Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking back on 2018...

Just like the propagation, my own levels of activity on the radio has been sporadic over the last few years. I was off the air from 2012 until October 2016 and then went off again in April of 2017.

At the start of 2018, my interest was renewed and I have managed to stay on for all of 2018. These are probably the main highlights of 2018 for me.

January 2018... DMR
In January of 2018, I purchased a DMR handheld radio and explored the world of digital radio. Between making up my own code plugs and using the radio, it has been interesting over the last year learning about the system.

April 2018... VHF Activity Nights
At the start of the year, it was very obvious that the levels of activity on the VHF bands in Ireland was very low. It seemed that it would make a lot of sense to try and have particular activity nights where there might be a better chance of making contacts.

I approached the IRTS to ask that they would help publicise activity nights on the Tuesdays of each month which they duly did in their publications and on their website. This became the EI VHF Activity Nights in April of 2018 and it has been a modest success to date.

After 6 months, we did a review of the activity net in Cork and this was refined to become the Cork VHF Net. This has certainly resulted in more activity locally in Cork on several VHF bands which is welcome.

April 2018... 40 MHz
When the IRTS announced at the start of the year that there would be new allocations at 40 and 60 MHz, it really grabbed my interest. There was however very little information to the found. To remedy this, I set up a special page on this site for all 40 MHz information so that others could find out about the band. By the end of 2018, it had been looked at 776 times according to the website stats.

May 2018... FT8
Since the start of May 2018, I have been monitoring FT8 signals on 28 MHz for most of the time and feeding the reception reports up to the PSK Reporter website. At the height of the Sporadic-E season, I was uploading about 6,000 to 8,000 reports per week.

For me as such, it was very low maintenance and required very little of my time. The radio just listened on the FT8 frequency on 28 MHz and I just checked the PC from time to time. Checking what I had heard out of curiosity was the difference between having the radio turned on or having it turned off completely.

Website Traffic...
The year ended with the website getting about 6,000 page views for the month of December. There are some spam clicks buried in amongst those so the number of real click is probably around 5,000. In the second half of 2018, the site has been getting between 4,000 and 10,000 page views per month.

And for 2019???
I'm not exactly sure but probably all of the above. I was reading another blog recently when I saw something which pretty much sums up the reality for a lot of radio amateurs. Many people are just more interested in experimentation rather than communication. Making a contact on the HF bands like 20m is no real challenge as is talking on a local repeater. A lot of people just want to experiment. To try out new bands, modes or new equipment. To build something rather than just use a black box. I'd guess that experimentation is the one facet of the hobby that is likely to keep me interested in the future.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Sun 30th Dec 2018

Another day listening to FT8 signals on 28 MHz. The interesting ones today were W2UH and W2VW in the state of New Jersey in the USA.

At 5000kms or so distant, they were interesting because they were East-West paths on 28 MHz which is much harder than the more usual North-South paths.

The other interesting thing was that I seem to be the only person in Europe that actually heard them according to the PSK Reporter website. This certainly wasn't due to my antenna but more likely due to my westerly location.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

FT8 Signals Heard on 28 MHz... Fri 28th Dec 2018

There was a modest opening on 28 MHz on the 28th of December 2018 with a mixture of Sp-E and some F2 signals.

The most interesting signal was probably J28PJ in Djibouti.

The solar flux is 69 which is very low and would suggest that the band would be closed.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

New VHF Repeaters & Simplexers Planned for the Midlands of Ireland in 2019

The IECRO Ireland Radio Club (EI0IPN), located in the Midlands Region of Ireland has big plans for 2019 with several repeaters and simplexers (parrots) in the pipeline for the VHF bands.

These include a Gateway on 2 metres, Simplexers (parrots) on 4 metres and 10 metres and a FM/DMR repeater on 70cms.

145 MHz... On 2 metres, there will be a Gateway with the call sign EI2SNG on 145.2375 MHz FM with a 88.5Hz CTCSS.  This will allow users access to the Allstar and Echolink networks online (AllStar: 48781, Echolink: 5224).

Using DTMF commands, the 2m gateway can also temporarily connect to both the 4m and 10m systems (thus creating a temporary triple-band service). This will provide (1) Maritime Mobile, (2) portable 2m HT operators, and (3) allstar+echolink users to access these bands with ease.

70 MHz... On 4 metres, there will be a Simplexer (Parrot) on 70.475 MHz FM with carrier access and it will use the call EI4SNR. As outlined above, it can be used in conjunction with the 2m Gateway or on its own as a Simplexer.

A Simplexer operates on a single frequency and records a block of received audio and then relays it again on the same frequency (i.e. like a parrot). This allows users who cannot hear other directly to make contact. It is also a valuable service for any other users in Ireland or overseas who want to check their signals under enhanced conditions.

29 MHz... Like the 4 metre unit, there will also be a 10 metre Simplexer on 29.610 MHz FM. A 67.0 Hz tone is required for access. The callsign will be EI0SNR.

Like the 4 metre unit, this can also be connected to the 2m Gateway. Considering how often the 10m band opens during the Summer months, this might be of particular interest to European stations.

DMR Repeater on 70 cms... It is also proposed to establish a new FM/DMR repeater on 70cms.
Output : 439.700 MHz / Input : 430.700 MHz
FM Access by CTCSS : 167.9 Hz

All of these units will be located near Mullingar in the midlands of Ireland and the map above shows roughly the coverage area.

Additional info from IECRO...
IECRO is keen to encourage increased usage of the 4m (70MHz) and 10m bands. As such, two parrot/simplexers operating on these bands will be linked together to form a cross-band mini parrot network. The 2m gateway mentioned above will be able to temporarily through user requests connect/disconnect to the 4m parrot as and when required, thus providing RF and AllStar/EchoLink
users to access all of the parrots too. What does this mean for the ham community? Well it means
the following dramatic improvements in terms of FM range across the middle of the country from East to West:
4m - 4m
4m - 10m
10m - 10m
2m - both linked parrots
(plus Allstar and Echolink services)

Thanks to Mark EI6HPB for the above info.

FT8 Signals heard on 28 MHz... Sun 23rd Dec 2018

Another day of FT8 signals on 28 MHz with a few strange signals.

At first, the big suprise was the signal on the map to South Korea! I knew that this had to be suspect. This is the trace from what I heard...

111700  -9 -0.6 1719 ~  G0JEI DS0DNX JO61
111800  -5 -0.6 1716 ~  G0JEI DS0DNX R-08

The JO61 suggests that it was someone in JO61 locator square which is the same one as for Berlin. Had someone in Germany made  a mistake putting in their call sign? A pirate? Whoever it was, it certainly wasn't Sotuh Korea.

The other two signals of interest was C5YK in the Gambia in West Africa and ZS5JES in South Africa.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz - Sat 22nd Dec 2018

In contrast to yesterday, there were plenty of FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz on Saturday the 22nd of December 2018.

I was a bit suprised to see so many as I had the radio on while I was working. I could hear some weak signals but nothing really caught my attention. Once I did check, it was a bit of "Wow, look at all them".

I suspect that maybe it was due to the 'weekend effect'. Maybe the conditions weren't that much better than yesterday, it was just that it was a Saturday and more people were on the radio.

Again, all those heard were using the updated version of FT8 so it looks like a lot of people have changed.

Friday, December 21, 2018

FT8 signals on 28 MHz... Fri 21st Dec 2018

After the big Sporadic-E opening on the 19th of December, it was back to the more usual conditions on 28 MHz on Friday the 21st of December. The map above shows the FT8 signals heard on 10m by listening all day (using WSJT-X Ver 2.0).

This is pretty much what it is like most days at the moment...just a handful of signals from around Europe. It might be worth noting that this was a Friday as opposed to the weekend so a lot of stations might be missing.

The one signal of note for me is G0OYQ on the east coast of England at a distance of about 580kms. I seem to hear him every single day with fail. It's probably not Sporadic-E so meteor scatter for me is probably the most likely mode of propagation.

The solar flux was 71 which is about as low as you can get at the bottom of the solar cycle.

EU Directive Requires All Cars To Have Digital Radio By 2021

In terms of radio broadcasting on the VHF Bands, FM still reigns supreme as it is firmly established and many people find little reason to upgrade to digital DAB / DAB+ services.

All that may be about to change though as a new EU directive says that all new cars must have radios capable of receiving digital radio broadcasts by 2021.

As of December 2019, each EU member country has two years to introduce national legislation in accordance with the EU directive. It is therefore expected that all EU member countries will put in place their respective national laws requiring all new car radios to be capable of receiving and reproducing digital terrestrial radio broadcasting by the end of 2020.

In Europe, the most common form of digital terrestrial radio is DAB/DAB+ and the new directive will mean that these new radios are more widespread.

In Norway, the first country to have switched off national FM services, 98 percent of new cars are equipped with DAB+ radios. In Switzerland, this figure stands at 85 percent, with a digital switch over scheduled to be completed no later than 2024.

Despite the new directive, it's likely that FM broadcasting will remain the mode of choice for many listeners and it's unlikely to be turned off any time soon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz - Wed 19th Dec 2018

The conditions on 28 MHz for the last one to two weeks have been pretty awful with slim pickings. There was however a nice mid-Winter Sporadic-E opening to Europe on Wednesday the 19th of December.

It started quiet enough with VP8LP in the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic appearing as the third station of the day.

114845 -10  1.6  678 ~  CQ MM0HVU IO85
114845 -14 -0.4 1337 ~  CQ G0OYQ IO93
114915 -20  1.6  678 ~  CQ MM0HVU IO85
123300 -19 -0.1 1865 ~  CQ VP8LP GD18

What was suprising about this was that the band appeared dead. I had the rig turned on and I heard nothing. I glanced at the screen at one point and noticed VP8LP had been heard.

In the afternoon at about 14:15 UTC, the band opened up with several hours of Sporadic-E to Europe.

What's interesting about all these signals is that they were all using the new version of FT8 i.e. WSJT-X Version 2.0. If they had been using the older versions like version 1.8 or 1.9, I wouldn't have heard them as the two systems are incompatible.

It just goes to show that a lot of people have upgraded already and are not waiting for the end of the year to change.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

FT8 - The Big Changeover

On the 10th of December 2018, the new upgraded version of FT8 was officially released. The new WSJT-X Ver 2.0 version replaces the earlier 1.8 and 1.9 versions which were hugely popular.

The BIG problem however is that the new FT8 protocols have been enhanced in a way that is not backward compatible with older versions of the program. i.e. those using the new version can't talk to those using the old version.

There is a three week window for users to upgrade by the start of the new year.

“The new protocols become the worldwide standards starting on December 10, 2018, and all users should upgrade to WSJT-X 2.0 by January 1, 2019.” ... Joe Taylor K1JT, WSJT-X home page.

Considering the huge number of people using FT8, it might seem at first like trying to herd some cats. Will everyone change over? Will there be people using both systems in 2019?

On the 10th of December, I adopted a 'wait and see' policy to see how many people changed. On the 12th and 13th of December, I noticed that I was hearing FT8 signals on 28 MHz and not decoding them. I checked the usual time and frequency settings and all was ok.

Perhaps the old 1.9 version might be ok on the lower HF bands like 20m where there are plenty of signals but there are very few signals on 28 MHz. If I can't decode a signal then it's a big deal.

On the 14th of December, I changed over to Version 2.0 and one of the first signals I heard on 28 MHz was VP8LP on the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.

I have no doubt that there will be plenty of people using the old version for a while but upgrading to version 2.0 as soon as possible seems like the best option.

More info here...

Thursday, December 13, 2018

VHF net in Cork every Tuesday evening

Back in April and May of 2018, the idea of having an EI VHF Activity Night was born and Tuesday evenings were selected as they tied in with some of the 2m and 70cms RSGB contests in the UK.

Over the first 6 months, there was some activity on each of the Tuesday evenings in Cork and at the start of November of 2018, we did a review to see how things could be improved.

The main suggestions were...

1) Set a specific time and frequency for a net in Cork.
Having a general activity period like 7pm to 10pm is fine for a countrywide proposal where different groups might like to do their own thing. However for a specific area like Cork, we felt it would be better if we could meet up at a specific time on a certain frequency.

2) Reminders by e-mail.
We thought a reminder by email would help as people forget.

For November 2018, we tried the new format and it was certainly better. While the numbers are still small, we have had a good net every evening with each one lasting about 70 mins.

We also established an online White Board where a very brief record of what was discussed is kept with links for more info.


The VHF activity nights for Cork are now as follows...

1st Tues of the month - 8pm - 2m - 145.475 MHz FM

2nd Tues of the month - 8pm - 70cms - 433.475 MHz FM

3rd Tues of the month - 8pm - 4m - 70.2625 MHz FM
3rd Tues of the month - 9pm - 6m - 50.150 MHz SSB

4th Tues of the month - 8pm - Digital - DMR Talk Group 2724 / Echolink node 88269 / Fusion C4FM YSF node 04251 / Fusion C4FM Wires-x node 41411 / Allstar node 29884.


At the moment, we are looking to expand the net and if anyone would like to be added to the email list, they should contact ei7gl AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk.

Only one email per week is sent out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Shannon Basin Radio net on 145 MHz every Thurs night

The Shannon Basin Radio Club hold a net on 145.350 MHz  FM every Thursday evening at 8pm.  This initiative to promote more activity on the VHF bands started in late 2018 and has been pretty successful to date.

The net is not confined to club members and they welcome anyone that can hear them to call in, even if it's just for a signal report.

The Shannon Basin Radio Club website can be seen here...

Monday, December 10, 2018

40 MHz activity starts near Dublin

In the December edition of the IRTS newsletter Echo Ireland, Dave EI3IO wrote a short article about some developments on the new 40 MHz / 8 metre band.

On the 21 October 2018, Dave EI3IO and Tim EI4GNB made contact on the FM calling channel of 42.500 MHz. As Dave is in South Dublin and Tim is in Bray Co.Wicklow, the distance was only a few kms.

Both stations were using the Dragon SY-5430 which is pictured above. This FM transceiver is used as a CB in countries like the Ukraine and also in Italy where they have a CB allocation at 43 MHz.

Dave also reports that during discussions with ICOM Europe, they warned against modifying transceivers like the 7300 to operate at 40 MHz or 60 MHz. They state that any such modifications could void the warranty. Dave recommends the use of transverters instead.

Both EI3IO and EI4GNB have transverters that operate between 40.0 and 42.0 MHz. If anyone would like to conduct experiments with either station, they can be contacted via QRZ.COM

As outlined in a previous post in Nov 2018, there is already some activity on 40 MHz from the West of Ireland.

For more information on 40 MHz, have a look at this page...

Saturday, December 8, 2018

TX Factor Video - Episode 22

In this episode, the TX Factor team look at the 2018 RSGB Convention, Network Radios, the Icom IC-R6800 receiver and the latest satellite news from AMSAT.

Video guide...
01:20 to 04:30... Introduction to the 2018 RSGB Convention
04:40 to 11:10... Section on Network Radios
11:20 to 20:40... 1st part of the review of the Icom IC-R6800 general coverage receiver.
23::30 to 31:20... RSGB Convention misc & adverts
31:20 to 40:30... 2nd part of the Icom review
40:40 to 43:50... Quick look at the Yaesu FTDX101MP-D high end transceiver.
44:00 to 48:00... Latest news about amateur radio satellites by AMSAT.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz - Thurs 6th Dec 2018

After a poor enough week, the 10 metre band was pretty good today with plenty of FT8 signals heard.

Most notable were probably XT2BR in Burkina Faso and ZD7GWM on St.Helena Island.

The Solar flux today was 71 which is pretty low. Not a bad day though considering it was a Thursday and we are at the bottom of the solar cycle.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

December 2018 issue of Echo Ireland sent out to IRTS members

Echo Ireland is the journal of the Irish Radio Tranmitters Society, the national organisation for radio amateurs in Ireland. It is published 4 times a year and sent out to members in either PDF format by email or a printed version by post.

The December 2018 edition was emailed out to members on the 3rd of December.

As can be seen from the image above, it contains a wealth of info and gives a good idea of what various clubs and individuals are up to around the country.

I opted for the PDF version a long time ago as I just don't want yet another printed publication that I have to store or dispose of. I keep PDF versions of all the IRTS newsletters in my own private Google Docs folder online as outlined in this post from Dec 2016.

Getting the PDF version also means that I get the newsletter about 1-2 weeks ahead of the postal version and it reduces costs for the IRTS. Printing and posting the newsletter is currently the biggest cost for the Society and the more members that opt for the digital version, the bigger the savings will be and it ensures that the annual membership fee is unlikely to increase.

If you are interested then go to the IRTS website and tell the Membership Records Officer that you would prefer the PDF version by email instead.

Monday, December 3, 2018

FT8 signals on 28 MHz with the aerial on the ground

Living near the south coast of Ireland, one of the hazards at this time of year are the Winter gales. As Storm Diana passed over the country, I dropped my vertical antenna for 28 MHz as a precaution.

With the antenna resting a few cms horizontally above the ground and with the wind howling outside, I began to wonder if I could actually hear any FT8 signals on 10 metres? If it was a band like 20m or 40m then I would have assumed yes. But 10 metres? I assumed no.

What I heard over the next two days is shown below...

The big suprise on the 28th of Nov was hearing GW0PLP in West Wales, a distance of about 250kms. I can hear Don most of the time when the antenna is vertical but it was now just cms off the ground.

The big suprise on Thurs 29th was hearing Newfoundland! It just goes to show how well FT8 can dig weak signals out of the noise.

Galway Digital Net on Monday evenings

In an effort to generate more activity on the digital modes, a new net has been started in Galway on Monday evenings at 8:30pm. Activity of course is not confined just to operators in Galway and they welcome call ins from anywhere.

Activity is as follows...
DMR Talk Group 2724
CQ-IRELAND Wires-X (Fusion) Node 41411
YSF Node 04251
Allstar Node 29884
Echolink 883269 which MI0AAZ-L.

All of these are connected together so there is a range of options to get on the net. Please remember to leave a gap between overs to allow the network components to reset.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Video on DMR, DSTAR & C4FM Hotspots

Hotspots are generally used by those who don't have a local repeater and want to use their digital radios to get access to various online reflectors and talk groups.

Like many things, the features improve over time. This video shows what is on the market as of November 2018.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Video on the Icom IC-R8600 Wideband Communications Receiver

ICOM have recently uploaded a video to YouTube about the Icom IC-R8600 Wideband Communications Receiver. The video shows Bob McCreadie (G0FGX) of TX Films giving an overview and demonstration of this receiver's extensive range of features.

It looks like a serious piece of kit with a price to match. It currently retails for about £2500 / €3000.

One serious drawback seems to be the fact it isn't able to decode DMR or Yaesu System Fusion signals.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

PSK Reporter passes 5 Billion Reception reports

Back in July of 2018, I had a post up about how the number of reception reports on the PSK Reporter website had just passed 4 Billion.

In the middle of November 2018, it passed 5 billion. That's an extra 1 billion reception reports in just 4 months!

Over 99% of these reports are FT8 which shows how the mode has really taken off. A lot of people dismiss the mode but the numbers speak for themselves.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Calendar for F2 openings on the 11m and 10m bands

For anyone using the 27 MHz to 29 MHz part of the spectrum, propagation is an important subject especially if you want to get work stations around the world. In general, the two main modes of propagation for the 11m and 10m bands are Sporadic-E mainly during the Summer months and F2 for the rest of the year.

In this post, the charts deal just with F2 and what parts of the world are likely to be heard at certain times of the day throughout the year.

It should be noted that this is a general guide. It is highly dependent on where we are in the 11 year Solar Cycle and what the Solar flux is. Usually for stations in North-West Europe, the Solar flux needs to be about 80 or above to start getting openings. North-South paths are more likely and the East-West ones appear with higher flux levels.

The big variable in this is Sporadic-E. This occurs mainly during the Summer months but is present during most months to a certain degree. This can allow stations in the UK for example to get into the Mediterranean on Sporadic-E and then via F2 into South Africa. Expect the unexpected on 10 metres.

This map shows various parts of the World numbered and the charts are based on propagation from the UK and Ireland.

The charts below show the times of day those are might be heard at various time of the year.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 144 MHz... Sun 18th Nov 2018

I decided to take a break from listening on 28 MHz as the reports were pretty much similar from day to day. I had noticed several posts on Twitter about good conditions on the VHF bands so I had a listen to FT8 signals on 144 MHz instead.

Even though I had heard further before, it still amazes me how my Slim Jim antenna in the attic is managing to pull in signals from the centre of the UK. The furthest signal heard was G4KUX in the north of England at 531 kms.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Number of Entries to the CQWW Contest

I came across these charts recently about the number of entries to the CQ World Wide contest. This is the largest contest during the year with an SSB and CW leg.

First off, here are the number of entries in the SSB contest every year.

Before I saw the chart, I would have assumed that perhaps the number of entries might have been determined by the sunspot cycle and the amount of propagation. While there does seem to be small increases around the time of sunspot maximum, it is remarkably steady.

The big suprise for me and I think for most people is the big jump in numbers from about 2008 on. It has almost doubled in 5 years. Why the jump?

The figures for CW show a similar pattern.

For a mode that supposed to be at deaths door, morse code seems to be doing remarkably well.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... 12th, 13th & 14th Nov 2018

Another 3 days on 28 MHz and pretty much the same. There were fewer Sp-E signals from Europe but that may well be because there are more people active on the weekends.

These are the FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz over three days...

Mon 12th Nov 2018.....A mix of Sporadic-E from Europe with a small amount of DX.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Three Part Primer on Software Defined Radios

Over the last few years, SDR's or Software Defined Radios have come on in leaps and bounds and now offer some superb performance compared to the traditional type of receiver or scanner. As microprocessors become faster and more powerful, we are likely to see even more performance leaps.

There is a huge amount of information out there on the net, some new and some dated. It can all be a little confusing.

The Swling dot Com website have a three part primer which gives a very good overview on the current state of the SDR market as of the end of 2018.

Part 1 (September 2018) - In the first section, there is a good introduction to Software Defined Radios and what software is available.

Part 2 (October 2018) - In the second section, there is coverage of some of the basic and popular SDR's on the market with some recommendations.

Part 3 (November 2018) - In the third and final part of the series, there is coverage of some high end SDR's and transceivers.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

FT8 Signals heard on 28 MHz - 9th, 10th & 11th Nov 2018

Another three days of listening to FT8 signals on 28 MHz. Each day is kind of similar with small differences.

Fri 9th Nov 2018. The usual mix of Sporadic-E from Europe and F2 from South Africa and Brazil.

Sat 10th Nov 2018. There was really a big Sporadic-E opening to Europe on this day with lots of stations heard. It was remarkable to see just how many stations in the Netherlands are on FT8!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

2700km contact made on 2m from South Africa to St.Helena Island

It was announced on Southgate Amateur Radio News during the week that a contact had been made between South Africa and St.Helena Island on 145 MHz.

"Kobus van der Merwe, ZS3JPY reports that between 19:45 and 21:45 UTC on Wednesday 7 November 2018, a QSO took place on 2 metres between St Helena Island and the West Coast of the Northern Cape. A distance of 2,740 km.

The QSO was on 145,500 MHz FM using a vertically polarised antenna between Garry Mercury, ZD7GWM and Kobus ZS3JPY and Michelle ZS3TO van der Merwe in Kleinzee as well as Cobus van Baalen, ZS3CVB in Port Nolloth.

They did try a QSO on 70 cm, but the signals did not provide for a successful QSO. "

This is a recording of the contact...

Info from Facebook..."From ZS3JPY Kobus: Qso with ZD7GWM with ZS3JPY Kobus, ZS3TO Michelle 2777km and ZS3CVB Cobus 2740km on vhf 145.500 Fm simplex with Vertical antenna 07.11.2018 qso started 21H45 until 23H45 we even tried 70cm and we nearly made a contact but signal just not good enough we will try tomorrow evening. ZS3CVB qso with Gary ZD7GWM on St Helena Island vhf Fm mode and 50w both sides
Gary: ☓520 dual band Diamond antenna;
ZS3CVB: X700H dual band Diamond antenna explorer the vertical antenna and use quality low loss coax Cable.

Me and Cobus were having our evening qso on 145.500 and Gary called in and Cobus ZS3CVB said somebody is breaking in and iam jumping up and down screaming to Michelle: St Helena Island is calling in on the frequency!"

This was a really good contact especially as it was on FM as opposed to SSB, CW or FT8. The tropo forecast for the area shows very good conditions off the west coast of Namibia so the propagation mode was probably marine ducting.

How does this compare to other contacts made on the 2m band? This is the equivalent distance of 2740kms from the South-West of Ireland.

It almost reaches across the Atlantic to Newfoundland. However, it's also the same distance from Ireland to the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa.

Most years, we have openings from Ireland and the South-West of the UK to the Canary Islands (EA8) via marine ducting tropo. It's unusual but not rare.

I suspect that the contact from South Africa to St.Helena is pretty much the same, unusual but not rare. If anyone looks at the topography of St.Helena then they can see that the populated area on the north-west of the island is blocked to the south-east by hills. ZD7GWM is in the centre of the island with a better take off and perhaps this is what made the difference. When similar ducting happens again...and it will, another contact may well be possible.

Is a contact possible from South Africa to South America. The distance is about 5800 kms, over twice the distance of the South Africa - St.Helena contact. Unlikely.

Although I seem to remember a news item from a few years back where someone in Namibia did tests on 2m with someone in Brazil?

IARU Monitoring System issues October 2018 Newsletter

The October 2018 Newsletter of the IARU Monitoring System for Region 1 has just been released and it again shows the various intrusions into the radio amateur bands.

The newsletter reports that military radar is causing interference on the short wave bands again.

The contributor for the IRTS is Michael EI3GYB and he reports many instances of fishermen heard on the 80-metre amateur band.

The full newsletter can be seen here...

Thursday, November 8, 2018

QRP Labs November 2018 Newsletter

QRP Labs have just released their newsletter for November 2018 and it can be seen HERE.

Some of the key points are...
#1. New product: 10W HF Linear PA kit ... Really nice 10 watt amp for just $26!

#5. Coming soon: QSX All-mode 10-band 10-Watt HF transceiver kit ... This was due for release in November 2018 but has now been delayed.

#10. 6,000 QCX kits! ... They have sold 6,000 of the CW only transceivers in just 15 months. 6,000 x $49 = $294,000! Obviously that's the sales and not the profit but it shows that there is a fair bit of money being generated by the best selling kit from QRP-Labs. So much for morse code being dead.

FT8 Signals heard on 28 MHz - 6th, 7th & 8th Nov 2018

It seemed kind of pointless putting up daily reception reports for 28 MHz so this is for the last three days. Again, the solar flux is down around 68 which is pretty much rock bottom of the solar cycle.

Tues 6th Nov 2018. Usual mix of Sporadic-E from Europe and some DX as well. There seems to be a cluster of FT8 stations based around Johannesburg in South Africa.

Wed 7th Nov 2018. Usual signals from South Africa and a few nice ones from South America as well.

IARU-R1 VHF Handbook V8.12 Released

The most recent version of the IARU Regional 1 VHF Handbook is now available.

It can be downloaded HERE

There aren't any huge changes compared to previous versions but it does contain the various VHF and UHF band plans which might be of interest to some.

There is no mention of the recent Irish allocation at 40 MHz and 60 MHz although it does have the usual footnote from 2008 in which it recommends that member societies try to establish beacon clusters on these bands.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Notice : IRTS 80m Evening Counties Contest - Tues 13th Nov 2018

The next IRTS contest is the 40m Counties which will be held on Tuesday the 13th of November 2018 at 20:00 UTC (8pm Irish Time).

The contest will last for an hour and SSB and CW can be used. For more info, go to the IRTS website.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Current state of Solar Cycle 24... Oct 2018

The chart below shows how at the end of 2018, we are very much in the Sunspot minimum of the 11 year cycle.

There is some talk about the next solar cycle starting but the chart above suggests that we may have some way to go yet before things pick up. As you can see from the end of the last cycle, the sunspot numbers remain at very low levels for 2-3 years before they increase again.

It may well be another two years before conditions really improve. 2020? 2021?

Monday, November 5, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz - 4th & 5th Nov 2018

There were plenty of FT8 signals on 28 MHz over the last two days with a mixture of Sporadic_E from Europe and some longer distance F2 signals as well.

On Sunday the 4th of November, there were some signals from Europe, Africa and South America. There weren't many from South America which suggests to me that the band was just about open.

The signals that caught my eye were the ones from Ukraine and Russia. Double hop Sporadic-E or one hop F2? I suspect F2 but how can you tell?

On Monday the 5th of November, there were some nice signals from the Indian Ocean but a complete absence of South America.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Australia heard on 28 MHz... 3rd Nov 2018

After a quiet week of just European FT8 signals on 10 metres, I had convinced myself that the band was going to be poor until next Spring. Then in pops VK8AW from Australia this morning...

This is what I heard on FT8 from VK8AW...

092100  -5  0.1  507 ~  OZ1LXJ VK8AW PH57
092130  -7  0.0  507 ~  OZ1LXJ VK8AW R+17
092200  -8  0.1  507 ~  OZ1LXJ VK8AW 73
092430  -9  0.0  507 ~  YC2WXV VK8AW +06

What's interesting here is that I heard the signals just after sunset in VK8AW's location which was at 09:17 UTC.

I was hearing weak signals from Denmark at about the same time which suggests that there was perhaps some Sporadic-E at my end of the path.

That's the thing about 28 MHz, it never fails to suprise.

40 MHz featured in the Spectrum Monitor magazine

Some of the material from my blog will be featured in the VHF column of the November 2018 issue of the Spectrum Monitor magazine. Joe N6CL used some of my FT8 reception reports on 2 metres during the recent lift and it helps show what is possible on the VHF bands.

Joe also used some of the information that I have about the 40 MHz band which should let a whole new audience know about the band.

It's probably safe to say that the vast majority of radio amateurs and listeners in North America have no idea that there is a new amateur band at 40 MHz in Ireland. Hopefully, it might encourage a few people to pay more attention to the band.

1) The Spectrum Monitor

Friday, November 2, 2018

Limerick 2m Repeater off the air

It looks as if the Limerick repeater EI2TAG on 145.725 MHz is currently off the air. The repeater which is situated on the summit of Tountinna ceased transmissions on Monday evening 29th October 2018.

It will remain off air until further notice.

In the meantime, the IRTS news will be read out on Monday evenings on the 70 cms repeater EI7WHR, located on Woodcock Hill IO52PR. The repeater output frequency is 433.125 MHz.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Experiments on 40 MHz begin in the West of Ireland

There was an interesting item in the IRTS news dated 28th Oct 2018 about some activity on the new 40 MHz / 8 metre band in the West of Ireland.

8 Meter Band Operation
Phil EI9KP (ON4TA) is back in Ireland for the next few weeks. Following tests with Dominic EI9JS, he is now fully QRV on the 40 MHz 8 meter band with a converted FT 857 in CW, SSB and FM. He has constructed some dipoles and a delta loop for the band and is keen for some more contacts either two way or cross band. Pictures and more info can be found on the MREN website at

A number of Irish radio amateurs in the Mayo-Sligo region have been conducting experiments with various radios and antennas for the band and a two way SSB contact between Phil EI9KP and Dominic EI9JS took place on 40.250 MHz on the 19th of October 2018. The distance was roughly 20 kms.

Along with Brendan EI6IZ, they have found that the following radios can be modified to cover 40 MHz...

ICOM  IC-706, IC-7200, IC-7300

Yaesu FT-817, FT-857

Please note that the 40 MHz band is quiet a distance from 29 MHz or 50 MHz so the performance may not be optimal.

More information can be found on the Mayo Radio Experimenters website...

They also have a number of photos here...

Poor conditions on 28 MHz... Thurs 1st Nov 2018

Over the last week to 10 days, there has been a dramatic drop in the conditions on 28 MHz. The FT8 signals that I heard on Thurs 1st Nov 2018 are shown in the map. Most of the European signals are probably weak Sporadic-E.

And today wasn't exceptional, it's been very poor every day for the last week. I thought it might have been due to the CQWW contest last weekend but no, conditions are awful.

Contrast that to say the 15th of October 2018 when South America, Africa and the Indian Ocean was heard.

On more than one occasion, I checked my antenna to make sure it was working ok and it was.

It's almost as if it has gone from Is this really the sunspot minimum? to This really is the sunspot minimum!

The solar flux is currently at 68 which is more or less rock bottom.

Will it pick up again or will it stay flat as we move away from the equinox?

Monday, October 29, 2018

Results of the IRTS 40m Counties Contest for Oct 2018

The results of the IRTS 40m Counties Contest for October 2018 are now available here...

In total 42 station logs with 1,393 QSOs were submitted while 24 EI/GI counties and 16 DXCC entities were logged.

As can be seen from the chart above, there was a slight increase in entries this year due to those using CW.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Another big opening on 144 MHz - Tues 23rd & Wed 24th of Oct 2018

After hearing someone mention that there were French stations on 2 metres, I had a listen to the FT8 frequency of 144.174 MHz for 24 hours from 20:00 UTC 23rd to 20:00 UTC 24th Oct 2018.

This is a chart of the signals heard...

If this was a chart of signals heard with say a medium size Yagi beam then I'd say it looked pretty good. However, these signals were heard with a Slim Jim half-wave vertical in the attic of my house!

The game changer here is the FT8 digital mode. When I was pretty active on 2m SSB before, I never heard a signal from Denmark (OZ) with the 9 element beam that I had. Now with FT8, I've heard Denmark for the first time. Amazing.

OZ1BEF in Denmark was 1240 kms away which is pretty good for tropo.

Another interesting signal was that of F8DBF in Britanny. At a distance of 475 kms, it was just a reminder that the North-West tip of France isn't that far from my location in Cork and is about the same distance as Southampton on the south coast of England.

Great to see so much activity on 144 MHz!

Italy gains access to the 60 metre band

It looks as if Italian radio amateurs have just been allocated a slice of spectrum on the 60 metre band.

They will be allowed to use  5.3515 MHz to 5.3665 MHz on a secondary basis with a maximum
equivalent isotropic power of 15 W (e.i.r.p.).

This follows the pattern set by many other European countries that have obtained similar allocations.

From Google Translate....
The Minister of Economic Development approved, with Decree of October 5, 2018, published in the General Series GU n. 244 of 19.10.2018, Supp. Ord. n. 49, the National Frequency Distribution Plan between 0 and 3,000 GHZ. The aforementioned Decree will enter into force, in the absence of an express indication of a different sign, 15 days after publication. Therefore, the new frequencies assigned to radio amateurs can be used, within the limits established by the Decree de quo, after the term vacatio legis.

The frequency band 5351.5-5366.5 kHz is also attributed to the amateur radio service with the status of secondary service. The stations of the amateur radio service using the 5351,5- frequency band
5366.5 kHz must not exceed the maximum equivalent isotropic power of 15 W (e.i.r.p.)


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz - Mon 22nd Oct 2018

After the good conditions on the VHF bands over the weekend, I was back on 28 MHz again on Monday the 22nd of October. These are the FT8 signals that were heard...

The solar flux was about 70 which is almost rock bottom.

Some notes...
1) S79LD in the Seychelles in the Indain Ocean was heard.

2) There was a distinct lack of South American stations heard. At the start of October, they were there in numbers every evening. It seems a bit more hit and miss at the moment. Conditions or time of year?

3) Two stations from the USA were heard... W2MGF and N1NK. What is unusual about these is that they are an East-West path which is much more difficult on 28 MHz than North-South.

4) The signals heard on the 19th of October are shown below. There wasn't really too much of interest there to warrant a post about it.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Big opening on 144 MHz... Sat 20th Oct 2018

Back in early September, I tried listening to FT8 signals on 144 MHz on what a pretty flat band and the results were mediocre at best. My conclusion was that I was too far west to hear FT8 signals on 144 MHz with a very basic antenna when the band was flat.

On Saturday the 20th of October, there was a big lift on 2 metres with French repeaters coming in on 145.350 MHz and 145.775 MHz. I had a listen on the FT8 frequency for about 18 hours and this is what I heard from about 18:00 UTC on Saturday to about noon on Sunday...

It was pretty amazing what could be heard using just a simple Slim Jim vertical half-wave in the attic of my house. If I heard that many signals with a basic indoor vertical, just imagine the number of stations I might have heard if I had been using a small horizontal beam outdoors.

The three furthest signals heard were...
DK5DV 1139kms, DK5WO 1008 kms & F5EZJ 984 kms.

The mode of propagation was probably tropospheric ducting which allowed the VHF signals travel well over the horizon. Unlike the openings to Canary Island and Cape Verde, this was probably an elevated duct by a layer much higher in the atmosphere.

I have worked plenty of stations in Europe like this before on 2m SSB but it's always interesting to hear. It seems as if FT8 might be giving 2 metres a new lease of life?

Friday, October 19, 2018

The K3LR Super Station

There was a presentation given recently at the RSGB convention about the K3LR super station. It gives some idea of the what is required to be a top contest station...

Thursday, October 18, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Thurs 18th Oct 2018

The main difference today was the lack of Sporadic-E signals from Europe in contrast to most of the last week...

This would suggest that the signals from the Canary Islands and South America were all via F2 propagation. Nothing spectacular but the band was open all the same. The solar flux is 70.

Video about the International Amateur Radio Union

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) is an organization that represents the amateur radio community. It consists of over 160 national amateur radio societies around the world. This video which is from the recent RSGB convention gives an idea of the work the IARU does and the challenges facing amateur radio in the future.

Roughly £1.30 / €1.50 of the membership fee of each national society goes towards the work of the IARU. Obviously the more members a national society has then the better.