Friday, May 29, 2020

WSPR problems at 28 MHz...

WSPR - Weak Signal Propagation Reporter. I have been monitoring the WSPR frequency on 28 MHz recently as the conditions have been really good and there are now a good number of stations mostly from the northern half of Europe transmitting on the band.

There are a few important issues that you must be aware of when you transmit a signal on WSPR.

1. Timing... Regardless of the band, your time on your PC must be spot on. I've seen examples where people are transmitting tens of seconds too late!  This is an example of people just letting their WSPR transmitters on without checking if it is working ok.

WSPR transmission outside the two minute window marked by the Green lines

2. Frequency... On the lower bands like say 80m or 40m, transmitters drift a lot less. On 10m, the frequency accuracy and drift becomes a bigger issue.

This is an example from the WSJT-X waterfall of someone way off frequency....

This WSPR frequency on 10 metres is 28.1246 MHz and the band is just 200 Hz wide i.e. audio frequencies of 1400 to 1600 Hz.

As you can see from the screenshot above, someone was about 230 Hz too low and no-one is ever going to decode them.

3) Drift... For the two minute WSPR transmission, the signal shouldn't drift by more than 4 Hz.

This image above shows the frequency of the WSPR signals plotted against time. The signals in the top half of the image show normal WSPR signals which are two minutes in duration. As can be seen, they are nice and straight.

In the lower part of the image, there is an example of a drifting WSPR signal. Over the two minutes, it drifts in the region of 15 Hz, way too much to be ever decoded.

If you're on WSPR on 28 MHz and you're not being heard then look at your time, frequency and drift.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Digital radio for the Marine VHF Band???

I find it interesting to follow how digital radio is gradually replacing its analogue counterparts.

The Electronics Communications Committee (ECC) of CEPT recently released an article outlining how digital radio could be introduced to the Marine VHF bands.

At present, the allocated frequencies are in the frequency band 156.025 MHz to 162.025 MHz and are mostly FM i.e. analogue.

The channel spacing is 25 kHz which means that there is a lot of spectrum on the band not being used and there is the potential to squeeze a lot more channels in.

In the article, it states that "with the exception of the automatic identification system (AIS) on channels AIS1 (161.975 MHz) and AIS2 (162.025 MHz) and digital selective calling (DSC), currently all the remaining listed channels are used for analogue voice communication. With the digital data exchange allocations in future, some channels will be used for data transfer and not for voice communication any longer. New digital radios need to be developed, which is different equipment than the current voice communication radios. As the result, the frequencies in the VHF maritime mobile band will be shared by four different systems: analogue voice telephony, DSC, AIS and digital data exchange."

There is a huge legacy issue though to overcome first. For a business, they can just swap out the gear and radios when they upgrade from FM to digital. With the Marine VHF band, there is a huge decentralised user base that will take years to change over.

The article suggests the use of DMR (dPMR) as introduced in recent years on the amateur bands..."The technical candidate solution is dPMR (digital Private Mobile Radio) – a technology currently used in land mobile communications as a replacement for analogue FM voice communication in both VHF and UHF bands. dPMR has been standardised by ETSI, the European standards organisation."

The article suggests that initially, the new digital channels which take up 6.25 KHz and these would fit between the existing analogue FM channels as shown below on the left.
Eventually the FM channels would be phased out and be replaced with all digital (above right). The end result would be a doubling of the number of channels on the Marine band.

It not hard to imagine perhaps a transition period where dual mode (FM & DMR) radios would exist and then there would have to be a date whereby everyone would need to changed over to digital.

In tests done in Estonia, they reported..."Participants in the test were generally positive about the introduction of digital communication with the range being the same (or better) than the range for analogue communication. At the maximum distances, the digital communication remained understandable (d = 19,6 NM) while the analogue communication experienced very high noise and was not understandable."

In the tests done in the Netherlands, they reported..."The users and the observers found the digital voice quality the same or better than the analogue one. The users reported back that listening to digital voice with noise reduction made it easier and less intensive to listen. The users concluded that the digital transmission of voice enabled the same functionality of operation of the ship as for an analogue radio system."

Full article...

Monday, May 25, 2020

First trans-Atlantic QRSS signal of 2020 on 28 MHz - Mon 25th May 2020

Monday 25th May 2020. For a change, I left the radio on the WSPR frequency of 28.1246 MHz this morning to see what could I hear. At the time, there seemed to be some unusual propagation in that I was hearing Iceland to the north-west.

Then I got two decodes of the WSPR signal from Vernon, VE1VDM in Nova Scotia, Canada!

Timestamp          Call MHz SNR Drift Grid Pwr Reporter RGrid km az
 2020-05-25 11:30 VE1VDM 28.126118  -24 -2 FN85ij 2 EI7GL  IO51tu  4001 59 
 2020-05-25 11:20 VE1VDM 28.126118 -22 -1 FN85ij EI7GL  IO51tu 4001 59 

While 28.0008 MHz is the usual QRSS frequency on 10 metres, some stations transmit right next to the WSPR frequency of 28.1246 MHz so that receive stations can listen for both WSPR and QRSS signals without changing frequency.

It just so happened that I had the SpectrumLab audio analyzer programme running as I often use it to check the frequency of beacons on 28 MHz. When I looked, I could see the QRSS signal (very slow morse) from VE1VDM but it was slightly drawn out as I was using the 'QRSS 1' option. I switched to QRSS 3 and the screen grab is shown above.

I suspect the signal from Vernon may have been at its best when I was hearing the WSPR signals. I'd guess that the QRSS signal used to generate the plot shown above is certainly not stronger than the -22dB or -24dB WSPR signal.

VE1VDM was using a QRP Labs U3S and 5 watt PA combo sending 4 watts into a full size Windom hung as an inverted V at about 30' AGL at apex, I was using a vertical half-wave for 28 MHz about 4 metres above ground level.

Mode of Propagation???... How did this QRSS signal cross the North Atlantic?

A few days ago, VE1VDM had been heard on WSPR in Luxembourg and Germany, a distance of about 5000 kms. This was most probably triple hop Sporadic-E... i.e. 1700kms x 3 hops. The second hop signal that day was probably landing somewhere in the ocean about 600kms to the west of Ireland.

For the trans-Atlantic opening today, I think I was hearing VE1VDM via double hop Sporadic-E i.e. 2 x 2000km hops. It's likely that the signal may have reached only Ireland and the western part of the UK as that's close to the limit for two hops on 28 MHz.

For more information on QRSS activities, there is an active group HERE

4000km+ path from the UK to Cape Verde opens up on 144 MHz - May 2020

Monday 25th May 2020. It looks as if the maritime tropo duct from the UK to Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa is open again.

The 144 MHz reports are shown below...

Wednesday 27th May 2020...
It looks as if the path to the UK may have been disrupted but it looks as if there was a Sporadic-E opening allowing stations in France and the N of Spain to access the marine duct to the west of Morocco.

Tuesday 26th May 2020...
D4VHF G4LOH 2m FT8 4098 km 08:47:14
M0AFJ D4VHF 2m FT8 4094 km 07:41:26
D4VHF G3NJV 2m FT8 4090 km 01:03:14
D4VHF G7RAU 2m FT8 4086 km 08:24:14
D4VHF GW4SHF 2m FT8 4404 km 01:00:14
D4VHF EI3KD 2m FT8 4170 km 00:24:14

Monday 25th May 2020...
Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
GW4VXE D4VHF 2m FT8 4280 km 16:25:27
D4VHF GW0KZG 2m FT8 4276 km 20:56:11
D4VHF GW1JFV 2m FT8 4264 km 22:34:41
D4VHF EI8IQ 2m FT8 4256 km 19:50:14
D4VHF GW6TEO 2m FT8 4249 km 14:44:14
D4VHF EI8KN 2m FT8 4230 km 15:01:11
G0FUV D4VHF 2m FT8 4209 km 20:47:57
MW1CFN D4VHF 2m FT8 4438 km 17:35:56
GB5VEP D4VHF 2m FT8 4438 km 15:21:56
D4VHF G4ELI 2m FT8 4101 km 15:54:14
D4VHF G4LOH 2m FT8 4098 km 07:19:14
D4VHF G3NJV 2m FT8 4090 km 07:18:14
M0AFJ D4VHF 2m FT8 4094 km 07:13:56
D4VHF G7RAU 2m FT8 4086 km 07:09:14
D4VHF GW4SHF 2m FT8 4404 km 04:55:14
G4LOH D4VHF 2m FT8 4098 km 00:01:27

Sun 24th May 2020...
G7RAU D4VHF 2m FT8 4086 km 23:35:26

As you can see, the distances involved are in excess of 4,000kms which is always incredible  when you consider that it's 144 MHz.

The tropo forecast is for a reasonably stable path from Cape Verde up to the Bay of Biscay but the last few hundred kms may be a problem.

Check out the website of Pascal F5LEN for the tropo forecast....

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Trans-Atlantic opening to the USA on 28 MHz - Sat 23rd May 2020

Saturday 23rd May 2020. The 28 MHz band was pretty much open all day with strong signals from all over Europe. I noticed some trans-Atlantic signals late in the evening so I left the radio monitoring the FT8 frequency overnight.

This was the first real multi-hop opening to the USA so far in 2020. The distances in the USA were from 4380 kms to 6370 kms so  think this was probably 3 hop Sporadic-E.

At this time of year, I use FT8 pretty much as a propagation tool. I listen for a while to upload reports to the PSKReporter website and I then check who I have heard in the last 15 minutes. If things get unusual then I start tuning around.

WSPR... When I noticed the FT8 signals were getting very strong, I left the radio on the WSPR frequency. As you can see from the map, there was plenty of short skip on the band in the range of 500 to 1000 kms. i.e. UK, Belgium, N France and the Netherlands.

What I find interesting about WSPR are those signals from stations running less than 100 milliwatts...

Timestamp Call MHz SNR Drift Grid Pwr Reporter RGrid km az # Spots
2020-05-23 17:14 G4KPX 28.126027 -17 0 JO02dj 0.005 EI7GL IO51tu 594 268 1 decode
2020-05-23 17:06 DL0PBS 28.125990 -8  0 JO33 0.05 EI7GL IO51tu 1048 266
2020-05-23 16:36 F4HON 28.126005 -20 0 JN19ij 0.01 EI7GL IO51tu 827 294 2 decodes
2020-05-23 16:26 PD0KT 28.126030 -15 0 JO33le 0.01 EI7GL IO51tu 1046 268  12 decodes
2020-05-23 16:16 ON4LUK 28.126192 -20 -1 JO11 0.05 EI7GL IO51tu 782 277
2020-05-23 15:30 DF4PV 28.126078 -18 -1 JN49ax 0.05 EI7GL IO51tu 1167 287 17 
2020-05-23 12:58 LA1G 28.126045 -21 0 JO49ub 0.02 EI7GL IO51tu 1387 243
2020-05-23 12:56 OZ1IPH 28.126089 -8 0 JO47xi 0.02 EI7GL IO51tu 1324 250
2020-05-23 12:56 OZ2M 28.125996 -15 0 JO65fr 0.02 EI7GL IO51tu 1428 261

As you can see from the edited heard list above, two were running as little as 10 milliwatts and G4KPX has just 5 milliwatts!

QRSS... I had a listen for some QRSS signals from the UK when I was getting started hearing WSPR signals from there...

As outlined in a previous post, most of the UK stations are around London which is about 700kms from here.

The mystery signal 'CDJ' turned out to be Patrick ON4CDJ in Belgium, a distance of about 900 kms. It should be easy to get a proper decode in the future.

I also noticed hints of a very wavy QRSS signal above G0FTD. I think it's probably M0BMN in the west of England. As he is in IO82WN at a distance of about 430 kms, it is very short for Sporadic-E on 28 MHz and will probably take an exceptional opening to get a good signal.

Friday, May 22, 2020

World First FT8 Moonbounce contact completed on 432 MHz...

One of the niche areas of amateur radio and perhaps one of the most difficult is trying to make contacts by bouncing radio signals off the moon. 'Moonbounce' or EME (Earth-Moon-Earth) has its proponents who squeeze every last bit of improvement out of their antennas and equipment to overcomes the huge losses involved.

On a posting on the Moon-Net, Joe Taylor K1JT said he believed that the first moonbounce contact had taken place with the FT8 digital mode.

On the 21st of May 2020, an EME contact on 432 MHz had taken place between W2HRO in New Jersey and PA2V in the Netherlands.

While the weak signal FT8 mode is hugely popular on the HF and VHF bands, modes like JT65 are more popular for EME due to its better sensitivity.

Here is the posting from K1JT....

Some here will be interested to learn that earlier (21May20) today W2HRO and PA2V easily made (as far as I know) the first EME QSO using the FT8 mode.

Paul and Peter used WSJT-X 2.2.0-rc1, a beta-release candidate for version 2.2 of the program WSJT-X. Both stations have moderate 4-yagi setups on 432. Conditions today were not particularly good: degradation around 3 dB, and the Sun only 20 degrees from the Moon.

For terrestrial use the FT8 decoder searches over the range -2.5 to +2.4s for clock offset DT between transmitting and receiving stations. When "Decode after EME delay" is checked on the WSJT-X "Settings" screen, the accessible DT range becomes -0.5 to +4.4 s. Just right for EME.

FT8 uses 8-GFSK modulation with tones separated by 6.25 Hz. At the time of this QSO the expected Doppler spread on the W2HRO - PA2V EME path was 8 Hz, which causes some additional loss of sensitivity. Nevertheless, as you'll see in screenshots posted here, the copy was solid in both directions:

Why might you want to use FT8 instead of "Old Reliable JT65" for EME QSOs? FT8 is about 4 dB less sensitive than JT65, but with 15-second T/R sequences it's four times faster and it doesn't use Deep Search.

When I was active in EME contests on 144 MHz, I was always frustrated that even with reasonably strong (for EME) signals, one's maximum JT65 QSO rate is about 12 per hour. With FT8 you can do 40 per hour, as long as workable stations are available.

What about FT8 EME on 1296 MHz? It might sometimes work, but Doppler spread will probably make standard FT8 a problem. But if there were sufficient interest, we could make an "FT8B" or "FT8C" with wider tone spacing.

Please try FT8 for EME on any of the bands 144, 432, and 1296 MHz, and let us know your results.

-- 73, Joe, K1JT

For the FT8 moonbouce contact on 432 MHz, W2HRO was running 1KW into 4 x 15 el Yagis. PA2V was running 1KW into 4 x 27 el Yagis.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

QRSS Signals from the UK on 28 MHz - Tues 19th May 2020

QRSS is a mode where a morse code signal is sent very slowly so that it can seen on a screen rather than heard by ear. This allows signals that can be up 20dB below the noise level to be seen.

While it might seem outdated by some of the more modern digital modes like WSPR or FT8, what is really interesting about QRSS is that you can visually see the propagation moving around.

On Tuesday the 19th of May 2020, there was really intense Sporadic-E on 28 MHz with a very short skip opening from Ireland to the UK. This allowed me to hear the QRSS signals from stations near London as shown on the map below....

The key points here before we look at the QRSS plots are...

a) G6NHU, G0MBA & G0PKT are all very close to each other and about 650 kms from my location.

b) G0FTD is about as far but is 50 kms to the south of the cluster of three.

c) M0GBZ is along the same path as the group of three but is about 90 kms closer at 560 kms.

d) The shorter the distance then the smaller the Sporadic-E footprint tends to get.

As shown above, it tends to be long and narrow and this will be shown in the QRSS examples below.


Screen grab 1.....

In this image above, you can see all of the signals. G0FTD has two transmitters and is the weakest.


Screen grab 2...

In this image, the Sporadic-E footprint moves north and even though G0FTD is just 50 kms from the more northern stations, he moves outside the footprint.

The cluster of three remain remain the same while M0GBZ disappears as the skip lengthens for a while before coming back.

* * *

Screen grab 3...

In this plot, the Sporadic-E skip distance increases and M0GBZ disappears. G0FTD disappears for about two minutes before the footprint moves south again.

On the right hand side, all of the QRSS signals are there but they now become quite fuzzy which may indicate multipath. Perhaps the Sporadic-E has broken up into several clouds rather than maybe the single one before.

In conclusion..... This was the my first reception this year of the UK QRSS stations on 28 MHz and as you can see from what's written above, the plots show a lot.

From what I now, the QRSS mode is the only one where you can actually see on a screen how the propagation is moving around in real time.

Listen on 28.0008 MHz on CW for these stations running just a few hundred milliwatts.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

276km Reception of Beacon in Wales on 28 MHz

During a Sporadic-E opening on the 20th of May 2020, I came across GW7HDS/B beacon in the south of Wales on 28.2215 MHz.

This is a very unusual beacon for me as it is 276 kms away and would normally be too far away for tropo and too close for Sporadic-E. When I heard it first, I thought it must have been some exceptionally short Sporadic-E.

I noticed however that the signal was pretty constant. After a few hours, it was still there and didn't behave like Sporadic-E.

By accident, I also noticed that the BBC Radio 4 signal on 104.9 MHz from Haverfordwest on the west coast of Wales was a big signal here. Even though it is some 140 kms distant, I was able to listen to it using just my mobile phone and the headset lead as an antenna.

Later in the evening, the GW7HDS beacon had gone and coincidentally, so had the signal on 104.9 MHz.

I often hear stations on the west coast of Wales on 10m on FT8 but it's hard to read any meaning into signals that are there in bursts and are infrequent. Are they tropo? Aircraft scatter? Back scatter?

Tropo conditions on the higher VHF bands like 2-metres and 70-cms are pretty common but not so much on the lower bands like 10-metres. Was it a tropo signal on 28 MHz? Possibly but I still suspect it might have been backscatter for Sporadic-E.

With the beacon frequency stored safely in a memory channel on the radio, I'll have to look out for it again in the future.

WSPR signals on 28 MHz - Tues 19th May 2020

Every day, I monitor the FT8 frequency on 28 MHz and feed the spots up to the PSKReporter website. I don't have any real interest in making loads of contacts but I use the FT8 reports to follow the propagation and watch for unusual conditions.

On Tues 19th May 2020, I could see that the Sporadic-E skip was going short so I left the FT8 signals and concentrated on QRSS and WSPR signals instead. The map above shows the WSPR stations heard on 28 MHz over the space of maybe two hours.

What is interesting here are the signals from the UK with a skip distance as short as 400 kms on 28 MHz, a really intense opening. I also heard the GB3XMB beacon on CW which ties in with this.

What I find really amazing though are the stations running very low power on WSPR.

These are the stations I heard with less than 100 milliwatts....

Timestamp       Call MHz SNR Drift Grid Pwr Reporter RGrid km az # Spots
 2020-05-19 19:04 G4KPX 28.126173 -18 2 JO02dj  0.005  EI7GL IO51tu 594 268
 2020-05-19 18:58 LA1G 28.126058 -27  0 JO49ub 0.02  EI7GL IO51tu 1387 243
 2020-05-19 18:42 DL0PBS 28.125998 -16 0 JO33 0.05 EI7GL IO51tu 1048 266  11 
 2020-05-19 18:26 PD0KT  28.126187 -13 0 JO33le 0.01  EI7GL IO51tu 1046 268 28 
 2020-05-19 17:30 OZ1IPH  28.126102 -21 0 JO47xi 0.02  EI7GL IO51tu 1324 250  3 
 2020-05-19 17:26 PA2REH 28.126176 -15  0 JO22fe  0.05 EI7GL IO51tu 878 273  17 
 2020-05-19 17:26 OZ0RF 28.126042 -23 0 JO65fr 0.02  EI7GL IO51tu 1428 261 5 

As you can see, these range from 50 milliwatts all the way down to an amazing 5 milliwatts!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Report on 60 MHz activity for Mon 18th May 2020

Monday 18th May 2020. This was another excellent day for Sporadic-E with the MUF extending up to 70 MHz.

1) 60 MHz Crossband Contacts - Tim EI4GNB reports making no less than four crossband contacts on FT8 from 60 MHz to 70 MHz.

DG1VL (JO61WE) was at 10:18 UTC, S59F (JN65TX) was at 10:24 UTC, SP9HWY (JO90NH) was at 10:35 UTC and DL5WG (JO52XJ) was at 11:00 UTC.

Screenshot of the FT8 contact with DG1VL
Screenshot of the FT8 contact with DG1VL
1) For more information on the 60 MHz band, visit this page...

Report on 40 MHz activity for Mon 18th May 2020

There was an extensive Sporadic-E opening across Europe on Monday the 18th of May 2020 with strong signals being reported on all the VHF bands from 28 MHz to 70 MHz. This is a report on some of the activity on the new 40 MHz band.

1) 40 MHz Crossband contacts - Tim EI4GNB reports working crossband from 40 MHz to 28 MHz with DJ3AK (JO52GJ) at 11:22 UTC and OE3FVU (JN78VE) at 11:28 UTC. All contacts were on FT8.

The distances were roughly 1200 kms and 1700 kms respectively. Tim was also busy making more crossband contacts from the 60 MHz band, I'll put that in a separate report.


2) Irish 40 MHz EI1KNH Beacon - At least three stations reported reception of the Irish EI1KNH beacon on 40.013 MHz.

a) Gintas LY2YR (KO24OS) managed to get four successful decodes of the beacon using the PI4 software.

40M 11:45 UTC EI1KNH PI4: S/N=-19 dB Q=46 T=0,40 s F=50 Hz Carrier: F=851,6 Hz C/N=-17 dB
40M 11:46 UTC EI1KNH PI4: S/N=-19 dB Q=60 T=0,35 s F=50 Hz Carrier: F=851,6 Hz C/N=-23 dB
40M 11:50 UTC EI1KNH PI4: S/N=-20 dB Q=36 T=0,37 s F=55 Hz Carrier: F=852,4 Hz C/N=-19 dB
40M 11:52 UTC EI1KNH PI4: S/N=-19 dB Q=20 T=0,40 s F=55 Hz Carrier: F=852,5 Hz C/N=-31 dB

The signal was quite weak at -19dB to -20dB which is understandable considering the distance is over 2,000kms.

b) Andreas DJ5AR in Germany got six successful PI4 decodes  with the signal going from =1dB to -12 dB.

c) Tom SP5MXU in Poland also reports reception of the beacon with an ICOM IC7300 and a 5 element beam for 50 MHz...

This short video clip shows reception of the EI1KNH beacon in Poland...

* * * *

3) Danish 40 MHz OZ7IGY Beacon - There were two reports of the beacon on the DX Cluster.

a) Michael EI3GYB reported reception of the OZ7IGY beacon on 40.071 MHz at 12:19 UTC.

b) And finally EI7GL! I managed to hear the Danish beacon in two separate openings. The first one I caught was roughly from 13:03 UTC to 13:54 UTC with the second shorter opening from 17:42 to 17:51 UTC.

There may have been more openings of course but this is what I heard.

1) For more information on the 40 MHz band, visit this page...

Monday, May 18, 2020

Mystery carrier on 28.223 MHz - Update: Resolved

Original post: There was a Sporadic-E opening today and I noted a constant carrier on 28.223 MHz. I noted this the previous day as well but it was stronger today. Just a constant carrier with no identification.

While I was waiting for it to ID, I thought I heard a very slight change in tone.

When I looked at the audio, sure enough it was changing frequency by about 4 Hz as can be seen above. This happened about 5 times a minute.

At the time, I was hearing lots of FT8 stations from France so I presume it was the F5SN beacon listed as 28.223 MHz? I sent an email to inquire but the question and answer got lost somewhere in Google Translate.

I did hear F5SN giving out its ID on the 29th of April so I'm not sure what happened to it.

Not exactly a QRSS (slow morse) signal but unusual all the same.

Update: 18th May 2020. I finally managed to discover thee identity of the mystery carrier on 28.223 MHz.

On the 18th of May, conditions on 28 MHz were really good and the mystery carrier on 28.223 MHz was nice and strong. This time however when I tuned around, I heard the F5BN/B beacon on CW just above the carrier. Not only that but I found an identical CW signal just below the carrier! One beacon, two signals.

Two CW signals with a big carrier in between.... I knew straight away that it had to be an AM signal!

Reception reports for the EI1KNH 40 MHz Beacon - May 2020

Sunday 17th May 2020. Interesting to see a report on the PSKReporter website showing EA3ERE near Barcelona reporting reception of the EI1KNH/B beacon on 40.013 MHz.

F4FRQ in JN37KQ also reported it on the DX Cluster.

* * * 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Opening to Denmark on 40 MHz - May 2020

17th May 2020 - This was my first reception report of the OZ7IGY beacon in Denmark on 40 MHz for May 2020. I first noticed the OZ7IGY beacon on 28 MHz and tuned to 40.071 MHz and heard nothing.

I left the room and about 30 seconds later, I could hear the unmistakable PI4 tones of the beacon as it just popped up out of the noise. 

 As the chart shows, the opening for me on 40 MHz lasted about 20 minutes.

It seems as if the Sporadic-E footprint was pretty localised as another EI station about 150 kms to the north of me couldn't hear the beacon at all.

Update: Later I noticed that my spot for the DX Cluster ended up on the PSKReporter website as well...

I'm not sure how that happened but it was interesting to see that the PSKReporter site reported it as a 40 MHz PI4 report even though there doesn't seem to be any provision to select 40 MHz as a band on the site.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

First Crossband Contact between Ireland and Spain on 40 MHz - 15th May 2020

There was a good Sporadic-E opening on Friday 15th May 2020 from the UK and Ireland south to the Iberian Peninsula. Tim, EI4GNB reports that the MUF extended up as far as 70 MHz and he managed to work two Spanish stations crossband between the 40 MHz and 50 MHz bands. This was the first crossband contact on 40 MHz between Ireland and Spain.

This is a screen shot from Tim of the FT8 contact with EA1YV in IN52OC square...

As the screen shows above, the FT8 contact with EA1YV took place at about 16:56 UTC and was followed straight away by a 8m/6m FT contact with EA1HRR in IN83JJ.

Tim reports trying a 60 MHz to 70 MHz contact with EA1YV as well. Even though the Spanish was S9 on 70 MHz, the Sporadic-E footprint on 60 MHz wasn't in the right spot.

1) Lots of information about the new 40 MHz band can be found on my 40 MHz page.

Japan & USA heard on 28 MHz - Fri 15th May 2020

Friday 15th May 2020. As we reach the middle of May, the multi-hop Sporadic-E paths on 28 MHz are really starting to open up.

Japan... The big suprise for me was the reception of JJ1RDX in Japan. I checked the spot and it's genuine. At 9,767 kms, this probably required in the region of 5 or 6 Sp-E hops to reach here.

USA... K9RX in South Carolina was heard at a distance of just over 6,000 kms. 

What is significant here is not so much the distance but the fact the opening was East-West. North-South openings are not so special as one hop to the south from N Europe and you're into an area where F2 and TEP is possible. It's the East-West openings that are special.

Sp-E... From just a European perspective, the opening to Europe wasn't great. Even though there are lots of dots on the map, the band was open for hours to just Spain and Portugal and no where else. I did several scans and heard just three CW beacons all day.

These are the FT8 stations heard over 2,500 kms...

Friday, May 15, 2020

New home wanted for the GB3RAL suite of HF & VHF beacons

The RSGB have announced that the GB3RAL suite of HF and VHF beacons at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, England have been turned off due to developments on the site. 

They are now looking for a new home for the beacons somewhere in the UK. It is also hoped that the beacons will be upgraded so that they are all locked with a more modern GPS technology.

Interested parties or groups should contact the Propagation Studies Committee of the RSGB.

The GB3RAL beacon was originally intended to operate on six bands (60m, 10m, 8m, 6m, 5m and 4m) but most have been out of action for some time.

60m - The 60-metre beacon on  5.290 MHz was last spotted on the DX Cluster in December of 2016.

10m - The 10-metre beacon on 28.215 MHz was last spotted as recently as February of 2020 and it was last spotted consistently in July of 2019.

8m - The 8-metre beacon on 40.050 MHz was last spotted in June of 2014. Despite the beacon being listed on current beacon lists, it hasn't been on the air for the last six years.

6m - The 6-metre beacon on 50.050 MHz was last spotted in June 2018.

5m - There was supposed to have been a 5-metre beacon on 60.050 MHz but the DX Cluster has no record of it ever being spotted.

4m - The 4-metre beacon on 70.050 MHz was last spotted in July 2016.

The two beacons of particular interest to me are the ones for 40 MHz and 60 MHz. There are only two beacons in the world currently on air on the 40 MHz band which these are in Ireland and Denmark. On 60 MHz, there is just one beacon in Ireland. It would be great to see these 8m and 5m beacons up and running properly from the UK.

Opening to the Caribbean on 28 MHz - Thurs 14th May 2020

Thurs 14th May 2020. While the Sporadic-E opening on 28 MHz to Europe was modest enough, it was an interesting day in terms of DX. As the map shows above, there was an opening to the Caribbean with Cuba being heard.

The map really doesn't show the full extent of the opening as I was just using a half-wave vertical. I noticed that a station in Wales was hearing Florida and even a few stations in the New England area of the USA. There was also an opening in the morning from Europe to Japan.

I noticed also that there was an opening on 50 MHz from Europe to the Caribbean.

All of these East-West openings are probably due to multi-hop Sporadic-E and we should see many more openings like this for the next few weeks.

FT8 stations heard over 2,500kms...

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Facebook Group for the 40 MHz & 60 MHz bands

There is now a new Facebook Group for those interested in the new 40 MHz & 60 MHz amateur radio bands...

The objective of the group is to allow those interested in the new 8-metre and 5-metre bands to share information about equipment, antennas, propagation and tests.

By having a dedicated Facebook group, there is now a place where people interested in the new bands can get to talk to each other.

Prior to this, a lot of the 40 MHz and 60 MHz information and posts was buried in the noise of other groups and forums.

The group is open to all those with or without amateur radio call signs. Any information about other Low Band VHF signals and propagation is also welcome. i.e. 30 to 49 MHz and 54 to 69 MHz.

Crossband activity on 40 MHz - Mon 11th May 2020

There was an extensive Sporadic-E opening on Monday the 11th of May 2020 with strong signals across Europe on the 28 MHz and 50 MHz bands.

The new 40 MHz band was also open and the image above is a screenshot I took of the DXMaps 40 MHz page on the day.

Lloyd, EI7HBB ...Lloyd managed to work OE1HHB in Austria on SSB for a 40 MHz to 50 MHz crossband contact at 18:18 UTC. Lloyd comments that he received a signal report of 5/3 on 40 MHz with the Austrian station being 5/5 on 50 MHz. He also notes that that he received a 5/8 for their simplex contact on 50 MHz and speculates that the difference is due to resonant and non-resonant antennas for the respective bands.

Lloyd also worked the club station DL0AA in Germany for another 8m/6m SSB crossband contact at 18:35 UTC. For the simplex contact on 50 MHz, there was an exchange of 5/9 both ways. On 40 MHz, the German station gave Lloyd a reception report of 5/3.

Lloyd also reports nearly working a French station crossband but lost him in QSB.

DX-Cluster spots...
EI7HBB 40680.0 DL0AA 18:36 11 May cross band 50130 Fed. Rep. of Germany (Corrected from initial DL9AAA spot)
EI7HBB 40680.0 OE1HHB 18:18 11 May cross band 50152 Austria

Tim, EI4GNB ...Tim managed to complete an FT8 crossband contact with OE3EMC in Austria.

FT8 contact between EI4GNB on 40 MHz and OE3EMC on 28 MHz

FT8 contact between EI4GNB on 40 MHz and OE3EMC on 28 MHz

EI4GNB calling CQ crossband on 40 MHz

DX-Cluster spots...
OE3EMC 40220.0 EI4GNB 19:15 11 May JN78JO<ES>IO63 tnx Crossband 8 Ireland
OE3EMC 40220.0 EI4GNB 19:01 11 May JN78JO<ES>IO63 i call you 5031 Ireland
EA3ERE 40220.0 EI4GNB 19:00 11 May FT8 -23 dB cq XBAND 8m/6m Ireland
EA3ERE 40220.0 EI4GNB 18:49 11 May FT8 -23 dB 1786 Hz cq Ireland
OE3EMC 40220.0 EI4GNB 18:47 11 May JN78JO<ES>IO63 Ireland
9A5CW 40220.0 EI4GNB 18:37 11 May FT8 -5 dB 1532 Hz Ireland

1) Lots of info and links on my 40 MHz page
2) DXMaps website ... Look for the dedicated 40 MHz propagation map