What is ALE
Where it came from
Military Channelized Operations, later adopted by some MARS (Military Amateur Radio Service), and then migrated to the General Amateur Bands
Why it works so very well with dedicated frequencies
The discipline of an automated system lends itself very well to a very well regulated and partitioned set of frequencies. The system “knows” where to look for other ALE operations and is able to “vote” automatically for best connections. Quite clever.
Why it is QRM and a poor neighbor in open band use
The techniques used in a channelized system depend on given channels being available to at least poll, and in the case of ALE to send out the “I’m here listening” transmissions. Obviously other than the 60m band Amateur Radio allocations are NOT channelized and open to a huge variety of modes, frequencies, transmission bandwidth, power and even language variations.
Why it QRMs ongoing QSOs
Because the ALE system “listens” only for ALE formatted transmissions (as it expects to be operating in a protected channelized environment) it is unable to properly listen for ongoing QSOs before transmitting. As the ALE system is greatly a QRO (higher power) operation it is particularly disruptive to ongoing QRP and lower power digital mode communications.
The effect is like a Pactor Robot blasting away, but with the added QRM of beaconing test-link transmissions on a repeated basis 24/7/365.
What should happen
The use of ALE should be promoted ONLY in segregated channelized spectrum, such as MARS and possibly 60m, but should be curtailed in open spectrum unless the ALE operator is at their station, does the due diligence listen first, call with “Is this frequency in use?” clearing calls on each frequency on each band BEFORE transmitting in the blind.
In other words, the ALE operator should be expected operate and act like any other Radio Amateur operating in open to all Amateur Bands, both from a courtesy point and from an FCC rules angle.
Repeated unattended automated transmissions in the blind should be treated as the QRM they are, and also treated as unattended beacon transmissions operating outside of the coordinated beacon frequencies & beacon power limits.
ALE in open spectrum is a “Solution Looking for a Problem to Solve” that does not “play well with others” and should be treated as the intruder it is, until (and IF) the technology can be developed to respect other uses of the Amateur Bands.