Monday, May 27, 2019

But the Band is DEAD.....

During radiosport, how often have you frantically searched a band (or a group of bands) only to
find no [new] stations to work? 
Let me ask you this: did YOU make any
CQ calls of your own?  If not, WHY knot?

Remember: If everyone is listening and no one
is actually transmitting, then yes, the bands will appear to be dead, when in fact, communication paths are actually available to be exploited.

One way to check for band open possibilities is by listening to the NCDXF beacons on 20, 15 & 10 meters.  I have written about these beacons before.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that write up.) 

I wrote the WQ6X Beacon Tracker software to synchronize with the NCDXF beacon system. 

On 40 meters we can monitor the Eurasian "cluster beacons" on/around 7.039 mhz.

An even more immediate indication of band propagation tendencies around your operating QTH is
the Reverse Beacon Network - the RBN.  If your callsign is not being recognized by the RBN network, there are 2 most-likely reasons: A) The Xmtr / Antenna system has failed - OR - B) The Band is TRULY DEAD, SO Dead that even the RBN does not recognize any decodable RF.

Make a phone call to radio amateurs in your area asking them to listen for your signal on the air.  Ruling THAT out, we are left with band propagation as the major influencing factor.  Because solar storms can happen at any time, I purposely added the Space-WX sub-window to the WQ6X Beacon Tracker utility.  Assuming solar storms are not much of an issue, we can then focus more on making the propagation work to our benefit.

During the 2019 WPX Cw contest, after verifying the efficacy of W7AYT's 3-el 10-m Long John yagi, I decided that I was going to put some 10-meter QSOs in the WQ6X log - "If it's to BE, it's UP to ME!" 

Pointing the antenna north, I called CQ
for 3 minutes; then if no response, the yagi was turned another 45-degrees and another
call was made.  When 150-degrees was reached, the process was reversed. 

Eventually 3 "local" 10-meter QSOs
were added to the log; enough to say
"I wuz THERE Man....."

If you have a local amateur listen to your signal be sure they follow up by reporting your call and frequency to the DX spotting networks.  Continue calling CQ to be ready for stations to "wake up", see the spot and give you a call.

The major point about all of this is that I don't "wait around hoping" for bands to open, I take a pro-active approach and "force" the issue.  A recent article in CQ magazine raised the possibility that
CQ Dx & WPX contests may actually be responsible for bands "opening up", if for no other reason than more stations are running power amplifiers during those events.

QF-1A's for Left/Right ear - NIR-12 for Right ear
Another reason bands seem open during contests is that operators like me make copious use of DSP filters, as well as external audio processing/shaping filters.  While my FT-1000mp is equipped with an audio DSP, a pair of outboard Autek QF-1A filters (one for each RX) have been added to the audio stream and a JPS NIR-12 DSP for the sub-receiver.  Properly used, the QF-1A's PEAK setting can Boost virtually-faint signals to Q5 copy.  The NIR-12 provides a DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) capability on par with the NR in the FT-1000mp's Main-Rx.

Just because "conventional wisdom" suggests that a band should not be open, does not necessarily make it a fact.  In the "wee hours" of Saturday morning during the recent WPX Cw contest, N6KI worked DU3DW on 15 meters @ 08:38z - 1:38 am PDT.  During the 2018 California Qso Party (CQP), I discovered there was a "pipeline" between the SF bay area and the Colorado area on
10-meters, @05:00z - GO Figure.

Sometimes utilizing antennas in unique ways can send signals that other antenna configurations cannot.  During the 2019 WPX-Cw GiG, I discovered that the 3-el 10-m Long John yagi could
be tuned on 15-meters with a 1:1 match.  5 QSOs made it to the log that could not be heard
on the other antennas (a CH-250 vertical and the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Sloper); 3 of those QSOs
were with Hawaii (KH6).

Bottom-Line: Complaining that none of the bands are open is what I call "loser mentality". 
If we want to excel in radiosport, it is important to locate and exploit band openings when
they occur, despite the conventional wisdom.

Do YOU work radiosport?
How do YOU induce bands to open?

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