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?