Friday, August 27, 2021

Switzerland to switch off its FM radio stations at the end of 2024

On the 26th of August 2021, the Swiss Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) said that all FM radio stations will stop transmitting on December 31, 2024. At the end of 2020, they had announced that they hoped to do it earlier and have it completed by January 2023 but this has now been delayed by almost two years to allow consumers more time to change over to the newer digital format.

In December 2017, Norway became the first country to switch off its analogue FM radio stations on 88-108 MHz as they moved to a digital DAB+ system. Switzerland now intends to do likewise.

A 2020 survey by GfK Switzerland showed that use of digital radio has risen by 22% since 2015 while at the same time, FM usage has dropped by 22% to 29 percent. By June 2020, only 13 percent of the Swiss population were using analogue FM radio only.

A survey also found that only 13 percent of the Swiss population listened exclusively to analogue VHF radio in June 2020.

In the car, DAB+ is now the most popular way of receiving radio programs. Radio usage via DAB+ and Internet radio together now make up 55 percent of total usage in the car. All new cars are now sold with DAB+ fitted as standard.

See press release below...

Sunday, August 22, 2021

FCC issue another experimental permit for the 40 MHz band in the USA (WL2XZQ)

On the 19th of August 2021, the FCC in the USA allocated the callsign WL2XZQ for experiments on the 40 MHz band from Houston in Texas. This was allocated to John, AE5X in the EM20 grid square.

This is I believe the second experimental permit for the 40 MHz band in the USA with the first one WL2XUP going to Lin, NI4Y near Atlanta, Georgia.

The permit for WL2XZQ allows for experiments in the frequency range of 40.660 to 40.700 MHz which is the 40 MHz ISM band (Industrial, Scientific, Medical).

The permit allows a maximum ERP of 100-watts and the license expires on the 1st of September 2023.

Propagation & Range - What to expect: The band is affected by several propagation modes. Let's have a look at them...

a) Tropo: It's likely that it will have a range of up to 200kms locally but it's unlikely that there will be many listening from that small area.

b) Sporadic-E: This will be main propagation mode from April to August every year and it WILL be heard all over most of the United States. The map above shows the likely range being in the range of 500kms to 2200kms. The most consistent signals should be in the 1200 to 1800km range.

In terms of double hop Sporadic-E, there may be a skip zones in the NE of the USA near New Hampshire and in the NW in the north of California and Oregon. The one issue for the western states may be interference from SNOTEL stations on the same band.

Looking further afield, there will also be times in June and July when there will be multi-hop Sporadic-E to Europe, a distance of about 6000-8000kms.

Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP): The experimental station is also well placed for tests to South America in May and November. While it is too far north for TEP, just one Sporadic-E hop is required to the south to open up the path to Argentina (LU), Uruguay (CX) and Brazil (PY).

F2 Propagation: The 40 MHz band will be certainly be impacted by the rising solar flux as we approach the peak of the next sunspot cycle. The 40 MHz band will open a lot earlier than say 50 MHz and it could prove to be a useful resource for European stations monitoring the trans-Atlantic path.

In Conclusion: This second experimental 40 MHz station is a very welcome development and it should mean that there is some amount of activity on the band in the Summer of 2022. This should raise awareness among the amateur radio community in the USA and perhaps more will apply for permits.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Day 2 of Trans-Atlantic opening on 144 MHz between the Canary Is and the Caribbean - 20th Aug 2021

Following on from the trans-Atlantic opening on 144 MHz on the 19th, the tropo duct between the Canary Islands and the Caribbean remained open on the 20th of August 2021.

César, EA8CXN in Tenerife seems to have had the best path to the Caribbean with seven different stations in Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe listed on the PSK Reporter website.

These are the reports for the EA8 stations...

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
NP4BM EA8CXN 2m FT8 5237 km 01:59:59
EA8CXN NP4BM 2m FT8 5237 km 23:03:44
KP4EIT EA8CXN 2m FT8 5189 km 00:40:59
EA8CXN KP4EIT 2m FT8 5189 km 19:19:45
EA8CXN WP3DN 2m FT8 5158 km 23:14:14
WP3DN EA8CXN 2m FT8 5158 km 22:37:59
EA8CXN WP4G 2m FT8 5153 km 22:27:41
WP4G EA8CXN 2m FT8 5153 km 11:51:29
EA8CXN FG4ST 2m FT8 4813 km 12:37:14
EA8CXN FG4SU 2m FT8 4811 km 23:03:44
FG4SU EA8CXN 2m FT8 4811 km 22:54:29
EA8CXN FG5GH 2m FT8 4809 km 14:39:11
FG5GH EA8CXN 2m FT8 4809 km 11:31:29

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
EA8DEC NP4BM 2m FT8 5237 km 22:11:44
NP4BM EA8DEC 2m FT8 5237 km 13:19:56
EA8DEC FG4ST 2m FT8 4813 km 12:39:44
EA8DEC FG5GH 2m FT8 4809 km 13:06:41

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
NP4BM EA8RH 2m FT8 5204 km 21:14:59
EA8RH NP4BM 2m FT8 5204 km 21:12:44
EA8RH WP3DN 2m FT8 5125 km 14:18:42
WP3DN EA8RH 2m FT8 5125 km 14:15:59
EA8RH WP4G 2m FT8 5120 km 14:18:41

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
NP4BM EA8TL 2m FT8 5196 km 14:52:26
EA8TL NP4BM 2m FT8 5196 km 14:31:14

Txmtr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
NP4BM 2m FT8 5107 km 14:49:26

Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
NP4BM 2m FT8 5221 km 18:51:44
KP4EIT 2m FT8 5173 km 18:51:45
WP3DN 2m FT8 5141 km 18:53:42
WP4G 2m FT8 5136 km 18:51:41

DX-Cluster: As the spots below show, there was some SSB activity as well...

 Spotter Freq. DX Time Info Country
EA8CSB 144250.0 KP4EIT 23:53 20 Aug swl rx 3/1 x-7000 signal very Puerto Rico
EA8BPX 144250.0 KP4EIT 23:36 20 Aug hrd in il18 again Puerto Rico
EA8CXN 144174.0 FG4SU 23:11 20 Aug FK96 TR IL18 Cqing Guadeloupe (FT8)
KP4EIT-@ 144250.0 EA8BPX 22:20 20 Aug 5/7 now good prpagation ssb Canary Islands
EA8CTK 144250.0 NP3XF 22:04 20 Aug 51 il18ni tr fk58 Puerto Rico
NP3XF 144250.0 EA8CXN 21:58 20 Aug 5/7 fk68 Canary Islands
NP3XF 144250.0 EA8BPX 21:41 20 Aug 5/6 Canary Islands
NP3XF 144300.0 EA8BPX 21:41 20 Aug 5/6 Canary Islands
EA8BPX 144250.0 NP3XF 21:40 20 Aug 53 fk68 il18 Puerto Rico 
EA8BPX 144250.0 NP4BM 21:29 20 Aug 53 second qso Puerto Rico
EA8CTK 144250.0 NP4BM 21:27 20 Aug il18 tr fk68 53 Puerto Rico
EA8CTK 144250.0 KP4EIT 21:11 20 Aug 5/2 il18ni Puerto Rico
KP4EIT-@ 144250.0 EA8BPX 21:10 20 Aug calling Caribbean Canary Islands
EA8CTK 144300.0 KP4EIT 21:09 20 Aug 5/2 il18ni Puerto Rico
KP4EIT-@ 144250.0 EA8CTK 21:05 20 Aug 5/3 tnx ssb Canary Islands
KP4EIT-@ 144250.0 EA8BPX 21:01 20 Aug 5/5 tnx Canary Islands
EA8CXN 144250.0 KP4EIT 19:25 20 Aug FK68 TR IL19 59++ Big SSB Sign Puerto Rico
EA8TX 144260.0 KP4EIT 19:23 20 Aug Il18 tr FK68 ssb Puerto Rico 
KP4EIT-@ 144260.0 EA8TX 19:22 20 Aug 5/5 tnx Canary Islands
EA8TX 144174.0 NP4BM 19:19 20 Aug Hrd 4 pse 144.260 Puerto Rico (FT8)
KP4EIT-@ 144250.0 EA8CXN 19:15 20 Aug 5/910db tnx Cesar Canary Islands
NP4BM-@ 144174.0 EA8TX 19:11 20 Aug +8 ur best Canary Islands (FT8)
KP4EIT-@ 144174.0 EA8CXN 18:59 20 Aug -01 tnx Cesar Canary Islands (FT8)
EA8CXN 144174.0 KP4EIT 18:57 20 Aug FK68 TR IL18 Puerto Rico (FT8)
KP4EIT-@ 144174.0 EA8TX 18:52 20 Aug -10 tnx Canary Islands (FT8)
FG4ST 144174.0 EA8CXN 12:31 20 Aug FT8 TROPO Canary Islands (FT8)
EA8CXN 144350.0 FG4ST 12:23 20 Aug FK96 TR IL18 SSB Guadeloupe
EA8CXN 144174.0 WP4G 11:53 20 Aug FK68 TR IL18 Puerto Rico (FT8)
EA8CXN 144174.0 FG5GH 11:48 20 Aug FK96 TR IL18 Guadeloupe (FT8)
EA8CXN 144174.0 WP3DN 11:19 20 Aug FK68 TR IL18 Puerto Rico (FT8)
EA8CXN 144174.0 NP4BM 11:04 20 Aug FK68 TR IL18 Puerto Rico (FT8)

Video clips: This first one is an SSB contact between EA8CXN on Tenerife and KP4EIT in Puerto Rico...

This second video clip is of Franck, FG4ST on Guadeloupe working EA8CXN...

It's pretty amazing to when you consider that you are listening to a trans-Atlantic signal on 144 MHz.

Distances: Like the previous day, the distances were in the region of 4800 to 5200kms.

It's interesting to see the distances plotted out on a map and how parts of North & South America are closer to the Canary Islands than the Caribbean.

Propagation Mode: The map below from Pascal, F5LEN shows the predicted tropo conditions...

It looks as if there is a large tropo duct across the Atlantic. It may well be that a layer of dust from the Sahara may be playing a role in this opening as well as it travels west.


* * *

Update: Day 3 - 21st of Aug 2021
This day was similar to previous days except the number of stations was lower.

FT8 spots
Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
EA8CXN NP4BM 2m FT8 5237 km 18:02:14
NP4BM EA8CXN 2m FT8 5237 km 15:31:59
KP4EIT EA8CXN 2m FT8 5189 km 21:39:59
EA8CXN KP4EIT 2m FT8 5189 km 21:39:15
EA8CXN FG4ST 2m FT8 4813 km 21:39:14
EA8CXN FG5GH 2m FT8 4809 km 21:39:11

KP4EIT EA8DEC 2m FT8 5189 km 12:46:56

DX-Cluster spots
 Spotter Freq. DX Time Info Country
EA8CXN 144174.0 FG4ST 21:51 21 Aug FK96 TR IL18 Guadeloupe
KP4EIT-@ 144174.0 EA8CXN 21:41 21 Aug NOW VERY STRONG INTO FK68 Canary Islands
KP4EIT-@ 144174.0 EA8CXN 19:54 21 Aug -9 TNX cESAR Canary Islands
EA8DEC 144174.0 KP4EIT 13:07 21 Aug FK 68 CQ Puerto Rico
KP4EIT-@ 144260.0 EA8TX 12:55 21 Aug 5/3 tnx Canary Islands 
KP4EIT-@ 144174.0 EA8DEC 12:53 21 Aug -23 tnx Canary Islands
EA8TX 144174.0 KP4EIT 12:53 21 Aug Hrd 0db pse 144.260 Puerto Rico

Thursday, August 19, 2021

5000km+ opening on 144 MHz between the Canary Islands and the Caribbean - 19th Aug 2021

On the 19th of August 2021, there was an impressive opening on 144 MHz between the Canary Islands and the Caribbean, a distance well in excess of 5000kms. It's interesting to note that there was a similar opening from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean on the 29th of August 2020.

It looks as if the mode of propagation is tropospheric ducting over the North Atlantic as shown by the forecast below from F5LEN - 19th Aug 2021 @12:00 UTC.

FT8 & SSB: The opening on the 19th seems to have been mostly via the FT8 digital mode but a few SSB contacts were made.

These are the paths and reports that I could find for three stations in the Canary Islands...

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
EA8CXN NP4BM 2m FT8 5237 km 18:22:14
NP4BM EA8CXN 2m FT8 5237 km 15:50:29
EA8CXN KP4EIT 2m FT8 5189 km 10:50:15
EA8CXN WP3DN 2m FT8 5158 km 12:19:12
WP3DN EA8CXN 2m FT8 5158 km 12:17:29
EA8CXN WP4G 2m FT8 5153 km 10:04:41
EA8CXN FG4ST 2m FT8 4813 km 17:20:14
EA8CXN FG5GH 2m FT8 4809 km 18:22:41  

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
NP4BM EA8RH 2m FT8 5204 km 14:24:29
EA8RH NP4BM 2m FT8 5204 km 12:49:14

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
EA8DEC NP4BM 2m FT8 5237 km 11:23:14
NP4BM EA8DEC 2m FT8 5237 km 11:22:56

DX-Cluster: As you can see from the spots below, there were at least two SSB contacts

EA8CXN 144174.0 NP4BM 15:33 19 Aug Fk68 IL18 Puerto Rico
EA8BPX 144250.0 NP4BM 11:16 19 Aug 55 fk68 il18 Puerto Rico
NP4BM-@ 144174.0 EA8DEC 10:57 19 Aug tnks ft8 qso Canary Islands
EA8CXN 144174.0 WP3DN 10:07 19 Aug FK68 TR il18 Puerto Rico
EA8CXN 144250.0 NP4BM 09:50 19 Aug fk68 tr IL18 THANKS SSB Puerto Rico 
EA8CXN 144174.0 NP4BM 09:45 19 Aug FK68 IL18 Puerto Rico

Path between FG & CT: It also seems as if there was a path open on 144 MHz between Guadeloupe and Portugal.

This is the first time a signal from mainland Europe has been heard in the Caribbean on 144 MHz. Note that EB1DJ did hear KP4EIT in Puerto Rico in August of 2020 so this more northerly path has been open before. See LINK

This is the FT8 screen from FG4ST showing two FT8 decodes from CT1ETL/1 at -20dB. No QSO was completed.

It looks as if this tropo duct might open up again so it would be worthwhile for stations in Spain and Portugal to beam towards the Caribbean.

More reports on previous 144 MHz openings across the Atlantic can be found on my 144 MHz page HERE

Sunday, August 15, 2021

New Amateur TV activity proposed for the 10m band in 2022

I was informed recently that some radio amateurs in Europe will be experimenting with ATV on the 10-metre band in the Summer of 2022. It is likely to be mostly confined mainly to stations in England, the Netherlands and Germany.

While ATV (Amateur TV) is normally associated with the 70cms and 23 cms bands, there have been experiments in recent years on 146 MHz, 71 MHz and 51.7 MHz. This new experiment on 29 MHz will allow much more use of Sporadic-E propagation for contacts.

From what I understand, it will be DVB-T digital TV operating on 29.250 MHz with a 300 kHz bandwidth. This is below the input frequencies of the various FM repeaters around Europe.

I am told that the numbers involved are likely to be small with perhaps something like 20-30 stations taking part. Special boards are being developed at present and no doubt, these will be be got ready for the Sporadic-E season next May.

The photo at the top of the post is of an ATV signal on 10m that was upconverted to 149.250 MHz.

Friday, August 13, 2021

FM radio stations from Ghana are heard for the first time in Europe - 23rd July 2021

I only recently came across a report about how FM radio stations in Ghana on the 88-108 MHz band were heard for the first time in Europe on the 23rd of July 2021.

Mauricio Molano Sánchez is an active FM DXer in the west of Spain and on the 23rd of July 2021, he managed to log the following stations from Ghana in Africa...

88.3 MHz POTTERS FM Sunyani GHANA 3574 km 

88.5 MHz RADIO VISA  (AUDIO) Dunkwa-on-Offin GHANA 3734 km 

According to Mauricio, this was the first time that FM radio stations from Ghana have been heard in Europe.

He writes...."During a solid double hop sporadic-E opening towards Cape Verde, several weaker and more unstable signals appeared at 87.7, 88.1, 88.3 and 88.5 MHz. These last two stations are the ones that came a little stronger and for a longer time. It was possible to record identifications of both. The language used was English. After ruling out the Anglophone countries closest to CPV, the search ended in Ghana: the station at 88.5 was RADIO VISA from Dunkwa-on-Offin. 88.3 was POTTERS FM from Sunyani."

His full report can be found on his blog HERE

What I found of interest about this report was that someone in Spain managed to hear FM radio stations at a distance of about 3700kms. If we look at a map, this is what it looks like...

As you can see, the circle almost reaches Newfoundland. As far as I know, no-one in Spain or Portugal has ever heard a FM radio station from North America.

Back in June of 2021, Larry Horlick, VO1FOG in Newfoundland heard FM radio stations in Spain. At the time, some argued that it was not possible for anyone in Spain to heard North America because the band was too crowded. And yet, here we have an example of someone hearing double hop from Ghana in Africa.

If FM radio stations from Spain can be heard in North America then North American FM radio stations can be heard in Spain or Portugal. It's not a case of IF but WHEN will they be heard.

See my 88-108 MHz page for more examples of long distance reports.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Amateur radio exams in Ireland to recommence on the 11th of Sept 2021

From the IRTS...

The IRTS Examination Board is pleased to advise that the next HAREC examination will be held in the Maldron Hotel, Tallaght, Dublin 24 on Saturday 11th September.  There will be two examinations held on that date, a morning sitting commencing 10.30am and an afternoon sitting commencing 2pm.  Each sitting will be two hours duration.

The fee for the examination is €50 and there is a concessionary rate of €25.  Full details can be found on the IRTS Website. Closing date for receipt of applications is Sunday 29th August.

All details are subject to Covid regulations in force on the published date of the examination.

7th August 2021

Exam website...

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Experimental Station WA2XMN on 42.8 MHz

In 1933, frequency modulation or FM radio was invented by Edwin H. Armstrong in the USA to reduce the static and interference associated with AM transmissions.

In June of 1936, Armstrong established the experimental station WA2XMN at Alpine, New Jersey and began experimental FM transmissions with a 40kW power level in the 42 to 44 MHz band.

After the second world war, the FCC moved the FM band up to 88 to 108 MHz and this is the one we are familiar with today.

To commemorates the pioneering broadcasts of the world's first FM radio station, WA2XMN occasionally broadcasts on a frequency of 42.8 MHz. This was one of the frequencies used by Armstrong's station on the original FM broadcast band.

The station broadcasts with a power of 250 watts from the same Armstrong Tower in Alpine, New Jersey. When it does broadcast, the FM signals have been heard by radio enthusiasts within a 160km / 100 radius.

The QSL card at the top of the post was sent out for a transmission in April of 2018.

I'm not sure when the last broadcast was but it would be interesting to hear of any future transmissions.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Five Meter Band (60 MHz) in the USA gets a mention on Soldersmoke

Back in October of 1924, the 5-meter band (56–64 MHz) was first made available to radio amateurs in the United States. At the time due to the low frequency performance of valves, these type of VHF frequencies were considered to be UHF or Ultra-High Frequencies.

The front cover above is from a 1934 edition of the Five Meter Radiotelephony book by Frank Jones, WA6AJF. This publication was a source of material for radio amateurs at the time who were interested in experimenting with this new band.

Radio amateurs had use of the 5m band for about 20 years until the advent of television in the late 1940's / early 1950's when most of the spectrum between 45 and 65 MHz was allocated to the new broadcasting medium.

Bill Meara, N2CQR of the Soldersmoke podcast sent me a message recently with a link to a recent post on the SolderSmoke blog... link HERE

There are some interesting links there about the history of the 5m band and the tongue in cheek FMLA - The Five Meter Liberation Army!

It's good to see the 60 MHz band get a mention on the popular SolderSmoke blog as the vast majority of radio amateurs in the USA probably have no idea that there was once any activity there. Any posts that help raise awareness about the 40 MHz and 60 MHz bands are always welcome.

I have a bit more info on my 60 MHz page...

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Number of WSPR stations heard on 28 MHz in July of 2021


The chart above shows the number of individual WSPR stations that I heard on the 28 MHz band from the 1st of July to the 30th of July 2021.

If you examine it carefully, there are subtle differences between the first half and the second half of the month as the Sporadic-E season begins to splutter and the intensity decreases.

2021 Vs 2020: My own feeling is that there were more WSPR stations active on the 28 MHz band in the Summer of 2021 as compared to the Summer of 2020.

I did a comparison between the number of stations I heard during the first 30 days of July 2021 and compared them to the same period of 2020.

Now, there is a caveat with this data as I can't be 100% certain if I was listening all of the time in July 2020 but it's very likely I was.

Looking at the data, I heard an average of 55 stations per day in this time period in 2020 as compared to an average of 71 stations per day in 2021, an increase of just over 28%.

As the chart shows, there are a lot more higher Blue days than Red. For example, there are six days in July 2021 where I heard more than 90 stations in one day as compared to none over 90 in 2020.

This isn't just down to conditions, it's due to there being more WSPR activity on the 28 MHz band this year which is a welcome development.

I'm sure as the Sporadic-E season winds down at the end of August, a lot of stations will probably migrate to the lower HF bands. I'm not sure what I will do myself as once the activity level drops below a certain level, it kind of gets a bit pointless monitoring a quiet frequency with no activity. 

It's likely I'll switch back to monitoring the FT8 frequency on 28 MHz over the Winter as this will show if anything unusual is happening on the band.