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Old 26-07-2018, 16:37   #1
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Coast Station WLO/KLB returning to the-air (but may have different callsign)

Sad news to report, but maybe a solution to offer..

Well, as of July 1st, Coast Station WLO (and KLB) based in Mobile, AL USA went off-the-air, due to low traffic volume and inability to pay their fixed coasts!!! Shipcom is still alive, but struggling financially and have ceased live operation of their stations, hoping to restart soon (and possibly relocate their base of operations)...

I personally spoke with one of the principals earlier this week, and he said that he is trying to put together enough cash to restart their services, probably in a more streamlined approach....automatic DSC and PACTOR connections 24/7, but Voice SSB telephone interconnects more limited hours (I assumed that meant during more regular "business hours" in the US??) With the goal of relocating the control center to Texas....(it wasn't clear whether that would mean relocating the transmit/receive antennas, transmitters, etc., or keeping them in place and just relocating the offices and control room?)

ShipCom LLC :: Marine HF Radiotelephone and HF Single SideBand Email

https://www.facebook.com/WLO-Shipcom-590927021042335/

Mobile Radio WLO

https://www.sigidwiki.com/wiki/WLO



I know that some of you will just say, that it's about time...since with ubiquitous cell phones and sat phones, etc., Maritime Coast Stations are an anachronism....


And, some will say that it's a shame, and that we should do something!


However, I suspect that most will simply click to the next thread and not give it another thought??


So, what to do??
What can be done??
Hmm??


As much as I detest "social media", and the whole "Facebook" / "Instagram" 15 minutes of fame....and when I read of some wonderful young couple looking to fulfill their dreams, but trying to get their "friends", blog subscribers, etc. to PAY for their dream...I just wonder what have we come to??


I see people start "go-fund-me" pages for darn near anything these days....instead of working hard and saving money, taking care of family and letting them take care of you too, many folks seem to just look for a "hand-out"....and with the internet, social-media, and gofundme, etc., there are now billions of potential contributors...
Now, I'm not starting a gofundme page for Shipcom!!! But...


But, I am asking some of you here to let me know what you think...and what you think of my idea below??


Are there enough sailors / cruisers who would pay $100/yr for a "WLO subscription" (in years past, they used to have a $60/yr fee to just keep your account open...and I paid it every year for > 10years)
Or, maybe even $240/yr (that's less than Sailmail), and that would include 20 minutes per month of telephone calls (to US/Canada), or a certain amount of PARTOR airtime??

Just 1500 such sailors would pay the entire 24/7/365 current operating budget of Shipcom, WLO/KLB.....PACTOR, SSB Voice, and DSC, 24/7/365.....but what if there were only 500 of such sailors??
In the N. Atlantic, Med, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, entire eastern Pacific???
There are certainly many times that number....and if you include those doing the Milk Run across the Pacific and those heading to/from Europe and N. America, there are many many times that number...

Just 500 paying subscribers, would pay 1/3 (or more) of their current operating budget, and allow them to fire things back up and handle both PACTOR traffic 24/7 and run SSB Voice / telephone patches, probably about 8 to 12 hours / day??


Please understand that this is just my own personal wild-ass idea....I'm not coordinating anything with Shipcom, and I have no stake in this at all (just a longtime customer)...

So, if some of you would please let me know what you think....
{and maybe some of you that can log into the SSCA site (which I haven't been able to do in years, and never could get anyone at SSCA to either reset things or transfer my profile...and finally gave up on them and let my commodore membership lapse), maybe you could repost this over there}


Thanks and fair winds to all!

John







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Old 26-07-2018, 16:43   #2
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

I'm sold....now to get an SSB on the boat!!
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Old 26-07-2018, 18:04   #3
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Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

Iím in, good luck.
Is it Government run?
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Old 26-07-2018, 18:14   #4
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

Sad day.


_de_ n0iop _ar_
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Old 26-07-2018, 18:16   #5
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
Iím in, good luck.
Is it Government run?

Private.

Years ago I used WLO quite a bit. Then in later years have been able to get thru via WLO when nothing else was working.

Handy option to have, but obviously tough to run as a viable business these days.
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Old 26-07-2018, 18:58   #6
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

I like the WLO subscription idea. SailMail has made this work, but there is no need for another SailMail service. I used WLO for voice and it works well. A SSB phone patch service is what I would like. Perhaps the market for this is just not big enough. Whatever they've do, I wish them well and hope they can continue in some form.
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Old 26-07-2018, 19:19   #7
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

I'd be happy to support a kickstarter or patreon. Plenty of less worthy causes get funded.
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Old 26-07-2018, 19:21   #8
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
Sad news to report, but maybe a solution to offer..

Well, as of July 1st, Coast Station WLO (and KLB) based in Mobile, AL USA went off-the-air, due to low traffic volume and inability to pay their fixed coasts!!! Shipcom is still alive, but struggling financially and have ceased live operation of their stations, hoping to restart soon (and possibly relocate their base of operations)...

I personally spoke with one of the principals earlier this week, and he said that he is trying to put together enough cash to restart their services, probably in a more streamlined approach....automatic DSC and PACTOR connections 24/7, but Voice SSB telephone interconnects more limited hours (I assumed that meant during more regular "business hours" in the US??) With the goal of relocating the control center to Texas....(it wasn't clear whether that would mean relocating the transmit/receive antennas, transmitters, etc., or keeping them in place and just relocating the offices and control room?)

ShipCom LLC :: Marine HF Radiotelephone and HF Single SideBand Email

https://www.facebook.com/WLO-Shipcom-590927021042335/

Mobile Radio WLO

https://www.sigidwiki.com/wiki/WLO



I know that some of you will just say, that it's about time...since with ubiquitous cell phones and sat phones, etc., Maritime Coast Stations are an anachronism....


And, some will say that it's a shame, and that we should do something!


However, I suspect that most will simply click to the next thread and not give it another thought??


So, what to do??
What can be done??
Hmm??


As much as I detest "social media", and the whole "Facebook" / "Instagram" 15 minutes of fame....and when I read of some wonderful young couple looking to fulfill their dreams, but trying to get their "friends", blog subscribers, etc. to PAY for their dream...I just wonder what have we come to??


I see people start "go-fund-me" pages for darn near anything these days....instead of working hard and saving money, taking care of family and letting them take care of you too, many folks seem to just look for a "hand-out"....and with the internet, social-media, and gofundme, etc., there are now billions of potential contributors...
Now, I'm not starting a gofundme page for Shipcom!!! But...


But, I am asking some of you here to let me know what you think...and what you think of my idea below??


Are there enough sailors / cruisers who would pay $100/yr for a "WLO subscription" (in years past, they used to have a $60/yr fee to just keep your account open...and I paid it every year for > 10years)
Or, maybe even $240/yr (that's less than Sailmail), and that would include 20 minutes per month of telephone calls (to US/Canada), or a certain amount of PARTOR airtime??

Just 1500 such sailors would pay the entire 24/7/365 current operating budget of Shipcom, WLO/KLB.....PACTOR, SSB Voice, and DSC, 24/7/365.....but what if there were only 500 of such sailors??
In the N. Atlantic, Med, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, entire eastern Pacific???
There are certainly many times that number....and if you include those doing the Milk Run across the Pacific and those heading to/from Europe and N. America, there are many many times that number...

Just 500 paying subscribers, would pay 1/3 (or more) of their current operating budget, and allow them to fire things back up and handle both PACTOR traffic 24/7 and run SSB Voice / telephone patches, probably about 8 to 12 hours / day??


Please understand that this is just my own personal wild-ass idea....I'm not coordinating anything with Shipcom, and I have no stake in this at all (just a longtime customer)...

So, if some of you would please let me know what you think....
{and maybe some of you that can log into the SSCA site (which I haven't been able to do in years, and never could get anyone at SSCA to either reset things or transfer my profile...and finally gave up on them and let my commodore membership lapse), maybe you could repost this over there}


Thanks and fair winds to all!

John







Good idea.

HF and SSB and Ham are not dead. Just the opposite.

I'd also suggest getting the Ham nation folks involved.
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Old 27-07-2018, 07:59   #9
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

Quote:
Originally Posted by leftbrainstuff View Post
I'd be happy to support a kickstarter or patreon. Plenty of less worthy causes get funded.
I'm in on kickstarter. Great idea. Great cause.
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Old 27-07-2018, 09:40   #10
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

S*D - I was relying on them for com's an weather. It is an essential safety net. The 'ubiquitous' cell phone idea is a nonsense. Cell (or VHF) does not work offshore and in many places is intermittent even coastal. The gov/coastguard does give some very useful service and weather but only takes 'official' or emergency comm's. I was hoping to use WLO to maintain contact with the shore base.


As far as funding goes they need to charge enough to maintain the service and even at $100 registration it is still far cheaper than a sat phone. I would also not mind paying a 'connection charge' of say $10 per call. Again still much cheaper than a sat phone.


What can we do? I think the main thing is education and publicity. Publicity/education is important. Seams to me that because people are so used to cell phones and the internet being always available they don't realize how pore the service is at sea or at anchor. They are also put off by the apparent complexity of SSB. It is not that much more difficult to use but it is all unfamiliar so they want sat phones and a proctor modem because that plugs them into what they know. They then spent serious money in call charges and subscriptions to get an inferior service. Why pay good money for an inferior grib file when you can get a proper forecast from the US Navy for free if you know how to tune into it? Also sat phone may get you through to a shore based contact but they do not alert the ship passing just over the horizon that could be with you in 30min. You cant put out a Pan Pan or Mayday by sat phone or internet.
Putting on my 'conspiracy theory' hat this is like net neutrality. The people who own stuff want to tie us into subscription services so they get their monthly fees and having 'free services' is very bad news for them. They would much rather we all paid $5min via our sat phones than where able to chat on SSB. I had a brilliant time in the Atlantic getting weather routing from Canada often via a relay from another ship off Africa or parked in Floriada when I could not get through direct. On my last trip I had daily chats most of the way up the coast of Panama. SSB is still out there a brilliant if you know how to use it so lets all promote it.

Incidentally it is still listed as a requirement for commercial vessels under SOLAS by most jurisdictions for sea area 2+ and is fitted to all military vessels so the safety net is still very much their. It has not, and cannot be, replaces by things like AIS or an EPIRB. They may send out a distress alert but you can't talk to a physician of those systems can you!
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Old 29-07-2018, 14:35   #11
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

Just thought some would like to see/hear more of what we are all talking about....so, I did a short (< 2 minute) video update of WLO, and added it to some other WLO video footage, showing SSB Voice Weather broadcasts, SSB Voice Radio-Telephone Calls, HF-DSC calls to WLO, etc...

It's kinda cool to think what this one station has been doing for decades and decades (even decades before I was born)....and they are / were a totally independent / private company....a "small business"!!
No "AT&T", no "Sprint", no "MCI", no "IT&T"....no Vodafone, Telstra, Cable 'n Wireless, Orange, Telcel, T-Mobile, Kogan, Boost, Spintel, etc. etc. etc...

These guys are / were a Public Coast Station....but, just a small, independent business....all these years competing against the big boys....(and they actually beat-out AT&T)
And, damn few of my fellow cruisers paid 'em any mind...
Well, have a look at what could be gone, if we don't collectively do something...





Maybe some here who are still SSCA Members, ask the Board what the heck they've done?? (and I'm not talking about money....rather actual editorial / political / policy support...not $$$)



Fair winds.

John
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Old 29-07-2018, 15:44   #12
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

We're in. Sometimes, on a traverse, I would call WLO during my mid-watch for a "Radio Check", but more often, truthfully, to simply have someone to speak with for a few minutes on a lonely, O'dark thirty, watch. It was also reassuring to know that we could "reach out and touch someone" in the event of need when well out of VHF range of any shore-stations.

FWIW...
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Old 02-10-2018, 10:48   #13
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

I found some more information when searching for some bits of communications history.


Like Maritel, apparently the licenses are perceived as being more valuable for purposes other than marine communications. There are public legal filings indicating that there is some sort of ongoing dispute over the ownership of the licenses. I imagine this has something to do with the shutdown.


https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/...201609.1.5.pdf
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Old 02-10-2018, 12:18   #14
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Re: Coast Station WLO/KLB off-the-air (supposedly temporarily), 1st time since 1947!

Jammer, et al,

Well there is a lot more to all of this, and I'm not willing to delve into the private business matters of others....
But...just briefly, based on public info...


In general, it's not that the "licenses" themselves have any significant historical value, nor is there lots of money to be made on HF maritime comms (at best it's a low profit business, but mostly a break-even concern)...
What it is:
--- after Sept 11th attacks,
--- after the plethora of US-landfall hurricanes in 2004,
--- after the Hurricane Katrina debacle in New Orleans (and the upper Gulf Coast), in 2005,
After these disasters there was significant money available from both federal grants to state and local gov'ts as well as many state and local gov'ts reprioritizing some funds for disasters, etc...(anyone remember before we used the term "first responders"???)

As long as it was going to "first responders" and/or to help out in emergencies, there was little opposition to spending tax-payer dollars for all sorts of projects...

Well, the basic concept of this "emergency back-up" communications system was a great idea...and with so many state / local gov'ts incorporating "digital" comms, with lots of VHF/UHF, etc....it became clear to many that a simple, inter-operable, non-proprietary comms system is a good idea to have in your back-pocket!

Rene (my late friend Rene Stiegler) saw an opportunity and went with it...

The FCC granted them permission (a waiver) to use their freqs / stations for "land use" (fixed / land mobile) for training/testing and in case of emergencies..
It was a steady, but small, income stream for Shipcom...


Fast forward a half-dozen years...Rene wanted to retire....there were some investors that wanted to buy....so he sold 80% of the company....


But, they (the new owners) didn't really desire to run WLO....they did it, but...
But their primary goal was to sell "back-up / disaster" communications services to many states and municipalities...and they also tried to buy the assets of Globe Wireless (mainly for the digital comms freqs/licenses)....and it seems finally acquiring them(???) which I wasn't aware of....

{With the exception of them finally acquiring Globe Wireless assets (?), most of us here have been aware of all the above....at least I was..}

Now, the rest here / below, is my opinion....so, please understand...


What seems to be the primary issue was their deal with ARINC, which should've made them plenty of money???

But, it seems from the lawsuit, as they didn't really desire to operate WLO, they let it falter....(fired employees and did no maintenance??)
And, failed to actually pay profits to Shipcom LLC and/or to the remaining minority owners???


Now, since Rene passed away this February, I assume his heirs (probably wife Susan and their children) were trying to keep WLO operating, but due to lack of payments from the majority owners, they feel short??

Not sure what the status of the suit is....

But, if you read between the lines, it was some investors that saw a quick buck in selling "emergency" communications services to many municipalities and even some states, but forgot that they needed to keep their existing facility running in order to actually provide those services...and/or they were hoping to rely on ARINC's facilities (which are vast and sophisticated, and becoming less-used as more HF aviation comms is being replaced by sat comm)...in order to provide these "back-up / disaster communications services" to their clients???

I could be wrong...as I wrote, this is just my take...reading between the lines...



Bottom line for us:
It doesn't look like "cruisers" will be stepping up at all...
They will pay $250/yr for 90-minutes per week of Sailmail, but seem to have little interest in a WLO Pactor service, nor a SSB Voice Radio-telephone service???


I do wish Shipcom well....and I will be one of the first to sign up for their services (and will pay a subscription fee, if needed), if they desire to try this as a business model...
And, fyi....in case I didn't mention it earlier, in years past (before they waived this fee) I paid a $60/yr "account fee" to Shipcom, which originally didn't include any airtime, just an admin fee....and if they did that again, I'm in!!
But, Id rather pay $20/month or $200/yr, for a subscription that included some airtime??


fair winds to all

John
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Old 24-10-2018, 18:22   #15
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Shipcom's Coast Station WLO returning-the-air! (but might have different callsign)

Hello to all, again...
Good news!!!

I've been contacted by principals of Shipcom (Coast Station WLO), that had to temporarily go off-the-air a few months ago.
They informed me that they will be returning to the air shortly....probably by mid to late Nov (2018)...

The station will be located, as it has been for >60 years, in Mobile, AL (USA), with 24/7 operations planned for HF-DSC; HF-SITOR/PACTOR; as well as HF-SSB Voice service....
(due to ownership logistics, etc. their business office will probably be in Nashville, TN USA, initially....and there may also initially be some remote operators doing their jobs remotely, along with some on-site as well as on-site maintenance..)

The station may have (will have?) a different callsign than we are used to, but the transmission/reception facilities, antennas, etc. will be the same "WLO" that we've all known for decades!!
(also, fyi....initially their transmissions will be done at 250 watts, instead of 1000 to 4000 watts, in order to save costs on electricity....but they will have the capability of increasing power instantly, if needed....and with their multiple directional antennas, they will have a good signal, even at reduced power!)


---- The HF-DSC functions will, of course, be automated and allow you to signal the coast station 24/7/365 on multiple frequencies....
{this is standard operating procedure for the entire world, where > 84 HF-DSC Coast Stations monitor 24/7/365....and >450 MF-DSC stations, too..}


---- The HF-SITOR/PACTOR services will initially be limited to narrow-band (PACTOR-II) service, however there will no time limit as with Sailmail, so going fast isn't an absolute requirement...
{although some used to PACTOR-III/IV might think this is too slow to be useful....this is standard operating for other HF-SITOR stations worldwide...}


---- The HF-SSB Voice services will initially be "automated", and require HF-DSC signaling to bring up SSB Voice comms....
{this is also normal / standard practice for other public coast stations, as well as other HF maritime combined stations, like Brunei Bay Radio...}

---- HF-SSB Voice Weather Broadcasts???
I forgot to confirm these would also be as in the past, automated....4 to 6 times per day...but I'm assuming so...
{I actually preferred the computerized "female voice" from Shipcom, versus the male-voice "Perfect Paul", from the USCG.. }


Please know I have no connection to/with Shipcom, WLO, etc. (old or new), except as a long-time customer (and long-time ham friend of the late Rene Stiegler, K4EDX, former owner of Shipcom / WLO)....
I am not involved with them in any way, except to pass on this info to all my fellow sailors and encourage the new owners/operators of Shipcom to help us cruisers / voyagers out!!




















I'm hoping that I can get Cruiser's Forum Moderators to change the title of this thread to "Shipcom's Coast Station WLO returning-the-air! (but might have different callsign)"


Fair winds to all!


John
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