Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Big Sporadic-E opening on 28th May 2018

Monday the 28th of May 2018 was one of those days when there was plenty of Sporadic-E signals in Europe from 28 MHz to 144 MHz. This is what I heard on FT8 on 28 MHz...

What is of particular interest here is the sheer number of stations from the UK and the Netherlands that were heard... i.e. approx 500 to 1000 kms range.

This is where monitoring FT8 signals on 28 MHz can be very useful. If you are hearing 28 MHz signals that are 500-1000 kms distant then the MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) is probably much higher.

This turned out to be the case as there were Sporadic-E signals all the way up to 144 MHz. Looking at the DX cluster, there was an opening from Ireland to the south of Italy in the evening. I also came across an Italian radio station on 104.9 MHz while I was checking to see if BBC Radio 4 was coming in from Wales.

The OZ7IGY beacon on 40.071 MHz from Denmark was also in for about an hour.

As a tool for checking propagation, FT8 is proving very useful.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Multiple DAB signals heard under lift conditions

About 10 years ago in 2008 when the first trials of DAB radio (Digital Audio Broadcasting) began in Ireland, I purchased a PURE EVOKE-2XT to listen to the transmissions. This radio had the added feature that it has an aerial socket on the back which allowed me to connect a 7 element log-periodic, an old TV aerial that covers 175 to 230 MHz.

At the time, this allowed me not only to hear the local Irish DAB signal but also signals from North West Wales under very good lift conditions. From what I remember, DAB hadn't rolled out to the South of Wales or Cornwall yet in 2008.

Considering that most of the local Irish DAB signals can be heard already on Band 2 FM band, I didn't really bother with DAB for years.

I tried it out again over the last few days and the DAB signals from the UK have been really strong. Most of the signals I have heard were around 230-350 kms distant in West Wales, South Wales, Devon and Cornwall.

In total, I managed to pick up 11 different DAB muxes...

10B 211.64 MHz Somerset
10C 214.36 MHz Devon
10D 215.07 MHz ????
11A 216.92 MHz SDL National
11B 218.64 MHz Cornwall
11D 222.06 MHz D1 National
12A 223.93 MHz Swansea SW Wales
12B 225.64 MHz BBC National DAB
12C 227.36 MHz DAB Ireland Mux1
12D 229.97 MHz Mid & West Wales
12D 229.97 MHz Plymouth

I counted at least 60 radio stations that I could listen to when conditions allowed. In contrast to FM signals from the UK which have to compete with strong local signals, the DAB signals are completely clear and the quality is excellent when the signals are strong.

With the signals up around 220 MHz, it also seems to be a good way to keep an eye on how good tropo conditions are.

The list of radio stations received via DAB is shown below...

Sunday, May 20, 2018

IRTS release proposed band plans for 40MHz and 60MHz

The Irish Radio Transmitters Society have just released their proposed band plans for the new VHF bands around 40 and 60 MHz. The following item was in the IRTS news on Sunday the 20th of May 2018....


Spectrum News
Following a spectrum award by ComReg the entire 4m band (69.9 - 70.5 MHz) is now available to Irish licensees.

At the last IRTS Committee Meeting a sub-committee was convened to develop band plans and propagation beacons for additional spectrum included in the spectrum award.

IRTS is now consulting amateur licensees on two band plans covering 40 - 44 MHz and 54 - 69.9 MHz. More details including draft band plans can be downloaded from the IRTS website, www.irts.ie/downloads

Please send any comments as soon as possible to “newspectrum /at/ irts /dot/ ie” to arrive not later than 30th June 2018.


At present, there is a Danish beacon on 40 MHz while the UK one is non-operational. Slovenia has an allocation for a beacon band at 40 MHz but have no beacon on this band. South Africa is the only country outside of Ireland to have a allocation for users at 40 MHz.

There is currently no active beacon on 60 MHz as the UK one is non-operational.

A copy of the proposed band plan is shown below...

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

FT8 on 28 MHz... Tues 15th May 2018

There were plenty of FT8 signals on the 10 metre band on Tuesday the 15th of May 2018 although noticeably fewer than previous days.

This is what was heard from about 8am till about 7pm....

That pretty much represents what could have been heard anyway as the band was hardly open at 8am and it closed in the late afternoon. Other than some signals from South America, the only DX as such was a station in Western Sahara.

I think the spot from Liberia was bogus one as the callsign looked wrong. Almost as if something wasn't decoded properly.

There were fewer European stations as well with nothing coming from Scandinavia.

Overall, I heard 187 stations in 28 countries on Tues 15th of May.

I'll continue until I have a weeks worth of data and review it then.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

FT8 on 28 MHz... Mon 14th May 2018

Another day full of FT8 signals on the 10 metre band. As such, it was pretty similar to previous days with some slight differences.

It opened to South America again but only to Brazil this time. A cluster of stations from the centre of Asiatic Russia came through.

Lots of signals from Europe again via Sporadic-E...

There was an opening on 50 MHz as well and I heard the beacon in Denmark. I also heard the Danish beacon on 40 MHz which was interesting considering that this is in the new Irish allocation of 30 to 49 MHz.

Over the 24 hours, I heard 583 separate stations in 52 countries.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Reception of OZ7IGY beacon on 40 MHz - Mon 14th May 2018

At about 09:00 UTC this morning, I noticed that I was hearing FT8 signals on 28 MHz from Denmark. Later, I heard the OZ7IGY beacon on 50.470 MHz so I knew that the Sporadic-E conditions were well above 40 MHz.

I listened on 40.071 MHz and eventually heard the OZ7IGY beacon down in the noise. The distance was 1390 kms.

In terms of equipment, I was using a Yaesu FT-817 and a simple indoor 2 element beam in the attic for 50 MHz. The beam is pointing roughly 120 deg where as the OZ beacon is at 65 degrees so it is some bit off. I suspect on 40 MHz, it may be behaving as a shortened dipole so it certainly wasn't optimal.

I also noticed that the noise level on the FT817 seemed to drop off as I tuned below 45 MHz so I suspect it might not be the most sensitive on 40 MHz. Still though, the signal was heard which was a positive step.

The signal itself alternates between a morse code ID and a digital PI4 signal which almost sounds like someone playing a bugle! :o)

The beacon has an erp of 10 watts on 40 MHz and the website is http://www.oz7igy.dk/

Now that there is an allocation in Ireland, hopefully we might hear a few more signals on the 8 metre band.

Presentation on the DMR network in Ireland... by EI7IG & EI8JA

At the recent AGM of the Irish Radio Transmitters Society, John Ronan EI7IG and John McCarthy EI8JA made a presentation on the current state of the DMR digital radio network in Ireland and its brief history to date.

The slide show can be seen HERE. Use the Up & Down arrows to change the page and the Left & Right arrows to change the chapter.

FT8 on 28 MHz... Sun 13th May 2018

Another day with loads of activity on FT8 on 28 MHz. The map below shows what was heard in the 24 hours of the 13th of May 2018...

The 10 metre band opened in the morning and closed around 22:00 UTC. There was one short spell in the early afternoon where the band closed completely when there was no Sporadic-E propagation.

As can be seen from the map, there was plenty of signals from South America but not a whole lot going East-West. I suspect there would be a lot more spots from Africa if only there were stations active there.

The map below shows the activity from Europe. The most consistent signals all day were from the south to Spain and Portugal.

The Solar Flux was 69 today which is pretty low. Overall, I heard 445 different stations in 49 countries over the last 24 hours.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Presentation on the FT8 digital mode by EI5KO

At the recent IRTS AGM in Galway, Keith Wallace EI5KO made a presentation on the new FT8 digital mode which seems to be hugely popular at the moment. Following the AGM, Keith uploaded the slides to the IRTS Facebook page.

The problem with Facebook though is that anything more than a few days old is usually not seen anymore and of course, not everyone uses that platform.

I recently downloaded the Powerpoint slides and I found them to be a useful introduction to the mode. With Keith's permission, I have now put these up on Google Docs so that anyone can view them.

The link is HERE

FT8 on 28 MHz... Sat 12th May 2018

Another day listening to FT8 signals on 28 MHz and it was another busy one. Although it was similar to the previous days, it was different. The chart below shows what was heard during the 24 hours of Saturday the 12th of May 2018...

Nothing exotic from the east this time but it did open to North America! These signals from the south-east of the USA and one from Canada were heard around 14:00 to 15:00 UTC and were most likely multi-hop Sporadic-E. The ones from the USA were around the 6000km mark... three x 2,000km hops. The Canadian one was around 4,000kms... two 2,000 hops.

The South American signals were interesting. The ones from Brazil and Argentina were from the afternoon while the three signals from Chile were in the late evening.

The map below shows the signals here a bit closer to home...

Interesting signals from Mauritania and Western Sahara, both possibly double hop sporadic-e.

Sometimes it's the signals that are missing are the interesting one. No signals from Denmark or the south of Sweden today although I know there were stations active there.

Even though the maps might suggest that the band was wide open all day, it really wasn't. This is what was heard during the 17 hours or so that the band was open. At any one instant, the band was often open to just a small area but over the day, different signals appeared as the conditions changed.

Overall, I heard 519 stations today in 61 countries.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

FT8 on 28 MHz... Fri 11th May 2018

Another interesting day listening to FT8 digital signals on the 28 MHz band. This is what I heard during the 24 hour period...

Signals from stations in China and Kazakhstan were heard at about 4:45 UTC which was dawn at my location. F2? Sp-E?

Several from South America including the Falkland Islands.

Cape Verde, Maderia and the Canaries in the Atlantic.

TR8CA in Gabon and the maritime mobile station off the coast of Angola again.

Again, plenty from Europe....

It still suprises me how many stations in the UK I can hear. They should normally be too close except for when the Sporadic-E conditions are pretty intense. As for today??? Direct Sporadic-E? Backscatter? Meteor or Aircraft scatter?

Interesting little group of stations out in Eastern Ukraine and in Russia. The band was also open to Germany at the same time so the eastern european signals were probably double hop Sporadic-E.

In total, I heard 387 different stations in 44 countries. Not as busy as the 10th of May but pretty good all the same.

Friday, May 11, 2018

FT8 on 28 MHz... Thurs 10th May 2018

I left the radio on 28 MHz all day today listening on the FT8 frequency. From what I could hear, the band seemed to be open from early morning until after midnight.

This is what was heard during the 24 hours of Thursday the 10th of May 2018...

Considering the solar flux levels are down at 70, it was pretty amazing what could be heard on 10 metres. Some of the notable signals heard were....

Five stations in Indonesia.
One in China as well as several in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
One in South Africa and a maritime mobile station off the coast of Angola.
Brazil, Argentina and Chile in South America.
Two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one in Dominica in the Caribeean.
And of course, plenty in Europe...

According to the PSK reporter website, I heard 865 stations in 59 countries in the last 24 hours.

It was interesting that because I was the only station in Ireland for most of the day, I was sometimes the only person hearing a distant station because of my westerly location.

At one stage, I had a look at the WSPR website. At that instant, there were 70 stations monitoring the 10 metre band on WSPR then where as there were 302 on FT8 at the same time. That's the thing that impresses me most about FT8, it seems to have the critical mass of people using it for it to be useful. I have noticed that on WSPR in the past, the band was obviously open to certain areas but there just wasn't anyone on from those locations.

Another advantage of just listening on this mode is that I don't actually have to be there. I was away from the radio for most of the day and the PC was doing all the work of decoding the signals and uploading the spots to the PSK reporter website.

This was only my second day listening on FT8 and I'd imagine I'll be using it now for the Summer for the Sporadic-E season.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

New experimental digital gateway for Cork Harbour...

In order to facilitate testing of digital modes, Don EI8DJ has set up an experimental low power gateway at his home in Crosshaven in Cork Harbour. Please note that this will be on air only when Don is in the shack so it won't be on 24/7.

Some of the specs are as follows...

Frequency : Simplex on 438.700 MHz

Modes : DMR, DSTAR, Yaesu System Fusion and P25

DMR Settings : Colour Code 1, Time Slot 2.

Power : 5w into a Diamond X50 colinear.

Coverage is dependent on terrain but tests suggest that it is pretty good out to about 10kms and perhaps further to stations out to 20kms on higher ground. Radio coverage software suggests that it may be accessible from high ground on the north side of Cork City but the south side might be out of range.

As can be seen from the map, it is in an ideal location for radio amateurs on visiting cruise and passanger ships stopping off at Cobh and Ringaskiddy.

Click to see large version of Cork City north side coverage

If you have any questions about the gateway, Don can usually be found on the Cork repeater or on the Southern Ireland Repeater Network.

Traffic and signal levels heard on the EI8DJ gateway can be seen HERE

For more information on digital radio locally, have a look at the digital page on the Southern Ireland Repeater Network website.

FT8 on 28 MHz... Wed 9th May 2018

This morning, I noticed that the 28 MHz band was open but I couldn't hear one single CW beacon on the band. After hearing about the popularity of the latest digital mode FT8, I downloaded it and was listening on the band within an hour.

This is what I heard today on 28 MHz in Europe on FT8...

Most are about the right distance for Sporadic-E but there were a few suprises. The stations in the UK and Brittany were about the 500km mark...a bit short for Sporadic-E but not unknown. The ones in Bulgaria, Turkey and Russia are too long for one hop Sporadic and were probably multi-hop.

Outside of Europe, I heard these....

Like yesterday, I suspect that some Sporadic-E was helping out for the first hop to get down to lower latitudes where F2 propagation was possible. Still though, some interesting signals were heard. The one is Angola was a UW5EJX maritime mobile off the African coast.

In the 12 or so hours from 11:00 UTC to 22:00 UTC, I heard 104 different stations spread across 31 countries.

After just one day listening on the mode, I am very impressed at what I heard with a simple vertical antenna.

1) WSJT-X software suite
2) PSK reporter

French Guyana worked on 28 MHz...

Tues 8th May 2018... The Sporadic-E season is now well under way with plenty of signals being heard on the 10 metre band. On Tuesday the 8th of May, the band was open to part of Europe like Germany, Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, North Italy and Spain. As Sporadic-E signals go, it was nothing out of the ordinary with most around the 1200 to 2000km distance.

FY5KE... In the evening (16:45 UTC), there was an opening to South America which was interesting. I heard a station in Brazil on SSB and I worked FY5KE in French Guyana on CW with the first call.

Perhaps not the rarest of calls but interesting all the same. It's great to have the 10 metre vertical working properly again after repairing it last weekend.

The distance was 6600 kms which was pretty good. Almost certainly, the first hop from Ireland was via Sporadic-E out into the North Atlantic...maybe 1500kms or so... and the rest of the roughly 4000 kms was via other multiple hops.

Even though the Solar Flux is down around 70, F2 layer propagation might be possible from more southern latitudes like Spain, hence the need for the first Sp-E hop from Ireland.

Fishing buoy... I also came across a fishing buoy beacon on 28.420 MHz. This one was giving out a 5 second carrier followed by the letter 'D' (I think as it was very weak) and then would stay silent for 2m 25s. As far as I know, these are used to mark the location of fishing nets. Even though they are illegal, they seem to be pretty common and I would guess that this one was probably operating somewhere out in the Atlantic? The fact I heard it around the same time as the opening to South America would suggest this to be the case.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Repair of the CB Half-Wave antenna...

Back in November of 2016, I put up a CB half-wave vertical to use on 28 MHz. After being off air for four years, I just wanted to put up something cheap and easy to listen on the 10 metre band. I tuned it for 28.3 MHz and it tuned out to have a reasonable performance.

After being exposed to the weather for over a year, I found that when I tried to use it a few weeks back, it had gone intermittent and the VSWR was really high.

My initial suspicion was that water had got into one of the five telescopic sections that slide into each other resulting in poor contacts. I used a multimeter to measure the resistance between each section when the antenna was on the ground and it measured ok. I removed the waterproofing for the top telescopic section and on inspection, it was as clean as the day I put the antenna up.

One thing I then noticed was that the small screw at the base of the antenna looked slightly rusted. Using a Phillips screwdriver, I tightened this slightly and this fixed the problem! The VSWR returned to a nice low curve as it was before.

In hindsight, I probably should have waterproofed this screw from the elements but I'd guess that most people don't bother. It reminded me of a valuable lesson... be careful where there are two different types of metals touching.

In this case, a steel screw was making contact with aluminium ....a sure recipe for corrosion issues. I'll probably try to waterproof this over the next week.