28 Feb 2014

Top Band on the 15m baseline earth-electrode "antenna"

Running the 2W  from the PA (ERP not known but mWs likely) I received 12 unique spots overnight of my 160m WSPR signal with best DX report from SM6WZI  (JO67mp) at 1007km, not at all bad going. At my end, I copied just 6 unique stations including SM6WZI as my best DX spot. My reports (of others) are not as good as their spots of me, suggesting my noise floor is higher than theirs?

At this point I am running out of WSPR "experiments" that I can do with the antennas already in place. You may recall my stroke is preventing ladder and antenna work outside presently. I could give 137kHz a go but will need a preamp building first. "Down the road" at the old QTH G8HUH was regularly able to copy me on 137kHz WSPR QRP to my 20m earth-electrode"antenna" at 250km. Main issue on 137kHz is there are few WSPR stations active usually.

Maybe I shall try some 2-way HF QSOs using CW, PSK31, JT65HF or JT9-1 instead? All the while I am trying to avoid speaking to save my poor voice!

27 Feb 2014

160m on 15m earth-electrode "antenna"

I have just started WSPR on 160m with the 15m baseline earth-electrode system, matching the "antenna"  with just the Z817 auto-ATU. First TX burst resulted in 5 spots in 5 countries and best DX 633km. The system will run through the night and I'll report on results more fully tomorrow.

New FT817ND with 250Hz CW filter

Today I fitted the 250Hz CW filter (bought at a competitive price from Greece on eBay) and have been using the new FT817ND on 40m and 10m WSPR. Everything seems to work well with the Z817 auto-ATU. What is amazing is that a single WSPR TX burst can give me up to 21 spots.

Even more on 80m QRP - 15m baseline earth-electrode antenna

I decided to leave my 2W 80m WSPR station running a little longer and the tally has now jumped to 24 spots of my own signal and 45 spots of other stations. The earth-electrode antenna is no " also ran" - it performs well on both TX and RX.

26 Feb 2014

OFCOM reply re: sub 8.3kHz and around 73kHz

A precis of the following is basically you need an NoV to operate below 8.3kHz and (maybe can get one for) low powered experiments around 73kHz with MoD aproval for 6 month periods. Above 3000GHz (e.g. optical) the wireless telegraphy act does NOT apply. Earth-mode or utilities assisted earth-mode (through the ground) can be used without a licence (is my reading) but not if signals are essentially radiated.  No real surprises.

 "Spectrum Licensing

to me
Your ref: 1-641-1681

Dear Roger,

Thank you for your email and apologies for the delay in responding.

There is no lower limit for the definition of ‘wireless telegraphy’ in the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006, only an upper limit* and we unaware of any order changing that. Transmissions below 8.3 kHz would still be covered by the WT Act and would need the relevant authorisation, even if there is no Allocation available in the UK FAT.  As you are most likely wanting to do this under the authorisation of your amateur radio licence, you would need to apply for a variation.

Unfortunately, the UK amateur radio licence does not authorise use of 73 kHz and we do not note it in any relevant exemption regulations, such as The Wireless Telegraphy (Testing and Development Under Suppressed Radiation Conditions) (Exemption) Regulations 1989. So any intended operation(s) would also have to be the subject of a variation.

If you wish to approach Ofcom for a NoV we would need you to provide as much information as possible. Information required would be things like radiated power, frequency, bandwidth, antenna type, height, NGR, whether directional (and, if so, direction), elevation, class of emission and purpose of use. We may be able offer a variation, but initially this would likely be for a temporary period e.g. six months. However, there is no guarantee that we can authorise this use.  We also note that the 73 kHz band is UK2 and that means prior approval from the MoD would need to be sought. 

*“116     “Wireless telegraphy”.
(1)        In this Act “wireless telegraphy” means the emitting or receiving, over paths that are not provided by any material substance constructed or arranged for the purpose, of energy to which subsection (2) applies. .
(2)        This subsection applies to electromagnetic energy of a frequency not exceeding 3,000 gigahertz that— .
(a)        serves for conveying messages, sound or visual images (whether or not the messages, sound or images are actually received by anyone), or for operating or controlling machinery or apparatus; or .
(b)        is used in connection with determining position, bearing or distance, or for gaining information as to the presence, absence, position or motion of an object or of a class of objects. .
(3)        The Secretary of State may by order modify the definition of “wireless telegraphy” by substituting a different frequency for the frequency that is for the time being specified in subsection (2). .
(4)        No order is to be made containing provision authorised by subsection (3) unless a draft of the order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House”

We hope the above information helps.



:: Ash Gohil
   Team Leader
  Spectrum Licensing
  Spectrum Operations

:: Ofcom
    Riverside House
   2a Southwark Bridge Road
   London SE1 9HA


Great success -80m WSPR with15m earth-electrodes

Last evening and overnight I left the 80m WSPR running using just the 15m E-W earth-electrode "antenna" and was well rewarded: best reception (here) was of a Canadian station and the best report of my own 2W was from Finland. In all, I received 20 unique spots in 9 countries with my best DX report from OH6GAP at 1852km. Reports are rarely what I would call marginal ones too.
80m 2W TX WSPR spots with 15m baseline E-W earth-electrode antenna
On RX here, I spotted 34 unique stations in 12 countries with best DX VA3SK (running 2W from FN06jf) at 5514km. A decent distance on 80m.

The antenna certainly works OK on 80m as well as 630m. Next try will be on 160m, probably starting after lunchtime today.

25 Feb 2014

80m WSPR with 15m earth-electrode "antenna"

Since lunchtime, I have been using the 15m E-W earth-electrode "antenna" on 80m.  On RX it has netted me 17 unique spots with best DX OH8GKP in Finland at 1994km.  With 2W on TX best DX so far is OZ7IT at 853km. The antenna current with 2W RF from the FT817 is lower than on 474.2kHz. This is the status at 1925z.
80m WSPR unique RX spots using 15m E-W earth-electrode "antenna"

27 spots on 474.2kHz QRPP TX with15m earth-electrodes

After about 10 days, my total number of spots received has risen to 27 now with best DX report still from F1JBB in SW France. On RX I have copied EA, I and LA as best DX and loads and loads of stations. ERP 5-10-mW.  Performance  is at least as good as on the 20m spaced electrodes at the old QTH.
27 WSPR spots with 10mW ERP and 15m spaced earth-electrodes
Time now to concentrate on another band with the earth-electrodes? 160m is the next obvious choice.

24 Feb 2014

OFCOM - are they ALL automatoms?

Having now contacted OFCOM very many times in the last month I am getting heartily fed-up with the auto-response email system advising me to wait 5 days for a reply. So far, it is more like 5 WEEKS and I have still to hear from a single human being as opposed to that damn machine!  You may recall my inquiries related to sub-8.3kHz operation and operating with very low power around 73kHz and both queries should require straightforward quick answers.

They really must be understaffed, or is it just that unlicenced stuff (i.e. no income stuff) automatically goes to the bottom of the piles? Personally, I am less than impressed.

At current rate of progress I am getting inclined to TX on ANY frequency as I doubt ANYONE at OFCOM is actually bothered unless anyone happened to complain. And I am one who likes to keep to the law!

Based on OFCOM's total lack of interest I assume sub-8.3kHz can be used freely in the UK. Surely they would have screamed," NO, NO WAY!", long ago if they had a serious issue? I do wish they would reply unambiguously, and soon.

Stroke progress

After several days when, frankly, I felt I was going backwards, this morning I awoke free from sickness and nausea and feeling quite a bit better. So far, I have chosen to take no pills at all. I still feel a lot better, still wobbly on my feet but 50% of my old normal self rather than 45%. For the first time in many weeks I feel a full recovery will come given time.

UPDATE 1730z:  Downhill after lunch. Drinking coffee (especially) and tea seem to be more problematic than they should be , even with thickener added. I felt worse again this afternoon, and after SUCH a promising start today. 

23 Feb 2014

26 uniques on 474.2kHz

25 uniques on 474.2kHz WSPR with15m baseline E-W earth-electrode antenna and 5-10mW ERP
The total number of unique spots of my 5-10mW ERP 474.2kHz WSPR signal from the E-W 15m baseline earth-electrode antenna has now reached 26 stations with best DX last night of F1JBB way down in SW France, Nr Santes, at 722km. Since this table was created G4NRG has spotted me for spot no.26 at 58km.

I'll leave things running overnight tonight.  The earth-electrode antenna does not show pronounced directionality, which is a bit puzzling as it throws into doubt the "loop in the ground" theory. I would have expected reports from N-S to have been much weaker than E-W directions.

The ~15m baseline earth-electrode antenna has now exceeded ALL my expectations for it with DX reception at least as good as with the 20m baseline earth-electrode antenna at the old QTH.

22 Feb 2014

Back on 472kHz

I have decided to go back onto 472kHz WSPR TX (and RX) with the 15m baseline earth-electrode antenna. Already I am getting spots from the usual UK local and semi-local (101km) stations. I shall leave the system running through the night in the hope of increasing the total number of unique spots of my signals to greater than 22.  On RX I think I need a preamp with the earth-electrode antenna as signals are weaker than with the PAR antenna "in the air".

2nd FT817 and a Z817 auto-tuner

 After a lot of consideration, this week I purchased a second FT817 (this time an FT817ND) as well as the LDG Z817 auto-tuner. One thing  to bear in mind is the Z817 is no longer supplied with a 0.5m long coaxial RF patch lead. It comes with the CAT cable only.
Current operating position with 2 x FT817s and a Z817 auto-ATU
My FT817ND has been widebanded so it covers 5MHz and I went on that band for the first time today and was spotted on WSPR in Holland with 1W to a totally non-resonant antenna matched with the Z817.

I must say from a QRP base station point of view the Z817 is a neater, and much cheaper, ATU solution. It matches the Par 10/20/40 end-fed on most bands and seems to do as good a job as the Elecraft T1, which I need to repair as it is intermittent.

The second FT817 means I can WSPR on one band and operate on another band at the same time. As I  have just bought the OLD version, you can be sure now that Yaesu will showcase a NEW version of the FT817 next month! Martin Lynch and Sons were very easy to deal with and thoroughly helpful suppliers. I can recommend them.

No stateside DX on 10m today but just exchanged spots with CX2ABP at 11127km on 10m with the new kit.

21 Feb 2014

22 unique spots on 474.2kHz with 15m spaced earth electrodes

After one more night, the total number of UNIQUE stations spotting my QRP ERP WSPR signals has reached 22 with reports last evening from PA0WMR (351km). I am now going to try the 15m spaced earth-electrodes on other bands.

Given more time I'd be assured of LOTS more spots especially from UK and Irish stations.

20 Feb 2014

RSGB's Bennett Prize

This morning I received a total surprise in the form of a letter from Graham Coomber G0NBI, RSGB General Manager, to tell me they have awarded me the Bennett Prize, G8PF, to "recognise any significant contribution which furthers the art of radio communications" for my article last  year in RadCom on 472kHz earth-electrode antennas.  Sadly, my health will prevent me from picking up the award at the RSGB's AGM in Manchester next month. I was quite amazed and very humbled.

2nd FT817 and a Z817 tuner

Today I placed an order with Martin Lynch for the above. I was able to negotiate a decent deal both with MLS and with W+S, but decided on the former. Delivery should be this week. This should allow me to WSPR on one band and operate with other modes on different bands including 5MHz. My original FT817 has served me well and the FT817ND should serve me for years to come.

I have separately ordered a 250Hz CW filter for the new rig.

19 Feb 2014

Hoping for more unique spots on 474.2kHz WSPR

474.2kHz shack set-up currently
At the moment (2215z) I have received 21 unique spots so far of my 474.2kHz QRP ERP WSPR signal from my resonated and matched 15m baseline earth-electrode "antenna". I shall leave things running overnight in the hope that other new stations will also spot me.  The system has been running only a few days at good efficiency.

UPDATE 1015z Thurs Feb 20th: no new spotters overnight, just the same ones as yesterday, so the total of UNIQUE spotters remains at 21 over the last week almost.  Will be leaving it running all day and overnight to see if anyone else spots me. May then try 160m.
21 unique spots so far on 15m baseline earth electrode on 474.2kHz
Incidentally, as you see, only a fraction of the coil is needed and this could have been on a ferrite rod, but I was unable to find one. The 3C90 matching coil is very small and runs cool, as does the transverter.

OFCOM - sub-8.3kHz and around 73kHz in the UK

You may recall that several weeks ago I contacted OFCOM to clarify (1)  the legality of no-licence operation in the UK below 8.3kHz (band is unallocated) and (2) operation around 73kHz with limited ERP (licence exempt). 3 emails later, I have STILL to receive a response. I wrote again today hoping for a reply this time.

The same issues are to be raised by the RSGB on March 13th at their OFCOM liaison meeting.

It now looks like the address I was given was a DEAD email address  Today I contacted Spectrum.Licensing@ofcom.org.uk  and hope, this time, to get an answer.

First Ultimate 3 kit package arrives

Yesterday, the first of my 2 orders from Hans Summers arrived from Japan.  I'll wait until they both come before opening and, depending on my health, may wait a while before building. I am still pretty clumsy, so it may be advisable to wait a while.

The kit, with GPS timing, is good value for money. It came well packed in a small cardboard box as you can see.

20 unique spots with15m baseline earth-electrodes on 474.2kHz WSPR

Since improving the match on the 15m baseline earth-electrode "antenna" on 474.2kHz WSPR, the number of UNIQUE spots of my transmissions has jumped to 20 from 9.  No further DX (yet) but my signals that were once below the noise threshold for some are now above it, so copyable. Signals are about 3-4dB stronger  generally.
UNIQUE WSPR SPOTS of my 474.2kHz signal using 15m earth-electrodes
So far,  I have been seen in 5 different European countries. Best DX remains DL-SWL at 701km. I expect the number of spots of my signal to increase further in the coming days. The earth-electrode "antenna" is now performing credibly now well matched.

I am beginning to wonder how the system will perform on 160m and 80m, and even 2200m  (137kHz).

Never let it be said you have no antenna for 474.2kHz - I think I have PROVED that a most basic system works!  As long as above -30dB S/N your signal should be copied, although you may have to be patient. The results above were mostly one evening only.

One of the advantages of the longer baseline earth-electrode "antenna" will be its new direction. It will be almost 90 degrees around from the current antenna so quite a different polar pattern.

18 Feb 2014

Transformer success on 474.2kHz

This afternoon I inserted a small 3C90 cored transformer between the transverter and loading coil on the 15m earth-electrode antenna. Much to my surprise the best performance (25% increase in antenna current was with a step-up from 4t to 14t implying the earth electrodes look  like several hundred ohms. Success was immediate with a first spot from M0JXM (93km) and report from G3WCB (101km) some 3dB stronger at -18dB S/N. The loading coil today (soil less damp outside?) is around 50-100uH only. The transverter runs cool implying a good match.

17 Feb 2014

More 474.2kHz WSPR success

Overnight my transmissions with the 15m baseline earth-electrode antenna continued. A couple of  reports from Holland were added to the list of spots bringing the total UNIQUE station reports to eight. The only change has been to resonate the loop with a small series inductor. This increased the loop current by about 20%.  Next to try will be to see if the 50 ohm match can be bettered with a small auto-transformer. I suspect not, but we'll see.
UNIQUE reports received on 15m baseline earth-electrode antenna on 474.2kHz WSPR

16 Feb 2014

Easily tired - stroke

One effect of my recent stroke is I get exhausted very quickly.

Sitting on the PC is OK, apart from having to correct all my typos,but anything involving physical work, or talking, rapidly tires me. As an example, today is a beautiful sunny day (8-10deg C),  so a good chance to prune some roses in the garden, except that after doing a couple I was exhausted and just had to rest! This is not the real me at all!

Even talking on our local 2m net on Monday's tires me: it is speaking that tires me the most. At least with WSPR, once set up, operating does not tire me. It runs itself and all I have to do is check all is OK and observe results on WSPRnet.

The other day I wound a 400uH coil,with taps, on a 110mm drainpipe for 472kHz ,but the effort needed was so tiring. At the moment, major build projects are out of the question until my strength and stamina return.

I do so want to get better and be back to my normal healthy self.

474.2kHz WSPR results - 15m earth-electrode baseline

I left 474.2kHz WSPR running overnight using the 15m baseline earth-electrode running vaguely E-W. Results were encouraging. Don't anyone say they can't erect an antenna for 474.2kHz! If even THIS works, almost anything is possible.
474.2kHz UNIQUE WSPR spots in last 24 hrs on
15m baseline earth-electrode "antenna"
Some stations are actually stronger on the earth-electrodes than on the conventional "wire in the air". Best DX 701km with an ERP around 5mW MAX and no conventional antenna is not at all bad. I am sure a proper Marconi antenna would be better but the earth-electrode ground "antenna" is a good compromise system when options are limited. It is totally invisible too - VERY neighbour friendly.

On the receive side, 10 unique stations copied in 4 countries. Not bad for a less than 24 hr period.
474.2kHz UNIQUE WSPR spots in last 24 hrs on 
15m earth-electrode baseline on receive

15 Feb 2014

Proposed new 474.2kHz Earth-electrode baseline

The yellow line shows the approximate 15m baseline used currently on MF WSPR.
The red line shows the proposed new earth-electrode baseline which should place the northern electrode well clear of buried pipes and wires. It should be better, but you can never be sure until you try it! I (or a friend) need to hammer in some new ground rods first at either end of the baseline wire.

Back on 474.2kHz TX

Partly as a result of damage to the Par HF antenna, I decided this morning to connect my earth electrode antenna on 474.2kHz and TRANSMIT for the first time in around 6 months. It works OK, although the baseline will be extended later. with spots exchanged with G4KPX (Ely), G3WCB (101km) and G6AVK(78km) at sensible levels. It will be interesting to see the results this evening with some sky wave. UPDATE 2230z: No sky wave reception reports yet received.

For reasons I don't understand, I have received NO reports of my signal since 1550z. I have rebooted the PC, reloaded the WSPR software,changed frequency (several times),  checked internet time synchronisation, checked antenna current, checked just about EVERYTHING.  Received signal levels of other stations are as before. The only change is it has been raining. A puzzle as if the earth-electrode was behaving differently I would have expected changes to antenna current and received signal strength. I'll leave everything running to see what happens. Or is it just that my weak signal is being clouded out by higher band noise as afternoon becomes night? I'd still expect to receive some reports, especially considering how good some stations are on RX.

Eventually I got a -31dB S/N (just copied) report at 2034z from M0EMM in IO82sq at 192km. Shortly afterwards I was copied at -23/-24dB S/N by G3WCB (101km) several times.

Maybe it IS that my signal is right down in the noise for most people a lot of the time?  If so, significantly lengthening the earth-electrode baseline is a priority (see next post).

These are the unique reports so far on the short baseline earth-electrode system up until 2150z this evening.All stations reported me many times:

Par 10/20/40m antenna - storm damage

Looking out of the window I see my Par HF antenna has come apart and is dangling on the back lawn.  I shall be unable to re-erect it until my son next visits.  In the past (before my stroke) I would have had it fixed in 5 minutes! A quick trip up a ladder. I now have to be patient.  It looks like it has broken at the 40m trap, so should be easy to mend.

GB3VHF - storm damaged?

See http://www.gb3vhf.co.uk/GB3VHFservicenewsannouncements.html .. GB3VHF was off air 0900 on Sat Feb 15th due to suspected damage in the recent storms. The outage is being investigated. This is a well used beacon normally.

14 Feb 2014

10m Band Plan - some movement?

The RSGB is seeking views on band plans currently via their website forums (hard to navigate to in my opinion) and the outputs will go to the IARU later this year.

One possible recommendation is the extension of the wider band mode section on 10m from 29.1MHz down to 29MHz. 29 to 29.2MHz is the well used 10m AM sub-band, but changing the bandwidth allowed 29-29.1MHz (i.e no longer 2.7kHz) would mark a great advance over the current confused status of AM on 10m. It would be nice to have the words AM in the bandplan, but this is, sadly, unlikely. As I said before, it would appear the RSGB and IARU believe AM is a dead mode - if only they would actually listen 29 to 29.2MHz in a band opening.

If you have views, please share them on the RSGB's website.

This was John G3WKL's email pointing me to the right place on the RSGB's site. It is not exactly easy to find. The RSGB needs to make this easier if it wants peoples' comments! :


The relevant consultation topic is at
but if you are not registered for this new “forum” application it would be better to go in via
as that gives you the “register” link.

You’ll see that Ian has picked up on our earlier discussion concerning 29.1 MHz but you are welcome to post further comments.  Suggestions for new HF topics should be put in
and VHF matters in the appropriate topic under “C5 – VHF/microwave Matters”

73 John, G3WKL"

13 Feb 2014

IC703 and FT817 Mk II

Some years ago I sold my mint 10W IC703 (with 50MHz and auto ATU) to a local ham at well below market price. Without doubt, the IC703 is an excellent radio and an ideal main station rig for QRPers and Foundation licence holders. Power can be turned down to 500mW or up to 10W. There was a PA design fault that was corrected on my radio.  The DSP does a credible job as does the TX RF based speech processor. The IC703 is no longer being made.

I sold it as I have an FT817 that gets well used and basically does all I want, but I do regret selling then IC703 really. If I had my time again I would still be owning the unit, but it IS getting well used with the fellow ham locally. Before he was stuck with just 1-2W on 20m.
See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/hf/ic703 for more about this rig. In my view, the internal ATU matches lots of different antennas. It really is a pretty well self-contained radio apart from the external battery or PSU.

All I want is for Yaesu to do an FT817 Mk II with a similar spec and internal battery pack but this now seems unlikely any time soon.

Return to 10m and rubbish band plans

I am concentrating on WSPR currently as it does not require me to use my voice, something I find very tiring with my stroke. Just a few sentences and I get quite exhausted. I am told this is to be expected and it should improve over time.

As 474.2kHz is quite quiet in the daytime, I have QSYed up to 10m where I have already been spotted in LZ, RA3,  DK, PA,  G,  GM and 4X  this morning at 2W. This afternoon, I expect the band will be open to the USA. and Canada.

If my voice was better I'd be trying 10m AM, which despite the absolute rubbish in recent IARU and RSGB band plans is still 29 to 29.2MHz. The band plans, surely written by non-users (?), shows 29-29.1 as for use by modes 2.7kHz wide or less. AM gets  a begrudged and confusing  throw away comment in the footnotes. Reading the band plans it reads as if AM on 10m never happens, whereas when the band is open I regularly hear and work (with real QRP)  stateside AM in the 10m AM window, mainly 29 - 29.1MHz. Sorry, but these poorly thought through band plans ANNOY me.

Why can't the 10m band plan reflect what ACTUALLY happens on the band? 28-29MHz is quite enough space for narrow band modes leaving AM where it is (and SHOUT THE FACT that AM exists and is a good  and fascinating mode on 10m), as well as space downlinks and FM  where they are now. Why do these know-alls have to interfere unless they actually understand what actually happens? Band plans are usually a good idea when they actually help. The current 10m band plan is plain WRONG in my view above 29MHz. Write to the RSGB, ARRL etc.. and tell them. AM is 5-6kHz wide NOT 2.7kHz or less and at 29-29.2MHz this is fine. Just damn well leave AM where it is please. Stop messing about!

I also feel it is daft having SSTV and FAX channels mentioned in the 2m band plan but AM only gets a (begrudged?) comment in a footnote. 2m AM is a minority interest but surely deserves a "centre of activity" spot on 144.55MHz so AM folk know where to gather? Ex-PMR AM gear is almost given away and AM gear is simple to build and test. When did YOU last hear a FAX station on 2m? At best, the 2m band plan is a mess. Either leave "special interest" channels out or add an AM CoA in please. AM is NOT the pox, but a good and useful mode!

RANT OVER,but these errors do get my goat.

UPDATE 1745z: lots of 10m WSPR spots this afternoon including plenty from across the pond and at good range:
The band closed transatlantic (for me) at 1840z, well after dark with copy of W8QYT. It may have been even later as my PC shut down the WSPR program after doing some updates!

12 Feb 2014

Portable and fixed mobile DXing

One of the things I'm looking forward to when I overcome my stroke is being able to enjoy portable and fixed mobile operation once again.

The image here is of operation last year from the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.  Several stations were worked in the USA with just a base loaded whip and 2W SSB from the FT817.

I am likely to be denied a driving licence for 12 months, so I have a long wait! My wife drives the car but does not like driving too far.

Ultimate 3 Beacon

The Hans Summers kit(s) for this are about to be dispatched so I can build a 10m WSPR TX beacon. In my current state of health I may wait a few months before attempting the build. At present even the smallest project tires me out completely. My building skills are at best clumsy. Winding a 472kHz loading coil, a simple task, really took it out of me a few days ago.

More 474.2kHz WSPR RX

Since late yesterday I have been WSPRing on 474.2kHz RX. Plenty of Europeans being copied including IQ2CJ,   F5WK,   DK7FC and LA1TN as well as EI,  PA and G stations. When I am fitter I shall return to 474.2kHz WSPR TX but at the moment I don't have the energy levels to set everything up.

11 Feb 2014

6m WSPR - a disaster!

For the last few days I have been TXing and RXing on 6m WSPR with 2W and the V2000 vertical but apart from G4IKZ 18km away I have been copied by absolutely no-one and I have copied no-one either.

There were a couple of other G's on but too far away to copy and no luck from the few continentals active. My hopes of GDX or even wintertime Es were thwarted.

I have now returned to 630m RX and am already seeing LOTS of good European DX.

10 Feb 2014

472kHz TX

Yesterday I wound a loading coil on a 110mm drainpipe for the 472kHz band which should allow me to transmit on the band using my homebrew transverter. The only thing stopping me is fatigue: I get SO tired doing the simplest of things because of my recent illness. With luck, I shall try this later this week.


Since last night I have been WSPRing again on 6m using the V2000 vertical and 2W.  Apart from good strong reports from G4IKZ at 18km nothing has been reported, including no GDX. I was hopeful that the odd European might have been copied, but no luck so far.  G4IKZ gets me very strongly and reports weaker sidebands sometimes +/-100Hz. I am not sure if this is a TX or RX problem. It is only noticeable on very strong signals.

9 Feb 2014

Building skills - still poor

As a result of my stroke, my building skills are still poor. Today I wound a loading coil for 472kHz on a 110mm diameter former and, frankly, it was very hard work and at the end of it I was exhausted.  Gradually my strength and stamina are returning, but there is some considerable way to go. I think, for now, I should avoid much experimentation that needs much/any building work.

G4VXE sked on 2m JT65B tonight

At 2000z I have a sked on 2m JT65B with G4VXE in Oxfordshire (IO91). Tim is running 25W to a V2000 vertical and me 2W to a V2000 vertical.  I hope we make the sked successfully especially hoping I get copied OK.

UPDATE  2040z: Although I could clearly see G4VXE (with 25-30W) sending JT65B when using Spectran I go no decodes from Tim, which cannot be right. I suspect finger trouble with my software (WSJT9). In the other direction my 2W was only copied as the occasional sync pulse and no decodes. G4VXE would have been workable on CW so I must be doing something wrong at my end with JT65B.

472kHz spots

My 472kHz WSPR reception continues and I now have 27 unique stations in the log. The latest stations, include HB9 which is also a new country, and the other station a G.

I have also wound  a loading coil and hope to TX on the band soon assuming I can match the antenna.

More 10m WSPR

Late this afternoon I was on 10m WSPR again with 2W and the Par 10/20/40 antenna. Yet again, the band was wide open to the USA and Canada with plenty of spots in both directions. Really, at present, 10m WSPR is too easy as DX is always there when I look.

UPDATE 1840z:  2.5 hrs after dark the 10m band was still wide open to the USA but then the transatlantic path suddenly died out.

8 Feb 2014


Walking at Anglesey Abbey today
My recovery from my stroke continues to frustrate me: although walking and swallow continue to improve, I have a feeling of sickness and nausea nearly all the time I am awake. Also I continue to be very clumsy when it comes to building.  Putting screws back in the FT817 case after fitting the TCXO-9 was a nightmare. I dread to think how I'd get on with any substantial building project.  For now, most of my experiments are with the kit and antennas already in place.

Any day now I am expecting the DVLA to tell me I cannot drive for 12 months. Luckily I applied for, and got, a blue disabled badge which means we can park nearer to the entrances at National Trust  places and supermarkets when shopping.

Transatlantic reception on 474.2kHz WSPR last night - 5888km

It had to happen and did (eventually) last night. WG2XJM (EN91wn) at 5888km was copied 3 times during the night on MF just using the FT817 (no preamp) and the untuned Par 10/20/40 antenna. Signal levels were not great, but as to be expected, at around -30dB S/N. 

So far this season, this set-up has now copied 25 unique stations in 8 countries and 2 continents on 474.2kHz WSPR.
Unique MF WSPR spots over last 2 weeks

7 Feb 2014

TCXO-9 fitted

This afternoon I fitted the (loaned) TCXO-9 into my FT817. A sign of how my stroke is making me clumsy still, getting the screws back in to the FT817 cover was really hard work, when it should have been easy. TCXO calibration seems spot on. Tonight I am trying to decode G3WKW on 2m WSPR, so far without success even though Bob's signals are clearly visible on the WSPR screen.

UPDATE 2045z:  a solid decode of G3WKW (134km) at -24dB S/N no doubt aided by planes over N.London. At least with a warmed up rig fitted with a TCXO-9 my calibration on 2m is spot-on now.

Someone, asked me to measure RX current before/after fitting TCXO-9. Sorry,but I forgot and will not now do this because of my stroke and issues with fitting screws to the FT817 case - at present some things are just too hard for me.

6 Feb 2014

New DX on 472kHz RX

As of now on 474.kHz WSPR RX, I am up to 24 unique station reports with best DX 1269km from LA1TN in Norway (JP33SA). I still think transatlantic reception (i.e. of a W) is possible if conditions are very good one night.
As an experiment, I may try to excite my PAR end-fed via a ferrite loading coil on TX this weekend to see who can copy me. This would be a very compromised TX antenna.

UPDATE 8.2.14: I cannot find the ferrite rod, so this TX experiment will have to wait.


Yesterday,  I have received a TCXO-9  0.5ppm TCXO to fit inside my FT817. This has come from G3WKW, an old colleague, on loan. He may need it back.

In the next few days I hope to fit this to see what difference it makes, particularly on 6m and upwards. Stability should be much better ( x2).

I think it just plugs into a socket on the FT817 but may need to be netted against WWV or a GPS locked VHF beacon, after giving it time to stabilise first.

Has anyone tried this TCXO?

5 Feb 2014

Most popular QRP transceiver kits?

I am wondering what people believe represents best value for money in QRP kits. Rigs like the KX3 are excellent products but, here in the UK at least, are VERY expensive indeed. One can buy an FT1200 100W rig or IC-7100 for the same price as a fully loaded KX3 here.

Rigs like the BitX  20 or 17m SSB transceivers,  are good value (<£200) and look easy to make from Hendricks Kits. Then again there are several very low cost kits from Kanga and from Walford amongst many.

Some are prepared to invest a lot on a QRP kit whereas others want to spend very little. What kit(s) have YOU enjoyed and do you feel represent good value for money? At the end of the day, the rig has to be genuinely useful. Some lower cost kits have VpERY compromised receivers making the end products of limited value, such as the Pixie. The Pixie and Micro80 were fun to make but (in my view) let down by the RX parts. I did not use a kit to build mine.

10m and 2m AM in band plans

I appear to be rapidly losing friends and think I am now effectively banned from the GQRP Yahoo Group.

Why? Because I have made public (GQRP , Dom Baines, the RSGB General Manager and a letter to RadCom) my view that 29 to 29.1MHz should remain the key 10m AM slot which it has been for YEARS and YEARS. I also believe the 2m AM centre of activity (144.55MHz) deserves more than a (begrudged, anti-AM?) foot note in the 2m band plan. To the RSGB it would appear AM is a dirty word.  If I am wrong on this I could be forgiven for thinking so judging by the negative AM comments in the 2m band plan and the total lack of understanding WRT 10m AM currently.

QRP AM rigs are easy to make, cheap to buy (ex-PMR AM rigs almost given away) and a good introduction to amateur radio. I do accept it is not for all.

I am sorry to be a pain, but the RSGB band plans make no sense WRT AM on 10m and 2m currently and I felt compelled to make my voice heard.

472-479kHz in Poland

See this email:
Hi All!
New band 630m in Poland, the official regulation:
472-479kHz, power 1W EIRP
73! Marcin SQ2BXI
The same document confirms the secondary allocation of part of the 4m band too. 

The 630m band is available in Poland from Feb 18th 2014.

4 Feb 2014

FT817ND UK price

Last year the Yen was around 130 to £1 whereas now it is about 165 to £1, an improvement of around 27 %. It was 174 to £1 a short while back. If  this translated to end user price, an FT817ND that retailed at £535 (with VAT) should now retail at closer to £421 but the best price is still way over £500 .  

Me thinks the UK dealers are taking us all for total idiots. 

Yes, I accept the Japanese costs may have risen because of supply shortages, but the exchange rate improvement should have SLASHED prices. Demand a very good discount if paying cash. Don't  ever tell me a UK dealer has a hard life. Dealers, please pass on your savings to us your faithful customers.

Over 1000km on 474.2kHz

Reception this evening of LA4ANA at 1042km (JO59cu) is a new personal WSPR distance record on RX this season on the 472-479kHz band. I think LA4ANA is using a version of my little transverter too. This is the 21st unique station copied so far on the band with a far from ideal RX antenna (untuned Par 10/20/40 end-fed). This is the 7th country copied too. I am hopeful of copying SM6BHZ if he comes on and don't now rule out transatlantic reception one night if conditions are very good. There are also a few EA stations yet to be copied.
Unique 474.2kHz WSPR spots on RX this winter as of Feb 4th 2014

Remembering that first QSO on 500kHz

Strange how one forgets things. My very first MF QSO, on 500kHz some years ago, was keying the antenna lead of my small AF/LF/MF generator. Power can only have been in the low mW level (at best) and both drift and chirp were terrible but it worked over the path to G6ALB 3km away in the next village. Antenna was not properly tuned and way too short.

474.2kHz TX - soon again, I hope

Up to now this winter I have confined my MF activity to receive only as I have had no suitable system of antennas for TX. Andrew G6ALB is ordering me some earth rods, so I hope to put in place a better earth-electrode "antenna" for 474.2kHz TX soon, possibly with Andrew's help. My recent stroke more or less put a stop to ladder, antenna and earth-electrode work sadly. I am improving but have a way to go still yet. I have managed to prune a few roses, but just this exhausted me! A visitor today (for 45 mins only) left me breathless.

It will be interesting to see how a longer baseline earth-electrode system works at the new QTH on MF   I had great success with the 20m baseline system at the old QTH in earlier years and the new one SHOULD be longer.  It will also be interesting to compare performance on LF and VLF. A lot depends on buried pipes and cables. The position of the new earth rods should be optimal in the space I have.

3 Feb 2014

MePads and MeSquares

Someone asked me where I get these useful pads to stick to copper laminate for bread boarding. Well go to http://www.qrpme.com where you can find both varieties for $10 a sheet. They make any breadboard look so much neater and easier to build. You break out individual pads to use them.
There are a lot of pads on a single sheet (see above). A couple of each type (pads to join discrete parts and pads for ICs) should keep the average builder going for 12 months. They are much simpler than a PCB for small build runs and nearly as neat. You just stick individual pads onto the copper laminate where you need a pad.

See Dave Richards AA7EE's web pages of excellent examples of how to use these pads effectively. His layouts look superb.

474.2kHz WSPR RX totals

The last few weeks have been very successful with respect to 474.2kHz USB WSPR receive.  I have been using just my untuned Par 10/20/40m antenna.  So far 20 unique station reports, which is close to all the active stations in Europe. The evening of Feb 3rd saw IQ2CJ in the log too at 989km - best RX DX yet this season.
20 unique WSPR RX spots on 474.2kHz in last few weeks

Wind Farms - good or bad?

On my Facebook page I asked a simple question: am I alone in LIKING on-shore wind farms?

Although I would not like to be right next to one, I find wind farms good additions to our 21st century life. They look natural, are graceful and elegant. Some folks violently disagreed. Do you have a view?  BTW I live about 10m from a 200 year old corn windmill.

2 Feb 2014

474.2kHz WSPR this evening

Although the 630m 200Hz wide WSPR sub-band is busy, most stations in range this evening seem to be listening. I am listening too as I have no TX antennas currently and cannot erect any until I am fitter (stroke). I am hearing a good number of the active TX stations and will leave the set-up running overnight.
630m WSPR stations copied 2.2.14

New version of WSJT-X

A new version of WSJT-X has been released.. See http://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/wsjtx.html  .   As the webpage says:
WSJT-X implements JT9, a new mode designed especially for the LF, MF, and HF bands, as well as the popular mode JT65.  Both modes were designed for making reliable, confirmed QSOs under extreme weak-signal conditions.  They use nearly identical message structure and source encoding.  JT65 was designed for EME (“moonbounce”) on the VHF/UHF bands and has also proved very effective for worldwide QRP communication at HF; in contrast, JT9 is optimized for HF and lower frequencies.  JT9 is about 2 dB more sensitive than JT65A while using less than 10% of the bandwidth.  World-wide QSOs are possible with power levels of a few watts and compromise antennas.  A 2 kHz slice of spectrum is essentially full when occupied by ten JT65 signals.  As many as 100 JT9 signals can fit into the same space, without overlap. WSJT-X offers a "bi-lingual" operating mode in which you can transmit and receive JT65 and JT9 signals, switching between modes automatically as needed.  Displayed bandwidth can be as large as 5 kHz.  If your receiver has as upper-sideband filter at least 4 kHz wide, you can have all the typical JT65 and JT9 activity on screen at once, available for making QSOs with a click of the mouse.  Even with standard SSB-width IF filters, switching between JT65 and JT9 modes is quick and convenient.  Be sure to read the online WSJT-X User's Guide.
Future plans
Plans call for future versions of WSJT-X to include the other popular modes from WSJT: JT4, ISCAT, and FSK441.

2m WSPR - Sunday

Already I see G3WKW's 20W of 2m WSPR (134km) is appearing on my screen at 0902z at -22dB S/N. As there are 4 UK stations active on 2m WSPR I wonder if I shall see, or be seen, by others too?

Stability is the main issue with the FT817's warm-up drift. The trick is to check GB3VHF's dial frequency as this GPS locked. Use the same offset on WSPR and one should be spot on. A 0.5ppm TCXO would help too, but not worth the outlay. I  have a similar issue (not as great) at 6m where I always set the rig 40-60Hz low after allowing it to stabilise. This seems to get 6m WSPR pretty close.

At 0956z  I see my 2W WSPR to the halo has been spotted by G8XWR in IO91oc at 150km. That is encouraging as it is the far side of Guilford and Farnham and further away than Bob. I notice strong Doppler, so probably aircraft reflection.

Lae in the afternoon G3WKW swapped to a lower loss feeder and his signal increased and he began to copy my QRP signal.

In all it was a successful day on 2m WSPR but my drift issue does need to be improved. The DX spots are due to aircraft reflection (when Doppler suits - i.e. little) and the SW package mentioned below helps to predict best opportunities.

144MHz WSPR spots sent and received today (2W and halo)

1 Feb 2014

Retry on 2m WSPR

G3WKW ( Hampshire 135km) and I exchanged 2m WSPR reports eventually a few weeks ago . Since then, Bob has fixed a very stable reference to his rig to remove drift so we are currently repeating the test, this time using vertically polarised antennas. My V2000 vertical has considerably more gain than my horizontal halo whereas Bob has much less gain. We may swap back to horizontal later. Bob is using 10-20W and I am using 2W.

I see G4SMX has spotted a German (DB0XIT) on 2m WSPR this afternoon at 453km and an ON station even copied GI earlier. Despite the strong Doppler, stations ARE managing long ranges on 2m WSPR.

UPDATE 2300z: 2 decodes of G3WKW at 50, then 20W and LOTS of traces with LOTS of Doppler that would not allow  decode. My 2W to halo seen by G6AVK (78km) tonight but no decodes (yet) at G3WKW. These were with horizontal polarisation.