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Think of the Ionosphere as the original Wifi, No Cables, No Computers, No repeaters just good old plain nature. With the right propagation for the time of day and the time of year HF signals bounce off of the Ionosphere and back down to Earth again sometimes many thousands of miles away. So on some bands it is possible to make contact with the likes of Australia and the U.S easily. However propagation has to be good and for that we need to know about Sunspots and SFI (Solar Flux Index). Good Propagation predictor sites are Voacap and Predtest
How Long is this Solar minimum going to last?.
At the moment we are on a sunspot low and that is not good for propagation, so much so that it has the potential to close bands off completely. Today it is only 7.8,and the Solar Flux is Max 70 which isn’t far off of the lowest figure you can get of 65-66, they reckon the actual Solar Minimum will be 2018-2019. So hopefully it will be early 2018 where things will start to pick up again, I doubt it but you never know. Great site for checking Sunspot and SFI activity is solarham.net
This one most amateurs use even if they don’t know it, (Well the VHF/UHF bands users) is Tropospheric Ducting, Yes because it uses the Troposphere not the Ionosphere. I once stood on The White Cliffs of Dover with my little Baofeng UV5R 5Watt radio (you know, that one that a lot of amateurs think of as useless piece of junk) and I was talking to a Dutch amateur on the PI2NOS repeater he was in Amsterdam 99 miles away as the crow flies and absolutely 5.9 either way (if it had a gauge). Now 99 miles with a cheapie Chinese 5Watt radio to me has to have been aided by propagation in some way shape or form. The conditions were perfect for Tropo, there was even a low(Ish) fog across the English Channel.
Now using my Kenwood TH D74 handheld I have eclipsed the Baofeng by chatting on a repeater 153 miles away in Caen (Normandy) only possible because of Tropo ducting so don’t write off a distant contact and keep an eye on these two sites to see what is going on and when
Dover White Cliffs, great place when there’s Tropospheric Ducting
Looking for Tropo for VHF? Then best you check out this site Click Here
The Propagation Prediction websites featured here all give exactly that, predictions, I wouldn’t take it all as gospel, but they can give a good indication of what will be the best band to operate on for Dxing. Whilst I know a bit about Propagation my baby is Tropospheric Ducting.
Radio’s like Icom 7300 and 7610, and Yaesu FTDX 9000 and 3000 operate on high power and as they’re HF are designed with long distance in mind. However Radio's like my trusty Yaesu FTM 100 and certainly my Baofeng UV5r are designed for extremely local stuff, mind you the Yaesu is armed with C4FM capabilities. But whether you use a repeater or Openspot for distant contact nothing beats good old fashioned Tropo.
Is it possible to get 147 miles or more on a 50w mobile 2M 70\cm radio? Yes and considerably further. Is it possible to get 100 miles using a 5W Baofeng UV5r? Well yes actually, using Tropospheric Ducting (Tried and Completed three times now)
This is just a pic, for Current VHF conditions site Click Here
Helpful Radio Manuals
Icom Base and Mobile
Wot No Sunspots?
I’m afraid it’s that eleven year lull once again, At present VHF/UHF seem to be getting the occasional lift, but with HF it’s few and far between 0 SSN with a SFI of just 69 as I type this, not the best conditions and certainly not the most disastrous either.
On a Field Day? Try these.
Firmware and Other Downloads
For Kenwood Products, click Here
For Icom Products Click Here
For Yaesu, Go to their website and Click on Products
I think people know by now that I like the digital modes of the hobby too and have always wondered what what the clearer of the three MAIN modes.
What is best? Dstar? C4FM (Fusion)? Or DMR?
Today my Yaesu FTM100DE (C4FM Radio) sounded like I have never heard it before. I was listening on CQ-UK to Hams who decided to switch from the standard digital voice (DV) to voice wide (VW) I thought DV was clear but when I heard VW I couldn’t believe my ears, what a great sound coming out of the speaker.
That’s because VW (Voice Wide) uses the complete 12.5KHz bandwidth as it is not transmitting any callsign or GPS data and boy can you hear the difference, especially on the Yaesu FTM100DE.
The first Digital radio I got was a Retevis RT3 (TYT MD 380 Copy) and as I wasn’t licenced at the time (got it four weeks before I passed my foundation Licence) I had never heard any dedicated Amateur Radio let alone DMR, so I was pretty new to the whole thing after using scanners for around 46 years. I thought my Retevis was the Bees Knees in sound then along came my Yaesu FTM100DE and that sounded awesome just on DV alone. After that came Dstar which I find to be the busiest of them all but also the thinnest sound of them all. (sorry Dstar) In saying that my Dstar radio is awesome too (Kenwood THD74) it is a great radio and you can entirely see why it is the price that it is. But let’s be fair the reason for this is comparison in sound not in radio choice. C4FM is undoubtedly the most richer complete sound of the three, DMR comes in second as it’s not the same as C4FM but a much more complete sound than Dstar that takes the third place. Don’t think I’m putting any of them down as I love them all. To be able to chat across the world is Fantastic and long may it continue
Okay so you’ve recently passed your foundation and now wish to do some great radio work but you think “I only have 10 Watts” well let me tell you, 10 Watts will get you into Europe (conditions permitting) easily on HF, UHF and VHF.
HF is the easiest way to chat to Europe or even around the world given the right conditions, but VHF/UHF can be excellent when those conditions are right. Firstly keep an eye on this website dxinfocentre bring up the European map and click on the map to advance the time and the day and you can go through the predictions for around a week in advance.
Also you can use a Current conditions map called Mennolink you can zoom in to a certain area and current conditions are highlighted by different colours with Red being the most intense.
I live in Dagenham (12 miles East of Central London) and I have worked Belgium, France, Netherlands and Germany on 10 Watts So don’t put VHF/UHF down and don’t let others do it. Amateur radio is about experimentation, it’s about going out and trying to get the best out of your radio in certain conditions. From Baofeng to Kenwood, From Tytera to Icom and Yaesu whatever the radio it is it is still a joy to get the best out of it. I have stood on a cliff top with a Baofeng UV5R talking very clearly to somebody on the Breskens Repeater 99 miles away that was driving just outside Amsterdam, Stood on that same cliff top talking to someone using the Caen repeater 153 miles away using my Kenwood TH D74 and conditions on both of those contacts were not exactly optimum, so you see that a handheld radio can perform over 100 miles on 5 watts, what then can a radio with 10 Watts do in optimum conditions?
These are facts, I like to experiment wherever possible, don’t be put off by only being allowed 10 Watts, that is enough to make you want to experiment to get the best from your radio and if the conditions are right you will undoubtedly be amazed at what you can achieve. The foundation Licence is a great start and if you follow the above steps you’ll find it a much more exciting time than you first thought.
Always keep things legal and have fun, after all that’s what it’s all about, Pass your exam and the radio world is your oyster form the time you get your first licence. Take care and Good Luck in the hobby.