session listed in the official program, IEEE RADIO 2023 welcomed Miroslav Skoric, 3B8/YT7MPB, who provided a continual radio display & experimentation during all four conference days. Having that approach, the audience had a rare chance to get in touch with the high-quality equipment and feel what it is about to be active in the amateur radio service. A technical display included several VHF and HF radio stations, antenna tuner, GPS/GNSS receivers, packet-radio and pactor modems, an external “whip” antenna positioned at the terrace, as well as various computer software. Real-time experimentation & practical demo confirmed that African countries surrounding sub-equatorian part of the Indian ocean, including Madagascar and other island in the area, need to invest additional efforts in building Winlink and APRS stations. Recent cyclons that struck eastern coasts of Africa warn all of us to stay alerts and keep designing new & improving existing amateur radio infrastructure, on behalf not only amateur operators but also local population and authorities.
Credit goes to IEEE RADIO 2023 management who welcomed rich amateur radio program, as well as to ICTA authority for granting temporary ‘ham’ radio license and special radio identifier (“call-sign”) 3B8YT to the guest speaker. Local Mauritian radio amateurs were of great help in giving the satellite talk (3B8DU), in establishing the proper equipment set-up (3B8FA), as well as giving support in exploring the island’s points of foreign visitor’s interest (3B8HI).