Thursday, October 18, 2018

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.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Wed 17th Oct 2018

Conditions were down a bit today but still plenty of FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz...


Some of the most interesting signals were from stations that were closest...

a) I seem to hear G0OYQ on the east coast of England every day (580 kms). Perhaps he is using a lot of power but he is one of the most consistent signals. Meteor scatter or aircraft scatter? It seems hard to believe there is short Sporadic-E every day.

b) I heard Don GW0PLP on the west coast of Wales for the first time on FT8 on 28 MHz. At a distance of 260kms, it was probably via tropo as I have worked Don in the past on SSB.

On this occasion, Don's signal was -14dB on FT8 and I could actually hear it. It was interesting to see what a steady -14dB signal on a quiet band sounded like. Iif it had been on SSB, it was almost certainly too weak to work. It would probably be a very difficult cw contact. On FT8, -14dB was no problem and I was hearing other signals down at -18dB and -20dB.

Irish Radio Telescope images Milky Way Galaxy at 44.92 MHz

A new radio telescope in Ireland was established at Birr Castle in Co.Offaly in 2016. One of the antenna arrays works at low VHF frequencies and they produced this image of the Milky Way galaxy as seen at 44.92 MHz.


The above image was taken in July 2017.


It's a reminder that this part of the spectrum around 40 MHz is used by the radio telescope and obviously any signals in the spectrum from 30 to 80 MHz in this general area may be of concern.

Any radio amateur living in the area shown in red below should be aware of the radio telescope in Birr and be careful of any transmissions.


FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Tues 16th Oct 2018

Lots of FT8 signals heard again on 28 MHz but down a bit on previous days...


A lot of the usual signals although 9Z4Y in Trinidad was a new one heard. D41CV in the Cape Verde Islands also made an appearance. Solar flux in the low 70's.

Monday, October 15, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Mon 15th Oct 2018

No shortage of signals on 28 MHz today even though the solar flux is down at 72.


Again, lots of Sporadic-E signals from Europe with plenty of distant DX via F2 as well.

Some of the more usual signals were....
a) 3B8CW in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
b) TR8CA in Gabon who is always a regular on 10 metres.
c) ZD7GWM in St.Helena.
d) VP8NO in the Falkland Islands.
e) Two Argentinian stations in Tierra del Fuego.
f) W2OR in Florida. This was possibly the most unusual. North-South signals are to be expected so hearing South America and Africa on 28 MHz is good but normal. It's the East-West signals that are harder and usually require better conditions. Looking at PSK reporter, I was the only person in Europe to hear him on FT8 on 28 MHz today. That's is almost certainly due to my westerly location.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

SNOTEL on 40 MHz in the USA...

This post is about the SNOTEL network in North America which shows how 40 MHz signals from remote weather stations are relayed by meteor scatter back to base stations.

SNOTEL (SNOwpack TELemetry). Across the western half of the USA, remote weather stations in mountainous locations record the level of snowfall in their respective areas. This data can then used to calculate the potential amount of melt water in the catchment area of a particular river.


Radio bursts around 40 MHz are sent at the remote sites and these signals are then reflected off trails of ionised gas left by small meteors in the upper atmosphere. These trails decay quite rapidly so the signals tend to be of a short duration.

The frequencies I have seen listed for SNOTEL are 40.530 MHz, 40.670 MHz and 41.530 MHz.
<1 p="" sec="" seconds="" several="" to="">
More information is presented below...



Saturday, October 13, 2018

EchoLink now connected to Irish DMR Network


The Irish digital radio community continues to grow with more stations registering for DMR numbers every month. New digital repeaters and gateways have been established around Ireland to allow various users talk to each other.

One of the latest improvements to be made to the DMR network has been the establishment of a link to the Echolink network by John Anderson MI0AAZ. Anyone connecting to MI0AAZ-L under LINKS on the Echolink network will now connect to Talk Group 2724 on the Irish DMR network.

It will also connect at the same time to Yaesu Fusion Wires-X room  CQ-IRL  no 41411,  YSF independent fusion network no 04251 and the Allstar network no 29884.

This is an excellent way for those who are unsure about digital radio to connect to users on the DMR network so that they can ask questions and to see what the audio sounds like.

Additional info...
There are currently three Talk Group channels on the Irish DMR network with  multi bridging capability to other digital voice systems.

DMR TG 2724 links to the following:
Allstar node 29884
Fusion C4FM  YSF node 04251
Fusion C4FM Wires-x node 41411
Echolink node 883269

DMR TG 27247 links to the following:
DSTAR XRF925D
Fusion C4FM Wires-x 41280 & 41619
Fusion C4FM FCS 00430

DMR TG 27248 links to the following:
Allstar node 47137
DSTAR XRF925C
Fusion C4FM FCS 00480

Credits : Thanks to John MI0AAZ and Don EI8DJ for the above info.

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Fri 12th Oct 2018

Another day listening to FT8 signals on 28 MHz and it was pretty much the same as previous days...


Not too much in terms of Sporadic-E but some nice North-South F2 signals to South America and Africa. Solar Flux about 70.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz - Thurs 11th Oct 2018

There was a lot less Sporadic-E from Europe today but there were still some nice DX signals on FT8 on 28 MHz...


3B9FR in Rodriguez Island in the Indian Ocean and VP8LP in the Falkland Islands were heard again.

The lack of Sporadic-E made me wonder if some of these distant signals were via F2 propagation only? I'd have no doubt that many of those distant signals are due to a mix of Sporadic-E for the first hop from Ireland and then F2 for the rest of the way. But is it for all of them? The solar flux is down at 68 which is pretty much rock bottom.

QRP Labs announce new 10 watt HF amplifier

QRP Labs have just released a new 10 watt amplifier for the HF bands and it looks pretty impressive considering the modest price of $26.


According to the release notes, it can comfortably produce 10 Watts from a 12V supply and will not overheat even on continuous 100% duty-cycle operation.

It has 26dB gain with +/- 1dB gain flatness from 2 to 30MHz. This means that it requires just 25 milliwatts of drive to achieve 10 watts output.

It has lower gain above 30 MHz with a potential output of 4 watts on 50 MHz and 1.7 watts on 70 MHz.

There are no Surface Mount Components (SMD) to solder and a number of small transformers need to be wound.

Key Features:
10W output from 2 to 30MHz, using 12V Supply
Generously-sized heatsink, will not overheat even on continuous 100% duty-cycle modes
2-stage amplifier provides 26dB of gain
Push-pull driver and push-pull finals, for high linearity and low harmonic content
+/- 1dB gain flatness from 2 to 30MHz
4dB down at 6m (50MHz) and 8dB down on 4m (70MHz)
Standard 50-ohm input and output
Through-hole plated PCB, all through-hole components (no Surface Mount Devices)
Standard inexpensive components throughout
Tested for 1 hour at full-power 10W, 100% continuous duty-cycle with no forced air cooling
Tested for 15 minutes at 20W, 100% continuous duty-cycle with no forced air cooling
Tested at 20V supply
Tested into open load, shorted load and various mismatches without instability (oscillation)

http://qrp-labs.com/linear

Amplifier with supplied heatsink.

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz ... Wed 10th Oct 2018

Wednesday the 10th of October started off with a very quiet 28 MHz band with very little being heard...just one G and DL in the morning.

The afternoon was better though as the European Sporadic-E started up and the DX signals came in from further afield...


Some nice distances but much the same as previous days. One OD5 in Lebanon was heard.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

IARU Monitoring System issues September 2018 Newsletter

The September 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 Russian 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... http://www.iarums-r1.org/iarums/news2018/news1809.pdf

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Tues 9th Oct 2018

Another remarkable day of FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz. It's almost like we were a few years out of solar minimum rather than actually being at the very bottom.

As can be seen from the map below, there were a load of stations in Europe heard via Sporadic-E and this no doubt helped with the F2 signals to further afield.


Highlights....
Two stations heard in South Africa.
A second St.Helena Island station in the form of ZD7GWM was heard.
Lots of South America including Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Falkland Islands.
Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.
The most unusual signal was probably KE8M in Ohio in the USA mainly because it was an East-West path. Perhaps it was a skewed path? Impossible to tell. What was strange was that I was the only person in Europe to hear him.

Monday, October 8, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Mon 8th Oct 2018

Just like yesterday, there was plenty of FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz on Monday the 8th of October 2018...



The band seems to have been more or less open all day with lots of Sporadic-E signals from Europe and some F2 signals further south. Interesting to hear 3B9FR on Rodriguez Island in the Indian Ocean as well as ZD7JC on St.Helena and VP8LP on the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. WP3MM in Puerto Rico was also heard.

Pretty amazing conditions considering the solar flux is just 68 and we're at the bottom of the sunspot cycle.

I suspect a lot of this is due to the FT8 digital mode. In the past, I have often heard the band open in October at the solar minimum but I would be just hearing weak cw beacons in Europe and then maybe the occasional DX signal on SSB or CW working back into Europe.

With FT8, everything is different. Everyone is on the one frequency so if the band is open, it's obvious. It's a bit like everyone is congregating around the 'watering hole' of 28.074 MHz as opposed to being spread across the band.

Lots of people might complain about FT8 but it is certainly increasing activity on bands like 28 MHz at solar minimum.

Notice : IRTS 40m Counties Contest - Sun 14th Oct 2018


The next IRTS contest is the 40m Counties which will be held on Sunday the 14th of October 2018 at 12:00 UTC (1pm Irish Summer Time).

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

From the IRTS News... The IRTS 40 metres Counties Contest takes place on Sunday next, 14th October. It starts at 12:00 UTC and runs for 2 hours.

There are SSB only and SSB/CW mixed mode sections for both fixed and portable stations. Multipliers are the 32 EI and GI counties as well as overseas DXCC entities.

See the IRTS Contests page at www.irts.ie/contests for the full rules which include permitted frequencies for this event. The Contests page also includes the contest calendar for 2019.

Big opening on FT8 on 28 MHz... 7th Oct 2018

There was a very good opening on 28 MHz on Sunday the 7th of October 2018. Using the FT8 mode, I heard 292 stations in 29 countries...


The signals around Europe were Sporadic-E. The opening to South Africa and South America were probably a mix of Sporadic-E and F2.

As soon as I saw all of those South American stations, I new that conditions were exceptional and was wondering if there might be an aurora later? Sure enough, there was an aurora later in the evening!

I've seen this before.....really good conditions on 10m followed by an aurora. So much for 10 metres being dead at the solar cycle minimum.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

70 MHz Echolink Gateway now operational in Co.Louth

Dundalk Amateur Radio Society have announced that their 4 metre link to the Echolink network is now operational at weekends and on evenings. The call sign of the link is EI4FMG-L and it operates on 70.350 MHz. This has been heard of late in Cork on the south coast so it have quite a large coverage area.

EI4FMG Echolink
Dundalk Amateur Radio Society operates a 4 metre VHF internet gateway node using the Echolink protocol on 70.350Mhz. The gateway is located at Fieldstown, Monasterboice just north of Drogheda Co.Louth. From this location the gateway provides VHF communications for a large area of the east coast.

CALLSIGN - EI4FMG AUTO ID EVERY 8MINS
ECHOLINK NODE:57006
LOCATION - FIELDSTOWN
METRE ABOVE SEA LEVEL - 122M
TAIT TM8100 RADIO
EI4JR ECHOLINK INTERFACE LOGIC
SIGMA CAT70 @5MAGL
FREQUENCY - TX/RX 70.350Mhz
TX POWER - 15 WATTS
ACCESS - CTCSS 88.5Hz

For more information, go to http://ei7dar.com/ei4fmg

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Guest post : The Galway DMR Repeater by EI5DD

The following article was written by Steve Wright EI5DD and outlines the progress being made in establishing a new DMR repeater in Galway in the west of Ireland.




The Galway DMR Repeater... by Steve Wright, EI5DD (Sept 2018)

After deliberation, it was decided that a good quality Commercial DMR Repeater should be acquired for Galway. It is easy to suggest that ex commercial DMR mobiles could be converted and lashed together with homebrew components but at the end of the day there is nothing to beat the reliability of an item that was purpose and virtually operator proof.

Consideration was given to ex-commercial Motorola Repeaters, but they still retain their value despite long hours of service and being a well-used second-hand model. It should be noted that Waterford have a plentiful supply of these repeaters and have two in service at present but there was a slight reluctance to sell one off to the “Galway Lads” as they would surely have a good use for every item further down the road considering the prolific Southern Ireland Repeater Network currently expanding. There are, in fact, plans to place a third Digital repeater on Mount Leinster by 2019.

The Galway Repeater and Gateway ready for the New Site

The decision to go with Hytera was prompted by John, MI0AAZ, who had a little used Hytera RD 985 UHF repeater for a reasonable price. This Repeater was capable of running 50 watts maximum although it would be more prudent to run it at 40 watts. The repeater had built in cavity filters capable of handling the power passed through them. Aengus, EI4ABB, kindly tuned them without difficulty, and had them ready within the day. The code plug was relatively easy to compile and probably the harder part was ensuring that the internet connection was correct set up within. Unfortunately, to get the internet information correct required adjustment of settings within the wireless router. By working between the two systems it was possible to secure a trouble-free connection. Connection to the Repeater was made to the router by Ethernet cable.

Inside the Hytera


As the 2 metres Digital Gateway is to be co-sited, the same procedure was required for the connection of the Gateway to the Internet. Not an easy task but it all came together with the purchase of the correct router.

Fortunately, an ABS case had been purchased from Arthur, EI7GMB, some time ago. It was a perfect housing for Repeater, Gateway, Pi-Star controller and Power Supply. Everything was securely housed with a cooling fan installed below the GM350 Gateway Radio. Time to apply the power. Everything sprang into life and went through its boot-up process. Connectivity through the internet was perfect and it was possible to adjust parameters on the Gateway via remote access. Once Set-up, the Repeater settings can not be altered remotely unless there is a computer attached. There would never be a need to do so at the best of times although a means of cutting the power and restarting would be necessary should a hang up occur. Unlikely, but possible. To this end a remote access GSM controller was added to cover this eventuality and also a necessary addition to shut down the Repeater at the whim of ComReg should the eventuality arise. All systems were in perfect working order and the soak test began.

The Galway Multi-mode Gateway

After running solidly for one month, the repeater has run trouble free. There is no de-sense on the receive side. Signals passed through have exhibited no distortion and the Bit Error Rates (BER) are zero. Obviously, there are limitations in coverage from the EI5DD QTH but it does give opportunities to observe the effects of reflections or weak signals. Around this time Mark, EI6GUB, obtained a DMR set and has given the Repeater and Gateway plenty of activity. His activity was not confined to Galway, or Ireland, but reached out to England and Scotland where plenty of QSOs were made. In the background it was possible to determine the reliability of communications through the Repeater and Gateway systems.

The Repeater and gateway are now be considered ready for their new site where an excellent service typical of this high spot can be expected. Better still, the Western side of Galway along the Spiddal Road will be enhanced as well as operation from the Aran Islands. Loughrea and Tuam should receive good signals and the roads along the opposite side of the Bay and around the Burren will also benefit.

Where do we go from here? Following the IRTS AGM we had enough to procure a second Repeater. An offer of a second, brand new Hytera RD 985 was snapped up to complete the system. It would be proposed that this be located on a high spot in the middle of Galway or, wherever is most effective, where it would be able to cover huge footprint of the county and perhaps neighbouring counties. As the footprint of the Galway Repeater would overlap with the proposed Repeater, it should be possible to “Roam” between the two much like a cellular phone. This would provide seamless communication whilst driving over distance.

Practicality suggests that there would be minimal fuss installing this Repeater as the operating parameters have already been defined. It would only require a power supply, connection to the internet and appropriate filters, and an antenna to get it on the air. This process should be painless considering the ground work done on our other two systems.

Those on trips abroad will be guaranteed communication back into Galway as will those who have relocated. Operators driving through the Galway area will be given an excellent service as will those resident in the City and County. Of course, it will rely on a little co-operation from our own operators in the form of a welcoming QSO from time to time.  Even if the Galway operator appearances are few and far between, there will always be a wealth of activity within the network that may be operated by the press of the PTT via a User Activated Talk Group. Never a moment where it is not possible to connect another DMR operator anywhere in the world.

In conclusion, it the facilities in Galway would be second to none in the digital world. DMR is obviously a proven technology governed by the ETSI standard. It works well for commercials and has “done what it says on the tin”. Judging by the equipment in use, the Hytera RD 985 is reliable and will be trouble free so there will be little need for maintenance. Additionally, the 2m Digital Gateway complements the system and gives the VHF operators another entry into the system. Obviously, there may be firmware upgrades from time to time but his again should pose no problem and would be brief. You are all cordially invited to enjoy and participate this rapidly developing network.

The Server 
It was through Steve, EI5DD, and John MI0AAZ, and Dave Randles, M0AUT, that the possibility of the Brandmeister Server for Ireland was negotiated through the Brandmeister management team in Holland. Having secured the go ahead, the next job was to find a home for it. John Ronan kindly consented to establishing it in his IT section located in the Waterford Institute of Technology. The system was established in the Waterford IT in March 2016. Following a running in period, and more familiarity with the system, the Server went live in May 2016. The criteria for operation was to have a minimum of 10 repeaters linked in – we only had 3, 2 Gateways and a number of personal hotspots. Within the year, we have a migration of Scottish Repeaters and several UK repeaters resulting in 20! The migration was down to the fact that the server was running perfectly with minimal down time save for the occasional Firmware and Software updates not to mention that the Sysop was approachable.

The system has been trouble-free to date and well managed/maintained by John Ronan, EI7IG. By comparison, the UK has had numerous outages. It really is a credit to Ireland. It is a vital requirement to have somebody with the knowledge and dedication running such a system.
Waterford

Waterford have made huge progress with the establishment of two multi-mode Digital Repeaters and propose a third on Mount Leinster in 2019. Such enthusiasm has encouraged many operators to participate in Digital Radio in Cork and Waterford and surrounding areas. John McCarthy, EI8JA, has spent much of his time building and setting up the Digital Repeaters in his area alongside his commitment to the Southern Ireland Analog Repeater Network. The dedication exhibited by John Ronan, EI7IG, has made it possible to connect these projects together and to the rest of the world.
The DMR network will expand and it will probably be down to the efforts of the Southern Ireland Repeater Network. Galway can do little more at this time. It is going to be well served and can only rely on the continuity from other areas such as Mayo or in directions along the Dublin road from neighbouring counties.

Mayo has a Digital Gateway running both DMR and Fusion and this provides a fine link into the system. It has been running for the last year and results are good from it. It does, however, share the antennas for EI3IX’s

Other parts of the country have long standing plans that have not developed much further than discussion. Ronnie, who would have been in a great position, had he made progress at the time. Hopefully his efforts will bear fruit soon. Ronnie did have plans for the Dublin area as well and that would probably encourage an interest from an area well populated with amateurs. Mullingar has a DMR Repeater License but nothing built or active to date. Rumour has it that Dundalk has plans but nothing actually written in stone as yet.

Limerick has fusion but has never exploited its networking capabilities making Fusion a bit of a “dead Duck”. The repeater does, however cover a good area and /M Fusion is possible which is a plus point. A shame that Limerick operators seldom communicate outside of their own group.  Donegal’s fusion project is not really a player as such as it is tucked away giving little coverage here in the southern parts of the world.

The Galway Repeater will eventually see a high location and combined with its wires-X should provide an excellent service. This will give everybody an opportunity to network via Wires-X but all is not lost, as Fusion can be accessed via Talk Group 2724 on DMR.

Links...
1) EI5DD website
2) Galway VHF Group

Sporadic-E on 28 MHz... 5th & 6th Oct 2018

After a month messing about on the lower HF bands, I'm back on 28 MHz again. Sure enough, there is still some Sporadic-E about even in October...


The signals were mostly weak but the band was still open. The kind of conditions where most HF operators would declare the 10 metre band dead but those that know the band know better.

The signal from Argentina is pretty typical at this time of year. There are probably F2 conditions between areas like Spain and South America and the weak Sporadic-E conditions allow stations further north to hear the signals.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Four days of FT8 on 40m... End Sept 2018

A week ago, I had a post up about the results of listening to WSPR signals for a week on 40 metres (7 MHz). I repeated the test by spending 4 days listening to FT8 signals on 40 metres and the results were pretty similar.

The charts are for roughly 24 hours from noon to noon. Antenna used... Doublet which is a full wave on 40m. Only 4-7m above the ground though.


The first obvious difference is the sheer number of stations using FT8 compared to WSPR.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

South Africa to consider using 54-68 MHz for digital broadcasting??

There was a news item on the Southgate Amateur Radio News website today titled "South Africa considers Band I DRM+ broadcasting".

The news item went on to say that..."South Africa may be opening the door to DRM+ Broadcasting in low-band VHF 54-68 MHz ".

However, if you read of the material in more depth then it looks as if the South African government are exploring ways of replacing analogue FM radio with digital versions.

The directive says: "In the Very High Frequency (VHF) bands I & II, the standard Digital Radio Mondiale Plus (DRM +) is considered to be a candidate standard that can co-locate and co-exist with existing frequency modulation (FM) analogue technologies.

In the VHF band Ill, the standards Digital Audio Broadcasting Plus (DAB +), Terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (T -DMB) and Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting for Terrestrial Sound Broadcasting (ISDB -TSB) are considered candidate technologies for the introduction of DSB in the band after the Analogue Switch -Off (ASO) of terrestrial analogue television services

ACKNOWLEDGING that the licensing approach in VHF Band Ill can be commenced as soon as possible as there is already an ITU co- ordinated DSB radio frequency allocation of 16 MHz (214 -230 MHz) incorporated in the National Radio Frequency Plan (NRFP), 2013 as may be amended from time to time. The ICASA Terrestrial Broadcasting Frequency Plan is an allotment plan that provides for two (2) multiplexes for each of the nine provinces;"

Comment..... It looks as if the DAB+ option on 214-230 MHz is much more likely. Other countries are using it and that will make receivers cheaper.

If South Africa went down the road of DRM+ on 54-68 MHz then it's likely that radios would be more expensive. It would also close off the possibility of a small allocation for radio amateurs at 60 MHz.

Something to be watched but unlikely.

Links...
1) PDF https://www.gov.za/sites/default/files/41928_gon995.pdf

Monday, October 1, 2018

DMR registrations in Ireland at the end of Sept 2018

The number of EI stations registering for Digital Mobile Radio numbers continues to grow with an average of 12 per quarter so far in 2018. The chart below shows that 136 DMR numbers had been allocated as of the end of September 2018.


Out of those 136 numbers, 5 were clubs and 12 EI calls had two numbers so the total number is something like 119 individuals.

Looking at the island of Ireland overall, it is perhaps a little suprising to see how many DMR numbers are allocated in Northern Ireland by comparison.

The 410 from Northern Ireland can be broken down as follows...
GI* = 138
MI* = 213
2I* = 59

Buried in those figures are full, novice and foundation licences. Some may have two numbers and some may have upgraded from a foundation to a novice call in the last three years. If we use the EI numbers as a guide then that 410 in the north could actually mean something like 350 individuals.

That gives a ball park figure of about 470 individuals with DMR numbers on the island of Ireland.

The big difference in numbers between Northern Ireland the the Republic may possibly be accounted for by the following reasons...

1) One year ahead... Digital Radio and DMR started in Northern Ireland about a year ahead of the rest of the island. The big surge in numbers in EI in the first two months of 2017 mirror a similar surge in GI a year earlier.

2) Licence for beginners... It's a lot easier to get a licence in the north of Ireland with the option of a foundation and novice licence. In the Republic, the only option is to sit a test and get the full licence.

Links...
1) http://ham-digital.org/dmr-userreg.php

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Comreg: Proposed Strategy for Managing the Radio Spectrum - 2019 to 2021


The following item was in the IRTS radio news recently (9th Sept 2018)...

Spectrum Strategy 2019-2021
IRTS responded to ComReg's draft Radio Spectrum Management Strategy 2019 to 2021 contained in document ComReg 18/74, which was published on 3 August 2018. The response deadline was rather short, 31 August which unfortunately made it impracticable to seek members' comments. Members will recall that it was the last spectrum strategy which provided the Irish amateur service with new opportunities in the range 30 - 70.5 MHz. The IRTS response for 2019 to 2021 includes a request for access to sub 8.3 kHz spectrum as well as spectrum above 50 GHz. Additionally some 5 MHz issues are addressed.

Concerning ITU WRC-19, IRTS has reflected the IARU position on various agenda items of interest to the amateur service (including 50-54 MHz) and has asked to be involved in national preparations for this major ITU event. Lastly IRTS requested clarification on text relating to radio astronomy experiments at the LOFAR site at Birr Castle. The full text of the IRTS submission to ComReg can be downloaded from the IRTS section of the downloads page on the Society's website. The URL is www.irts.ie/downloads

There is a fair bit in it so I had a closer look at the Comreg document and the IRTS response. I noted the following items...

Friday, September 28, 2018

One week of WSPR signals on 40 metres

For the last week, I have monitored the WSPR frequency on 7 MHz and I heard the following...


The antenna was an 80m doublet (full size dipole on 40m) only 4-7m above ground level. Plenty of wire but nothing special.

The Solar Flux has been in the high 60's which is pretty close to rock bottom.

The map shows plenty of signals from Europe and the Eastern half of the USA which is to be expected.  431 stations in total were heard in one week.

The key points for me were...

1) Hardly any signals from the Western USA and none from Japan. The more northerly path to these areas seemed closed.

2) Just one from South America. Would have expected more. Null in the antenna???

3) Signals from Australia and New Zealand are always interesting.

2018-09-27 07:36 ZL4JW RE44iw EI7GL IO51tu 7.040111 50 -24 
2018-09-22 06:58 VK7DIK QE38cu EI7GL IO51tu 7.04014 5 -20 
2018-09-28 07:36 VK3MI QF22ne EI7GL IO51tu 7.040146 5 -10

The ZL station was running 50w while the VK stations were running 5 watts. They were all heard near my sunrise which leads me to believe that they may have actually been long path?

4) These were the stations that were using less than 100 milliwatts with DL3MXG and DL2ODY on 1 mW!

2018-09-26 11:20 DL3MXG NO51 EI7GL IO51tu 7.040049 0.001 -27 
2018-09-25 05:48 DL2ODY JO71 EI7GL IO51tu 7.040093 0.001 -18 
2018-09-21 18:24 F5WK JN18hp EI7GL IO51tu 7.04017 0.005 -23 
2018-09-21 21:22 KD2NFC FN20 EI7GL IO51tu 7.040057 0.01 -12 
2018-09-24 10:32 G0MKB IO83rl EI7GL IO51tu 7.039992 0.01 -18 
2018-09-21 18:24 DL5SFB JN48om EI7GL IO51tu 7.040048 0.01 -25 
2018-09-22 11:42 F1EYG JN18ar EI7GL IO51tu 7.040082 0.01 -27 
2018-09-25 07:22 DJ7PRM JO30ns EI7GL IO51tu 7.040065 0.01 -28 
2018-09-26 13:28 M0KTM IO91 EI7GL IO51tu 7.040153 0.02 -26 
2018-09-22 14:48 ON7EN JO21ba EI7GL IO51tu 7.040035 0.05 -23 
2018-09-26 11:52 G8WVW IO81vu EI7GL IO51tu 7.040134 0.05 -23

I think I'll spend a week now listening on 40m FT8 and see how it compares.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

G3SMT works Cape Verde Islands to set new 144 MHz Tropo record

Back on the 5th of August 2018, Mark Turner EI3KD worked D4Z in the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa to set a new IARU Region 1 tropo record on 144 MHz. Now less than two months later, that record has been broken again.


On Tuesday the 25th of September 2018, the marine duct from the Cape Verde Islands expended as far north as the British and Irish Isles again.

At 21:10, EI3KD managed to repeat his record distance by working D4Z on cw for a second time, a distance of 4163 kms.

At approx 21:46, GW0KZG in IO71LW in the west of Wales worked D4Z to extend the record to approx 4270 kms. It turned out to be one of the shortest held records however,

At approx 21:47, Peter Torrry G3SMT worked D4Z (HK76MU) to set a new IARU 144 MHz Region 1 record of 4431 kms. Peter's locator square is IO82KV.

DX-Cluster spots - 25th Sept 2018...
GW0KZG 144300.0 D4Z 22:12 25 Sep IO71LW HK76MU still 519 cal Cape Verde
G3SMT 144300.0 D4Z 21:46 25 Sep IO82KV HK76MU Cape Verde
GW0KZG 144300.0 D4Z 21:45 25 Sep IO71LW HK76MU 539 tks QSO Cape Verde
G7RAU 144300.0 D4Z 21:42 25 Sep IN79JX HK76MU 599+ cq, gl Cape Verde
G7RAU 144300.0 D4Z 21:18 25 Sep IN79JX HK76MU 559! wow! Cape Verde
EI3KD 144300.0 D4Z 21:11 25 Sep IO51VW HK76MU tnx! 589 cq Cape Verde

D41CV was also worked on FT8...
M0BUL-@ 144174.0 D41CV 22:28 25 Sep tnx Cape Verde
GW0KZG 144174.0 D41CV 22:27 25 Sep IO71LWHK76TC H-10,/-04 Tn Cape Verde
EI3KD 144174.0 D41CV 22:22 25 Sep IO51VW HK76MU oops call :) Cape Verde
G7RAU 144174.0 D41CV 22:19 25 Sep IN79JX HK76MU +03 FT8 GL! Cape Verde

This is the tropo prediction map for the path at the time...
Source : F5LEN

It's probably likely that the record will be extended again at some stage in the future with perhaps a contact to Northern Ireland or Scotland.

Just to illustrate just how far the G3SMT - D44Z contact was, this is the equivalent distance across the Atlantic from the south-west coast of Ireland.



Links...
1) F5LEN Tropo prediction map
2) ON4KST Chat
3) Post on D4C website

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Results of the Irish DMR activity net... Mon 24th Sept 2018


The Irish DMR activity net kicked off on Talk Group 2722 on Monday the 24th of Sept 2018 with 18 callsigns active. After the roll call for the 32 Irish counties, there was a brief QSO between various parties on the net.

It should be interesting to see who is actually using this new digital mode in Ireland as the weeks go by and where exactly the pockets of activity are.

The map above shows the activity levels from the 24th and the list of calls as compiled by Steve, EI5DD can be seen below....

Monday, September 24, 2018

Results of the IRTS Autumn 2m & 70cms Counties Contest


The Irish Radio Transmitters Society 2m & 70cms Counties Contest was held on the 9th of September 2018 and the results show that there was a reasonable amount of activity. While it was pretty quiet down here in Cork on the south coast, it seems to have been busier further up the country.

On 2 metres (144-145 MHz), there were 25 contest logs submitted which showed 455 QSOs from 26 counties. The missing counties were Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim and Monaghan. In 2017, there were 18 contest logs submitted from 26 counties.

For the 70 cms contest (432-434 MHz), 19 contest logs were submitted which showed 107 contacts from 19 counties. This was the first year of an Autumn 70cms leg so there are no results from 2017. The missing counties on 70 cms were Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Clare, Donegal, Fermanagh, Galway, Kerry, Laois, Leitrim, Monaghan, Tyrone and Westmeath.

The full results from both contests can be found at www.irts.ie/results

Sunday, September 23, 2018

DMR net planned for Monday evenings in Ireland


In an effort to promote activity on digital radio in Ireland and to gauge the level of interest, a new weekly net is starting on Talk Group 2722 on Monday the 24th of Sept 2018.

Extract from the IRTS news...
DMR Net Monday, 24th of September : Steve, EI5DD is planning to hold a National DMR net on Monday the 24th of September at 8:30 pm sharp on the Ireland Calling Channel TG 2722. The purpose of this initiative is to determine how many operators are now active on air and to evaluate the approximate numbers for each county including those in Northern Ireland. Each county will be called in alphabetical order. To keep the activity swift and snappy, please give Callsign, Name, County, and conclude with No Traffic.

The Call-in should only take 15 minutes maximum and there will be plenty of time to hold a free for all QSO at the end of the call ins. If sufficient interest is shown, we may hold this net on a weekly basis.

Irish results from the 2018 IOTA Contest

From the IRTS News...
IOTA Contest Results : Provisional results for the 2018 RSGB IOTA Contest have been announced. There were 2,200 entries for this contest, which took place at the end of July. East Cork Amateur Radio Group was the highest scoring station, with more than 3,700 QSOs. 23 EI and GI stations submitted logs, and their results can be seen at www.irts.ie/results which also includes a link to the complete results for all stations.


Non-DXpedition, High Power
1 EI7M EU115 Ireland 3,757 543 15,681,840

Single-Operator
Non-DXpedition, CW, Assisted, 12-hours, High Power
1 EI5KF EU115 Ireland 1,100 123 884,985

Results of the HF SSB Field Day... Sept 2018

From the IRTS News....
Contest Results : Results of SSB Field Day, which took place over the weekend of 1st and 2nd September 2018, have been published. 5 EI stations submitted logs. Band conditions were well down on previous years, with no propagation on the higher bands, so most activity was on 40 metres and 80 metres. The Contest Results page www.irts.ie/results has the details.


Award Call Sign / Name Valid
QSOs QSO Points Multipliers Total
Open Section
EI1E/P, Avondhu Radio Club 667 2,259 76 171,684
EI7T/P, Tipperary Amateur Radio Group 393 1,414 62 87,668

Restricted Section / 6 hours
EI3Z/P, Shannon Basin Radio Club 116 397 35 13,895
EI7GY/P, Joe Ryan 93 357 26 9,282
EI3CTB/P, Justin Behan 12 46 4 184

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sign of the times as US radio retailer closes...

There was a news item recently about how a store named Radio City which sells radio equipment was closing due to the owners retiring. Apparently, there is no-one interested in taking it over as a going concern.

This news item with quote appeared in the local media about it...

"Like many technologies from an earlier era, ham radio is largely made up of older men trying to come up with ways to make it appealing to a younger demographic that isn’t that interested."

https://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2018/09/as-ham-radio-fades-last-mn-store-closes/

Friday, September 14, 2018

IARU Monitoring System issues August 2018 Newsletter

The August 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 long-time broadcasters from the Horn of Africa have now moved from the 40-metre band although there are signs of increased military traffic on 7 and 14 MHz from Russia and China.

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... http://www.iarums-r1.org/iarums/news2018/news1808.pdf

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Russia proposes to use DRM on 65.9-74.0 MHz


On the 11th of September 2018, it was reported that the Russian Federation proposes to use the digital DRM+ standard for broadcasting on the  the radio frequency bands 65.9-74 MHz and 87.5-108 MHz.

While this move may not have much of an issue here in Ireland, it has the potential of being a major source of interference to radio amateurs using the 4 metre band (70 MHz) in central and eastern Europe. As 'Secondary Users' of this part of the spectrum, radio amateurs have no choice but to live with any interference, especially during the Summer Sporadic-E season.

The 65.9 MHz to 74 MHz spectrum has been used up to now for analogue FM transmissions in Russia and some adjacent countries. Over the last 20 years, the general trend has been to close these low band VHF transmitters and move them instead to the usual 88 to 108 MHz band. It seemed as if the 65.9 to 74 MHz band might eventually close but this new digital DRM allocation will see it being put to a new use.

This highlights the fact that while extensive parts of the low band VHF spectrum were allocated to the Amateur Radio Service in Ireland, that is very unlikely to happen elsewhere in Europe.

From Google Translate...

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

EI8JK works Japan on 70cms Moonbounce for an EI first


Working Japan on any band from Ireland is pretty good but what about doing it on 432 MHz? That's exactly what Tony EI8JK did on Monday the 10th of September 2018 when he worked Toshia JA6AHB by bouncing 70 cms signals off the moon!

The pair have been trying to make the contact for several weeks with Tony making small incremental improvements to his system to squeeze out every fraction of a dB. In the end, they managed to complete the contact using the JT65 mode on Monday morning during a 2-hour window to make it an EI-JA first on the UHF band.

In terms of equipment, JA6AHB was using 500 watts into a 7 metre dish while Tony was using 4 x 21 element yagis with a medium powered amplifier. His antenna system is shown below.

Tony lives on the scenic Sheeps Head peninsula in West Cork and no doubt the remote location with low noise background really helps on the VHF and UHF bands. With his current set-up and more improvements on the way, he hopes to work many more stations off the moon on 432 MHz.


Monday, September 10, 2018

48 hours on 14 MHz WSPR...

I tried out WSPR on 14 MHz last Saturday in an effort to hear a high altitude balloon in Argentina which was supposed to use it during a flight. I had no luck hearing the beacon but I left the radio on for 48 hours anyway to see what could be heard.


As can be seen, lots of signals were heard although if I have to be honest, I didn't find it that interesting. It's really no big deal to get worldwide signals on 20m.

What I did find interesting though was those stations using really low power, especially SM0FXK with 1 milliwatt!

These are the stations using 100mW or less.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

FT8 tests on 144 MHz with limited success

After reading a post on the blog of Roger G3XBM about the possibilities of FT8 on 144 MHz, I tried it out for myself. The results for me on receive on a flat band however were mediocre at best...


Like any experiment, you always learn something even if the results are poor.

The key points for me are...

1) Poor antenna..... Using an indoor Slim-Jim half wave vertical antenna in the attic doesn't cut it for weak signals on 144 MHz. It might be fine in the SE of the UK, the low countries or Germany but not here in Ireland.

2) Too far west..... I estimate the bulk of the FT8 stations on 144 MHz are at least 400 kms to the east of me. Roger had a lot more stations closer to him even from the continent.

3) Fewer planes..... With a 15 second transmission time, aircraft scatter probably plays a big part on the number of FT8 signals heard on 144 MHz. Here on the south coast of Ireland, most of the aircraft traffic is Trans-Atlantic going east-west. There would be a much higher number of planes criss-crossing over the south east of the UK with many at lower altitudes.

The results confirm what I would have kind of guessed anyway. FT8 is good but it's not that good. To operate 2m FT8 from here, I would need an external horizontal Yagi.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Frequency for new Irish beacon on 40 MHz announced...

In the September 2018 issue of Echo Ireland which is sent out to members of the IRTS, it was announced that the proposed frequency for the new Irish beacon on the 8 metre band will be 40.013 MHz.

The only amateur beacon currently on the band is OZ7IGY from Denmark on 40.071 MHz. The one on 40.050 MHz from central England seems to be off the air and was last spotted several years back.

The proposed frequency for the Irish beacon on 60 MHz will be 60.013 MHz.

GB3NGI heard on 144 MHz with an indoor antenna...

During the EI 2m activity period on Tuesday evening, I had a tune around the beacon band and used the PI4 software to see if I could see any faint signals in the waterfall. To my suprise, I could faintly see and hear GB3NGI which was 385kms away...


Considering I was just using a vertical Slim Jim in the attic of the house, I really wasn't expecting to hear anything.

I looked up the beacon website https://www.qsl.net/gb3ngi/ and found that the signals were alternating between CW and JT65b. As I had never used JT65b before, I had some trouble getting the WSJT-X programme to decode the signals.

After doing a bit of research, I changed some settings on the programme... Settings > General > Enable VHF/UHF/Microwave features and then used the settings in the graphic above. It now works ok and I can see the decoded signals.

0840 -25  1.4 1261 #* GB3NGI IO65VB          f
0842 -26  1.4 1260 #* GB3NGI IO65VB          f
0854 -26  1.3 1260 #* GB3NGI IO65VB          f
0856 -24  1.3 1260 #* GB3NGI IO65VB          f
0858 -23  1.3 1260 #* GB3NGI IO65VB          f
0900 -23  1.3 1260 #* GB3NGI IO65VB          f

Thanks to G0MJI and the screenshots on his website which make things a lot clearer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Notice : IRTS 2m/70cms Counties Contest... Sun 9th Sept 2018



The IRTS 70cms and 2 metres Counties Contests, in which EI and GI counties are multipliers, take place on Sunday next, 9th September 2018. The 70cms event is at 1.00pm local time, for one hour, and this is followed by the 2 metres contest from 2.00pm to 4.00pm local time. There are separate sections in these contest for portable and fixed stations, low power and high power, as well as an FM Only section for single ops and an SWL section. The portable sections are for field-day type operations, so those entering one of the portable sections should be aware of the requirements for portable section entries in the contest rules.

See www.irts.ie/ contests for more details, which include the frequencies for these contests and the 'QSY Rule' that applies to FM QSOs.

Monday, September 3, 2018

ICQ Podcast covers Zello link to Southern Ireland Repeater Network


The ICQ podcast is one of the most popular amateur related podcasts from the UK and is usually released once a fortnight.

In this episode released on the 2nd of Sept 2018, they discussed the recent linking of the online Zello network to the Southern Ireland repeater network.

On the video below, fast forward to about 21:35 for the SIRN item and it lasts until about 29:00.



Links...
1) The ICQ podcast show notes can be seen HERE
2) Previous post on this blog about the linking of Zello to the Southern Ireland Repeater Network HERE