Tuesday, July 7, 2020

COMREG release Radio Frequency Plan for Ireland - July 2020

The Irish communications licencing authority COMREG have just released a document titled 'Radio Frequency for Ireland'.

You can download it HERE

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Upgrade of the D4VHF station VHF & Microwave antenna systems

Over the last few years, the D4VHF station in the Cape Verde Islands has made some amazing contacts on the 144 MHz & 432 MHz bands across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and also well into Europe. Most of these VHF and UHF contacts are in the region of 3000 to 6000 kms.

They recently made some major changes to their antenna system for 2-metres, 23cms and 12 cms.

2-metres... Up to recently, the D4VHF team were using a single 12 element Yagi on 144 MHz. They have now installed three crossed 5-element Yagis.

The photo above shows the three new 144 MHz crossed Yagis marked A, B and C. As can be seen, the three crossed Yagis are stacked vertically.

This second photo above shows the stacked Yagis from a different angle. Each individual crossed Yagi is made of two 5-element beams in a X configuration. These two beams are  fed 90 degrees out of phase relative to each other and this achieves Right Handed Circular Polisation (RHCP).

Comparison - Old 12 element Yagi V New Stack of three 5-element RHCP Yagis... How do the two antenna systems compare? Here are some rough calculations...

Gain... The old 12 element Yagi which was horizontally polarised probably had a free space gain of about 13dBd.

As for the new stack? Let's take the gain of 5 element beam to be 9dBd. There is a stack of three so lets add 5dB giving a gain of 14dBd. Lets assume that there is some loss stacking as they will probably not get the full three times power so we'll subtract 0.5dB giving 13.5dBd. There is also a 3dB loss due to the fact that it is using circular polarization and we're down to about 10.5dBd.

So we have an estimated 13dBd for the old 12 element and 10.5dBd for the new antenna system, a drop of about 2.5dB.

Linear Vs Circular Polazation... When both the receive and transmit antennas are horizontally polarized at either end of a propagation path and nothing changes then everything is fine. However when the path is several thousand kms in length, will it always stay the same? If there happens to be a Sporadic-E hop involved then the polarization of the signal is constantly changing.

If say a horizontally polarized antenna receives a horizontally polarized signal then there is no loss i.e. 0dB. If however a signal gets twisted and arrives at more than 45 degrees relative to the receive antenna, then the losses can be anything from -3dB up to -20dB.

With very weak FT8 signals buried in the noise and with 15 second transmissions, this polarization fading can mean incomplete contacts or at the very least, it slows things right down resulting in fewer contacts during say a Sporadic-E opening.

With a circularly polarized antenna, the loss is never more than -3dB. So even though the gain of the new antenna stack is slightly less, the lower loss due to polarization changes should result in more completed contacts.

Beamwidth... The other change between the new and old systems is the beamwidth.

The beamwidth of a beam is measured by its -3dB points i.e. where the gain of the antenna has dropped by 3dB.

For the old 12 element antenna with a gain of about 13dBd, the beamwidth was about 32 degrees.

With the new antenna array, the vertical stacking will compress the radiation in the vertical plant and direct more of it down towards the horizon. For the radiation in the horizontal plane i.e. left/right, it should have pretty much the same beamwidth as a single 5 element which is about 54 degrees.

This map shows the beam headings from Cape Verde to Europe...

With the old 12 element pointing at 35 degrees, the 32 degree beamwidth covered about 19 to 51 degrees.... roughly from Wales to the south of Italy.

With the new array for the same 35 degree example, the 54 degree beamwidth will extend from 08 to 62 degrees. This means that there is more power heading towards say Ireland, Scotland and the Azores.

It also allows more power to head towards the Eastern Mediterranean. It seems unlikely that someone from say Greece or Israel could work D4VHF on 144 MHz as there is a lot more land and less sea for a marine duct. But that's not to say its impossible, especially at this more southerly latitude.

Microwave Bands.... They also made some improvements to their set up for the microwave bands of 23cms and 13 cms.

The photo above shows the 1-metre homemade dish for 1296 MHz and 2300 MHz. The gain on 23cms is approx 19dBd while the gain on 13 cms is about 24dBd. They will be adding an elevation motor so that it can be used for moonbounce.

This is another view of the same dish but it also shows the 80cm dish on the right for accessing the QO100 satellite in geostationary orbit (2.4 GHz up, 10 GHz down).

In conclusion... As you can see, the D4VHF team are constantly improving their station on Cape Verde and are opening up new paths that we didn't even know existed.

If you would like to support their work then they have a PayPal link HERE

Friday, July 3, 2020

5000km plus opening on 144 MHz from Cape Verde Islands to Italy, Slovenia & Croatia - 2nd July 2020

On Thursday the 2nd of July 2020, there was another remarkable opening on 144 MHz between Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa and Italy, Slovenia & Croatia.

This isn't the first time that this has happened but any terrestrial opening on 144 MHz which reaches 5000kms or more is always special.

This edited list shows the stations that heard by D4VHF in Cape Verde. It also lists those hearing D4VHF on FT8 but not weren't heard by them (in order of distance)...

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
D4VHF S51ZO 2m FT8 5028 km 19:09:59
9A5BWW D4VHF 2m FT8 5013 km 19:02:42
D4VHF 9A6NA 2m FT8 5013 km 18:51:56
D4VHF S50TA 2m FT8 4885 km 19:17:44
D4VHF S57A 2m FT8 4809 km 18:41:59
D4VHF IV3/HB9CAT 2m FT8 4798 km 18:27:59
D4VHF IV3GTH 2m FT8 4792 km 18:41:56
9A5CW D4VHF 2m FT8 4790 km 19:17:57
D4VHF IV3GBO 2m FT8 4786 km 19:11:44
9A3CX D4VHF 2m FT8 4776 km 19:03:12
D4VHF IV3BLQ 2m FT8 4776 km 19:17:41
D4VHF 9A5CW 2m FT8 4774 km 19:17:14
D4VHF 9A3K 2m FT8 4774 km 19:15:44
D4VHF 9A1UN 2m FT8 4766 km 19:04:29
9A2RD D4VHF 2m FT8 4766 km 19:01:41
IK3VZO D4VHF 2m FT8 4643 km 18:35:12
D4VHF IW3GJF 2m FT8 4639 km 18:35:29
IZ3NOC D4VHF 2m FT8 4636 km 18:32:11
D4VHF IK4DRY 2m FT8 4624 km 18:59:29
D4VHF IK4FMT 2m FT8 4596 km 18:59:26
D4VHF IW4AZY 2m FT8 4548 km 19:11:15
D4VHF IK2MKS 2m FT8 4528 km 15:51:44
IK2LHP D4VHF 2m FT8 4517 km 15:57:56
IK0SMG D4VHF 2m FT8 4506 km 16:44:56
D4VHF IW0FFK 2m FT8 4505 km 16:46:44
D4VHF IZ2MHO 2m FT8 4480 km 15:52:11
D4VHF G7RAU 2m FT8 4086 km 16:02:14

FT8 screenshot from D4VHF
This is a list of the 20 stations in Italy, Slovenia & Croatia that D4VHF actually completed a contact with on FT8...

2020-07-02 15:49:15 IZ2MHO JN45 144.175900 FT8 +03,-06 
2020-07-02 16:30:30 IK0SMG JN61 144.175900 FT8 -03 -11 
2020-07-02 18:25:00 IK3VZO JN55 144.174900 FT8 -19 -01 
2020-07-02 18:28:00 S50TA 144.174900 FT8 +08 +01 
2020-07-02 18:28:30 IZ3NOC 144.174900 FT8 -03 -12 
2020-07-02 18:33:00 IV3NDC 144.174900 FT8 -06 -06 
2020-07-02 18:34:30 IW3GJF 144.174900 FT8 -12 -06 
2020-07-02 18:36:45 IV3GTH JN65 144.174900 FT8 -17 -11 
2020-07-02 18:37:45 IZ3QFG 144.174900 FT8 -05 
2020-07-02 18:42:30 S57A JN65 144.174900 FT8 +02 -06 
2020-07-02 18:44:00 IK4FMT JN54,144.174900 FT8 -15 -21 
2020-07-02 18:46:45 IK4DRY 144.174900 FT8 -11 -07 
2020-07-02 18:52:00 9A3CX JN65 144.174900 FT8 +00 -01 
2020-07-02 18:57:30 9A3K JN65 144.174900 FT8 +05 +01 
2020-07-02 18:58:15 9A6NA JN86 144.174900 FT8 -12 -19 
2020-07-02 19:02:00 9A2RD JN65 144.174900 FT8 +13 -09 
2020-07-02 19:02:45 9A5BWW JN86,144.174900 FT8 -05 -16 
2020-07-02 19:04:30 9A1UN JN65 144.174900 FT8 -10 -07 
2020-07-02 19:05:45 IV3GBO JN66 144.174900 FT8 +17 -07 
2020-07-02 19:12:30 9A5CW JN65 144.174900 FT8 -06 -13 

Another screenshot from D4VHF
Mode of Propagation... How exactly did these 5000km signals travel so far on 144 MHz? It seems likely that it was via a combination of a marine duct from Cape Verde up as far as Morocco and via Sporadic-E from there to Italy.

The tropo prediction map from Pascal, F5LEN shows some tropo in the Mediterranean Sea so that can't be discounted either. However, there must surely been at least one Sporadic-E hop in there somewhere.

Full D4VHF log including the EA & EA8 stations shown below...

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

RSGB Video: Antennas for small gardens with Steve Nichols, G0KYA

The RSGB have recently put a video up on YouTube entitled "Antennas for small gardens with Steve Nichols, G0KYA"

Most radio amateurs have modest or small gardens and those on HF will have an interest in getting the best antenna working in a limited space.

In this video which is 80 minutes long, Steve G0KYA presents plenty of options for radio amateurs to consider.

Note that the video doesn't really start until 1:40 so fast forward to skip the static screen.

Monday, June 29, 2020

New 70cms repeater in the west of Ireland to improve coverage of the Southern Ireland Repeater Network

The Southern Ireland Repeater Network is made of seven interlinked repeaters on 2-metres and 70-cms and covers the southern half of Ireland. The coverage map as of June 2020 is shown below...

There are now plans to fit a new 70-cms repeater on the summit of Mahera in Co.Clare in the west of Ireland. This is an excellent site in terms of coverage and is one of the main transmission sites used by the state broadcaster RTE for radio and TV.

An approximate coverage map of the new proposed 433 MHz repeater is shown below....

The most significant change is that it will add Galway City to the Southern Ireland Repeater Network which is a welcome development.

The eastern part of Limerick City should also be covered although Woodcock Hill will screen signals to the western part of the city.

The coverage map also suggests very good coverage of the main road from Limerick to Galway as well as the eastern part of Co.Galway and the part of the midlands.

From my understanding, the new repeater will be installed once the travel restrictions for COVID-19 are eased.

1) Southern Ireland Repeater Network

Sunday, June 28, 2020

6000 km plus contact made between the Canary Islands & Kazakhstan on 70 MHz - 18th June 2019

I recently came across details of a remarkable 70 MHz contact that was made on the 18th of June 2019 between EA8DBM in the Canary Islands and UN7MBH in Kazakhstan. It's possible that someone hadn't noticed the date on the FT8 screen capture when posted online and thought it was from 2020 instead.

Despite the fact that it's over a year old, it was still an interesting contact as it was in the region of 6,112 kms. As you can see from the screenshot below, the contact was made via the FT8 digital mode.

While most Sporadic-E contacts on 70 MHz might be in the region of say 1500 to 2200 kms, the 6000 km plus distance for this contact suggests that it may have been triple hop Sporadic-E.

Triple hop Sporadic-E on 50 MHz is interesting but not that unusual. After all, most of the 6-metre contacts between Europe and the USA are triple hop or more.

However as the frequency get higher, a higher level of ionisation is required. At 70 MHz, single hop Sporadic-E is very common, double hop is a more unusual but triple hop is more exceptional.

I searched on the net for more information on this remarkable contact but there didn't seem to be anything about it. I thought I'd make a post about it so that at least a record of it now exists.

I know that there have been triple hop contacts from the north-west of Europe to the Arabian Peninsula but I don't think any of those exceed 6000 kms.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

RSGB video on VHF Propagation

The RSGB recently released a video on YouTube which outlines the basics of VHF propagation. While it doesn't go into any great detail, it is a good primer on the subject.

"Steve Nichols, G0KYA - Chair of the RSGB Propagation Studies Committee - narrates this presentation about VHF propagation.  The presentation was written by John Worsnop, G4BAO and the RSGB would like to thank Mike Willis, G0MJW for allowing use of his charts and diagrams."

Global Magnetic Anomaly on the 23rd of June 2020...

It has been reported that there was a Global Magnetic Anomaly on the 23rd of June 2020. Starting at about 06:30 UTC, there was a period of about 30 minutes where the magnetic field oscillated like a sine wave with a period of about 10 minutes.

Scientists call this phenomenon a "pulsation continuous" or "Pc" for short.

SpaceWeather describes as... "Imagine blowing across a piece of paper, making it flutter with your breath. Solar wind can have a similar effect on magnetic fields. Pc waves are essentially flutters propagating down the flanks of Earth's magnetosphere excited by the breath of the sun. During more active phases of the solar cycle, these flutters are easily lost in the noise of rambunctious geomagnetic activity. But during the extreme quiet of Solar Minimum, such waves can make themselves "heard" like a pin dropping in an silent room."

Image from Stuart Green

Pc waves are classified into 5 types depending on their period. The 10-minute wave on June 23rd falls into category Pc5. Slow Pc5 waves have been linked to a loss of particles from the van Allen radiation belts. Energetic electrons surf these waves down into Earth’s atmosphere, where they dissipate harmlessly.

I looked back at my WSPR reports for 28 MHz but didn't see anything unusual. Perhaps it might have had more of an impact on the lower bands.

1) Magnetic Pulsations

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

4000 km+ VHF path from Cape Verde to the UK opens up - June 2020

On the 23rd of June 2020, the VHF path from Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa to the UK opened up again. The following stations in the UK and France reported D4VHF on FT8 on 144 MHz... Updates below...

Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
G4LOH 2m FT8 4098 km 18:23:14
GW4VXE 2m FT8 4280 km 18:15:12
G7RAU 2m FT8 4086 km 17:39:14
F8DBF 2m FT8 3963 km 17:15:44
G3NJV 2m FT8 4090 km 16:23:14
GW6TEO 2m FT8 4249 km 15:45:14
G4RRA 2m FT8 4211 km 15:33:14
GW7SMV 2m FT8 4317 km 15:33:14
M0BKV 2m FT8 4181 km 15:30:14
G8IXN 2m FT8 4110 km 15:04:44
G4ELI 2m FT8 4101 km 15:04:44

As can be seen from the location of the stations, this seems to be the usual maritime duct which can last for days.

The DX spots from the cluster shows that D4VHF was on SSB as well and they were also on 432 MHz...

G4LOH 432200.0 D4VHF 16:21 23 Jun IO70JC HK76MU 57 ssb Cape Verde
G7RAU 144174.0 D4VHF 16:11 23 Jun IN79JX HK76MU 432100 ft8 9+ Cape Verde
G4RRA 144174.0 D4VHF 15:48 23 Jun IO80BSHK76MU sri here ! Cape Verde
GW6TEO 144174.0 D4VHF 15:41 23 Jun IO71LPHK76MU tnx gl Cape Verde
GW7SMV 144174.0 D4VHF 15:34 23 Jun hrd cq -18 Cape Verde 
G7RAU 432100.0 D4VHF 15:34 23 Jun IN79JX HK76MU +17 ft8, gl Cape Verde
G7RAU 144174.0 D4VHF 14:50 23 Jun IN79JXHK76MU plus tropo Cape Verde
G4LOH 144174.0 D4VHF 14:32 23 Jun IO70JC HK76MU 59+20dB CQ Cape Verde
GW0KZG 144174.0 D4VHF 14:31 23 Jun IO71LWHK76 144.174 FT8 Tn Cape Verde

The tropo prediction map from Pascal, F5LEN shows that the path is open...

If you are used to VHF reports then you'll know that this path opens quiet often. It's easy to be blasé about it but it's worth remembering that the stations shown above in the UK are in the region of 4100 to 4300 kms from Cape Verde Islands.

That's the equivalent distance from London to Nova Scotia in Canada... and this is on 144 & 432 MHz!

The path from the UK to Cape Verde looks reasonable for the 24th & 25th of June before disappearing on the 26th.

Wed 24th June 2020...
It looks as if the signal from Cape Verde Islands reached the east of England...

D4VHF G4LOH 2m FT8 4098 km 15:03:14
G4CDN D4VHF 2m FT8 4613 km 07:42:56
D4VHF G4CDN 2m FT8 4613 km 07:40:14
D4VHF G4PIQ 2m FT8 4546 km 03:48:15

Note the distance for G4CDN... 4613kms!... on 144 MHz!

In the evening, there was an opening to Rome...

D4VHF IZ0UME 2m FT8 4521 km 18:54:14
IZ0UME D4VHF 2m FT8 4521 km 18:48:26
EA8CDG D4VHF 2m FT8 1546 km 18:45:26
D4VHF IW0FFK 2m FT8 4505 km 18:44:14

Another amazing distance... 4521kms. Tropo all the way or tropo & Sp-E?

North Europe to Cape Verde???....... Stations in North and Central Europe should be on the lookout for a Sporadic-E opening to the Iberian Peninsula over the next week. There is a good chance that signals would couple into the marine duct there off the south-west coast to travel onwards to Cape Verde.

1) Tropo map from F5LEN

Reception video of S50B in Slovenia on 40 MHz - 22nd June 2020

Up to now, I've seen videos online of some of the beacons on the 40 MHz being heard. This is I believe the first reception video of someone actually talking on the new 8-metre band.

To put everything into context, I have generated a map as seen above.

Borut, S50B in Slovenia heard the Irish beacon near Dublin on 40.013 MHz and then went on to work Lloyd, EI7HBB in the west of Ireland on 40.680 MHz. This distance is about 1800kms.

Paul, G7PUV in the south-east of England was monitoring the band with an SDR receiver which had the ability to record everything on the band.

As the map shows, G7PUV is about 1200kms from S50B which is a typical distance for Sporadic-E on 40 MHz with a good opening. EI7HBB on the other hand is just 600kms away and well inside the skip zone of Sp-E. It might be possible for G7PUV to hear EI7HBB via Sporadic-E but it would need an intense opening.

As a result, the video from G7PUV just has the voice of S50B and EI7HBB is missing. It also has a sample of the many noises to he heard in the ISM band on 40 MHz.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Irish Amateur Radio Licence Exams - July/August 2020

Following the postponement of the exam scheduled for May, exams have now been arranged at venues in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Dates for the next exams

Dublin:  Saturday 25th July at 2.00pm in the Maldron Hotel, Tallaght, Dublin 24. Latest date for receipt of applications is Wednesday 15th July

Cork:  Saturday 8th August at 2.00pm in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Ditchley House, Little Island, Cork. Latest date for receipt of applications is Wednesday 29th July

Galway:  Saturday 15th August at 2.00pm in the Menlo Park Hotel, Terryland, Headford Road, Galway. Latest date for receipt of applications is Wednesday 5th August

See www.irts.ie/exam for full details of these exams, including the application process and latest dates for receipt of applications.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

EI1KNH - Update on the new Irish beacon on 60 MHz

Back in early 2018, the 60 MHz (5-metre) band was allocated to radio amateurs in Ireland (EI) on a secondary non-interference basis. Now we have news that the very first beacon on 60 MHz is operational! See updates below...

The new beacon is operational since the 16th of December 2019 and has the call EI1KNH.

It is on 60.013 MHz and runs 25 watts into a vertical folded dipole. This is currently the only 5-metre beacon operational in the world.

The new 5-metre beacon is co-sited with some of the existing Irish beacons - EI0SIX on 50 MHz, EI4RF on 70 MHz. The elevated site has a locator of IO63VE and is located about 20 kms to the south of Dublin.

An 8-metre beacon operating on 40.013 MHz from the same site became operational in May of 2020 with an output power of 40 watts.

The photo above shows the vertical folded dipole for the 60 MHz beacon and the 40 MHz vertical for the 8-metre beacon.

* * *

Update : 20th June 2020 - FT8 replaces PI4 -  Tim, EI4GNB reports that the new configuration for the EI1KNH 5-metre beacon in FT8 - CW - Carrier, with FT8 being in the first period of every minute. There are no breaks, just 60 phases an hour non-stop. This should make it easier for people to listen for it as there is a huge user base running the FT8 and WSJT-X software.

Previously it was running PI4 which is a specialised digital mode for beacons.

If anyone hearing the beacon tunes to 60.012 MHz USB, they should see FT8 decode at 1240 Hz.

Tim writes..."It is hoped that the FT8 addition will encourage more people to check for the beacon, it being a simple task of adding the 60.012 frequency to their software's FREQUENCIES list, as ALL REGIONS and ALL MODES, then they can just quickly flip over when working ft8 on 6m to see if the MUF is rising to at least 60 MHz."

* * *

The 60 MHz beacon transmits on the digital PI4 mode and CW. Details below...

PI4 + CW + Carrier 00111 (1st, 2nd & 3rd Minute of every 5 minutes) Synchronised Beacon Project (SBP)

The RF for the beacon is generated by an RFZero module running about 20 milliwatts (+13dBm).

This is then fed into a homebrew amplifier with an RA30H0608 PA stage generating 25 watts of RF.

This is then fed into a homebrew band pass filter before going to the vertical folded dipole.

Expected Range???..... What range might be expected from a beacon on 60 MHz? Considering it a weak signal mode, a tropo range of somewhere in the range of 200 kms might be expected. Perhaps up to 400 kms during times of high pressure.

It's important to note however that the Dublin and Wicklow mountains which are just to the west attenuate the signals in that direction. The path across to the west coast of Wales is much better.

A good guide would be the other beacons on 50 MHz and 70 MHz. If you can hear those then there is a reasonable chance of hearing the 60 MHz beacon.

Sporadic-E Range... It's certain that the 60 MHz beacon will be heard in Europe during the Sporadic-E season from late April to mid-August.

The map below shows the approximate limit of one hop Sporadic-E. It's likely that stations in the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Italy and the south of Spain should be able to hear it on a regular basis.

When conditions are really good, stations in France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway should be able to hear it.

Shorter skip than that might be a problem though. If it's is exceptional then the skip might shorten to say the Netherlands. I suspect that most of the UK will be in the skip zone for Sporadic-E.

North America???.... There is every chance that the beacon could be heard in North America via multi-hop Sporadic-E. It just needs someone over there to make the effort.

Reports... Reception reports should be sent to Tim EI4GNB. Look up EI1KNH on https://www.qrz.com/

Donation to the Southern Ireland Repeater Group - June 2020

Regular visitors to the blog will have noticed that I had Google Ads enabled on the site. When someone clicks on one of those adverts, Google makes a few cents and I make a few cents.

Considering that amateur radio is a niche subject and the level of traffic to the blog is pretty modest,  the earnings potential is somewhat limited. Still, over time all of those occasional clicks and cents add up.

I decided a long time ago that I would enable the adverts for two reasons...

1) Google and their Blogger platform host the site for free and they deserve to make something from it.

2) Any money that I would make would go back into the blog or something radio related.

On that basis, I decided to use part of the advertising earnings to support the Southern Ireland Repeater Group by donating €30 online. As outlined in a previous post, they have a network of analogue and digital repeaters across the southern half of Ireland and are very proactive in improving the network.

If anyone else would like to make a donation then you can find the details HERE

Friday, June 19, 2020

Slideshow presentation on the Southern Ireland Repeater Network

The AGM of the Irish Radio Transmitters Society was scheduled to take place in April of this year but it had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the AGM, the Southern Ireland Repeater Group were due to give a presentation on their network which spans the southern half of Ireland. The talk however is available as a slideshow and you can view it HERE

In the slideshow, you'll find the navigation buttons on the bottom right. The left - right arrows are like going from chapter to chapter in a book. The up - down buttons are like going from page to page within a chapter.

1) Southern Ireland Repeater Group website

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

First contact between Ireland & Slovenia made on the 40 MHz band - 15th June 2020

As of June 2020, just three countries in Europe have access to the 40 MHz band...Ireland (EI), Lithuania (LY) and Slovenia (S5).

At the end of April 2020, EI4GNB in Ireland made the first 40 MHz contact with LY2YR in Lithuania. On the 13th of June 2020, LY2YR made the first 40 MHz contact with S50B in Slovenia.

Just two days later on the 15th of June 2020, the third 40 MHz first occurred when Tim, EI4GNB in Ireland made contact with Borut, S50B in Slovenia.

The initial contact was made on the FT8 digital mode followed by FT4 and JT65.

Screenshot from EI4GNB showing the contacts made on FT8, FT4 & JT65
EI4GNB and S50B then went on to complete a voice contact on SSB with 5/5 reports each way.

The mode of propagation for the contact was via Sporadic-E and the distance was just under 1660 kms.

The contact was made on 40.680 MHz in the middle of the ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) band. Both Tim and Borut noted a lot of interference from digital noises on the ISM band (40.660-40.700 MHz) so it looks like the 8-metre allocation in Slovenia is prone to interference.

For the contact, EI4GNB was running 50 watts from an ICOM IC-7100 to a 2-element Quad for 8-metres. S50B was also running 50 watts from an ICOM IC-7100 but to a Sirio vertical for 40 MHz.

Report from Borut, S50B... At about 17:00 UTC, I worked many stations on 50 MHz from the USA. At 17:30, the opening to North America died out but I began to hear many stations on 6m from England (G), Wales (GW) and Ireland (EI). 

I immediately went to the 8-metre band and heard the Irish beacon EI1KNH on 40.013 MHz. I sent SMS messages to EI4GNB and EI7HBB but got no response.

About 15 minutes later, Tim EI4GNB called me on FT8 on 40.680 MHz. After that, we went on to complete contacts on FT4, JT65 and SSB.

I also tried to make contact with Lloyd, EI7HBB in the west of Ireland for almost an hour but had no success.

Screenshot from S50B of the contact
Lloyd, EI7HBB also kindly sent on a reception report from his location in the west of Ireland showing reception of EI4GNB by tropo and S50B by Sporadic-E.

As can be seen from the screen grab, both stations at -17dB and -10dB were quiet weak.

In 2019, we saw reports of crossband contacts being made between Ireland and other European countries. In 2020, we saw the welcome appearance of two more countries who could transmit on the 8-metre band. Hopefully these results will encourage other radio amateurs around Europe to try and get permission from their respective regulatory authorities for the band.

1) For more information on the new 8-metre band, see the 40 MHz page... https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/p/40-mhz.html

Sunday, June 14, 2020

First contact between Lithuania and Slovenia made on the new 40 MHz band - 13th June 2020

At the end of April 2020, LY2YR in Lithuania made a contact with EI4GNB in Ireland for the first LY-EI QSO on the new 40 MHz amateur band.

Gintas, LY2YR achieved another first for the 8-metre band when he worked Borut, S50B in Slovenia on the 13th of June 2020 using the FT8, FT4 and CW modes. The frequency used was 40.680 MHz which is in the middle of the ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) band.

Even though the ISM band of 40.660 MHz to 40.700 MHz has been allocated for beacons in Slovenia since 1998, it was only this year that the licencing authority there clarified that radio amateurs could make contacts as well.

The contact between LY2YR and S50B was approximately 1270 kms and the propagation mode was Sporadic-E. Even though the distance is pretty normal for Sporadic-E, there were some difficulties due to some 1000-metre high mountains just a few kms from S50B's location. Both stations had to wait until the Sporadic-E was strong enough to overcome the path loss.

LY2YR also completed an FT8 contact with S50TG, the 17-year old son of S50B.

For the first Lithuania to Slovenia 8-metre contact, LY2YR was using a YAESU FT-200 and a Hexbeam for 28 MHz/50 MHz.

S50B was using an ICOM IC-7100 with about 100 watts into a SIRIO vertical for 8-metres.

S50B is now looking to make the first 40 MHz contact with Ireland.

1) For more information on the new 8-metre band, see the 40 MHz page... https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/p/40-mhz.html

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

WSPR balloon on 20m over the Arctic - 10th June 2020

On the morning of the 10th of June, I left the radio monitoring the WSPR frequency on 20m to see if I would hear anything special. I noted two signals...

Australia... The first was the signal from VK3MO and VK3QN in Australia, always interesting because of the distance. I'm not 100% sure though if they were short path as shown on the map or long path. Might be something worth checking another time.

The one that really caught my eye was the VE3KCL callsign with the strange locator. I assumed at first a decoding error but no, it turns out to be a very small WSPR transmitter hung underneath a helium balloon over the Arctic Ocean!

As of the evening of the 10th of June, it was at an altitude of 10,000 metres, in constant sunlight, has a temperature of minus 6 deg C and is travelling at 18 knots.

It sends out a WSPR signals on 20m with a power output of 10 milliwatts. It was launched on the 16th of May 2020 and has is now starting its third circumnavigation of the planet.

More info here... http://qrp-labs.com/flights/u4b9.html

There are some of the WSPR decodes that I got which shows the locator square changing...

Timestamp Call MHz SNR Drift Grid Pwr Reporter RGrid km az
 2020-06-10 20:58  VE3KCL  14.097177  -30  0 MR20 0.01 EI7GL IO51tu  4047 266 
 2020-06-10 20:38  VE3KCL  14.097178  -29  0 MR10 0.01 EI7GL IO51tu  4011 264 
 2020-06-10 19:48  VE3KCL  14.097178  -25  0 MR11 0.01 EI7GL IO51tu  4024 262 
 2020-06-10 18:38  VE3KCL  14.097184  -25  0 MR01 0.01 EI7GL IO51tu  3992 260

In addition to the QSPR signal, it is also sending out a QRSS signal in the form of a balloon!

The image I got a grab of isn't great but you can make out the circle in the waterfall.

Summer 2020 edition of ECHO IRELAND now available for IRTS members to download

The PDF version of the Summer 2020 edition of ECHO IRELAND, the IRTS newsletter is now available for members to download... www.irts.ie/echo/download.html

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Illegal Fishing Buoy on the 28 MHz WSPR Frequency

Back in June of 2018, I had a post up about how I had noticed an illegal fishing buoy on the FT8 frequency of 28.074 MHz. Today, I noticed one on the WSPR frequency of 28.1246 MHz.

Truth be told, these things are all over the bottom of the 10-metre band and it's not hard to stumble across them.

The image above shows the fishing buoy on the waterfall display of the WSJT-X programme. It turns on as a carrier which rapidly drifts upwards, settles down and finally gives an ID in morse. The whole transmission lasts for about 10 seconds.

I was listening one day on 28.200 MHz for the International Beacon Project cluster of beacons and sure enough, there was one there as well.

From what I understand, they are used to mark the position of fishing nets at sea and are almost impossible to police or regulate.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Trans-Atlantic opening on 28 MHz - Sun 7th June 2020

There was a nice trans-Atlantic opening on 28 MHz and 50 MHz late on Sunday the 7th of June 2020. I had no real interest in trying to make any contacts so I left the radio monitoring the WSPR frequency on 28.1246 MHz.

WSPR signals heard...

Timestamp Call MHz SNR Drift Grid Pwr Reporter RGrid km
 2020-06-07 23:40 W8AC 28.126032  -24  0 EN91jm  5  EI7GL IO51tu  5434
 2020-06-07 23:28 W8AC 28.126032  -26  0  EN91jm  5  EI7GL IO51tu  5434
 2020-06-07 23:24 W8EDU  28.126102  -26  0  EN91fm  5  EI7GL IO51tu  5455
 2020-06-07 23:12 W8EDU  28.126102  -23  0  EN91fm  5  EI7GL IO51tu  5455
 2020-06-07 23:10 W8AC 28.126032  -25  0  EN91jm  5  EI7GL IO51tu  5434
 2020-06-07 23:04 W8EDU  28.126102  -26  0  EN91fm  5  EI7GL IO51tu  5455
 2020-06-07 22:58 WA9WTK  28.126062 -23  0  FN42fk  10  EI7GL  IO51tu  4734
 2020-06-07 22:58 WB8ILI  28.126083 -25  -1 EN82pq  5 EI7GL IO51tu  5451
 2020-06-07 22:56 W8EDU  28.126102  -22  0  EN91fm  5  EI7GL IO51tu  5455
 2020-06-07 22:18 WA3DNM  28.126074 -18  0  FM29fw  5  EI7GL  IO51tu  5168
 2020-06-07 22:10 VE1VDM  28.126125 -26  0  FN85ij  2 EI7GL IO51tu  4001
 2020-06-07 22:00 VE1VDM  28.126125 -23  0  FN85ij  2 EI7GL IO51tu  4001
 2020-06-07 21:58 WA9WTK  28.126063 -22  0  FN42fk  10  EI7GL  IO51tu  4734
 2020-06-07 21:50 VE1VDM  28.126125 -21  -1 FN85ij  2 EI7GL IO51tu  4001
 2020-06-07 21:40 WA3DNM  28.126075 -17  0  FM29fw  5  EI7GL  IO51tu  5168
 2020-06-07 21:40 VE1VDM  28.126124 -23  0  FN85ij  2 EI7GL IO51tu  4001
 2020-06-07 21:38 WA3DNM  28.126075 -15  0  FM29fw  5  EI7GL  IO51tu  5168
 2020-06-07 21:30 VE1VDM  28.126124 -22  -1 FN85ij  2 EI7GL IO51tu  4001

VE1VDM was the first signal heard at 21:30 UTC and the last trans-Atlantic signal was from W8AC in Ohio at 23:40 UTC.

Most of the stations were running 4, 5 or 10 watts. The strongest SNR (Signal to Noise ratio) was -15dB which would have meant that it was buried in the noise and barely perceptible by ear.

I suspect the signals from VE1VDM may have been double hop Sporadic-E while the US stations were triple hop.

QRSS... Most the QRSS (very slow morse) transmissions from North America are just below the WSPR frequency. This allow you to look at the WSPR waterfall display in WSJT-X and see if there are any QRSS signals there.

As soon as I heard VE1VDM in Nova Scotia on WSPR, I opened up the SpectrumLab programme to take this screen grab...

In the graphic above, the vertical dotted lines mark 5 minutes of time so the scan from left to right took about 20 minutes. You wouldn't want to be in a rush to go anywhere with QRSS 😊

The signal from VE1VDM was actually stronger before this grab was taken so I would guess the QRSS signal is equivalent to roughly a -22dB WSPR signal. This seems to be about the limit of where a QRSS signal can be seen properly.

The really interesting signal though is the 100 milliawatt one. If you know the QRSS callsign in advance, you can infer the relevant information from the fragments on the screen even when the signal is much lower.

As an aside, I did see a very weak sawtooth waveform as ell during the opening.

I'm assuming for now that it was just some sort of local interference but I took a screenshot of it just for reference.

Low Band VHF... After seeing a report on Twitter about US fire traffic on 33 MHz, I had a quick look and I did come across a weak unidentified signal on 33.900 MHz. I think I was too late though and the band was closing at that stage.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

69 MHz licence free radio band in Sweden and Finland

I'm always interested to hear about other users of the low VHF bands and it was brought to my attention recently that there was a licence free band at 69 MHz in Sweden.

I had forgotten about this band and when I listened during a recent Sporadic-E opening, I could hear a conversation in Swedish on the calling frequency of 69.1875 MHz.

I thought I'd put together a post to keep a record of the frequencies in use...

Sweden... It seems as if this band which was introduced in 2016 is intended for use by anyone with a need for two way communications without the need of getting a licence. i.e. hunters, forestry workers, farmers, etc or just people who want to communicate like on CB.

There are 8 channels at the bottom of 69 MHz with a power limit of 25 watts. These are in 12.5 kHz steps...

CH1 - 69.0125 MHz
CH2 - 69.0375 MHz
CH3 - 69.0625 MHz
CH4 - 69.0875 MHz
CH5 - 69.1125 MHz
CH6 - 69.1375 MHz
CH7 - 69.1625 MHz
CH8 - 69.1875 MHz Calling Channel

There are another 10 channels further up the band. These have no channel numbers, have a maximum output power of 5 watts and have channel steps of 6.25 MHz.

69.60625 MHz
69.61875 MHz
69.63125 MHz
69.64375 MHz
69.65625 MHz
69.66875 MHz
69.68125 MHz
69.69375 MHz
69.70625 MHz
69.71875 MHz

* * * * *

Finland... Finland has a similar system called RHA68 with channels in the 68 MHz to 72 MHz range.

Channel group A

Channel Frequency Usage Power limit
1 68.100 MHz Roadside assistance organizations 25 W
2 68.300 MHz Motor sports 25 W
3 68.425 MHz Voluntary rescue service 25 W
4 68.525 MHz Motor sports 25 W
17 68.225 MHz Voluntary rescue service 25 W

Channel group E

Channel Frequency Usage Power limit
5 68.050 MHz General use 5 W
6 68.575 MHz General use 5 W
7 68.175 MHz General use 5 W
8 67.500 MHz General use 5 W
9 71.375 MHz General use 5 W
10 71.425 MHz General use 5 W
11 71.475 MHz General use 5 W
12 71.625 MHz General use 5 W
13 70.200 MHz General use 5 W
14 71.025 MHz General use 5 W
15 71.050 MHz General use 25 W
16 71.100 MHz General use 25 W
18 68.375 MHz General use 25 W
19 71.175 MHz General use 25 W
20 71.750 MHz General use 25 W
21 71.900 MHz General use 25 W
22 71.350 MHz General use 5 W
23 71.550 MHz General use 5 W
24 71.575 MHz General use 5 W
25 71.600 MHz General use 5 W
26 72.325 MHz General use 5 W

1) Swedish 69 MHz Facebook Group (Private Facebook Group - Need to join to see posts)