Thursday, September 17, 2020

Solar Cycle 25 has officially begun

At a press conference on Tuesday the 15th of September 2020, scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that Solar Cycle 25 has officially begun and the actual sunspot minimum between cycles 24 and 25 had occurred in December of 2019. In a previous press release  in December of 2019, the panel of scientists had predicted that the minimum would occur during a period stretching from October 2019 to October 2020 i.e. April 2020 +/- 6 months.

As with all sunspot cycles, it's only several months after the minimum that scientists can look back and be sure of when it occurred. There was however some signs that we had passed the peak as there was an increase in the number of sunspots which had spotted recently with the correct polarity for cycle 25.

Ultra-violet image of the sun at the sunspot minimum

The next sunspot maximum is predicted to occur in the middle of 2025 and the peak is expected to be the same in intensity as Cycle 24.

What does all this mean??? ... In the short term, not a lot will change. For stations in northern latitudes, the upper HF bands of 15m, 12m and 10m will struggle to open and when they do, it will tend to be over North-South paths.

In the second half of 2021, things should start improving and by 2022, we should start seeing more openings on East-West paths.

By 2025, we should see worldwide openings on 28 MHz but the 50 MHz band is unlikely to be as spectacular as say Cycles 22 and 23 back in 1989 and 2001. At the sunspot peak, there will probably be plenty of North-South openings on the 6 metre band but the multi-hop openings East-West may be more of an issue.

Digital Modes ... It's very likely that Sunspot Cycle 25 will be the first one where digital modes like FT8 will dominate. This may well  allow some propagation paths to appear that may not have been so obvious on SSB or CW. Interesting times ahead.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Video: VHF Propagation Presentation by Jim Bacon, G3YLA

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Mid-Ulster Amateur Radio Club are continuing with their successful Tuesday night lecture series. Recently, they had an interesting talk on VHF Propagation from meteorologist Jim Bacon, G3YLA.


The video above can be broken down as follows...

00:00 to 07:00... Introduction

07:00 to 10:25... GB2RS VHF Propagation Report - A brief outline of how the weekly bulletin is put together for the RSGB news.

10:25 to 28:30... Tropospheric Propagation - In this section, Jim covers elevated and surface ducts as well as the best time to watch any high pressure weather systems.

28:30 to 1:12:30... Sporadic-E - This section covers meteors which are the fuel for Sporadic-E and the various trigger mechanisms like atmospheric gravity waves due to mountains, thunderstorms and changes in the Jet Stream.

1:12:30 to 1:13:50... Rainscatter - This mode of propagation at microwave frequencies is briefly covered.

1:13:50 to 1:21:20... Propquest - Sporadic-E prediction website

1:21:20 to 1:23:30... Pulling it all together - GB2RS VHF Propagation Report

1:23:30... Q&A

Saturday, September 12, 2020

QSL card from Germany confirming my QSO with a beacon?!?!


I recently got a small batch of QSL cards from the bureau and one was from a short wave listener in Germany.

The only problem is that this person claimed that they heard me having a contact on CW with a beacon! I even got a 599 signal report.

A quick look at the DX Cluster shows the source of the 'reception report'. On the 29th of April 2019, I heard the German beacon DL0IGI on 28.205 MHz and I put the spot up on the cluster.

EI7GL 28205 DL0IGI/B 11:29 29 Apr 19 IO51TU ES JN57MT Fed. Rep. of Germany

A short wave listener in Germany was just looking at spots on the DX Cluster instead of listening on the radio. What's the point in sending off cards for something you didn't hear? Why bother?

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Info about EI7FXD - the new DMR repeater in Cork on 70 cms

As outlined in a previous post, a new DMR repeater on 70 cms should be on air near Cork City in the next few week. It will be co-sited with the existing EI7FXR analogue FM repeater at Farmers Cross near Cork Airport.

COMREG has issued a licence call EI7FXD for the new DMR repeater with an output frequency on 430.250 MHz The input is 9 MHz higher on 439.250 MHz. This configuration is usually designated as DVU-R20.

The colour code will be 1.

The Brandmeister ID of the repeater will be 272015 should anyone wish to monitor the Brandmeister dashboard and hoseline, when it becomes active.

EI7FXD Coverage... The map below shows the approximate coverage out to about 60 kms.

A lot of the more distant coverage in Green is just the tops of hills so it's probably more appropriate to look at the close in coverage.

Some points...

  • The Farmers Cross site overlooks Cork City so there should be saturation coverage there. Anyone with a DMR handheld should be able to access it.
  • Anywhere in the shadow of hills is likely to have problems on 70cms. e.g Blarney, Inishannon, Bandon, Mallow, Fermoy, Glanmire & Passage West.
  • The coverage on the N25 to the east should be good as far as the Youghal by-pass. After that, there is coverage from the Clashmore repeater EI7CDD.
  • Coverage on the M8 motorway to Dublin is good until Watergrasshill. Once you crest the hill, coverage may be a problem.
  • The same applies on the N20 north to Mallow. Coverage ends just north of Rathduff.
  • On the N22 to the west, there should be good coverage until Lissarda. After that, screening from hills will be an issue.

It is expected that the new repeater will be on air before the end of 2020.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Upgrade to the FM & DMR repeaters in Waterford

Bit by bit, the DMR amateur radio digital network around Ireland is gradually improving. The digital EI7WCD repeater in the east of Waterford county started off in Tramore on the coast, then moved into Waterford city and was recently moved to a high site in the city.

The coverage of the digital repeater should now be similar to the FM repeater EI7WCD which is shown above. The improved coverage should fill in the gaps between Mt.Leinster to the north and Clashmore to the west and provide saturation coverage of Waterford city.

Report below from the Southern Ireland Repeater Group....

Major upgrade work was carried out to the Southern Ireland Repeater Group's 70cm repeater EI7WDR on 433.275 MHz at Carrickphierish in Waterford city on Saturday August 29th. All equipment including antennas and cables were replaced. The Motorola MC Compact repeater which had been in service on the site since 2004 was replaced with a Motorola MTR2000 which has a higher power output than the previous unit. 

The antennas were replaced with two Diamond SE-50s and the feeder cable upgraded to Andrews Heliax LDF4-50. A Sinclair Q3220E duplexer replaced the old one which allowed the repeater use one antenna for TX and RX freeing up the second antenna for use with the EI7WCD digital repeater which was also installed on the site as part of the upgrade work. 

On site were Francis EI9KT, Gareth EI7FZB, Nicky EI3JB, Neil EI3JE and John EI8JA.

The work carried out should greatly improve the repeater's coverage and users should note that the EI7WDR repeater on 433.275 MHz now requires a CTCSS tone of 103.5 Hz to access it.

Signal reports would be appreciated and can be emailed to: sirnrepeaters AT gmail DOT com.


1) Southern Ireland Repeater Group

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Looking back at the first 144 MHz trans-Atlantic reception report of the Cape Verde D4C beacon in 2015

In a previous post, I reported on the first ever trans-Atlantic contact between the Canary Islands and the Caribbean on 144 MHz. As with many other posts, this generated some discussion online and I was interested to read that the first 144 MHz trans-Atlantic report to the Caribbean was back in 2015 by PJ4VHF.

To be honest, I can't remember seeing this before and it's possible that I did read it but forgot about it. As I keep a record of the 2m trans-Atlantic openings on my 144 MHz page, I thought it only right that I should do up a post about it and have a record of it here on the site.

Dave Pederson, N7BHC operated from the island of Bonaire in the Caribbean as PJ4VHF from February 2012 to June 2019. While there, he operated on the 50 MHz, 144 MHz and 432 MHz bands.

The above photo shows the antennas used by PJ4VHF at about 12 metres above ground level...a 5 element Yagi on 50 MHz (M2 6M5X), a pair of stacked 13-element Yagis on 144 MHz (Cushcraft 13B2) and a 43 element Yagi on 432 MHz (M2 43-9WL).

On the evening of the 6th of May 2015, PJ4VHF heard the Cape Verde D4C beacon on CW on 144.436 MHz for about 90 minutes (01:00 to 02:30 UTC). The distance across the Atlantic was 4,694 kms (2,917 miles).

The D4C beacon was running 20 watts into a 5-element Yagi and the CW signal was reported as being 10dB out of the noise.

The video above shows the reception of the D4C beacon on the 6th of May 2015. The morse code message reads... D4C/B HK76MV     DE D4C/B HK76MV

The reception report was subsequently confirmed by QSL card...

From the ARRL News..... Pedersen, PJ4VHF/N7BHC, on Bonaire copied a 2 meter CW signal from the D4C/B beacon on 144.436 MHz at Cape Verde via tropospheric ducting on May 6 (0100-0230 UTC). Bonaire is in the Caribbean just north of Venezuela, while Cape Verde is off the coast of Africa, west of Senegal — a distance of nearly 3000 miles.

The D4C beacon runs 20 W and is about 750 meters above sea level. Pederson was able to confirm the transmission with the beacon operator, HB9DUR. He was using a Kenwood TS-2000 and two 13 element Yagis.

“I had parked my VHF array pointing west for minimum wind resistance,” Pederson told ARRL Propagation Contributing Editor Tad Cook, K7RA. “Tuesday evening [May 5] I was doing some paperwork in the shack and rotated the beams back east at 0100 UTC to prepare for listening all night. To my amazement, I started copying CW while the beam was still 30° off the D4C bearing.”

D4C contest site on top of a mountain on the Cape Verde Islands

Later in June of 2015, NP2X received signals from a German ham visiting Cape Verde one night, and a couple of nights later he was heard by the German visitor on D4, but unfortunately no two-way contact was made.

At the time in 2015, the D4C contest site was unmanned for most of the time but in later years remote operation become possible. The reception report by PJ4VHF showed that a trans-Atlantic sea path by tropo on 144 MHz was possible and this encouraged others to make the effort.

The first trans-Atlantic contact on 144 MHz between Cape Verde and the Caribbean took place four years later in June of 2019.

More details about the various trans-Atlantic contacts on 144 MHz can be found here...

Externals links...

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Trans-Atlantic opening on 144 MHz between the Canary Islands & the Caribbean - 27th Aug 2020

It looks as if there is a remarkable tropo opening in progress at the moment with EA8CXN on the Canary Islands making contact with several stations in the Caribbean on FT8 & SSB on 144 MHz!

These are some of the stations listed on the PSK Reporter website for the 27th of August 2020...

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
NP4BM EA8CXN 2m FT8 5236 km 19:26:26
EA8CXN KP4EIT 2m FT8 5189 km 18:00:44
WP3DN EA8CXN 2m FT8 5158 km 20:18:59
WP4G EA8CXN 2m FT8 5153 km 20:25:11
J69DS EA8CXN 2m FT8 4850 km 22:04:14
FM5CS EA8CXN 2m FT8 4836 km 17:49:26
FG8OJ EA8CXN 2m FT8 4775 km 19:25:26

Note that EA8DEC was also heard across the Atlantic...

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
EA8DEC NP4BM 2m FT8 5236 km 23:30:14

Updates further down the post...

Note the distance! Several are in excess of 5000 kms which would be a new distance record for a 144 MHz contact across the Atlantic.

Back on the 8th of April 2020, D4VHF on Cape Verde worked PJ2BR on Curacao and the distance on that occasion was about 4759 kms. It looks as if the new contact by EA8CXN to NP4BM in Puerto Rico has extended that record by roughly 500 kms.

This is the tropo map from F5LEN which shows a marine duct across the Atlantic...

Note that this opening in still in progress and there does seem to be a remote possibility of an opening from the west coast of Spain & Portugal to the Caribbean!

Here are some of the screenshots of the FT8 contacts with EA8CXN...

EA8CXN and FG8OJ...

EA8CXN and WP3DN...

* * * * *
Update - 28th of August - 13:17 UTC: The trans-Atlantic path is still open on the 28th...

This is heard/sent log for EA8CXN on the PSK reporter website...
Txmtr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
NP4BM 2m FT8 5236 km 12:45:26
KP4EIT 2m FT8 5189 km 12:42:26
WP4JCF 2m FT8 5170 km 21:46:26
WP3DN 2m FT8 5158 km 10:53:29
WP4G 2m FT8 5153 km 11:15:26
FG5GH 2m FT8 4809 km 12:09:44
FG8OJ 2m FT8 4775 km 12:47:26

Reports for EA8DEC...
Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
KP4EIT EA8DEC 2m FT8 5189 km 12:32:59
FG8OJ EA8DEC 2m FT8 4775 km 12:06:14

Reports for EA8TX...
Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
NP4BM 2m FT8 5219 km 12:54:44
KP4EIT 2m FT8 5173 km 12:57:44
WP3DN 2m FT8 5141 km 09:46:41
WP4G 2m FT8 5136 km 09:48:44

DX-Cluster spots for the 27th of August...
EA8DEC 144174.0 KP4EIT 23:56 27 Aug IL18SK TR FK68 FT8 Puerto Rico
EA8DEC 144174.0 NP4BM 23:39 27 Aug IL18SK - FK68 FT8 Puerto Rico

KP4EIT-@ 144174.0 EA8DEC 23:52 27 Aug -13 TNX Canary Islands
NP4BM-@ 144174.0 EA8CXN 19:07 27 Aug still strong Canary Islands
KP4EIT-@ 144280.0 EA8CXN 18:11 27 Aug swl 4/4 fk68 Canary Islands
NP4BM-@ 144174.0 EA8CXN 17:32 27 Aug calling cq Canary Islands
NP4BM-@ 144174.0 EA8CXN 17:10 27 Aug tnx ft8 qso tropo Canary Islands

EB1DJ 144174.0 KP4EIT 23:57 27 Aug  TR  FT8 -22 dB 1092 Hz Puerto Rico

Update - 28th August 2020 - 15:21 UTC: Alex, EB1DJ in the north-west of Spain reports that he got one single decode of the FT8 signal from KP4EIT in Puerto Rico.

EB1DJ 144174.0 KP4EIT 23:57 27 Aug TR FT8 -22dB

As you can see from the report above, the signal was pretty weak at -22dB so it was buried in the noise. It does however show the potential of the path and if the conditions are right, it may happen again.

To put this in context, the distance from NW Spain to Puerto Rico is just over 6000 kms!

Update - 28th August 2020 - 17:10 UTC: Video of the SSB contact on 144 MHz between EA8CXN on Tenerife on the Canary Islands and FM5CS in Martinque. Just remember, this is just a 4800 kms contact on 144 MHz across the Atlantic! ...

In this second video, EA8CXN completes another SSB contact with FG8OJ in Guadeloupe...

DX-Cluster spots for the 28th of August...
Spotter Freq. DX Time Info Country
KP4EIT-@ 144174.0 EA8CXN 19:34 28 Aug -14 thanks Cesar Canary Islands
WP4JCF 144174.0 EA8CXN 19:06 28 Aug rx -20 in kp4... Canary Islands
KP4EIT-@ 144174.0 EA8DEC 12:38 28 Aug -20 GRACIAS Canary Islands
KP4EIT-@ 144174.0 EA8TX 09:07 28 Aug SWL -12 INTO FK68 Canary Islands
KP4EIT-@ 144174.0 EA8TX 00:01 28 Aug -12 TNX Canary Islands

EA8CXN 144175.0 KP4EIT 19:33 28 Aug FK68 TR IL18 -12DB. Thanks QSO Puerto Rico
EA8TX 144174.0 KP4EIT 12:24 28 Aug hrd -2db Pse 144.260ssb Puerto Rico
EA8DEC 144174.0 FG8OJ 12:10 28 Aug IL18SK TR FK96 FT8 CQ Guadeloupe
EA8DEC 144174.0 KP4EIT 09:35 28 Aug IL18SK TR FK68 FT8 CQ Puerto Rico
EA8DEC 144174.0 WP4G 00:52 28 Aug IL18SK TR FK68 FT8 Puerto Rico

Update - 30th Aug 2020 - 09:00 UTC: EA8CXN has now put details of the opening in a post on his blog... see HERE

EA8CXN works 7 stations in the Caribbean on FT8 and 2 on SSB.
EA8DEC works 3 on FT8.

This is the sequence of events on 144 MHz....

27th Aug 2020 - 17:08 UTC: EA8CXN completes a contact on FT8 with NP4BM in Puerto Rico. Signal reports of -9dB and -13dB are exchanged. The distance was about 5243 kms which is a new record for a trans-Atlantic contact on 144 MHz

27th Aug - 17:15 UTC: EA8CXN complete a FT8 contact with FG8OJ in Guadeloupe (~4780 kms). Reports of +25dB and -2dB are exchanged.

27th Aug - 17:20 UTC: EA8CXN and FG8OJ complete a contact on SSB.

27th Aug - 17:51 UTC: EA8 CXN completes a contact on FT8 with FM5CS in Martinique (~4842 kms). Reports of -11dB and -18dB are exchanged.

27th Aug - 17:55 UTC: EA8CXN and FM5CS complete a contact on SSB.

27th Aug - 18:20 UTC: EA8CXN completes a contact on FT8 with WP3DN (5165 kms). Reports of -12dB and -17dB are exchanged.

27th Aug - 19:24 UTC: EA8CXN completes a contact on FT8 with J69DS on St.Lucia (-4856 kms). Reports of -5dB and -6dB are exchanged.

27th Aug - 23:44 UTC: EA8DEC completes a contact on FT8 with NP4BM on Puerto Rico. Reports of -11dB and -14dB are exchanged.

28th Aug - 00:08 UTC: EA8DEC completes a contact on FT8 with KP4EIT (5193 kms). Reports of -13dB and -13dB are exchanged.

28th Aug - 00:46 UTC: EA8DEC completes a contact on FT8 with WP4G (5156 kms). Reports of -14dB and -15dB are exchanged.

28th Aug - 19:33 UTC: EA8CXN completes a contact on FT8 with KP4EIT (5196 kms). Reports of -14dB and -19dB are exchanged.

28th Aug - 21:49 UTC: EA8CXN completes a contact on FT8 with WP4JCF (5176 kms). Reports of -12dB and -9dB are exchanged.

Working conditions for EA8CXN...
Antenna: 6el BigSignal Quad
FT8 transceiver: Yaesu FT-991
SSB transceiver: Icom IC-970H
Amplifier: 500W Telecom 2m HK

Update 2nd Sept 2020: Thanks to Fernando, EA8TX for supplying the following info.

EA8TX was the third station in the Canary Islands to make contacts on 144 MHz to the Caribbean. Located on the island of Tenerife, Fernando managed to complete two FT8 contacts with KP4EIT and WP4G on Puerto Rico. 

Fernando also reports that KP4EIT peaked at -1dB on FT8 but soon faded down to -12dB to -20dB where the signal remained for a long time. Fernando speculates that a SSB contact might have been possible but it would have required trying just at the peak of the strongest signal where as the signals were well into the noise for most of the time.

Fernando also decoded NP4BM but was unable to hear the more southerly stations in Guadeloupe and Mantinue due to high ground in the way.

That pretty much closes off the post for this opening as I think that gives a good idea of what happened and who worked who. If anyone has any additional information then please let me know.


144 MHz contact between Denmark & the Canary Islands exceeds 3000kms

Long distance contacts on 144 MHz that are in the region of 3000kms are always of interest as that is the distance across the North Atlantic between Ireland and Newfoundland. In this series of blog posts, I will look back at some of the 3000km plus contacts on 144 MHz during the Summer of 2020 that I haven't reported on yet.

Back on the 12th of July 2020, there was a remarkable contact made on FT8 on 144 MHz between EA8CXN in the Canary Islands and OV3T in Denmark at about 19:55 UTC.

OV3T in Denmark was using 400 watts into a 10-element Yagi for the contact. I'm not sure what EA8CXN was using.

EA8CXN gave OV3T a report of +8dB while OV3T gave EA8CXN a report of -10dB. This probably meant that CW or FT8 were the only viable modes for making a contact.

Mode of Propagation... The distance was in the region of 3710 kms which is well in excess of the usual 2300km limit for one hop Sporadic-E. So what is the likely explanation?

First off, we can look at the Hepburn prediction map for tropo for the day...

If you examine the right hand side of the map, it shows an enhanced maritime duct from the Canary Islands (EA8) to Spain and Portugal. This tropo path was confirmed earlier on the 12th when EB1DJ spotted EA8CXN on the DX  Cluster.

EB1DJ 144174 EA8CXN 10:30 13 Jul 20  TR  FT8 +4 dB 863 Hz Canary Islands

While OV3T was working EA8CXN at 19:55 UTC, another Danish station OZ1CCM worked EA1YV at about the same time which suggests a short Sporadic-E opening from Denmark to NW Spain & N Portugal.

While we can never be 100% sure of what exactly happened, this is the likely scenario....

There was an marine duct from the Canary Islands to the west coast of Spain and Portugal for most of the day. This maritime duct probably didn't get more than 100kms inland and probably didn't cross over the mountains on the Iberian peninsula.

At about 19:50 UTC, there was a short Sporadic-E opening from Denmark to NW Spain & N Portugal. The Sporadic-E signals from Denmark got coupled into the marine duct and on to the Canary Islands.

The tropo part of the path probably accounted for 1500kms of the total while the remaining 2200kms was Sporadic-E.

In conclusion... This contact yet again shows the value of the FT8 digital mode in exposing propagation paths that we didn't know were possible. 

It also shows the paradox of FT8... i.e. The problem with FT8 is that it is overcrowded because there are too many on the one frequency but it's because there are so many on the same frequency that there is a better chance of catching unusual openings.

The opening from Denmark to the Canary Islands also raises the possibility of a further extension further south to the Cape Verde Islands. The maritime duct off the west coast of Africa often extends from Cape Verde to Spain and Portugal and if that coincided with a similar Sporadic-E opening again then perhaps contacts in the region of 5,200kms might be possible.


Monday, August 24, 2020

Video on the Galway Digital Radio Network by Steve Wright, EI5DD

A recent video presentation by Steve Wright, EI5DD on the principles of DRM radio and the network in Ireland is shown below ........

If anyone in Ireland is interested in getting going on digital radio then it's worth watching to get a basic understanding of what's involved.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

New DMR repeater on 70cms proposed for Cork City

The above map shows the digital DMR repeaters across the south of Ireland. The cluster in the west gives coverage across large parts of Galway and the surrounding counties.

The main one in the south east is located on Mount Leinster, a 794-metre mountain on the border of counties Carlow & Wexford. The repeater near Clashmore in West Waterford provides coverage to parts of East Cork. It is however largely screened from Cork City.

There are now plans to get a new DMR repeater up and running near Cork City before the end of 2020.


  • An elevated site near Cork City has been identified for the repeater.
  • It will operate on the 70cms band.
  • It will be DMR only, no other modes like FM or C4FM.
  • Equipment for the project has been sourced.
  • A licence has been applied for.

The repeater should have very good coverage in Cork City and surrounding areas. It is hoped that the establishment of a new DMR repeater will encourage the adoption of this new digital mode in the area.

More info as the project progresses...

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Bogus FT8 spots from DS3SHI on 28 MHz

Nearly anyone in Europe transmitting on FT8 on 28 MHz in 2020 will have been spotted by DS3SHI who is supposed to be in South Korea. This is the FT8 coverage for a station in the UK on 10-metres on the 18th of August 2020.

The first impression is that the UK station is being heard by other stations around Europe and by DS3SHI in South Korea. However, that is not the case and the DS3SHI spots are bogus.

A search on Google will show that other stations have been caught out by this and they believed that their FT8 signal on 28 MHz was reaching South Korea.

So where is this bogus DS3SHI station???

There was a very good Sporadic-E opening in Europe on the 29th of April 2020 and I made a record of the FT8 reception map for DS3SHI on 28 MHz. 

Notice how there are so many European stations and there is nothing in China, South Korea or Japan? Another tell-tale sign that this station was not in South Korea and was located in Europe.

If we take a closer look at the map for Europe then you'll notice a large cluster in the east of Germany.

I've added in Yellow shading slowing the 'skip' zone which is largely free of stations with a doughnut of stations beyond that. From this, we can deduce that DS3SHI is in the southern part of east Germany.

So we can zoom in a bit further and you can see the concentration of stations. The centre of this concentration is somewhere west of the city of Chemnitz.

Over the Summer months, I have checked the FT8 map on 28 MHz for DS3SHI and I kept a record of the stations that were heard at 0dB or stronger. The approximate location of these are shown below with the three highest signal levels shown as well.

The whole area seems to be quite hilly so it may be possible to be close to DS3SHI but be quite weak if there was a hill in the way. However, it seems likely that this DS3SHI station is located near the small city of Zwickau.

As for why? Why is someone in Germany using a callsign (DS3SHI) and locator (PM48si) for South Korea? Is it someone using an online SDR receiver? Is DS3SHI even a real call sign? 

The FT8 spots on 28 MHz that this person generates serve no useful purpose and just misleads people. As far as I can tell, this person is only listening on 28 MHz and is not transmitting.

Hopefully if people search Google for the DS3SHI call sign in future, they will find this blog post and discover that the FT8 reports from DS3SHI are bogus.

Update - 25th Aug 2020: Just after this post appeared, it was verified that the spots from DS3SHI were coming from an IP address in Germany. All spots from DS3DHI have now been blocked from the PSK Reporter site.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Slovenian distance record on 40 MHz extended to 104 kms - 17th Aug 2020

In a recent post, I reported on the first Slovenia to Slovenia 40 MHz contact between S50B and S59F on the 9th of August 2020. The distance over an obstructed path was in the region of 20 kms.

On the 17th of August 2020, Borut S50B managed to complete a contact with Michael S5/M0MPM to extend the inter-S5 distance to 104 kms.

Michael S5/M0MPM writes.... "Borut S50B and myself (S5/M0MPM) just smashed the intra-Slovenian distance record on 8m, 40.680Mhz this morning 17/08/2020 at about 7:45 UTC. 

Mode was FT8, it took almost 9 minutes to complete. We tried Phone and CW first with no luck. I’m here in JN75px and Borut is in JN65xu, 104kms. 73s were received on both ends. 

No line of sight, it was some type of tropo or possibly aircraft scatter as I did not see even a trace of his signal for several minutes in between the decodes I’m using a FT857d which happily transmits on this freq , antenna is a half size G5RV, with tuner. 

I contacted Borut after reading the articles about 8m on your blog. Got confirmation that it is legal for class A CEPT license holders to transmit on this band (secondary user) The Irish beacon EI1KNH on 40.013 MHz was strong from midday for several hours Michael S5/M0MPM"

In a report from Borut, he reports that the ZSR (S5 amateur radio union) confirmed to him that as Michael had the correct CEPT papers, he could use the band like any other S5 station.

After confirming this, they arranged a sked on 40.680 MHz at 9:30am local time (7:30 UTC). They initially tried SSB and CW but without success. They later succeeded by making a digital FT8 contact.

S50B was running 100 watts from an ICOM IC-7100 into a dedicated SIRIO vertical for 8-metres. 

S5/M0MPM was using a Yaesu FT857D running 100w into a half-size G5RV with antenna tuner. He reports that he is 480m ASL and the antenna is about 8m high as inverted-V,

Looking at the path between Borut and Michael, there are a lot of mountains in the way and a normal tropo contact looks unlikely. Michael suggests that aircraft scatter may have been responsible which is a real possibility.

Considering that we are still close to the peak of the Perseids, then meteor scatter may be a possibility although 104 kms does seem a bit close for that mode?

Either way, it was another interesting contact on the new 8-metre band and it's welcome news to have another station active.

Review of the 2020 QSO Today Online Expo

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, there are no Hamfests or Amateur Radio expeditions being held anywhere in 2020. As an alternative, there was an online QSO TODAY EXPO held on the weekend of the 8th & 9th of August 2020.

Some 26,000 people registered for the event with 14,000 attending online over the weekend.

My own interest in the event was the online talks and a full list is shown below. Each one was about 30 minutes in duration and covered a wide variety of topics. Over the EXPO weekend and the following week, I've probably watched about two-thirds of the videos on offer.

When the videos were streamed live, I found the feed would fail and I'd have to re-enter the talk again. This problem didn't happen when I looked at the recordings later so I presume it was a bandwidth issue during the EXPO weekend.

The videos could be described as useful primers on subjects that you might be interested in. They certainly weren't as detailed as say some videos on YouTube but many were entertaining and interesting all the same.

Many of the talks had the slides available as a downloadable PDF which is useful to refer to after the event.

There was a Q&A session after each talk although I had no idea how to access this and I really didn't take the effort to find out.

There were commercial booths with products online as well although I didn't bother looking at these. Still, with 14,000 plus visiting the site, I'm sure plenty probably did.

I suspect that in future, we're going to see a lot more online events like this even when the COVID-19 pandemic is over. It removes the need and expense of having to travel long distances.

Maybe these online EXPO's may not have everything that a real physical EXPO has but there's a lot to be said for being able to attend from the comfort of your own home.

The videos can be viewed until the 9th of September 2020. 


List of talks...

Keynote Address: COVID-19: Amateur Radio’s Impact On Problem Solving To Create A Global Response To The Pandemic

How to Solder - Steve Johnston, WD8DAS

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Frequency problems with 28 MHz WSPR


My HF radio is monitoring the WSPR frequency of 28.1246 MHz most days and feeding the reception reports up to the WSPRnet website.

As 10 metres is the highest HF band in terms of frequency, it is also the band that is subject to the most drift.

This is illustrated in the screenshot taken above on the 16th of August 2020. You can see two signals that are outside the WSPR band which is 200 Hz wide. As might be expected, I didn't get any successful decodes from that particular two minute period.

I've checked my own reports against others and I think I am pretty much on the correct frequency.

I just thought it was a nice example of how important it is to make sure you are on the correct frequency on WSPR. If there is any doubt then you should aim to be in the centre of the WSPR band and not at its edges.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Reception of the EI1KNH beacon on 40 MHz via meteor scatter


The Irish 8-metre EI1KNH beacon on 40.013 MHz is located just to the south of Dublin and became operational in May of 2020.

Due to the nearby Dublin and Wicklow mountains, it is badly screened from the south west and even though I have a good take off in that direction, I am unable to hear it directly.

However, I tried listening for it during the Perseid meteor shower and even though I'm a bit close for meteor scatter, I thought 206 kms was far enough for it to work.

As you can see from the graphic above, I got several successful PI4 decodes on the 12th of August 2020.

The EI1KNH signal alternates between the digital PI4 mode, an identification in morse code and a carrier. The PI4 part of the transmission lasts about 24 seconds so a reasonable meteor burst is required to decode the signal. The 40 MHz band is excellent for meteor scatter so there are plenty of bursts available during major meteor showers.

The chart above shows the meteor bursts decoded on the 13th of August. Note that the signals were quite weak as they are in the range of -20dB to -26dB, below what can be heard by ear. This is probably the average signal for the duration of the 24 second PI4 transmission because I could certainly hear PI4 signals by ear at times.

Antenna... It's worth pointing out that I was only using a vertical antenna for 28 MHz for these tests. If I had a resonant antenna or a small directional beam then the results should have been even better.

If I can hear meteor burst from 206 kms away then anyone in the UK should certainly be able to hear it.

For EI1KNH, tune to 40.0122 MHz and listen on USB. For the OZ7IGY beacon in Denmark, try 40.0702 MHz USB.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Video: IRTS Contests and Licence Exams in EI EI7GY


The Mid-Ulster Amateur Radio Club are holding a series of lectures online and their most recent one was from Joe, EI7GY.

While the full video is 1 hour 44 minutes long, it can be broken down as follows...

00 to 04 mins - Introduction

04 to 34 mins - EI7GY talks about the IRTS contests and how they are organised

34 to 49 mins - Q&A session on the contest presentation

49 to 68 mins - EI7GY talks about the licence situation in Ireland (EI) and how the exams for the licence are held. There's a lot of work going on behind the scenes that many people won't be aware of

68 to 104 mins - Q&A on the exam presentation. Other items like 5 MHz operation and how to reach out to more people are also discussed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Meteor Scatter signals on 143 MHz from GRAVES - the French radar system


As shown in the graphic above, the GRAVES radar system in France is used to detect satellites that go over France. The transmitter on 143.050 MHz near Dijon in the east of France runs huge power levels in the effective region of hundreds of kilowatts and reflected signals are picked up by special receiving station in a different part of the country.

One of the upsides of all this is that this 'radio curtain' over France will also interact with ionised trails of gas left by meteors as they enter the atmosphere.

On Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in the far west of Scotland, there is a dedicated receiver that listens for the GRAVES signal on 143.050 MHz with a directional beam.

The online receiver with info can be found here...

I had a listen during the Perseid meteor shower and got this good example of a meteor burst...

It's worth pointing that you can listen for meteor bursts regardless of the weather. It can make for an interesting alternative when the skies are cloudy.

The best time of day is usually during the morning peak at 06:00 UTC for stations in the UK & Ireland and obviously during major meteor showers.

GRAVES transmit antenna array

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

New 8m & 5m bands added to the popular PSK Reporter website...

The PSK Reporter website is used by nearly everyone on digital modes to see what is being heard by stations active on the HF and VHF bands.

Thanks to the efforts of Tim EI4GNB, the new 40 MHz (8-metres) and 60 MHz (5-metres) bands have been added to this hugely popular platform.

Tim writes...."After some emailing with Philip Gladstone, the coder behind the 'reverse beacon' system known as PSK REPORTER, it now officially supports 5m and 8m reporting and mapping, based on reports from [digital mode software] operating within the bandplan guidelines published on the IRTS website drafted by Dave Court."

Approx 40.0 to 40.7 MHz & 58.0 to 60.1 MHz

"This will mean anyone operating FT8/FT4/Digimode etc., or logging PI4 beacons, using supporting software with the 'psk reporter' option enabled, will now be correctly placed on the PSK Reporter map.

We nominated 2 new colours for this - 8m is to be Purple, and 5m is a Silver-Grey."

It's safe to say that the majority of radio amateurs in the world are still are not aware of the 8-metre and 5-metre bands. Even though this is just a small step, it will hopefully raise the profile of these two new VHF bands. 

Update: Example below of a FT8 contact between S50B and S59F on the 12th of August.

Monday, August 10, 2020

First Slovenia to Slovenia contact on 40 MHz - 9th Aug 2020

On the 9th of August 2020 at 10:14 UTC, Borut S50B and Ivo S59F managed to complete a contact on 40.680 MHz for the first contact on the new 8-metre band between two Slovenian stations.

Even though the distance between each of the stations was only about 20 kms, this was over a very poor path with a lot of high ground in the way. Signal reports of 5/3 and 5/5 were exchanged on SSB.

For this first S5 to S5 contact on 40 MHz, S59F was using an ICOM IC-7300 with 100 watts into a dual band 50 MHz / 70 MHz Yagi. It's probably safe to assume that this antenna had no gain on 40 MHz so would be no better than a dipole for the band.

S50B was also running 100 watts from an ICOM IC-7100 but into a dedicated SIRIO vertical for 8-metres.

Even though the Slovenian licencing authorities allocated a slice of spectrum at 8-metres back in 1998, it's only in 2020 that S5 stations have started up on the band. This is largely in response to the new 8-metre allocations in Ireland and Lithuania.

S50B had already worked EI4GNB and LY2YR for S5 firsts at 40 MHz so the contact with S59F was his third first for the band.

As can be seen below, the 8-metre allocation in Slovenia is from 40.660 to 40.700 MHz, the exact same as the ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) band.