Thursday, September 30, 2021

4800km+ opening on the Band 2 VHF band between Chile and Columbia - Sept 2021

In some recent posts, I noted how there was openings on 144 MHz between the Caribbean and Brazil via TEP - Trans-Equatorial Propagation. The distances were in the region of 4600kms.

As can be seen from the graphic above, there was also an interesting TEP opening further west with Band 2 FM signals at 102.7 MHz in the north of Columbia being heard in Chile in early September, a distance of just over 4800kms.

The recording below is from Felip, CE3SAD in Chile who is an avid FM DX-er.

Small opening to the USA on 28 MHz - Wed 29th Sept 2021

Wednesday 29th September 2021: This day was a little bit more subdued than the 28th of Sept but there was still a nice mixture of Sporadic-E and F2 signals on the 28 MHz band.

What was of interest to me was the small opening to the USA which is a sign of the more elusive East-West propagation. It certainly wasn't huge as I only heard four US stations signals on FT8.

Overall, a total of 99 stations were heard with the solar flux jumping up to 102 from 89.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Opening on 28 MHz to the Far East - 28th Sept 2021

Tuesday 28th September 2021: There was an extensive opening on the 28 MHz band with signals coming in from several continents as can be seen from the map above. 

If this map was for say 14 MHz then I'd be thinking 'so what?' but it's not, it's for the 28 MHz where we are just below the low VHF spectrum. At 28 MHz, we're near the limit of what is and isn't possible with F2 layer propagations.

What does the map show???

1) Sporadic-E to Europe - Despite the fact that it's the end of September, there are still Sporadic-E openings. Not only do these allow contacts in the 1000-2000km region but they also allow you to reach further south where F2 conditions are more likely.

2) Real East-West F2 propagation - Notice all those stations in the south of Russia, Turkey and the Middle East. That is genuine F2 payer propagation and it's East-West as opposed to North-South. That is a really good sign that we're coming out of the low point of the sunspot cycle.

It's also likely that if there were East-West openings on 28 MHz then North-South paths in the low VHF spectrum above 30 MHz were also likely to be possible.

3) Far East - This opening to Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore was via multi-hop F2 layer propagation. I heard 38 separate stations from Indonesia in the region of 12000 to 13000 kms using a simple half-wave vertical antenna so conditions must have been good.

4) South Africa and South America - Possibly a mixture of F2 layer and TEP propagation. As already noted, it was likely that the opening in this direction extended up into the low VHF spectrum.

5) USA - This is the first time that I heard the USA this season and I wasn't expecting to hear it for another few weeks. In truth, it was barely open and it was what I would have expected i.e. the south-east corner of the USA. What was missing were the single hop F2 signals from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Maine.

In Conclusion... In total, I heard 368 different stations in 42 DXCC countries on 28 MHz on the 28th of September 2021. The Solar Flux was at 89.

If we are getting East-West propagation now on the 28 MHz at the end of September, I'd expect there will be some pretty good conditions in October and November.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Extensive opening on 28 MHz - 23rd Sept 2021

Thursday 23rd September 2021: There was a reasonably extensive opening on the 28 MHz band with FT8 signals heard from Indonesia to South Africa to Puerto Rico. There have been hints of various openings in the last week or so but this is the first time this season that it has been so extensive.

A total of 139 stations were heard with a combination of some Sporadic-E from around Europe and F2 propagation further afield.

The most unusual signal was D60AC on the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean.

DX Stations over 4000kms...

Txmtr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
YB1TQL 10m FT8 12255 km 15:18:44
PY5JO 10m FT8 9472 km 15:00:14
ZS6AF 10m FT8 9411 km 10:27:29
PY2THO 10m FT8 9100 km 14:54:44
PY2EBD 10m FT8 9084 km 14:55:14
PY2RSA 10m FT8 9073 km 14:46:59
PY4EV 10m FT8 8682 km 14:49:29
D60AC 10m FT8 8621 km 11:45:44
5Z4VJ 10m FT8 7260 km 12:43:44
WP4G 10m FT8 6211 km 16:45:44
9G5FI 10m FT8 5197 km 17:59:59
4Z5ML 10m FT8 4107 km 11:16:29

All of these were heard with a simple CB vertical half-wave antenna.

The solar flux was 90 which is on the way back up again, it had dropped down to 73 a week earlier.

As it's only the end of September, it is still very early in terms of real DX. I suspect once we get to November, we might see some really interesting openings on the 10m band.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

144 MHz TEP openings from Brazil to the Caribbean continue - 23rd Sept 2021

Following up on my previous post, the TEP openings on 144 MHz from the Caribbean to Brazil are still happening. On the 23rd of September 2021, there was a modest opening from FG4SU in Guadeloupe, FM5CS in Martinique and 8P6ET in Barbados to the south of Brazil.

Signals on FT8...

 Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
PY2EDY FG4SU 2m FT8 4742 km 00:23:12
FG4SU PY2BL 2m FT8 4649 km 00:23:27
FG4SU PY2OAL 2m FT8 4566 km 00:21:59
FG4SU PY5EW 2m FT8 4558 km 00:16:29

Txmtr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
PY2DPM 2m FT8 4365 km 01:34:56

Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
FM5CS PY2BL 2m FT8 4450 km 00:26:26

The distances were all in the region of 4500 to 4700kms which is typical for Trans-Equatorial Propagation.

Monday, September 20, 2021

5000km+ paths on 144 MHz recorded in South America as the TEP season begins - 20th Sept 2021

It was interesting to note that there were several openings over the last few days on 144 MHz between the Caribbean and South America.

The map above shows the 5155km path that was open on 144 MHz between Aruba and Argentina.

P41E 144300 LU8FLB 00:59 20 Sep 21 Tep Argentina

The DX spot was most likely for a SSB signal and the propagation mode was TEP or Trans-Equatorial Propagation.

At around the same time, the path was open for FG4SU in Guadeloupe to the south of Brazil.

These are the FT8 spots...

20th Sep
Txmtr Rcvr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
FG4SU PY2OAL 2m FT8 4566 km 01:04:59
PY2BL FG4SU 2m FT8 4649 km 00:27:44

Notice how the signals from the two locations are different. At 144 MHz, only signals that cross the Geomagnetic Equator at right angles tend to get propagated via TEP. What this means is that stations near Aruba work Argentina while stations further east in Puerto Rico work the south of Brazil.

While I was looking up some information for this post, I noticed that there were also TEP openings on 144 MHz on the 17th and 19th of September.

PY5EW 144174 FM5CS 01:04 17 Sep 21 FT8 -13 dB 1716 Hz Martinique
PY2OAL 144175.2 FM5CS 01:00 17 Sep 21 FT8 TNX 4300KM TEP Martinique
PY2EDY 144174 FM5CS 01:18 17 Sep 21 FT8 -5 dB 1651 Hz FK94 Martinique

PT9FD 144174 NP4BM 00:47 19 Sep 21 FT8 GG27OR TEP FK68LM TU QSO Puerto Rico
PT9FD 144150 WP4KJJ 00:28 19 Sep 21 Q65C TU QSO GG27OR TEP FK68 Puerto Rico

It's likely there are going to be plenty of more openings between the Caribbean and South America on 144 MHz over the next few weeks. It would be interesting to see some reports of similar openings from the south of Europe to Africa.

Irish Amateur Radio Survey & SWOT Analysis Report 2021

The Irish Radio Transmitters Society (IRTS) conducted an online survey a few weeks back and the results are available now. You can view the PDF document HERE

A 64 minute video outlining the findings is shown below...

Opening to South Africa on 28 MHz - Sun 19th Sept 2021

Sunday 19th September 2021: The map above shows the FT8 signals heard on the 28 MHz band during the day. There were signals from the south of Europe which were probably via Sporadic-E and then longer distance signals from South America, St.Helena, South Africa and Namibia.

It's likely that the signals from the southern hemisphere were via TEP (Trans-Equatorial Propagation) with a single Sporadic-E hop at the northern end of the circuit.

The solar flux was down around the 74 mark.

While this was the first day this season that I heard signals from the south of the African continent, I could hardly say that the opening was exceptional. The two things to take from it are 1) There are openings on 28 MHz almost every day and 2) Most of the DX is on North-South paths.

We have a good bit to go yet before we see the East-West openings from Europe to North America on the 10m band for modestly equipped stations.

The DX heard on Sunday...

Txmtr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
LU3DI 10m FT8 10763 km 18:36:44
ZS6AF 10m FT8 9411 km 17:18:44
CP6UA 10m FT8 9376 km 20:42:59
PY2DPM 10m FT8 9208 km 18:45:44
V51MA 10m FT8 8619 km 17:50:59
PT2VHF 10m FT8 8436 km 20:03:14
ZD7JC 10m FT8 7542 km 18:48:44

Friday, September 17, 2021

Polish contest station works 134 locators in recent 144 MHz contest

The Polish contest group SN7L were active for the recent IARU 144 MHz contest and it was interesting to see what they worked as it shows the potential of the 2m band.

The SN7L team were using 4 Yagi antenna system on the summit of a 1603m mountain in the south-west of Poland. Over the 24 hours of the contest, they managed to complete an impressive 1365 contacts with stations across Europe in 135 locator squares and 30 DXCC countries.

Some of the longest distance contacts were to Ireland, Scotland & the Isle of Man with distances in excess of 1500kms being recorded.

How often do we see articles for beginners which tell them that VHF is more or less 'line of sight'?

The reality is that the VHF bands have a lot of potential if people are prepared to put in the time and effort to exploit them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Opening to Indonesia on 28 MHz - 14th Sept 2021

Tuesday the 14th of September 2021 was reasonably quiet on 28 MHz but one single station from Indonesia did manage to get through. It's likely that it was due to a weak Sporadic-E opening from my location to the north of Germany and from there by F2 propagation to Indonesia.

There was also a weak Sporadic-E opening to Spain later in the day. A total of 28 stations were heard on FT8. The solar flux was at 83 on the day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Upper Atmosphere Contracting Due to Climate Change

A recent study by scientists found that that the Mesosphere, the layer of the atmosphere 50 to 80 kms above the surface of the Earth, is cooling and contracting. This was based on 30 years of observations and is due to rising human-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Scott Bailey, an atmospheric scientist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and lead of the study, published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics said... “You need several decades to get a handle on these trends and isolate what’s happening due to greenhouse gas emissions, solar cycle changes, and other effects. We had to put together three satellites’ worth of data.”

Together, the satellites provided about 30 years of observations, indicating that the summer mesosphere over Earth’s poles is cooling about 2.5 degrees Celsius and contracting 150 to 200 metres per decade.

Interesting from a radio point of view, when the mesosphere contracts, the rest of the upper atmosphere above sinks with it including the ionosphere. This could potentially lower the height of the Sporadic-E layer which form during the Summer months at about 105 kms which would result in shorter skip distances. However, if the region is only dropping 200m or 0.2% in height per decade then it's unlikely anyone will see any real difference in the short term.

The contracting atmosphere also means less drag on low orbit satellites which means that more space junk in low-Earth orbit.

The mesosphere is also known for its noctilucent or polar mesospheric clouds near the polar regions. These clouds form in summer, when the mesosphere has all three ingredients to produce the clouds: water vapor, very cold temperatures, and dust from meteors that burn up in this part of the atmosphere. 

These clouds are getting brighter, drifting farther from the poles, and appearing earlier than usual. This area of the mesosphere also reflects radio waves and may well play a significant role in multi-hop VHF openings across the polar regions.

Link: NASA Satellites See Upper Atmosphere Cooling and Contracting Due to Climate Change

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Opening to the south on 28 MHz - Sat 11th Sept 2021

The 28 MHz band was open again on Saturday the 11th of September 2021 with an opening to the south to South America, Ghana and Ascension Island.

9G5FI 10m FT8 5197 km 07:34:03
ZD7JC 10m FT8 7542 km 12:02:44

The solar flux was at 92 which is gradually dropping back from the recent surge to 100.

The key thing to note here is that all of the long distance FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz recently are mostly North-South and not East-West. It's a case of 'Yes, the band is open' but just about.

It's likely to stay like this for a few weeks until hopefully more east-west paths start to open up.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Digital Radio Operating Manual - Sept 2021... by Steve Wright, EI5DD

Steve Wright, EI5DD has now updated his comprehensive manual for anyone in Ireland with an interest in the DMR, C4FM and D-Star digital modes. The 62-page document  is a substantial increase on the 44-page 2020 edition and should be of interest to anyone starting off and even to established users who want to get a better understanding of the various digital systems.

While the guide is primarily aimed at radio amateurs in Ireland, a lot of the material covered should be of interest to radio amateurs in other countries as well.

The online manual can be seen HERE

Opening to South America on 28 Mhz - 9th Sept 2021

There was a nice opening on 28 MHz to South America on Thursday the 9th of September 2021. Distances from here ranged from 7000kms to the north of Brazil to 12400kms to VP8LP in the Falklands.

The Solar Flux was 100.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Opening on 28 MHz as the solar flux increases - 8th Sept 2021

Now that we are in the month of September, the number of Sporadic-E openings on the 28 MHz band drop away but they can still be there at times. The big change as we head towards the equinox is the appearance of long distance F2 and TEP signals on the 10m band.

The map of FT8 signals heard on the 28 MHz band on Wednesday the 8th of September 2021 bears this out. There were relatively few Sporadic-E signals from around Europe but there were some nice DX signals coming through.

While normally DX signals on 28 MHz are often buried in the noise, I could actually hear the signal from 5B4AMX in Cyprus by ear. I had no doubt that this was via F2 propagation and not some sort of double hop Sporadic-E. Interesting to see that FR4NT on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean also made it through.

In the evening, FT8 signals from South America and the Caribbean were decoded. J69DS on St Lucia was there until 22:05 UTC which is about 3 hours after my sunset.

Rising Solar Flux... On the 8th of September, the Solar Flux was at 100 which was well above the 73 of a month ago. The chart below shows how the Solar Flux is increasing while we are coming out of the low point of the sunspot cycle.

Back in Sept of 2019, we were in the high 60's. By Sept 2020, it was in the low 70's. We'll have to wait and see what the average is for Sept 2021 but the fact it is up around 100 now is a sure sign of more activity on the sun. 

It's very likely that the last few months of 2021 will be pretty good on 28 MHz for those using FT8 and chasing DX. And if 28 MHz is open, the lower HF bands will be open as well.

The main thing to remember is that it's only September and it's only starting. Expect to see a lot of activity on the band between now and the end of the year.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Report claims that there has been 30% growth in digital DAB+ receivers in Germany

According to a recent press release from the 6th of September 2021, the number of digital DAB+ receivers in Germany has reached a record 21.7 million receivers. This is approximately 5 million more radios than before and corresponds to a growth of 30 percent

"More than every fourth household (27 percent) now receives DAB +. That is over 1.1 million more than in the previous year. This means that the number of households in which DAB + can be received is well over 11 million for the first time.

The number of VHF radios continues to decrease. Aided by the digital radio obligation, among other things, the FM share in car radios is falling significantly, reaching a new low of 78.8 percent. Around every fifth car radio is now equipped with DAB + reception."

While the 30% growth sounds impressive, one of the key facts in the press release is that just 20% of cars has DAB+. This is one of the key sectors for radio and it would seem that a switch off of the FM radio network is unlikely until that figure is much higher.

Press release below...

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Video: South African 144 MHz Next Generation Beacon Project

At the South African Radio League workshop in March of 2021, Brian ZS6YZ gave a presentation about the 144 MHz Next Generation Project. This involves moving away from the traditional CW only beacons and combining them instead with digital modes to investigate propagation on the 144 MHz band.

While the initial project seems primarily be for internal use in South Africa, ZS6YZ also raises the possibility of testing other very long distance paths as well.

In the past when only CW and SSB was used on the 2-metre band, beacons on CW would often appear first during a tropo opening. The beacon was then spotted on the cluster and stations were alerted about the opening.

Now, CW only beacons are of limited use with weak digital signals like FT8 making an appearance long before the CW signals can be heard. In todays world where computers can just sit and listen for signals 24 hours a day, a modern mixed mode beacon using CW and a digital mode like PI4 makes a lot more sense.

The video is just over 40 minutes long and it can be seen below...

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Life still on 28 MHz - 4th Sept 2021

Now that have moved into September, the Sporadic-E season is really beginning to wind down and I have changed from monitoring for 10m WSPR signals back to monitoring FT8 signals on 10m instead. The problem with WSPR is that it starts to get less useful once the number of stations fall away and that happens at the end of the Summer. 

On Saturday the 4th of September, there was a small Sporadic-E opening to central Europe as well as a small opening to South America.

I kind of prefer listening for WSPR signals but at the end of the day, all I'm really interested in is knowing what the propagation on the 28 MHz band is like.

The solar flux today was 84.

Friday, September 3, 2021

End of the road for HF contesting???

In a recent blog post, Frank Howell K4FMH did a detailed analysis of entrants to the ARRL Sweepstakes Contests for the past 20 years. The overall result is that those taking part in the contest are getting older rapidly.

The ARRL provided data, including Date-of-Birth, for the study which shows the average age of both CW and SSB contesters has increased by some 15 years since 2000.

The chart above shows the dramatic shift in age of participants and it's not hard to see that there will be a dramatic change in the next two decades.

Whatever about contesting on SSB, contesting on CW is highly skilled at it requires operators to use high speed morse for long periods of time. It takes years for people to get that proficient. 

I suspect the impending demise will be first felt in CW contests and then SSB later on. If I had to guess then I think we'll probably see a rise in contests using digital modes as this will be more attractive to newer contesters.

Looking at the stats in the chart, I suspect we will see big changes in the next decade.

It's probably fair to point out that contesting is a very polarizing subject and many will not see the decline in contesting as a problem.

You can view Frank's original blog post HERE

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Guidelines for US stations applying for an experimental 40-MHz permit

In the last few months, two US amateur radio stations have applied for and received special experimental callsigns for the 40-MHz band. Lin, NI4Y near Atlanta got the call WL2XUP while John, AE5X in Houston got the call WL2XZQ.

The application form 442 from the FCC is called an Experimental Radio Station Authorization and it costs €125 for two years.

AE5X has a page up on his blog now with guidelines for US stations interested in applying for a permit. Go to

While the Summer Sporadic-E season is pretty much over for now, there is plenty of time to get ready for when it starts again in May of 2022.

For more information on the 8-metre band, see my 40 MHz page HERE