The QSO BANAT Association organizes FT8 Activity Contests every 1st and 2nd Wednesday each month on 2 m and 70 cm. From 2022 on they added a 23 cm Activity Contest on the 3rd Wednesday. In respect, that FT8 is not useful with propagation modes like aircraft scatter on this band due to the doppler effect, it is open for the use of ISCAT, JT65, JT6m, JT8f, JTMS and MSK144 as well.
After decoding some HA stations in FT8 on 2m and my beacon check found strong signals from DB0AAT and OK0EB on 23 cm as well as from DB0SHF, DB0NCO andOK0EA on 13 cm, I had a closer look at that area. At least I found OE5XHE on 1296.975 in JN78DN24GJ, 1120 m asl. It ist transmitting in A1 with 2 x 3 W into two planar antennas (WIMO) with 9 dBD each. The antennas beam to 105° and 205°. The beacon keeper is Hans, OE5ANL. More information on QRZ.com
OE5XHE to the right on 1296.975 MHz, very weak on 1296.970 MHz a trace of OB0EB and on 1296.965 MHz DB0ANN.
Complainment about the need of having an elevated location and large antennas to become QRV on 23 cm with an IC-9700 inspired me to compare my regular equipment of:
TV 144 MHz
TV 1296 MHz
LNA 0.35 dB NF
3 m EcoFlex 15
3 m dish on top of the mast
with my IC-9700, usually in use for 2 m and 70 cm and a minimalistic antenna:
5 m RG213
Ringfeed for 1296 MHz, just on a metal step on the roof
The dish in the upper right and the ringfeed to be seen in the lower left on the metal step, both beaming south. As signal source the beacon HB9BBD/B on 1296.050 MHz has been chosen, 323 km away, on the Rigi Scheidegg in Switzerland, 1670 m above sea level. It is transmitting 10 w into an array of 3 dipoles beaming north.
As the whole air space between Mainz, JN49CV, and Rigi Scheidegg, JN47GA26, is visible, a lot of reflections on airplanes can be expected.
The signal of HB9BBD/B is very strong in Mainz, 40 dB over the noise usually. The gain of the dish is estimated to 28 dBD. The gain of a ringfeed may be 2 dBD and as it has just been layed down on a metal step on my roof, I assume the difference to be more than 30 db.
As expected, the signal could be received with the IC-9700 as well. It is deep in the noise, but increasing, when airplanes cross the path, audible most of the time.
Wide Graph of WSJT-X is a nice tool to display weakest signals and I very often use it to monitor distant beacons. I recommend it to anyone, who want to start beacon monitoring.
Deep in the noise is the signal at the ringfeed and the IC-9700 at about the same time as on the screenshot before. But it is always there and many reflections can be seen, increasing the signal level. Interesting is that different reflections dominate in the two screenshots. That is caused by the different beam widths of the antennas.
The conclusion is, that there is no point of not to try on 23 cm with an IC-9700 and asmall antenna. In this example the difference of the receiving systems is assumed to be more than 30 dB. When using a LNA and a 3 m yagi with the IC-9700 the difference will be not more than 10 dB, resulting in 20 dB stronger signals.
Aircraft scatter relativizes the disadvantages of locations in valleys and urban areas.
A post by F6HTJ on Facebook informed about the new french beacon F1ZUY on 1296.980 in JN19BQ.
Despite the dish is in the lower parking position at present, I turned it towards France and gave it a little elevation of 4 degrees. Very soon the first refections on airplanes could be seen 300 Hz below the given frequency. The distance to the beacon is 440 km.
The crossing of RYR70SX was strong enought to copy first fragments of the callsign. The beacon is transmitting in A1A with 5 W into a big wheel. Nearly every passenger or freight aircraft, crossing the path, causes reflections.
I am usually happy about every beacon, going on air. As there are many beacons in Europe, the selection of the frequency and its coordination is essential. As many national regualtors grant licenses for a fixed frequency only, a frequency coordination has to be done, before the beacon can go on air. F1ZUY is an example for a beacon that can be heard in a distance of several hundreds of km under normal propagation conditions. Tropospheric ducting can extend the distance to more than 1000 km, probably interfering with other beacons on the same frequency “far” away. So F1ZUY is also a bad example for the lack of coordination by the IARU R1 Beacon Coordinator. It doesn´t matter, whether the keeper didn´t know about the need of beacon coordination or just ignored it. As soon, as LA9SHF will go on air on it´s coordinated frequency of 1296.980 MHz, interference will occur in cases of tropospheric ducting over the North Sea, which happens quite often. Bad luck for beacon observers in Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark.
So I appeal to all beacon keepers: Please contact the IARU R1 Beacon Coordinator before setting up a beacon or applying for a license!
As predicted in the Hepburn forecast, there happened an opening to the west tonight. No really breathtaking distances, but at least three new squares on 2 m (two of them I already worked on 23 cm 😉 ) IN86, IN87 and IN89.
On 23 cm I tried with Grant, G1SDX in IO80FL, first in FT8, but I could only copy him via aircraft scatter due to significant doppler, inhibiting decoding of his signals. He copied me via tropo up to -11 dB, but we had a difference in power of 13 dB (36 element yagi and 10 W vs. 3 m dish and 200 W). So we tried MSK144, where I could decode him via AS, but he had no decodes of me.
It´s a very interesting path, as half of it is over water. It should be an opportunity for combined sea ducting and aircraft scatter. I hope for a chance to try.
While refurbishing our irish home, I found some time in the mornings and the evenings to be active on 2 m. At least I worked 31 squares. Even on 23 cm I got 3 Calls to the log. The rig so far is an IC-9700 with a 7 element yagi and a linear amplifier with 200 W on 2 m and a 69 element yagi on 23 cm,
Now I have to close the station and take the antennas down. It has been a lot of fun and I hopefully will be back next year, if pandemic allows. Many ideas are in my mind now, how to improve the station over here.
Many thanks to Joe, EI3IX, his N adapter female-female allowed me, to run 2 m and 23 cm simultaneously 😉 .
As some work at our families house in Ireland has to be done, I am spending 3 weeks over here in IO53HN. I got my new IC-9700 with me and have antennas for 2 m and 23 cm. As I have to restrict my movements by government order, no portable activites are possible in the first two weeks. So I will try to work in the UHF/SHF Contest on 23 cm from the southern lake shore of Lough Mask. My favourite direction is to GI/GM. Maybe I can go to a better QTH later in the 23 cm UKAC. On 144 MHz I will focus on meteor scatter in the morning hours.
In a first test on 2 m I worked GI and GM in FT8. GM7PKT came back on my very first CQ. Later I tried meteor scatter with my german neighbour Mathias, DH4FAJ. As he has massive QRM, he couldn´t hear anything, but I copied him twice with +4 dB. So better to try in the morning again.
A question in a Facebook group about a GPDSO for an IC-9700 to be used on 23 cm for FT8 inspired me for a quick test. As I use my IC-9700 for 2 m and 70 cm only from home, I connected a dummy load to the 23 cm antenna socket. Next was to tune it to 1,296.174 MHz (of course) and to call in FT8.
The result in brief: No problem to decode with my regular 23 cm rig (OCXO controlled). Just a moderate drift and the signal appeared about 100 Hz too low. Nothing to worry about.
But never the less, I prefer JT9f on 23 cm, as FT8 is useless on aircraft scatter.
A nice inversion could be seen out of the window of my shack this morning, promising good conditions. In fact I have been a little too far south for the duct, but at least I had two QSOs to Belarus in FT8.
The stations worked and heard via tropo have been in distances up to 1300 km. Occasionally signals appeared from more distant stations, 1500 and more km away. These could be decoded in one or two periods, then disappeared. Some reappeared later in the same manner, so it´s very likely, it has been meteor scatter, as it happened in the early morning, when conditions are good for sporadic meteors.