Sunday, March 31, 2019

Openings on 28 MHz - Mon 25th to Sun 31st March 2019

The week of the 24th to 31st of March 2019 was pretty quiet for the most part on 28 MHz although it did open to South America on the 29th and 31st. The Solar Flux was down around 70 which is pretty much the lowest it can be at the the bottom of the sunspot cycle.

This is a breakdown of the week...

Mon 25th March ... A quiet day on 10 metres with just two stations heard on FT8.
DJ8QX 10m FT8 1058 km 13:53:55
PC4N 10m FT8 897 km 10:38:02

Tues 26th March ... Another quiet day with just three stations heard.

094000   6 -0.9 1153 ~  CQ G0OYQ IO93
124215   0 -0.0 1159 ~  CQ PD4KK JO21
124215  -5  0.1 1400 ~  CQ DO8WA JO30

Friday, March 29, 2019

SIRIO Quarter Wave Ground Plane Antenna for 40 MHz

While it is pretty easy to build an antenna for 40 MHz, the difficulties of mechanical strength and waterproofing are always a problem. Some may considering buying a commercial antenna and this is an example of one from SIRIO.

The SIRIO GPA is a basic quarter wave ground plane antenna and there are several models available to cover various frequency ranges.

GPA 27-45: 27 … 45 MHz Tunable
GPA 40-70: 40 … 70 MHz Tunable
GPA 66-108: 66 … 108 MHz Tunable
GPA 108-136: 108 … 136 MHz Tunable
GPA 135-175: 135 … 175 MHz Tunable
GPA 170-230: 170 … 230 MHz Tunable

As there are no loading coils, it's just a case of adjusting the length of the vertical radiating element and each of the three ground plane radials.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

ZETAGI power amps for 43 MHz

ZETAGI is a brand usually associated with CB radio products for 27 MHz although it seems that they also make RF power amplifiers for Italian CB band at 43 MHz.

The B149 and B129 models are shown below. Note that the Irish regulations for 30 to 49 MHz stipulate a maximum power output of 50 watts PEP.


This is designed for 42-44 MHz and runs off 12v DC. It's likely that it will work down to 40 MHz as well although the power may be slightly reduced.

Note the AM / SSB switch on the right is missing and is just a blank plate. It would seem as if this unit is very similar to the B150 27 MHz model and uses pretty much the same hardware for the B149 43 MHz model.

The B149 amplifier is intended for increasing the output power of 43 MHz FM transceivers so there is no need for a TX/RX delay to stop the relay clattering on SSB. As such, it is not suitable for SSB and is more suited for just FM and CW.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Problem of Two WSPR Frequencies on 80m

Considering that there is pretty much no chance of any 28 MHz propagation at night, I decided to set the radio on the 80m WSPR frequency for the last two nights.

On the evening of Tuesday 26th March 2019, I set the radio to 3.59260 MHz which is the frequency that I had written down in my own notes and the one I had used in the past. It seemed to work fine and I heard plenty of stations that evening and the following morning on 80m.

On the evening of Wednesday the 27th of March, I went to tune the radio to 80m again but this time, I noticed that the frequency on the WSJT-X programme was different, it was 3.56860 MHz.

I used the new frequency and this is what I heard overnight on 80m on the night of the 27th - 28th of March 2019...

Signals heard on 80m WSPR - night of 27th to 28th March 2019

Closer view of European stations
So it would seem that there are two WSPR frequencies on 80m and both are in use.

After doing a bit of research, it looks as if there was some issue with stations in Japan being able to use the old frequency of 3.59260 MHz. As a result, it was decided to change to a new frequency of 3.56860 MHz.

The problem is that not everyone has changed and the net result for the moment is that WSPR users on 80m are split over two frequencies which is a bit of a mess.

I would guess that over time, the new frequency of 3.56860 MHz will gradually replace the old one but it might take a while.

Addendum :
Which is most used? ...Old or New Frequency?

As an experiment, I listened to the two WSPR frequencies on Wednesday the 27th of March from 20:00 to 22:UTC to see which one had the most activity.

This was well after sunset and to get a fairer idea of activity, I listened to the new frequency for 30 minutes at 20:00 and 21:00. I listened to the old frequency for about 30 mins from 20:30 and 21:30.

The result was that I heard 113 WSPR transmissions on the new frequency and 99 on the old one. I'm sure if I listened again on another evening then I may get a sightly different result. That works out at 53% to 47%.

It's probably fair to say that the WSPR activity on 80m is pretty much split pretty evenly between the old and new frequencies at the moment.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Rev 4 of DRM Handbook now available...

Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) has long been touted as the digital replacement for AM radio on the medium and short wave bands. Despite years of trials, it has yet to make a real breakthrough.

Revision 4 of the latest DRM Handbook is now available as a PDF document HERE

Monday, March 25, 2019

New DMR repeater now operational in the South-East of Ireland

A new MMDVM digital repeater is now on test from Mt. Leinster in Co. Carlow.

Considering that the summit of Mt Leinster is 794 metres above sea level, it has a considerable coverage and will allow a lot more people to experiment with digital modes especially DMR.

From the Southern Ireland Repeater Network...
A new MMDVM digital repeater is now on test from Mt. Leinster in Co. Carlow.
Callsign is EI7MLD,
Frequency 430.300 MHz, Shift +9MHz (DVU-R24),
DMR colour code 1.
Output power is 30 watts into a CATC440 antenna.
It is currently running DMR, Fusion, DStar and Analog modes.
(To use analog set TX and RX tone to 103.5Hz)


CATC440 antenna...

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sporadic-E opening on 28 MHz - Sun 24th March 2019

It looks as if there was a good Sporadic-E opening on 28 MHz on Sunday the 24th of March although I was missing for all of it! At least that's one good thing with FT8, you can still upload reception reports when you're not even there.

Looking at the number of spots, it would seem as if it was a good opening. I would also suspect that the fact it was a Sunday and people were off helped boost the numbers as well.

I noticed on the blog of Geoff G0LUJ that he heard ZP4KFX in Paraguay as well today on 28 MHz. Looking at the PSK Reporter website, I noticed that John GM4JWA in the north of Scotland also heard ZP4KFX as well as five stations in Brazil. What's interesting here is that GM4WJA seems to have been the only one hearing those Brazilian stations.

It hard to be certain but it's likely that there was Sporadic-E for the first hop from Scotland down to an area around the Azores and then on via F2 from there to South America. Those further south weren't hearing the Brazilian stations as they were in the Sporadic-E skip zone.

The list of stations heard here on FT8 on 28 MHz is shown below. The opening seems to have been roughly between 10:30 and 13:00 UTC.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Signals heard on 28 MHz - Mon 18th to Sat 23rd March 2019

All in all, it was a pretty quiet week on 28 MHz with just European signals heard. Still no sign of the 5V7EI expedition getting this far north on 10 metres.

Monday 18th March 2019..... Two signals heard! I'd guess it's because of a lack of propagation and stations actually using the band.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Solar noise detected on 28 MHz?? - Wed 20th March 2019

Wednesday the 20th of March 2019 seemed like just another pretty quiet day on 28 MHz with just a handful of FT8 signals heard on the band. This morning however while I had the radio on in the background monitoring the FT8 frequency of 28.074 MHz, I noticed a sudden increase in the background noise level. It wasn't huge but it was enough that I made of note of the time....11:20am (11:20 UTC).

Later I checked the SolarHam website and sure enough, there seems to be a spike around that time as can be seen on the chart above.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Transverters for 40 MHz

One of the obvious problems with the new 8-metre (40 MHz) band is the lack of equipment. Some amateur radio transceivers could be modified but there is a risk doing this as the output filters in the PA stages might be way off.

Transverters-Store is a company in Ukraine and they make a number of transverters that allow a 28 MHz radio to covers various bands from 40 MHz to 432 MHz.

The 40 MHz version converts 40-42 MHz down to 28 to 30 MHz. The PCB is shown below.

Technical specifications
RF range  -  40 ... 42 MHz
IF range  -  28 ... 30 MHz
IF input power  -  1 ... 50 mW (0.05 W max.) or 0 ... 17 dBm
Output power  -  10 ... 15 W
Noise figure  -  typ. 1.0 dB
Supply voltage  -  +13.8 V DC (+12 ... 14 V DC)
Current consumption  -  typ. 2 A (TX)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Notice : IRTS 80m Evening Counties Contest - Tues 19th March 2019

From the IRTS News...
Evening Counties Contest
The IRTS 80 metres Evening Counties Contest takes place at 20:00 on Tuesday 19th March 2019

It is a one-hour contest, with SSB-Only and mixed-mode SSB/CW sections, double points for CW QSOs in the mixed-mode section. There is also an SWL section. 

See for permitted frequencies and other rules; note that the power limit for this contest is 100 watts PEP

For EI and GI stations, multipliers are the Irish counties plus overseas DXCC entities worked, while for overseas stations multipliers are the EI and GI counties.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Opening to Africa on 28 MHz - Sun 17th March 2019

There couldn't have been a greater contrast in conditions over the last two days on 28 MHz. Saturday the 16th was practically dead while there was a nice opening on Sunday the 17th.

Saturday 16th March 2019... Just one signal heard all day on FT8 on 28 MHz. I scanned around a few times as well...nothing.
124900 -11 -0.1 1942 ~  CQ DJ5JD JO33

Sunday 17th March 2019... Nice Sporadic-E opening to Europe and it probably allowed some signals from Africa to reach this far north.

Note that this map is off the PSK Reporter website. It seems as if it only shows stations that I heard calling CQ where as I actually heard more while they were making contacts. I have shown these as Pink dots above.

This is a breakdown of the stations I heard on FT8 on 28 MHz...

Saturday, March 16, 2019

OZ7IGY 40 MHz beacon off air for foreseeable future

On the 1st of January 2019, it was announced that the OZ7IGY beacon on 40.071 MHz was off air while it was awaiting a renewal of its licence.

On the 15th of March 2019, it was announced that the beacon was going to remain off for the foreseeable future.

From the OZ7IGY website.....
"40 MHz operation suspended – 2019-03-15. The operation has been suspended due to operating and licensing costs. The future of the beacon is unknown at least for the time being....OZ2M."

This is significant as it was actually the only beacon in the world that was operational on the 40 MHz band.

With the Sporadic-E season only weeks away and the increasing interest in the band, it would have been great to have something on the band for propagation tests.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Signals heard on 28 MHz - 11th to 15th March 2019

Not exactly an exciting few days but a good reminder that just listening to FT8 signals doesn't show what is really happening on the band.

Mon 11th March... Listened most of the day to the FT8 frequency of 28.074 MHz and heard nothing!

Tues 12th March..... At least there were a few signals on Tuesday.
110830 -11 -0.4  943 ~  CQ G0OYQ IO93
113730 -12 -0.1 1001 ~  CQ ON8DM JO10
145730 -21 -0.6 1820 ~  CQ G4HZW IO83

Wed 13th March... Pretty similar to yesterday with the usual suspects being heard.
124615 -10 -0.0  583 ~  DJ8QX PD1DL RR73
125930 -16 -0.1  582 ~  CQ PD1DL JO22
132200 -17 -0.2 1143 ~  CQ DJ8QX JO31

Thurs 14th March... Just the two regulars on the band.
105630  -3 -0.3  955 ~  CQ G0OYQ IO93
133430 -16 -0.4  875 ~  CQ DJ8QX JO31

Fri 15th March... This was probably the most interesting of the five days. Most days, I just leave the radio on the FT8 frequency and decode any signals heard. The one obvious problem with this is that I have noticed that there is an obvious lack of stations using the band and whenever I hear someone, it tends to be the same person.

FT8 decodes on the 15th...
151315  -7 -0.6 1687 ~  CQ DL2RH JO32
153730   7 -0.4 1318 ~  CQ DJ8QX JO31
171645  13 -0.2 1136 ~  CQ EB1HRW IN71
184715  -1  0.0 1283 ~  CQ EA1GAR IN52

For a change today, I decided to have a listen around the band. Looking at the DX cluster, DX Maps and the PSK reporter websites, it looked as if nothing was happening on the band.

Example of Italian CB signals heard at 43 MHz...

The video clip above shows an example of a signal heard on the south-east coast of England of  a 43.3 MHz signal from Italy.

The CB band at 43 MHz in Italy is more of a 'working band' as opposed to the hobbyist nature of the band at say 27 MHz.

There is a short discussion about Italian 43 MHz radio on this forum.

It would also seem that the band is used is used to relay church services in Italy to elderly members of the public at home. Video of 43.575 MHz signal below. In Ireland, this is usually done on the 27 MHz CB band although some churches have been known to use 88-108 MHz!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Club Log stats show the rise of FT8 mode in 2018

A huge number of radio amateurs upload their logs to the Club Log site every year. In 2018, a total of 41.3 million QSOs were uploaded (2017 = 36.8 million, 2016 = 36.8 million, 2015 = 39.8 million).

With so many contacts being uploaded, it's a good place to show recent trends.

The chart for 2018 shown above shows the popularity of each respective mode during normal operating times outside of contests. (Note that the data from the major contests is excluded so as to not distort the data).

A few things jump out from the chart...

1) The sheer popularity of the FT8 digital mode.

2) The decline in phone / SSB contacts.

3) Morse / CW seems to have declined as well but fares better than SSB.

4) The decline in all other modes like PSK31, RTTY, etc.

A lot of people complain about FT8 and its 'impersonal nature' but the stats show what people are interested in using.

Full info up on G7VJR's blog.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Italian 43 MHz CB's for sale...

One of the obvious problems with the new 8 metre band at 40 MHz is the lack of equipment. I recently came across an Italian website selling 43 MHz radios. As outlined in a previous post, there is a CB band in Italy on 43 MHz.

The HardSoft Products website is selling the following at present...

1) INTEK - SY-5430M - MOBILE 43 MHz
...a) The Italian version has 24 channels with a 4 watt output. It covers 43.3 MHz to 43.5875 MHz. The cost is €185.

...b) The Export version has 224 channels with a 20 watt output. It covers 42.3 MHz to 45.0875 MHz. The cost is €210.

This has 24 channels with a 4 watt output. It covers 43.3 MHz to 43.5875 MHz. The cost is €145.

Please note that these were the prices and models as of mid-March 2019. I don't know anything about the website so I can't say if it's ok or not.

Photo of the Lafayette below...

Sunday, March 10, 2019

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz - Sat 9th & Sun 10th March 2019

Another quiet weekend on 28 MHz with the highlight being one South American station being heard.

Sat 9th March 2019... Just a few signals from the UK and Germany heard.

073430  -6 -0.3 1052 ~  CQ G0OYQ IO93
081100 -16  0.1  789 ~  CQ DO3MA JO40
105630 -15 -0.3 1811 ~  CQ DJ5JD JO33
110430  -7 -0.2 1115 ~  CQ G4EKJ IO93

Friday, March 8, 2019

Opening to Sierra Leone on 28 MHz after quiet week - Sat 2nd to Fri 8th March 2019

I have been monitoring the FT8 frequency on 28 MHz for the last week and things have been pretty quiet. The best day of the last week was Friday the 8th of March when there was an opening to West Africa.

This is a breakdown of the last seven days...

Saturday 2nd March 2019... Just two stations heard all day.
135445 -13  0.7 1690 ~  CQ PA8MC JO20
164015 -11 -0.1  596 ~  PD1KD PD1DL RR73

Thursday, March 7, 2019

IRTS Membership - 2000 to 2018

The Irish Radio Transmitters Society (IRTS) is the national association representing amateur radio in Ireland.

They have just released their membership stats for the end of 2018 and it stands at 919 members, a drop of 8. To put that in context, that's a drop of 0.9% so it's pretty much negligible.

That figure of 919 includes overseas members and short wave listeners so the actual number of EI stations that are members is probably around the 770-780 mark, about the same as last year.

Thanks to the new GDPR regulations introduced in 2018, the data on the total number of radio amateurs in Ireland is not available. However, it is probably much the same as last year.

At the end of 2017, roughly 45% of all EI stations were members of the IRTS. Contrast that to the ARRL in the USA where the figure is below 20%!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

IRTS release Spring 2019 issue of Echo Ireland

The Irish Radio Transmitters Society (IRTS) have just released PDF version of the Spring 2019 edition of Echo Ireland to members.

The electronic version is sent out to members before the printed copy and is of course much cheaper to distribute. These savings help to keep the Society in the Black as costs are increasing all the time.

Details of the PDF option below...

Monday, March 4, 2019

DMR repeaters in Ireland - March 2019

These are the DMR repeaters in Ireland at present. Some are on air, some are planned.

The full listing of all DMR repeaters can be seen here...

New Digital repeaters near Dublin on the way

Update March 2019 : It looks as if there are two new repeaters on the way.

EI7BCR will be located at Three Rock in the Dublin Mountains and will have DMR ID of 272222. This should give excellent coverage of the capital city and will be a great addition to the digital network in Ireland.

The proposed output frequency is 439.7875 MHz and the input is 9.0 MHz lower.

The second repeater EI7LLD is located near Kingscourt, Co.Cavan. This will have DMR ID 272223. This should give good coverage of Dundalk and the area to the north-west of Dublin.

The proposed output frequency is 439.7625 MHz and the input is 9.0 MHz lower.

This was first announced back in November 2018 and there is no sign of them to date.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

RSGB Paper suggests additional access to 40 MHz unlikely in the UK

The IARU Region 1 (Africa, Europe, Middle-East) Interim Meeting takes place April 27-28 in Vienna, Austria.

An Information Paper submitted by the RSGB seems to suggest additional access to 40 MHz is unlikely in the UK. See below... 

Document number: VIE19 C5 INFO1 
Source: RSGB – Murray Niman G6JYB, Spectrum Chair 
Subject: Innovation Bands & Activities (Information Paper) Committee(s): 
C5 Summary: The Information below is a short summary regarding the additional spectrum available to UK Full Licensees and how it is used. 

In general:- 
• All require a strong justification, conditions to avoid interference and have a Strong Emphasis on Innovation & New Activities – not ‘More of the Same’ 
• They are renewable permits - not permanent allocations 
• Renewal is based on regular progress reports to our regulator against the purpose it was made available for Previous Bands/Requests:- 
40 MHz – One Propagation Beacon – additional access refused 


When will the next sunspot cycle start???

At the moment, we are very much at the bottom of Solar Cycle with no sunspots being reported on the sun for the whole of February 2019.

The obvious question is when will the next solar cycle start? When will conditions improve?

Some think conditions will improve in 2019 but my own take on this is why the rush? In terms of a solar cycle, we have only just got to the minimum and we will probably hop along the bottom for a while before things pick up.

As with all things associated with the sun, we can only make calculated guesses based on past observations.

Say we take an arbitrary figure of an average of 25 sunspots on the sun. This point is measured on the way down to the minimum and on the way back out again.

Looking at the chart below, the sunspot number was below 25 for roughly three years between solar cycles 22 and 23.

The next minimum between solar cycles 23 and 24 was deeper however and lasted longer. It was below the 25 sunspot mark for about five years.

If and that is a big IF this current minimum is deep like the last one and is below the 25 sunspot mark for five years then we get a chart like this.

This suggests that conditions for the rest of of 2019 will remain poor. It also suggests that it will be the second half of 2020 before the number of sunspots and conditions start to pick up. It will be mid-2021 before the sunspot numbers hit 25.

A sunspot number of 25 seems to roughly correlate with a solar flux of about 80 which isn't exactly huge. It should result in some more North-South openings on 28 MHz as well of course much better conditions on the lower bands.

Things after that however will only get better and it's anyone's guess as to how high the next peak will be.

In conclusion, if the next solar cycle behaves like the previous one then it was be mid-2021 before we see any dramatic improvement.

Early 6m DXing in Ireland article reprinted in club newsletter in the USA

A few weeks back, a club in the USA made contact with me about republishing one of the articles on my old website about the 50 MHz band in Ireland from 1957 to 1980.

The article is now in the March 2019 issue of the club newsletter.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Opening to South Africa on 28 MHz - Fri 1st March 2019

After a dismal three weeks, the 10-metre band finally opened up to South Africa on the 1st of March.

These were the stations heard...
110100 -13 -0.6 1264 ~  CQ DJ8QX JO31
114415   1  0.1  899 ~  CQ ZS5PD KF59
114615 -15 -0.2  441 ~  CQ EA5AMC IM98
120715 -16 -0.1  664 ~  CQ G7ODN IO92
123545 -17 -1.2  942 ~  CQ G0OYQ IO93

Some points of interest...

1) South Africa... There seems to have been a Sporadic-E cloud over the Bay of Biscay allowing me to hear an EA5 station near Valencia. This then coupled into some F2 propagation to South Africa.

2) Low Activity... The map on the right above shows who heard ZS5PD on 28 MHz. PSK Reporter shows only four stations hearing him which suggests a distinct lack of stations monitoring on 28 MHz.

3) Sporadic-E Propagation... I noticed from G3XBM's blog that he was hearing an EA7 station near Gibraltar about the same time I was hearing an EA5 near Valencia. We were both probably getting signals from the same Sporadic-E cloud over the Bay of Biscay.

It's likely that I was just in the right location as the path to EA5 lined up with South Africa. For G3XBM 500kms or so to the east, the extended path beyond EA7 probably was just down into the South Atlantic.

Slim pickings but hopefully things might pick up as the equinox approaches.