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SARL Today HF Update with ZS4BS Focus on VHF/UHF/Microwave The ZS CW Group SARL Forum current topics Commercial Hamads
South African COVID-19 Corona Virus Resource Portal: www.sacoronavirus.co.za

SARL TODAY! 

Radio ZS - December 2021 is available for download. Go to Publications on the lefthand menu and click on Radio ZS downloads.


December 2021 YOTA Month Activity 

 

The entire month of December, many youngsters under the age of 26 will be active with YOTA suffixes in their callsigns. The idea behind this is to promote  the amateur radio hobby to young people and to encourage them to be active on the ham radio waves.

The SARL has registered the callsign ZS9YOTA on the IARU R1 website as an educational callsign for use by clubs and individuals during this December.

To reserve a slot to use the ZS9YOTA callsign on a daily basis or for information please contact Guy ZS6GUY via email at guy.eales@se.com or alternatively Nico, ZS6QL at zs6ql@mweb.co.za

Looking forward to hear our younger generation active on the air working DX during this month!

Link to the IARU Leaflet 


SARL-AMSATSA Amateur Radio Technology Workshop , Book now - The SARL-AMSATSA amateur radio technology workshop will be held on Saturday 4 December 2021 starting at 11:00 SAST on the BlueJean platform. SARL, AMSAT SA members and students attend free. There is a R50 fee for non members . Book here

Presentations include: The next generation beacon project, lessons learned by AMSATSA during the recent BACAR flight,  A beacon monitoring system, The HamSCI WWV project. Setting your own space weather station project.


SARL ON-THE-AIR BULLETINS AND AMATEUR RADIO TODAY PROGRAMME 21 November 2021

SARLNEWS in English with Dennis Green ZS4BS  download here

SARLNUUS in Afrikaans met Hannes Enslin ZS6JDE Luister hier

Amateur Radio Today - Pogramme about Amateur Radio and technology hosted by  Hans van de Groenendaal, ZS6AKV . The programme features news about amateur radio, reports on Hamnet, VHF and UHF, Satellites and HF plus teachnical features. One hour of Amateur Radio bliss. Listen or download here   

Transmissions: Sundays at 08:00 UTC on repeaters around South Africa including 145,750  and 145,725 MHZ in Pretoria. On HF 7 082 kHz by Louis, ZS5LP. Sundays @19:00 on the 145.750 Tygerberg repeater, a rebroadcast by Andre, ZS1F

Amateur Radio Today on 80 metres on Mondays - On Mondays Amateur RadioToday is transmitted at 19:30 local time on 3 620 kHz by Andy, ZS6ADY.

Reception reports are invited. Please send your report to artoday@sarl.org.za. Please give details of the signal strength antenna and location. 

Text bulletins from 1 March 2020 to today can be found at https://sarlnewsbulletin.wordpress.com


The DRAFT 2022 SARL Diary of Events and Contest Manual is available here. Or visit the Blue Book website.

The IARU HF Band Plan Review (Radio ZS October 2021) can be found here. 

The Radio ZS Index. An index of the Wireless Journal, QTC and Radio ZS from 1925 to November 2021. Get a copy here. 

South African VHF, UHF and Microwave Record Table. The latest table of records is available from the VHF SA Record page. Compiled and updated by Paul, ZS6NK - send your record claim to zssixnk@gmail.com  


ATTENTION ALL CLUBS - PoPIA Policy for Clubs - the document in MS Word is provided by Louw, ZS6LME, the Legal Advisor of the SARL. Download a copy here.


SARL Next Generation Beacon fund stands at R30 150 - The crowd funding initiative to collect funds for the SARL next generation beacon programme was initiated by AMSAT SA.  During the past week R2000 was received from two donors. The fund moved f past the half way mark which is still far short of the R60 000 target required to finance a beacon in the Karoo and the Western Cape.  

 

 

AMSAT SA and the SARL thank all who have thus far contributed. Help us make it happen by making your donation to the fund. Visit  www.amsatsa.org.za and make your contribution by clicking on one of the payment buttons for a R50, R250 or R1000 donation.  The button will take you to the Payfast website where you need to enter your credit card details. Please also add your callsign after your surname. 

Visit the  Next Generation Beacon web page for article, videos, updates. and a list of donors Click her


PoPIA and the SARL Electronic Callbook / BvPIW en die SARL Elektroniese Roepseinboek. Download the SARL Communication here.


 

Draft  equipment authorisation regulationsICASA has published the draft regulations in Government Gazette no 44371 date 31 March 2021. The SARL has filed its respone. The closing date for responses is COB on 17 May 2021. To read the SARL response click here


How to change your legacy licence

All amateurs with the legacy license are required to register on the new ICASA online system, by the end of May 2021.  The SARL ICASA working committee is working with ICASA to get this date extended. However, do not wait for the last minute to register.   You are required to register even if your current legacy licence is due to expire in a few years’ time.

Follow this  simple step by step  procedure to register

1.    Register as a user at https://online.icasa.org.za/

2.    On the right hand side of the page click on register.

3.    Create a new account, i.e. email address and insert a  password, then confirm that password.

4.    As soon as you submit the registration you will receive an email with a link that you must click to verify the registra.tion.

5.    Please look in your Junk folder if you do not receive the email.

6.    After completion you can log into the system.

7.    The first time that you start to use the system it will prompt you to create a legal entity by capturing all your personal details.

8.    Uploading a copy of your ID book in the link provided at the bottom of the registration page. Note: only PDF documents are accepted.

9.    After submission it will be subjected to approval by the Authority.

10. After approval by the Authority, you will receive an email indicating that applications can be submitted.

11. Click on the Manage button on the main page under Radio Frequency Spectrum.

12. Click on the Amend Legacy Radio Frequency license Button.

13. Capture your license number, excluding all the dashes, then  upload the  HAREC and HF certificate. If you do not have these certificates then upload a copy of your current or old license in place of the HAREC and HF certificate. If an old expired license then upload the proof of payment as well.

14. The Authority will then complete the next step and return it to you for verification.

15. Verify for correctness and submit.

16. The Authority will then finalize the process and issue an electronic license that can also be downloaded on your Manage page.

Thanks to Noel Hamond ZR6DX SARL RAE Manager


RENEW YOUR AMATEUR RADIO ON THE OLD SYSTEM NOW - The SARL met on Friday afternoon with the CEO of ICASA, Willington Ngwepe and other senior executives and discussed several issues pertaining to the renewal process of amateur radio licences.  It was clarified that the old system of paying your licence still applies and amateur are encouraged to pay their licence as before making an EFT payment to the ICASA Nedbank account with their call sign and licence number clearly stated in the EFT.

The deadline remains 1 April 2021.
Make your EFT payment today or visit your bank on Monday to make the payment. The fees and bank details are on the SARL web at
www.sarl.org.za. Remember your Club call sign and the Club’s repeaters.

If your licence only expires in a few years and your were licenced on the legacy system, you donot have  to do anything now. Wait for the guidelines and then transfer your licence to the new system. Long term licences will remain valid till their expiry date.

The process of registering your licence on the new system is a separate process with the current deadline 1 May 2021. The CEO however agreed that ICASA has to, as soon as possible, make detailed guidelines available. On publication of the detailed guidelines, he will consider extending the May deadline. Mr Ngwepe said it was unreasonable to expect licensees to navigate the new system without proper information on how to do this.

It was also clarified that where a HAREC licence, RAE certificate and HF assessment certificate is not available, a copy of the licence or a previous ICASA account can be uploaded.

Period

2020/2021 Fees

2021/2022 Fees

1 Year price

R        154.00

R        159.00

2 Year price

R        294.00

R        304.00

3 Year price

R        422.00

R        436.00

4 Year price

R        537.00

R        555.00

5 Year price

R        642.00

R        663.00

Bank details are as follows:

NEDBANK Account number: 14 62 00 29 27, Branch Code: 146245 - Corporate Client Services – Pretoria and in the reference field type in your licence number and call sign. 

DO NOT pay the ICASA licence fee into the SARL bank account, all moneys wrongfully paid into the SARL account will be refunded less the bank charges associated with these transactions.


 The SARL  Noise Floor Project - The presentation by Hans, ZS6AKV during the C7 - EMC meeting atthe Region 1 Virtual General Conference, can be seen here.


The IARUMS Region 1 Newsletters are available on iaru-r1.org and read it!


New Satellite Book now available - The new ARRL Amateur radio satellites for beginners is now available in South Africa. With the opening of e-commerce, Postnet is operating again and books can be sent to your nearest Postnet. You can make contacts through amateur radio satellites, and even with the International Space Station, using equipment you probably own right now! All it takes is the right information, which you will find in Amateur Radio Satellites for Beginners by Steve Ford

There are dozens of spacecraft in orbit just waiting for your signals, and more are being launched every year. This book is your guide to a whole new world of operating enjoyment.

Amateur Radio Satellites for Beginners will introduce you to new experiences that you may have thought were out of your reach. Start reading and discover how easy it can be! To order the book visit www.amateurradio.org.za. 115 pages plus index.


Report interference and unauthorised use of amateur frequencies - If your transmission or repeater is interfered with by an unlicensed person (s), note as much detail as possible and report the case for investigation to the ICASA  regional office in your area. By policing the amateur bands and reporting transgressions by non-licensed persons we protect the future of the amateur radio spectrum. Send a copy of your email to artoday@sarl.org.za   to allow   the SARL to monitor how wide-spread the problem is.  For a  list of  ICASA Regional managers and contact details visit http://www.sarl.org.za/public/licences/licences.asp  or click here.


Unlocking Amateur Radio Technology - The SARL hosted a very sucessful synposium on 12 April 2019 in Stellenbosch.  It was attended by over 60 delegates. The symposium was supported by contributions from  RF Design, Comtest, F'Sati, Giga Technology and AMSAT SA. The powerpoint presentations are available for download here. Download while still available .


Guidelines for a non SARL member to use the SA-QSL system- Phone Kelley at NARC (011 675 2393) and check that your correct information is on the database – license number and e-mail address are important.

Click on SA-QSL system link (on the left-hand side of the web page) and then click on “Need to Register”. Follow the instructions on the screen. Your username and password will be e-mailed to you which you can use to logon in future.

SARL and not yet SARL Members are requested to check their Electronic QSLs on a regular basis.


2020 Advertising in Radio ZS and the SARL Web site

Radio ZS and the SARL web welcomes advertising. It is a source of information for readers. Send your advertisement for the League website to Hans, ZS6AKV at artoday@sarl.org.za and for Radio ZS to Dennis, ZS4BS at radiozs@sarl.org.za

Advertising Rates (effective 1 January 2021) Display (cameo) on home page and Radio ZS Strip advertisement (10 cm by 2 columns) - R600 pm - R3 000 for 6 months - R5 000 per annum

Commercial Hamad on home page - R100 pm - R400 for 6 months - R900 per annum

Terms and conditions

All contract advertisements content may be changed monthly on 5 working day notice

The rates are based on the complete supply of material in Jpeg unless otherwise negotiated. For artwork additional charges may apply as agreed. A design service is available at R400 per advertisement.

The content of the advertisements must comply with regulations and norms acceptable in South Africa

All advertisements are playable in advance by EFT to SA Radio League, ABSA, account no 4071 588 849 branch code 632 005

All correspondence and material must be sent to admin@sarl.org.za with a copy to artoday@sarl.org.za


HF Update with Dennis, ZS4BS - 19 November 2021 

Mozambique, C9. Elvira, IV3FSG has been active as C92R from Mozambique since 14 November and will remain there until 30 November. Usually, she operates SSB and digital modes on various bands in her spare time. QSL direct to IK2DUW.

Antarctica, ZS_ant - Oleg, ZS1ANF (UA1O, ex UA1PBA) will be active again as ZS7ANF from Wolf's Fang Runway, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica (AN-016) starting around late November-early December for the duration of the 2021-22 Antarctic summer season. He is also expected to be signing RI60ANT before the end the year. QSL ZS7ANF via RK1PWA and ZS1ANF; QSL RI60ANT via RZ3EC.

Bhutan, A5. Peter, HB9DVG (G4ENL) will be working in Wangdue Phodrang, Bhutan between 17 November and 21 December and will try and operate SSB and digital on the HF bands as A52CC when time permits. "Poor location" he says, "but let's try. QSL via N4GNR.

Oman, A4. Celebrating the Sultanate of Oman's 51st National Day, members of the Royal Omani Amateur Radio Society (ROARS) will operate special call sign A451ND between 18 and 25 November. QSL via M0OXO's OQRS.

Bulgaria, LZ. LZ01MLN is the special callsign to be used until 31 December 2022 by the LZ Contest Team to celebrate the 1 000 000th QSO made by the LZ9W Multi-Multi Contest Station (http://www.lz9w.com/). The mark was reached during this year's CQ WW DX SSB Contest. QSL via LZ1PM.

Russia, UA. Special callsigns R2021DX and UE31DX (QSLs via RQ7L) will be active between 17 and 30 November for the 31st anniversary of the Miller DX Club (http://mdxc.ru/). Also joining the celebrations is DL31MDXC from Germany (QSL via DL7NV).

Hungary, HA. Special event station HG5PLANET will be active from 16 November until 16 December for the Planet Budapest 2021 Sustainability Expo and Summit. QSL via eQSL.

Italy, I. Alessandro, IU3EDK and the Dolomites Contest Team will operate special callsign IB3ABM between 1 and 15 December in celebration of the 55th anniversary of the Associazione Bellunesi nel Mondo. QSL via eQSL and IU3EDK.

Balearic Islands, EA6. Roger, EA3M will be active as EA6/EA3M (QSL via EA3M) from Ibiza, Balearic Islands (EU-004) between 23 and 30 November. Main activiy will be during the CQ WW DX CW Contest as EA6FO (QSL via EA3AIR).

Jamacia, 6Y. Lester, W8YCM will be active again as 6Y6Y from Jamaica (NA-097) starting on 28 November until sometime in January. QSL direct only to home call.

Bahamas, C6. Brian, ND3F will be active as C6AQQ from New Providence Island (NA-001), Bahamas from 24 November to 7 December, including an entry in the CQ WW DX CW Contest. QSL via EA5GL.

Bahamas, C6.A team of six (AA7JV, KN4EEI, N1DG, NA7RY, W6IZT and W8HC) plans to be active as C6AGU from Wood Cay (NA-001), Bahamas for the CQ WW DX CW Contest (on 27 and 28 November) and the ARRL 160 Meter Contest (3 to 5 December). Between the two contest weekends they will operate CW, SSB and digital with a focus on the low bands. They will be using six "Radio In a Box" (RIB) stations - see https://www.qrz.com/db/c6agu. QSL via LoTW, Club Log's OQRS, or via HA7RY.

Martinique, FM. Dimitry, UT5UGR will be active as FM/UT5UGR from Martinique (NA-107) from 22 November to 2 December, including an entry in the CQ WW DX CW Contest as TO7A. QSLs via LoTW, Club Log's OQRS, or via UT5UGR.

Aruba, P4. John, W2GD will be active as P44W (not P40W as previously announced) from Aruba (SA-036) between 22 and 30 November. Main activity will be during the CQ WW DX CW Contest; outside the contest he will be active on 30, 17 and 12 m as time permits. QSL via LoTW, or direct only to N2MM.

Antigua, V2. Bud, AA3B will be active as V26K from Antigua (NA-100) between 21 and 29 November, including an entry in the CQ WW DX CW Contest. QSL via LoTW, Club Log's OQRS, eQSL, or via AA3B.

Belize, V3. Damian, G4LHT will be active as V31HT from San Pedro, Ambergris Caye (NA-073), Belize between 18 and 29 November. He will operate SSB and digital on 40 - 10 metres. QSL via G4LHT.

St Kitts, V4. Bob, WX4G will be active as V4/WX4G from St. Kitts (NA-104) from 24 November to 2 December. He will operate SSB, CW, and digital on all bands, and will participate in the CQ WW DX CW Contest as V47A. QSLs via LoTW, Club Log's OQRS, eQSL, or via WX4G. 


VHF+ UHF+ MICROWAVE NEWS - FOCUS ON VHF with ZS6YZ 28 November 2021 

VHF, UHF and Microwave Record Table the latest table of records is available from the VHF SA Record page. Click here to get a copy. Compiled and updated by Paul, ZS6NK - Send your record claim to zssixnk@gmail.com


 


Focus on VHF and Above
28 November 2021

 Audio version 

Again there has been little activity reported over the past week. 

Our hobby is a technical hobby and it is all about technology. We are required to have a basic knowledge of radio theory and the implementation of the theory of the technology, in order to obtain a license to open the door to a laboratory where there are endless possibilities. We need to keep abreast with technology and find new and creative ways to use the ever changing technology. In the past amateur radio was all about homebrew or building your own bits and pieces because there was nothing available. Now days, we still are homebrewing, but to a lesser extent. Maybe an antenna here or there, the more adventurous may be brave enough to attempt a QO-100 set up or try and assemble a kit. 

A short while ago I was contacted by a fellow who was busy building an electronic project and needed to see on a spectrum analyser whether his project was working or not. I was curious why he needed to look at the output of his project on a spectrum analyser. While this gentleman knew the basics of electronics, his enthusiasm made up for everything that he did not know. I was amazed at what he was attempting to achieve and of course the project did not work on the first attempt, but that did not damper his spirits. I sat with him and tried to understand what device was supposed to do, did a bit of basic troubleshooting to figure out what was not happening and sent him off with some advice where he needed to look for the fault. Within a couple of hours he contacted me to thank me for the assistance and to tell me that he had found the fault and now the device was working, based on what he could see on his oscilloscope. He returned to my shack and we again looked at the output of the device on the spectrum analyser and as expected it was generating harmonics all across the spectrum from the crystal oscillator. The oscillator frequency was within the amateur band and the output level was at -50 dBm. The harmonics were slightly lower. So I explained what harmonics were and why they were a problem and that he needed to build a filter to suppress the harmonics. He immediately whipped out his phone and used one of the many RF applications that one gets and tried to get the values of the components that he needed for a low pass filter.  Again, a little guidance about sensible component selection and off he went again. This guy had enthusiasm for electronics that I have not seen in a long time and he is not even a radio amateur. I figured out what he was building and that scientifically there is no proof that the device he was building is a cure all for all diseases and illnesses, but never at one point did I discourage him. I know that with the enthusiasm that he tackled the project he will one day build something that will work and possibly be the next great invention, similar to what many radio amateurs in the past have done.

 

Listen to Onno VK6FLAB on the rebirth of homebrew. 

Onno_VK6FLAB_The_Rebirth_of_Homebrew.mp3


Where has the enthusiasm gone to build something that was in every radio amateur a decade ago? How can we rekindle that enthusiasm amongst the radio amateurs, especially the youngsters discovering our fantastic hobby for the first time?

As you have heard on the SARL news, next Saturday 4 December the joint SARL and AMSAT SA Technology workshop will run from 11:00 - 14:30 on the Blue Jeans Platform.


Come and listen to the various presentations that will take place. Two of the presentations will be around the SARL Beacon Project. I will be providing more information about the SARL Beacon Project, where we started, the journey so far, the progress we have made to date and the possibilities that are on the horizon. This project has not just been about getting beacons on the air, but also about being able to successfully monitor the beacons 24/7 365 days of the year and record data that will have scientific significance to VHF and UHF propagation studies. Tom ZR6TG will be giving an update on the Beacon Monitoring part of this exciting project and tell you about what has been done and where we plan to go.

More information on the SARL homepage. 

What project have you been working on? What exciting contact have you made on the VHF and above bands? Tell us about it. 

Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

Remember by sharing your activities with us at VHF News allows us to tell the rest of the amateur community about your achievements and the more we promote the activity on the VHF and above bands the better chance we have of encouraging more amateurs to explore the world above 30 MHz. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ. 


Focus on VHF and Above 10 October 2021

Audio version

No extraordinary communications were reported this week. 

There were some good conditions inland on Saturday morning according to the Hepburn charts and the Bethlehem beacon reception reports, but no activity was reported either. 

Looking forward to the week ahead tropo conditions in the South Atlantic and indeed around the coast of South Africa looks like in may be good on Tuesday morning.

 

Hepburn_Chart_South Atlantic_0600UTC12Oct2021.png

 

The ZS6SRC-BACAR9-2021 launch will take place on 30 October 2021.

Activity will already begin at 04:30 at the airfield with the preparation of the payloads, filling of the balloon, preflight checks and testing of telemetry systems. The balloon is expected to be launched from the Trichardt Model Flying Airfield around 07:00 in the morning. Once the balloon flight has been terminated, there will be chasers who will track and recover the payloads so that analysis of the flight data can be done. This promises to be full day of activity ending with a braai in the late afternoon at the Trichardt Yacht Club. Anyone who wants to be part of this exiting day can camp at the Trichardt Yacht Club. You will need to bring your own tent or caravan. The yacht club will ask a R40 fee person per night. There are hot & cold-water showers available, toilets and also 220V. There are also indoor and outside braai facilities available. Camping over on the Friday and Saturday evening will ensure that you do not contravene any lock down regulations by being on the road during the curfew time between midnight and 04:00.

For further details contact Gert ZS6GC at secradio@jenny.co.za. 

Kobus ZS3JPY posted an interesting link on the VHF, UHF/ SHF West Coast WhatsApp group. The link http://aprs.mennolink.org/ takes you to an interesting map that shows real time propagation on VHF by mapping information gathered out of APRS reports.

 

APRS_VHF_Propagation_Map.png 

From the author’s website the system is described as follows:

“This map shows real-time radio propagation from stations operated near 144 MHz. It uses data gathered by Automatic Packet Reporting System-Internet Service (APRS-IS) from packet stations in the amateur radio service. 

The map shows activity from the past hour. Paths are smoothed to create a colour-coded footprint indicating the distance VHF signals are likely to be travelling. Packet stations typically run low power into small vertical antennas. Better equipped stations should exceed the the distances these stations report. The map is updated automatically, up to several times per minute. 

The map is created using positions (latitude and longitude) reported by nodes in the packet radio system and the hops that are recorded as the packet travels from node to node. The distance between each end of a hop is the basis for the display drawn on the map.” The author goes on to say

“Errors can be present in the data used to create the map. Some stations operate on HF frequencies, which result in much longer distances than VHF typically supports. Occasionally a packet radio station on a high altitude balloon or satellite appear. Some stations incorrectly report their position, often by hundreds of miles, causing local communication to be misrepresented. “ 

APRS has been one of the suggested systems that could be used to report VHF propagation for a while and Kobus ZS3JPY had proposed this many years ago already but it never gained support locally. 

Probably the post common use for APRS is for position reporting, however APRS data could be used for reporting weather information from automated weather stations and for carrying short messages. APRS can also be very useful during an emergency situation for distributing short messages. 

APRS digipeaters can be used to propagate the RF on a longer path than the original path allowing for a wider area to be covered. APRS I-Gates are used to pass all RF APRS packets to APRI-IS (Automatic Packet Reporting System-Internet Service). One can also get a bidirectional I-Gate which will forward APRS-IS traffic to RF.


These bidirectional I-Gates could be a problem if not set up correctly as they could inadvertently re-inject APRS-IS traffic back onto RF which then will obviously give you false information especially if you are using APRS data to monitor VHF propagation. As an example, a station monitoring APRS traffic on RF on the West Coast receives APRS packets from ZS6 stations which will indicate to the inexperienced user that there is an RF path open between the the West Coast and ZS6 which is very unlikely.

Digipeaters and I-Gates can be very useful. There are many easy projects to build digipeaters and I-Gates using Raspberry Pi’s and an old radio.

They however need to be carefully planned and configured for their intended purpose and to ensure that they do not flood the system with useless information. 

The SARL Beacon project funds are steadily growing and we are significantly closer to our R60 000 target. 

If you would like to donate to the SARL Beacon project, head on over to the AMSAT SA website https://amsatsa.org.za/ and make a donation to the beacon project. 

A world wide shortage of semiconductors is hampering the acquisition of the hardware for the next two NGN beacons. In the meantime work is continuing on the development of a beacon monitoring solution. 

Tom ZR6TG has  written some bridge software that can read the decoded log files from PI-RX and transfer the data to a web server.

There are currently only a small number of testers monitoring the beacon. The current monitoring stations are all close to the beacon or in a very good location where they are able to receive the beacon very well. We are looking for monitoring stations further afield in KZN, Limpopo, North West and the Western Free State. There have previously been reports of the beacon being received in Scottburgh on the KZN south coast and Polokwane in Limpopo and the previous CW beacon was heard in the western parts of the country as well.

 

Beacons-sa.co.za.png

 

To monitor and log the beacon go to the https://www.beacons-sa.co.za/ website and click on the right hand link below the map for instructions how to install PI-RX and the PI-RX Bridge application. On the tutorial page in the orange section is also a link to the NGB Beacons – Software Telegram group that has been established to discuss features, program updates, etc. Feel free to join the group and chat with us :) 

Tom has been working on some modifications to the functionality of the PI-RX Bridge code which will be on the website shortly. 

Tom has also completed a Raspberry Pi based monitoring system that receives the beacon on a RTL-SDR receiver dongle and then decodes the received signal and posts the reports to the web server. Currently the instructions and links to set up this solution is on our NGB Beacons – Software Telegram group. We need testers for this solution as well.

 The ZS0BET beacon is back to it’s old tricks where the GPS signal is lost intermittently, resulting in the PI4 message not being transmitted. This has now been compounded by the current load shedding that has been implemented by Eskom. I have spoken to Rickus and we have tentatively agreed that I should recover the beacon and get it onto the bench to resolve the intermittent GPS signal. At the same time we can upgrade the hardware to make it more resilient to enable it to power up correctly following a power failure and to include a remote power control to cycle the power if needed. This will be done as soon as time allows. 

What project have you been working on? What exciting contact have you made on the VHF and above bands? Tell us about it. 

Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

Remember by sharing your activities with us at VHF News allows us to tell the rest of the amateur community about our achievements and the more we promote the activity on the VHF and above bands the better chance we have of encouraging more amateurs to explore the world above 30 MHz. 

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


Focus on VHF and Above

3 October 2021

Audio version 

 

Tropoducting along the West Coast was again excellent this past week.

 

 

 

On the evening of 24 September it seemed that voice comms was dead, however Tom ZS1TA and Andre V51LZ made an excellent FT8 contact on 2 m.

 

They then proceeded to complete a 70 cm contact as well.

 

 

 

Both Tom and Andre were their respective QTH’s  in Cape Town and Oranjemund. 

Tom ZS1TA sent me the following message “Several guys watching the tropoducting and AIS signals. There were no voice contacts being made and Andre, V51LZ, started txing FT8. I soon got 4 periods at -16 which then faded out to a clear screen whilst replying to him. We persisted and after some time the traces reappeared and we completed the qso. Shifting to 70cm we were also able to complete another contact on that band. My calculations give 651.5km. Significant that I managed it from behind Table Mountain. Beaming at the gap between main mountain and Devils Peak. Almost 1000 meters high and 6.5 km distance away.” 

On Saturday 25 September the conditions improved significantly for FM voice contacts to take place and early morning both Naz ZS1NAZ and Dee ZR1DEE made contact with Garry ZD7GWM on St Helena. 

Well done everyone. 

On Saturday 2 October the tropoducting conditions looked excellent across the South Atlantic especially for the Namibia, Angola and Brazil. 

 

I have heard rumblings regarding the VHF/UHF contests and that changes are needed to encourage more activity on the bands. If you have suggestions on changes, then now is the time to do it. Any changes to the 2022 Blue Book, which is what the competition manual containing all the SARL contests and their rules is called, needs to be in by 25 October 2021. 

The SARL Beacon project funds are steadily growing and we are significantly closer to our R60 000 target. 

If you would like to donate to the SARL Beacon project, head on over to the AMSAT SA website https://amsatsa.org.za/ and make a donation to the beacon project. 

A world wide shortage of semiconductors is hampering the acquisition of the hardware for the next two NGN beacons. In the meantime work is continuing on the development of a beacon monitoring solution. 

Tom ZR6TG has  written some bridge software that can read the decoded log files from PI-RX and transfer the data to a web server.

There are currently only a small number of testers monitoring the beacon. The current monitoring stations are all close to the beacon or in a very good location where they are able to receive the beacon very well. We are looking for monitoring stations further afield in KZN, Limpopo, North West and the Western Free State. There have previously been reports of the beacon being received in Scottburgh on the KZN south coast and Polokwane in Limpopo and the previous CW beacon was heard in the western parts of the country as well.

Beacons-sa.co.za.png

 

To monitor and log the beacon go to the https://www.beacons-sa.co.za/ website and click on the right hand link below the map for instructions how to install PI-RX and the PI-RX Bridge application. On the tutorial page in the orange section is also a link to the NGB Beacons – Software Telegram group that has been established to discuss features, program updates, etc. Feel free to join the group and chat with us :)

 

Tom has been working on some modifications to the functionality of the PI-RX Bridge code which will be on the website shortly. 

Tom has also completed a Raspberry Pi based monitoring system that receives the beacon on a RTL-SDR receiver dongle and then decodes the received signal and posts the reports to the web server. Currently the instructions and links to set up this solution is on our NGB Beacons – Software Telegram group. We need testers for this solution as well. 


During the VHF Work Group meeting on Thursday evening it was decided to place a Raspberry Pi monitoring station on the proposed Karoo Beacon site to monitor the Bethlehem Beacon.

Plans are now being drawn up to enable us to prepare and upgrade the site in the Karoo in preparation for when the hardware is available to assemble the beacons. Len ZS3LEN will also install some environmental monitoring at the site so that we can start collecting information about temperatures on the site. 

A sub project plan will also be created for the beacon monitoring sub project  as the the VHF Working Group feels that we need to find and place Raspberry Pi based beacon monitoring systems at suitable sites to monitor the ZS0BET beacon.

 What project have you been working on? What exciting contact have you made on the VHF and above bands? Tell us about it.

 Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

Remember by sharing your activities with us at VHF News allows us to tell the rest of the amateur community about our achievements and the more we promote the activity on the VHF and above bands the better chance we have of encouraging more amateurs to explore the world above 30 MHz. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


Focus on VHF and Above

12 September 2021 

AUDIO VERSION 

 

Tropoducting has been good along the West Coast and the South Atlantic these last couple of days with the St Helena beacon being heard quite strong by Johan V51JH, Kobus ZS3JPY and Charles ZS1CF on Friday afternoon.

 

V51JH_St_Helena_Beacon2021-09-10.mp4

 The Hepburn chart for the South Atlantic for 00:00 UTC showed the tropoducting extending from the coast of Southern Africa all the way across St Helena Island to the North Eastern coast of Brazil.

 

South_Atlantic_Hepburn_Chart_0000UTC11Sep2021.png

This is a great opportunity for the guys to try for that elusive contact across the South Atlantic between Africa and Brazil.

Johan V51JH also posted two recordings of signals that he heard with his antenna in the direction on St Helena Island. 

The one was on 144.234 MHz 

144.234MHz_2021-09-11_at_07.19.30.mp3 

and the second was on 144.202 MHz 

144.202MHz_2021-09-11_at_07.29.03.mp3 

I listened to the signals and they certainly do not sound like amateur beacons. 

I did find an interesting website https://www.sigidwiki.com/wiki/Signal_Identification_Guide that could be used to identify some of these strange signals that we may hear on our amateur frequencies. On this website there is reference to software that can be used to identify signals called ARTEMIS. This is free software that runs on numerous platforms. Take a look at the website https://aresvalley.com/Artemis/ 

There my weekend goes, exploring an interesting new tool. 

I wonder if any of the listeners can recognise the signals and let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za what the source of that signal may be.

 For all the DMR enthusiasts or anyone interested in exploring the world of DMR. Steve Wright, EI5DD has updated his comprehensive manual. The manual is written for radio amateurs in Ireland, but will be useful for anyone with an interest in the DMR, C4FM and D-Star digital modes.

More information can be found at https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/2021/09/digital-radio-operating-manual-sept.html where you will find a link to download the manual as well. 

DMR_Operating_Manual.png 

I had a chat with Kobus ZS3JPY on Saturday morning and he thought that he had heard the ZS0BET beacon on Friday on the West Coast. It is entirely possible that the beacon could be heard as far as the West Coast, however there is a greater chance of hearing the PI4 signal than the CW signal as the digital PI4 sequence can be decoded by the PI-RX software at a much lower signal to noise level and my experience playing with JS8Call on HF has shown my station decoding signals that were not even audible on the speaker of the radio.

As you have heard in the SARL news the funds are slowly growing and is now at R28 150. Our target is R60 000 for the next two planned Next Generation beacons in Cape Town and in the Karoo. Why not head on over to the AMSAT SA website https://amsatsa.org.za/ and make a donation to the beacon project.

 While waiting for news of the availability of the hardware that we require for the beacons, we are continuing our development of a beacon monitoring solution. Tom ZR6TG has  written some bridge software that can read the decoded log files from PI-RX and transfer the data to a web server. 

We are looking for volunteers who can monitor the ZS0BET beacon using PI-RX and run the bridging application so that we can test and improve on the functionality. 

Beacons-sa.co.za.png

 

 

To monitor and log the beacon go to the https://www.beacons-sa.co.za/ website and click on the right hand link below the map for instructions how to install PI-RX and the PI-RX Bridge application. On the tutorial page in the orange section is also a link to the Telegram group that has been established to discuss features, program updates, etc. Feel free to join the group and chat with us :)

The SARL Beacon project has received exposure in various places this week and we are grateful for this. On Sunday a post appeared on the blogspot of John EI7GL and and on Tuesday a post appeared on the Southgate Amateur Radio News web page as well.

 

Remember by sharing your activities with us at vhfnews@sarl.org.za allows us to tell the rest of the amateur community about our achievements and encourages others to join the interesting world of VHF and above.

The more we promote the activity on the VHF and above bands the better chance we have of encouraging more amateurs to explore the world above 30 MHz.

 

Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.

Focus on VHF and Above

29 August 2021

 

Audio version


  

There seems to have been very little activity on the VHF and above bands this last week. 

This coming week there may be a chance of tropoducting along the West coast in the latter part of the week. 

On the website of John EI7GL there is a post that on the 19th of August 2021, the FCC in the USA allocated the callsign WL2XZQ for experiments on the 40 MHz band from Houston in Texas. This was allocated to John, AE5X in the EM20 grid square. 

John EI7GL says “This is I believe is the second experimental permit for the 40 MHz band in the USA with the first one WL2XUP going to Lin, NI4Y near Atlanta, Georgia.” 

Just this week Nigel ZS6RN who is also on the VHF Work Group and myself have been having discussions about meteor scatter. Nigel is looking into the program Echoes that was mentioned in last week’s program about monitoring meteor scatter. Nigel has also uncovered quite a bit of information of scientific studies that have been done locally on meteor scatter and picked up that on a given meteor-scatter path the duration of a ping is proportional to the inverse square of operating frequency. This means that pings at 144 MHz are therefore about 1/8 as long as those at 50 MHz. Most of a frame must be received in order to decode its message, so pings shorter than about 70 ms, common at 144 MHz and higher bands, are too short to convey a decodable standard MSK144 frame. I mentioned that there would be more success in the lower VHF frequencies and research documents that I have read mentioned frequencies in the 40 MHz band. We here in South Africa also have an allocation in the 40 MHz or 8m band from 40,675 MHz to 40,685 MHz specifically allocated for propagation studies. 

Later in the week Hans ZS6AKV mentioned to me that he is reviewing the latest gazetted Frequency Allocation Table and I asked him to confirm whether the 40 MHz frequency allocation was in the table. Hans confirmed that it was not in the table of frequency allocations. We hastily started looking for evidence that these frequencies are being used so that he can make representation to ICASA that the 40 MHz frequency allocation is being used and that it must be included in the Frequency Allocation Table. After much searching we have found evidence that there has been activity on the 40 MHz band that we can use to motivate our request. 

The reason for this story is to ask the amateur community out there to please provide us with information on what you are experimenting with and your activity. It serves two purposes. Firstly we can talk about the activity and so encourage other amateurs to become more active on the bands. Secondly it gives us information that we can use to justify to the regulator that the frequencies allocated to amateurs are being used. 

I have mentioned previously that our frequencies are in demand and the industry have no qualms to suggest to the regulator that allocated frequencies are not being used and then start a process to have those frequencies reallocated. 

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to protect our frequencies and our hobby both locally and internationally that most amateurs are not aware of. For example last week Friday Hans ZS6AKV and myself attended the 3rd Meeting of the technical National Preparatory Working Group 2023 where Hans presented information regarding the status of the work being done by the IARU on the issue of interference to the GNSS systems by amateurs on the 23cm band. This week Tuesday to Friday I attended the Third SADC Preparatory Meeting for WRC-23. I was not an active participant in the meeting but I was in surveillance mode to listen if there were any discussions regarding new technologies and frequency allocations that may have an impact on amateur radio and the frequencies that we use and provide feedback locally and to the IARU.

The 2nd ATU Preparatory Meeting for WRC23 will be taking place from 6 to 10 September and both Tafa Doip 6W1KI from Senegal and I will be attending the meeting. Tafa was also a past Vice-President of the IARU Region 1. 

These are examples of a very small part of what happens behind the scenes. There are fellow amateurs locally and internationally who put in a lot of time serving on committees, working groups and attend meetings with both the industry and regulatory bodies to ensure that both you and I can enjoy this fantastic hobby of ours. 

You can assist us by providing information about your activities, especially on the VHF and above bands. Remember by sharing your activities with us at VHF news also allows us to tell the rest of the amateur community about your achievements and encourages other to join in. 

What interesting project are you working on?

Is there anyone active higher up in the microwave bands? What beacons have you heard this week? Share it with us. 

Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

The more we promote the activity on the VHF and above bands the better chance we have of encouraging more amateurs to explore the world above 30 MHz. 

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


Focus on VHF and Above

22 August 2021

Audio version

On Saturday morning we woke up in Pretoria North to a misty morning with low cloud, a relatively strong North-East to Northerly wind and we could smell moisture in the air as well. Typical conditions that indicate some temperature inversion and possibly the right ratio of humidity in the air for tropoducting. The Hepburn Chart also showed the possibility of some inland activity.

 

 

Interesting enough  Carl ZS6CBQ reported the Bethlehem beacon ZS0BET 5/6 at his QTH in Krugersdorp on Saturday morning with the PI4 sequence decoding with a signal to noise ratio of 7 dB. Thanks for that beacon report Carl. 

Willem ZS6WAB has a 23cm beacon operational that he runs over a weekend from his QTH. The beacon frequency is 1296.810 MHz and output power of 75W. Carl reported hearing Willem’s beacon just out of the noise for a while before it disappeared again on Saturday morning. Listen out for this beacon over a weekend and let Willem have your reception report. 

This week did not allow too much time for playing with the Raspberry Pi’s and testing of telemetry, other than our very informative session that we had on Monday evening. 

Work on a remote Next Generation Beacon monitoring station comprising a Raspberry Pi, RTL-SDR dongle and some software is progressing well although we have been bogged down trying to get an audio loopback functioning so that we do not need to use an additional USB audio device simply to loop the audio output from the SDR receiver software to the input of the MSHV software that we will be using to decode the PI4 sequence of the Next Generation Beacons. We are working hard be able to demonstrate a working receiver station in time for the next meeting of the VHF Work Group next Thursday. 

The Beacon project currently has accumulated R24,700 through their crowd funding drive. We need reach a target of R60,000 so that we can purchase the hardware for the next two beacons that are being planned for Cape Town and the Northern Karoo. Please help us reach this target by going to the AMSAT SA website at https://amsatsa.org.za/ and make a contribution to the project. There are three easy to use predefined payment options that can be selected, R50, R100 or R1000. We look forward to receiving your contribution. 

The Hepburn charts show some possibility of tropoducting conditions along the West coast and South coast in the latter half of next week.

 

 

Dennis ZS4BS sent me the following insert about Meteor Scatter.

Meteor Scatter - A propagation mode that takes advantage of the ionization trails left by extra-terrestrial debris burning up after entering the Earth's atmosphere. Every day, meteor scatter opportunities exist for contacts on 10 meters, 6 meters, and 2 meters at distances between 500 to 2300 kilometres, especially during the morning hours. During meteor showers, there may be hundreds of "pings" per hour. WSJT-X's MSK144 mode is typically used for meteor scatter communications, though the newer shorter-duration Q65-12A mode may see increasing use https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/Q65_Quick_Start.pdf.

To get started, try Parker Radio Association's Simple Guide to Meteor Scatter / MSK144 https://www.parkerradio.org/community/general/simple-guide-to-meteor-scatter-msk-144. 

Thanks Dennis. 

Meteor Scatter is an interesting propagation mode and I have just recently mentioned the SNOTEL network in the USA that uses Meteor Scatter propagation to transfer telemetry data from remote weather stations in mountainous areas. 

There has just been a Perseid meteor shower earlier in August, but it was primarily visible in the Northern Hemisphere at higher latitudes. In mid December we again expect the Geminids Meteor shower. 

This however is not the only time we see meteors. There are literally millions of meteors which are small particle of space debris that enters the earth’s atmosphere every day. As these particles move through the Mesosphere which is the third layer of the atmosphere at approximately 50 – 60 km above the surface of the earth they burn up because of the friction caused in this layer and leave behind an ionising trail. You often see these meteors, or shooting stars  burning up in the night sky. The ionised trail has the ability to reflect radio signals. 

A quick look at the list of meteor showers on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_meteor_showers will show the frequency of what we can expect. All the showers that have a negative declination should be visible in the Southern Hemisphere. There are at least eight during the year that should be visible in the Southern Hemisphere. This is a list of meteor showers for 2021 with dates that are fairly accurate. 

In June 2020 in Focus on VHF I posted a link to a website where you can get a live view of meteors detected https://www.meteorscan.com/meteor-live.html 

liveimggen3.php.jpeg 

Looking at the second link that Dennis sent me there was a comment on the  forum that led me to do a quick search on the internet and I found a whole lot a information on how you can build a simple Raspberry Pi based Meteor camera that will continuously record the night sky and photograph the meteors that it sees.

https://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/advice/diy/raspberry-pi-meteor-detector/ 

https://www.instructables.com/Raspberry-Pi-Meteor-Station/ 

https://github.com/CroatianMeteorNetwork/RMS 

There is also an article of using a Raspberry Pi and a SDR receiver to detect meteor pings or echoes. 

https://www.rtl-sdr.com/echoes-an-rtl-sdr-tool-for-meteor-scatter-detection/

 

Some interesting projects that may spark your interest in this interesting propagation mode and lead to experimenting with meteor scatter and possibly some great contacts as well. 

All the links mentioned in this programme and more are in the text version of Focus on VHF on the SARL homepage and will also appear in a future copy of Radio ZS. 

What interesting project are you working on?

Is there anyone active higher up in the microwave bands? What beacons have you heard this week? Share it with us. 

Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

The more we promote the activity on the VHF and above bands the better chance we have of encouraging more amateurs to explore the world above 30 MHz. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ. 


Focus on VHF and Above

11 July 2021 

Audio version 

The Bethlehem beacon ZS0BET still has it’s moments when the PI4 mode is transmitted perfectly and then it suddenly goes off. The CW and Tone are still running perfectly.

 

I have had a busy week and amateur radio has taken a bit of a back seat which has resulted in me and Rickus not being able to spend time together to prepare for troubleshooting the beacon.

We did however manage to catch up after the AMSAT SA Space Symposium that took place yesterday and I have logged into Rickus’ computer and confirmed that the software is installed and we went through the layout of the beacon hardware, where the USB needs to be plugged in for troubleshooting the beacon and where I suspect the problem may be. 

Rickus will let me know when he can get up to the high site and then we will do the troubleshooting. 

After last week’s program, I had a call from Cor ZS6CR who let me know that he has a solution regarding adding telemetry capabilities to the Karoo Beacon. He ran through a quick presentation with me and I certainly believe that it is a solution that we can use for monitoring and controlling the beacon. I have asked Cor to give the VHF Work Group a quick presentation on telemetry and the system that he uses at the next VHF Work Group meeting at the end of July. 

We also had a good chat about GPSDOs and he told me that he is also in the process of building one and we discussed some of the challenges around GPSDOs and homebrewing in general. 

The Hepburn charts show little chance of tropoducting around the coast the coming week. 

Locally there is not much VHF and UHF activity at the moment although on Saturday morning some of the 46 Group were active on 2m. 

Remember there are other beacons as well running that can also be monitored. Around midday on Saturday Dick ZS6BUN and Pierre ZS4PF reported hearing the 432.445 MHz CW beacon of Willem ZS6WAB at grid KG46rb. 

As mentioned I attended the AMSAT SA Symposium on Saturday and it was again a day of very interesting topics, which covered topics about Africube, QO-100 DATV Ground Station, Raspberry Pi push-button user interface, Space Weather topics including a personal space weather monitoring solution that you can run in your back yard and a very interesting update on all the space weather activities happening at SANSA in Hermanus. It was a very interesting and educational day.

I made a number of notes on things to follow up on. 

As I have mentioned many times already, the symposiums and workshops arranged by the SARL and AMSAT SA are always interesting and there is always something new that sparks your interest. I have never come away from one of these sessions without learning something new.

Thanks to Hans ZS6AKV and all the presenters who made this day possible. 

A lot of the amateur radio activities we are involved in now days involves software. A lot of the software is Open Source software meaning it is free to use and share and the source code is freely available to anyone. Listen to what Onno VK6FLAB has to say about what Open Source means to our hobby and why it's important. 

Makes you think! 

What interesting project are you working on? 

What successes have been had with the new digital modes like Q65 for long distance VHF and UHF communications? Is there anyone active higher up in the microwave bands? What beacons have you heard this week? Share it with us. 

Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


Focus on VHF and Above

4 July 2021

Audio version 

Good to be back after a well deserved break. 

The Bethlehem beacon ZS0BET is up and running, however the PI4 message is not being transmitted. The PI 4 sequence will only be generated when a valid GPS signal is received. Rickus has checked everything that he could and on Friday, Rickus and myself discussed how we will go about troubleshooting the beacon remotely. Once Rickus has set up the beacon management software on a laptop that I can access remotely, then I will guide Rickus through the process of accessing the DDS board so that we can figure out where the problem may be. 

We will report back on our findings once the beacon is again transmitting the PI4 mode. 

Rickus has also in the meantime been putting together a system so that the power to the beacon can be remotely switched on and off without him having to physically go to the site. As we all know most of the beacon and repeater sites in the eastern half of the country are vulnerable to criminal elements and while the sites are secure once you have opened up to do maintenance then you and the site are vulnerable.

 I am making a lot of notes regarding functionality that we need to incorporate into the design of the Karoo beacon to enable us to remotely access and troubleshoot the beacon. We will also need to gather telemetry data about the voltage, current, internal and external temperature to name a few that will be able to assist us with managing and maintaining the Karoo beacon. Lucky for us the site that we are looking at using already has internet access on it. 

The beacon has been working very well and the PI4 signal is certainly being monitored over a much wider area and further a field than the CW signal.

Karel ZS6WN has reported the beacon being heard well in Polokwane at grid KG46sc, a distance of 497 km from Bethlehem.

 

 

 

Please keep a look out for the ZS0BET beacon. Even though the PI4 sequence is not being transmitted, the CW sequence and the frequency accurate tone is still being transmitted.

 

On Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning there was a possibility of tropoducting between the East Coast and Reunion Island and amateurs were monitoring the band on both sides, but again the conditions did not allow any contacts to be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along the West Coast and along the South Coast there has been storms and strong winds that has been wrecking havoc with antennas again.

Let us hope that not too much damage has been done. 

I have not seen any other reports of local VHF and above activity.

Frequency accuracy

A topic that has come up a number of times now is the frequency accuracy of our radios. This is especially noticeable when using digital modes and as one goes up in frequency the error increases. Those playing in the microwave bands or with QO100 will have first hand experience of being way off frequency and the nightmare of trying to tune to the correct desired frequency. 

What we need to resolve this problem is a GPSDO or GPS Disciplined Oscillator. Some GPSDO devices are designed to put out a 10 MHz reference signal which is fine for test equipment, but does not really help us as our radios invariably will not have a 10 MHz reference oscillator, but one at another frequency and each model and manufacturer uses a different frequency. 

There are however GPSDO available that you can program to a frequency that you desire, like the Leo Bodnar Precision GPS Reference Clock. This will however set you back at least 150 GBP (Approx R3,000.00) excluding shipping and fees.

 

Leo Bodner GPS-CLOCK 

http://www.leobodnar.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=107&products_id=234

There is also a mini version available that is also much cheaper at around 86 GBP (Approx R1,700.00) excluding shipping and fees. 

 

MiniGPSDO.png

 

 

https://www.sdr-kits.net/GPS-Disciplined-Reference-Oscillator-for-DG8SAQ-VNWA

 

Another solution is to use a RF Zero which will set you back around 400 DKK (Approx R910.00) also excluding shipping and fees. There are options that you may want to add such as filters and attenuators as well which will of course increase the price and you will need to also provide a box for it to live in.

 

rfzero all 

https://www.rfzero.net/shop/ 

Of course you would also need to figure out how you are going to connect the GPSDO to your radio, but that is normally not a big challenge. 

A lot of the amateurs participating in the HamSCI activities also add GPSDO to their HF radios in order be more accurately measure the shift of the 10 MHz time signals that are being monitored. 

There have also been some discussions around designing a GPSDO locally which may be a little cheaper.  

What interesting project are you working on? 

What successes have been had with the new digital modes like Q65 for long distance VHF and UHF communications? Is there anyone active higher up in the microwave bands? Share it with us. 

Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ. 


30 May 2021

 Audio version

Last week I spoke about the contact that Rickus ZS4A had made using a quarter wave antenna on a magnetic base attached horizontally to a railing at his new temporary QTH. I misunderstood Rickus. The contact was with Carl ZS6CBQ and not Charl or ZS4CGR. Apologies for that mistake.

 

Tom ZS1TA shared information about a great contact that he had on Tuesday 25 May via the RS-44 satellite with Oleg A65BR in the United Arab Emirates.

 

RS-44 Footprint 

Tom says “Today, after 6 weeks of trying the available passes achieved a brief contact with A65BR on satellite RS-44 .

Watching the passes we were only able to get brief overlaps of a minute or less and elevations of around 1 degree. On a couple of occasions we heard each other but not enough to complete the contact.

We both made changes to our systems to gain what improvements we could. Oleg changed his feed lines making the routing shorter whilst I changed my antennas using my terrestrial 6 over 6 skeleton slot for the VHF uplink and assembled a pair of 12 element Yagis for the UHF downlink together with a mast head pre-amplifier.

Today it came together in the last moments of the pass and under 1 degree of elevation. In just less than half a minute the contact was completed.

From JF95fx to LL77sl the distance is 7687 km.” 

Here is a short audio clip that Tom sent. 

 

Well done Tom. This is a remarkable contact as the satellite was barely above the horizon for both operators when the contact was made. As they say, you need to put in the effort to make these great contacts and Tom and Oleg certainly did.

 

ZS1TA Antenna RS-44 Satellite contact.jpeg

 As you have heard on the SARL News the SARL VHF Work Group had their monthly meeting on Thursday evening. Apart from feedback regarding the installation of the new Next Generation Beacon in Bethlehem, we also discussed briefly the proposed Karoo Beacon. A suitable site has been identified and we are now busy with planning and putting together a MoU that we intend to sign with the farmer on who’s property the existing tower stands. We are also very fortunate that the existing equipment on the tower is owned and managed by a local radio amateur Leonard du Plessis ZS3LEN. Len is now also part of the VHF Work Group. 

The Bethlehem beacon ZS0BET is working very well and there are again interesting reports coming in about the performance of the beacon, with some strong signals being reported at unexpected hours of the day, like 3 am in the morning. It is also being reported by amateurs who are just using a simple vertical mobile antenna.

 All those fellow amateurs that have attended the previous workshops and SARL Symposiums and have listened to my presentations will remember that having a beacon transmitting 24/7 365 days of a year is only part of the solution to monitor VHF propagation. We also need to monitor and report the beacon 24/7 365 days of the year in order to collect information that can be analysed to determine under what conditions and at what times in the day propagation paths open. The monitoring and reporting of the beacon is called a reverse beacon network. 

Our experience with the previous CW beacon showed us that it is rather difficult to monitor a CW beacon. The CW needed to be a clean signal and even then the Skimmer software needed a fairly strong signal before it would decode the beacon. Rickus ZS4A and Carl ZS6CBQ had played with the the Heartbeat function on JS8Call and found that it could easily be decoded at fairly low levels and that is where we changed course and started to investigate digital beacons. The new next generation beacon platform that also generates a digital signal using PI4 mode, gives us the advantage to be able to hear the beacon at a much lower signal to noise level, and we now also have the ability to monitor and record the beacon 24/7, 365 days of the year. 

The VHF Work Group and the Beacon project needs your assistance to monitor, record and report this beacon 24/7. If you can operate digital modes, then you have all the tools necessary to monitor the beacon even when you are not at your QTH or in your shack. 

All that you need to do is keep your radio switched on and tuned to 144.424 MHz USB while feeding the audio from your radio to your computer’s sound card and the PI-RX software will do the rest. The software automatically records the decoded PI4 signal in a log file. Please rename a copy of the log file with your callsign and grid locator and send it to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. 

PI-RX is a small program that runs on computers with Microsoft Windows 7 or later and Microsoft .Net 4.0 installed. Recommended minimum computing power is 1 GHz clock and 512 MB RAM. PI-RX also requires that your PC is synchronized to either an online time server (e.g. NTP), GPS, or other synchronization devices. 

The PI-RX program and more information can be obtained from the website of Bo Hanson OZ2M at  https://rudius.net/oz2m/software/pi-rx/. Here you will find the install files as well as a link to the manual for the PI-RX software. 

Are there any software developers out there who can perhaps assist in putting together a low cost monitoring station using a Raspberry Pi and SDR receiver? As I see it, the challenge is the software to decode the PI4. Currently we are only aware of PI-RX which is written in C# and runs on a Windows platform with .Net 4.0.

The MSHV program that a number of VHF enthusiasts are familiar with can also decode PI4. MSHV with some effort can be made to run on a Raspberry Pi that has a light version of Ubuntu installed on it. I have found that it is still a bit sluggish even on a Raspberry Pi4 with 4GB of memory. I however do not have the skills or time right now to see if I can encourage more performance out of this configuration.

 

Yesterday morning there was a lot of activity on 23cm. How about sending in a report on the morning’s 23cm activity? What successes have been had with the new digital modes like Q65 for long distance VHF and UHF communications? Is there anyone active higher up in the microwavebands? What interesting project are you working on? Share it with us. 

Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

Don’t forget to look out for the Next Generation Beacon now operational as ZS0BET and let us have those signal reports as well. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


FOCUS ON VHF AND ABOVE

 23 May 2021

 Audio version

 

On Wednesday 19 May Danie ZR6AGB and I left Pretoria maybe not so bright but early enough to avoid most of the usual traffic on the highways of Gauteng. After a quick pitstop and some coffee along the way we arrived at the Bethlehem Beacon site at 09:00. Rickus ZS4A met us there and we quickly made our final plans before dropping the power to the current beacon and getting it out of the way. The bracket for the Storno cabinet that the new NGN beacon is built into was mounted on the wall and the cabinet attached along with the power and RF cable to the antennas.

 

 

Brian ZS6YZ Completing Installation

 

 

 

NGN Beacon ZS0BET Installed at Bethlehem.jpeg

 

Lastly we temporarily hung the GPS antenna onto the palisade and powered up the beacon. While waiting for the GPS to lock we had a welcome cup of coffee and some snacks that Danie’s XYL had packed for us. Danie then climbed onto the roof of the building and placed the GPS antenna in it’s final position.

 

 

Danie ZR6AGB placing GPS Antenna.jpeg 

The wind had broken off one of the director elements on the Yagi pointing towards Gauteng, so while we were there, I also had a chance to quickly sweep the antenna to check the SWR and we are please to report that all is well with a 1.3:1 SWR on the antennas. We believe that all that is affected by the broken director element is the radiation pattern of the antenna. After we tidied up and said our goodbyes we hit the road again, arriving back home just around 17:00. A very successful and enjoyable outing.

Great reports

I am also please that there have been some good reception reports coming in since Wednesday. 

Pierre ZS4PF reported S3 in Welkom at 14:24 and Dick ZS6BUN reported S1 to S5 at his Nigel QTH at 16:43.

 Carl ZS6CBQ reported S7 with fading to S3 with 100% decoding of the PI4 message at his QTH at 17:43. 

Carl and Hennie ZS6EY both reported that there was strong QSB later in the evening around 20:52 and the decoding percentage had dropped to 94%. 

ZS6CBQ ZS0BET Decodes 

On Thursday morning at 06:24 Carl ZS6CBQ reported the beacon S9+15 in Krugersdorp. 

Today  ( Saturday) around midday Derek ZS5Y reported hearing the beacon in Scottburgh. 

ZS6BET_recorded_by ZS5Y.mp3

and Hennie ZS6EY also reported good decodes at his QTH in Vanderbijlpark.

 

ZS6EY ZS0BET Decodes.jpeg 

I mentioned to Carl that I think we are going to get some very interesting data from this beacon, especially when we monitor 24/7. We are going to start seeing patterns emerging that can be closely correlated with the weather conditions. 

The two antenna of the ZS0BET beacon are pointing in the direction of Durban and Gauteng. From previous experience with the CW beacon we received reports from some unexpected areas and we would like to encourage all VHF enthusiasts to listen out for the beacon on 144.425 MHz and to decode the PI4 message using either the PI-RX or MSHV packages. Digital signals will be heard and decoded a lot better than analog signals. 

I have had a question of how much a digital beacon will cost for 6m.

This question is difficult to answer as there are a number of variables that one needs to consider when planning to build a digital beacon. Remember that the beacon is essentially a homebrew project as you cannot buy an off the shelf product and if you could, you will pay the additional costs for someone who has assembled the beacon for you. 

If one decides on a Next Generation Beacon platform like the one that is now operational in Bethlehem, then you are looking at the following: 

GPS Reference board 2277 DKK

VCO-PLL board with a Crystek CVCO55CX-1000-1000 VCO is 1923 DKK

DDS board is 2334 DKK 

These three boards are the heart of the system at a cost of 6534 DKK which at the current exchange rate translates to R14,950 

Then there is the cost of shipping approximately R750

Money transfer fees R650

Customs and clearance fees R1700

 So landed costs is going to set you back around R18 050 and this is only for the three boards that make up the heart of the system. These three boards, the GPS Reference, VCO-PLL and DDS are common to any beacon, regardless of the frequency of the beacon. One also needs to remember that all these figures are very much dependant on exchange rates which fluctuates daily.

 Now we need to think about a power amplifier for the particular band that you want to a beacon for. Here again there are options that you need to consider. Do you build your own or do you use a commercial power amplifier. In our case we decided to build our own using a Mitsubishi RA30H1317M amplifier module. This module would have cost R1530, but because I ordered 4 modules as I was already planning for the other beacons that we had in mind I managed to get the price down to R638 per module. Why the difference? Well the module cost 20 USD each, but the shipping and fees cost 70 USD regardless whether I purchased 1 or 4. 

Now we need to look at an active GPS antenna, 12 V and 5 V power supplies, some filtering on the output of the power amplifier, surge protection both on the coaxial cable and the AC supply and a box for the beacon. At least another R2500. The numbers quickly add up and unfortunately the exchange rate and shipping are the biggest variables.

So on average you are looking anywhere between R20 000 to R25 000 for a very good digital beacon radio.

 Make no mistake there are cheaper alternatives that will do the job, but as they say “you get what you pay for”. 

While we were installing the beacon, Rickus ZS4A told me about his great achievement the previous weekend during the VHF competition where he participated using only a quarter wave antenna on a magnetic base attached horizontally to a railing at his new temporary QTH. 

 

ZS4A_2m_Quarter_Wave_Antenna.jpeg 

Rickus and Charl ZS4CGR made contact over a distance of 240 km using FT4. 

Rickus has also provided me with a path profile between himself and Charl ZS4CGR that shows that both of them had direct obstructions between them as well. 

 

Path_Profile_ZS4A_to_ZS4CGR.jpeg 

This just shows that VHF communications is possible over a considerable distance with modest equipment. As Rickus says “All it takes is some effort.”

Well done guys. 

There is a second 8m beacon that has gone on air in Ireland. The EI1CAH beacon in the West of Ireland went on air on 17 May 2021 on a frequency of 40.016 MHz at grid IO53CK. This beacon has a good take off to the West where as EI1KNH on 40.013 MHz situated on the East coast has a good take off to the East. More interesting information about these beacons and other VHF and UHF activity in Europe can be found on the blogspot of EI7GL at https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/ 

How about trying some of the new digital modes like Q65 for long distance  VHF and UHF communications. What about higher up in the microwave bands? What interesting project are you working on? Share it with us.

 

Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

Don’t forget to look out for the Next Generation Beacon now operational as ZS0BET and let us have those signal reports as well. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ. 


16 May 2021

AUDIO VERSION  

It is all systems go for the scheduled installation of the new Next Generation Beacon in Bethlehem on 19 May 2021. This week I have made a quick modification to the beacon by adding an AC surge arrestor to the input AC power and changed the routing of the power to the fans to run internally VHF_23May2021.mp3 in the cabinet. This was all done to ensure minimum fiddling while doing the swap out of the radios in Bethlehem. 

There was some strong tropoducting along the East Coast on Friday afternoon and a number of amateurs were monitoring for the beacons of Phil FR5DN from Reunion Island, but unfortunately the ducting did not extend far enough to the East. 

Last week I asked the question: “What about trying one of the new modes like Q65?” 

During the week, Dennis ZS4BS, forwarded a message and a link from the VHFContesting email reflector regarding the use of the new Q65 mode. In this discussion thread there was a comment by Dave, NZ3M, that said "It should be used if band is not open. Especially if looking for multipliers. I can work out 1,000 miles, at will, on 6 meters using Q65 30A mode. Any time of day." 

The introduction in the Quick Start Guide for Q65 states the following:

“WSJT-X 2.4.0 introduces Q65, a digital protocol designed for minimal two-way QSOs over especially difficult propagation paths.  On paths with Doppler spread more than a few Hz, the weak-signal performance of Q65 is the best among all WSJT-X modes.  Q65 is particularly effective for tropospheric scatter, rain scatter, ionospheric scatter, TEP, and EME on VHF and higher bands, as well as other types of fast-fading signals.” 

Locally there seems to be little uptake for Q65 despite some early testing showing that it does work very well. Looking through the various messages on the WhatsApp groups that I receive information on, I can find the following: 

Dick ZS6BUN and Derek ZS5Y worked each other with 1W and 5W

respectively on 6m using Q65-120E on 14 February 2021. Signal reports were -19dB and -29 dB. 

At the time Dick mentioned to me that a -29dB decode is significantly better than that obtainable from JT65. Dick went on to mention that with JT65 mode you need a relatively steady signal as well which is not necessary with Q65 and that Cape Town should be relatively easy to work via tropo scatter. 

On 23 February Dick ZS6BUN and Tom ZS1TA made a 6m contact using Q65-60D and 25W and found that it works great and is much, much more sensitive with one of the decodes at -23dB.

On 16 March Dick ZS6BUN and Andre ZS2ACP were also trying Q65 on 2m.

On 10 April 2021 Charles ZS1CF and Christiaan ZR6AUI had a 6m contact with reports of -16 dB and -21 dB respectively.

On 2 May 2021 Dick ZS6BUN, Hennie ZS6EY and Pierre ZS4PF were testing Q65-30c on 23 cm. 

The recommended submodes in the Q65 Quick Start Guide is as follows: 

Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP) on 50 MHz:      15C, 30C

Ionospheric scatter on 50 MHz:                                 30A

QRP ionospheric scatter on 50 MHz:                         120E

Ionospheric scatter on 144 MHz:                               60C

Troposcatter and rainscatter at 10 GHz:                                60D

Small-dish EME, 10 and 24 GHz:                                          120E

Other EME:

50, 144 MHz:                                                                                      60A 

432 MHz:                                                                                                        60B

1296 MHz:                                                                                          60C

10 GHz:                                                                                                           60D 

For those who want to try Q65, a Quick Start Guide is available on Joe Taylor K1JT website at  https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/Q65_Quick_Start.pdf 

Dick has also previously mentioned that Bob Atkins KA1GT also has an excellent section on this mode on this website https://www.bobatkins.com/radio/index.html 

RFI or Radio Frequency Interference is a problem for radio amateurs.

There is a virtual seminar that should be interesting listen to.
The subject will be “ Radio Frequency Interference and the Radio Amateur (RFI Seminar)” and presented by Ed Hare, W1RFI.

The Abstract reads as follows:

“EMI is a problem that affects hams and their neighbors alike. Ed Hare, W1RFI, ARRL Laboratory Manager and one of the editors of the ARRL RFI Book, has put together this 30-minute slide presentation to give an overview of politics, personalities and technical issues involved in EMI control. His presentation outlines the standard causes and cures for interference. The question-and-answer session that follows the formal slide presentation turns this into a real RFI workshop.” 

The presentation will be on Zoom on Wednesday 19 May 2021 at 20:00 UTC which makes it a late night for us, but I believe it will be worthwhile.

 

Monitor the website of the Boston Chapter of the IEEE EMC Society at https://www.emcsbostonchapter.com/events where the link will be posted closer to the time. 

Looking at the Hepburn charts for the week ahead Tropoducting seems to be subdued along the coasts. 

Remember that you do not need to only wait for Tropoducting to try some long distance communications. What about trying one of the new modes like Q65? What about higher up in the microwave bands? What interesting project are you working on? Share it with us. 

Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.

 

Focus on VHF and above

9 May 2021 

Audio Version 

 

At the time of writing today’s program, there has again been little activity on VHF and above this past week.

 

The Hepburn Charts also show little prospects for tropoducting in the South Atlantic or along the coasts of South Africa for the following week. 

Carl ZS6CBQ has been testing a new 23 cm Yagi antenna this week.

Carl says “On Saturday John ZS6JON and I installed a GTV3-34W Yagi at my QTH on the tower on the other side of my Loop Yagi. I started doing some comparison tests and will need support from all of you to give feed back to John who again is reporting back to Hartmud DG7YBN the designer  of this Yagi. So far it looks very promising after the first few tests that we did with ZS4PF, ZS4N and ZS6BUN. I will give more info later” 

GTV3-34W Yagi 

This looks like an interesting antenna. Looking forward to hearing how it works. 

Cor ZS6CR alerted me to an interesting post on the website of John EI7GL about a 23 cm contact that was made by ship scatter. It is well known that amateurs make use of aircraft scatter at times however this is the first time that I have heard of ship scatter. 

Cesar EA8CXN and Francisco EA8CSB on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands could not complete a contact directly on 1296 MHz due to local mountains. They found that the cruise ship Aidaperla is sailing towards the island of La Palma, and its position iwas visible for both stations.

 

Aidaperla 

They initially used FT8 to help them align their antennas and then managed to complete a contact on FT8. Thereafter they also managed to complete a SSB contact via ship scatter. You can read more about this contact and watch the video of their SSB contact at https://ea8cxn.es/?p=431&lang=en

 

What a fantastic contact. 

The other interesting post on John EI7GL website was one posted by Dave who holds the callsigns N7BHC/PJ4VHF and ex ZR2BI with the title “Some thoughts on VHF paths across the South Atlantic ...by Dave, N7BHC”.

Dave says “I have been studying trans-oceanic ducting for many decades (I started out as ZR2BI in East London). The South Atlantic may be the BEST location worldwide for long-haul ducting, both for range and how often the openings occur.” 

Dave goes on to say “Back in 2007-2010, I was trying to drum up trans-Atlantic tropo ducting interest. I am very pleased to see more progress now.  

I introduced John Turner at Saint FM, the local FM radio station, back in 2008-2010 to tropo ducting on the FM broadcasting band. He successfully logged many Angolan, Namibian, and Cape Town FM stations. One December he emailed that he was unsuccessful identifying an Angolan FM radio station as he had interference from a Brazilian station on the same frequency. This was using just a car radio with its whip antenna. 

Back in March 2008, ZD8I on Ascension Island reported that they sometimes heard Cape Town Marine Radio (ZSC) on 156.8 MHz FM. That is an omni antenna to an omni antenna on FM at a range of 4400 km. 

Since then, I spent the next ten years on Bonaire as PJ4VHF.” 

Dave is no stranger to long distance VHF propagation. While on the island of Bonaire with the callsign PJ4VHF, Dave heard the Cape Verde D4C beacon on CW on 144.436 MHz for about 90 minutes (01:00 to 02:30 UTC) on the evening of 6 May 2015. The distance across the Atlantic was 4,694 km. 

Dave says “A contact from ZD7 (St.Helena Is) to PY (Brazil) on 144 MHz (2m) is 100% probable. FM vertical polarization works well but SSB or FT8 on horizontal is even better.” 

You can read more at https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/search?q=PJ4VHF

Thanks John EI7GL for this information. 

Let us get on the air and make things happen! You do not have to rely on Tropoducting to try some long distance communications. What about trying one of the new modes like Q65? What about higher up in the microwave bands? What interesting project are you working on? Share it with us. 

Please send me a consolidated report of your activity or project with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ. 


 25 April 2021

Audio version 

This week has been a quiet week with no exceptional VHF and above activity being reported locally. 

Willem ZS6WAB 8m beacon on 40.675 MHz has been heard several times in Europe this week.

 

The first report was on 14 March of this year when the signal was heard in Portugal. 

This week it has been reported several times, on 19 April by Leonidas SV2DCD in Greece.

David, 9H1TX on the island of Malta also heard the 8m beacon on 19 April.

Spiros, SV8CS also from Greece heard the beacon on 19 April.

Francesco, IZ0CBD in Rome, Italy reported reception of the beacon on 20 April and Eduardo, CT7ASY near Lisbon also heard the beacon on the 20 April. 

Well done Willem.

 

ZS6WAB-8m-bcn-heard-9H1TX-IZ0CBD-SV8CS-SV2DCD-CT7ASY-april-2021.jpg 

Thanks to John EI7GL for the information. On John’s website https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/p/40-mhz.html you can find video clips of the some of the reception reports. 

In the last two weeks there has also been local reports of 10m band openings. A quick look at PSKReporter showed 10m FT8 activity at the time of writing this report at 11:16 UTC. 

Let us hope that there will be some possibilities for VHF TEP propagation between South Africa and Southern Europe in the near future.

Looking at the Hepburn charts 

25 April 2021for the week ahead also shows little chances for tropoducting along the coast. 

Well, that’s all for this week. Hopefully there will be more to report on next week.  

Let me tell the VHF and Above community about your activity on the VHF and Above bands. Those extraordinary long distance contacts that you have made or even that project that you are working on. Please send me a consolidated report of your activity with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ. 


18 April 2021

 AUDIO VERSION

Last time I reported that the beacon was acting up. I can now report that the Next Generation Beacon has been running steadily at full power with all three sequences, MGM, CW and Carrier being sent out 24/7 since 9 April at my QTH. It has been powered down between 09:00 and 12:00 on Sunday 18 April so that it does not interfere with the Amateur Radio Today broadcast that also needs to be transmitted from my QTH. The troubleshooting process also helped me to learn more about the inner workings of the Next Generation Beacon platform and to get to know the Beacon Manager software as well as an opportunity to learn more about the programming of the beacon. If the beacon had not acted up, I would have missed out on a learning opportunity. 

Even though the beacon is running on a vertically polarised antenna, it can be received and decoded and it would be great if some of the amateurs in the Gauteng area can listen out for it and provide some feedback. I’m particularly interested in getting some decoded data on the MGM message that is being transmitted as this is what we need to monitor 24/7.

 Next Generation Beacon

In the last programme I reported about the exceptional tropoducting that was experienced along the West Coast. 

Charles ZS1CF sent me another report of a contact that was made with St Helena last week Wednesday 7 April. 

Charles says “On Wednesday morning at 08h43, Koos, ZS3JPY reported that the 2m band is wide open.  He could tell by listening to his APRS radio. 

Koos_APRS.mp3 

In the afternoon at 17h50, Chris, ZS1FC reported hearing the St Helena Island 2m beacon.

 Chris_Beacon.mp3 

I quickly went to my radio and I also received the beacon. 

Charles_Beacon .mp3 

Soon afterwards Naz, ZS1NAZ, also reported hearing the beacon from Cape Town. At 18h20 Dawid, V51DK in Swakopmund also reported hearing the beacon. 

Dawid_Beacon.mp3 

The tropoducting was excellent and I received Kobus in Port Nolloth and Koos in Kleinzee very well.

 Koos_Cobus_Charles.mp3 

In the meantime, Chris tried to contact Gary via WhatsApp but without success. I also sent Gary a WhatsApp and he came back to me at last, but at that stage I could not hear the beacon any more. 

Gary heard me calling but I could not hear him at all. 

Charles_Gary.mp3 

After a long while, Koos in Kleinzee decided to listen and was quite surprised to receive Gary with a S7

Koos_Gary.mp3

Koos_Gary_2.mp3

Koos_Gary_3.mp3 

I kept on listening for one and a half hours but could not hear Gary at all. This time around, it was only Koos who could work Gary!! Congratulations guys!!

This is the very first time the beacon on St. Helena Island was heard by 4 stations across the country and it also proved its value in knowing there is an opening for simplex communication. 

Thanks for listening. Greetings from the West Coast, this is Charles, ZS1CF.”

 Charles, again many thanks fo

 

I also reported about the great 23 cm contact between Carl ZS6CBQ and Nico ZS4N. And I mentioned that Carl spotted an anomaly over the northern Free State on the Hepburn Charts for that Saturday morning. 

I also asked the following questions: 

 

  • Could this be the reason for the good comms?
  • How many other times are there openings that we do not know about?

 

 In order to answer these questions we need well placed beacons and a beacon monitoring network to collect information about when and where the beacons are heard.

 But this information is not all that needs to be gathered. We also need information about the weather conditions at the time and upper air data that is collected by the radiosondes that are sent up twice a day by the South African Weather Service. Added to this we need to enlist the help of scientists who can analyse the data and make correlations. 

The Next Generation Beacon platform has been designed in a way that it can be easily expanded to enable the running of multiple beacons on multiple bands from a single beacon site. Added to this it can also very easily be used to set up a Synchronised Beacon, allowing the SARL to participate in the IARU 6m Synchronised Beacon Project.

In the US there is an organisation called HamSCI. HamSCI stands for Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation. HamSCI has the following objectives:

 

  • Advance scientific research and understanding through amateur radio activities.
  • Encourage the development of new technologies to support this research.
  • Provide educational opportunities for the amateur community and the general public.

 You may have heard both Hans and myself mention HamSCI in the past, but to date it has only been the two of us who have participated in any activities. I have assisted with data collection on two occasions with Solar Eclipses. 

On 20 March 2021 Hans and myself did a presentation at the HamSCI 2021 Workshop that was hosted by the The University of Scranton in Scranton, PA and sponsored by the National Science Foundation in the United States.

https://hamsci2021-uscranton.ipostersessions.com/Default.aspx?s=74-34-37-9E-AA-7E-F5-CF-CF-FD-00-3F-96-71-A9-0E

Following the Next Generation Beacon presentation given by myself at the SARL Unlocking Amateur Radio Technology Symposium on 17 March 2021 SANSA Space Science in Hermanus has expressed interest in the project and an exploratory meeting was held on 6 April 2021. SANSA Space Science also took an interest in the HamSCI activities and expressed interest in furthering the collaboration between the South African amateur radio community and themselves as there is a common interest regarding propagation research, both HF and VHF/UHF. SANSA Space Science currently have a HF project running where they are looking for reception reports and data from the amateur community and we will pass on more information about this shortly. 

The SARL beacon project is only just gaining traction and we now have tools that we can use to get this exciting research project under way and we need you to assist. Not only through donations that can be made online via the AMSAT SA website http://amsatsa.org.za/, but we need more technical resources who can assist with developing the reverse beacon monitoring network and assembling of the next beacons once we purchase the hardware. 

Now is the time to take the development of amateur radio to the next level and truly experience the greatest scientific hobby on earth while collaborating with scientists to discover more about propagation than we have ever known before. 

There are exciting times ahead on the VHF and up bands and it is up to us to make it happen.

Let me tell the VHF and Above community about your activity on the VHF and Above bands. Those extraordinary long distance contacts that you have made or even that project that you are working on. Please send me a consolidated report of your activity with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


 

 

21 March 2021 

Audio version

 

 

In the programme of 7 March, I reported about the St Helena Beacon being heard in France by F0FYF. Well there is some controversy over this report and John EI7GL has done further investigations by analysing and comparing audio clips received from Naz ZS1NAZ, who bench tested the beacon, and Dawid V51DK, who also received the beacon very well in Namibia, to the recordings made by Jean-François F0FYF. John EI7GL has concluded that the recording made by Jean-François F0FYF was not from the St Helena beacon. You can read more about this at

https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/2021/03/144-mhz-beacon-on-st-helena-heard.html 

 

Scroll down on the website to the updates dated 10 and 13 March 2021.

It is a very interesting read indeed. Thank you Tom ZS1TA for alerted me regarding this update. 

Also reported on the blogspot of John EI7GL is a report of the 8m beacon of Willem ZS6WAB that was heard in Portugal on 14 March 2021. The frequency of the 8m beacon is 40.675 MHz. More information at

https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/2021/03/south-african-8-metre-beacon-on-40675.html

Very few amateurs know that South Africa has an  allocation between 40.675 MHz to 40.685 MHz specifically for propagation research. 

The replacement Next Generation Beacon for ZS0BET is currently being tested from the QTH of Danie ZR6AGB at grid KG44CH. The beacon currently is putting out 25 W into 2x14 element stacked Yagi antenna. The gain is approximately 15 dB. 

Earlier in the week the antenna was pointed towards grid KF59JR and Derek ZS5Y reported having 88 decodes ranging from -21 dB to -9 dB with the best time being between 14:00 and 16:00 on 15 March.

 

Later in the week the antenna was again pointed towards KF59JR and Derek again decoded the beacon, however there were fewer decodes than previously.

 

ZS5Y_NGN_Beacon _Reception_20210318.jpeg

 

Derek noted the following in his message to me:

“Got nothing throughout after dark. Best times in late afternoon. But not SSB or even CW quality it's deep in the noise. But contacts are possible for sure.” He also told me that they had cloud cover and rain in the evening. That may be part of the reason why the reception of the beacon was weaker. Tropospheric propagation is very dependant on the weather conditions with in the troposphere.

 

Derek also noted “A great propagation study tool indeed. Tells us so much more already than we knew.”

This is so true, and I believe that we now have a tool that we can really gather very good information about the propagation conditions inland.

Correlating the data collected from the reception reports of this new beacon with weather data, especially upper air data will help us to better understand tropospheric propagation across the interior of the country.

 

The beacon runs on a 100% duty cycle and during bench testing I found that the temperature on the outside heat sink to be in the region of 47° C. During the week, Danie ZR6AGB has been monitoring the internal and external temperatures of the beacon and experimented with the placement of a fan to improve cooling on the beacon. On Friday morning Danie and I mounted two 120 mm fans on the outside of the heat sink that will make a significant difference to the temperature at which the beacon runs. The beacon will run for the next week from KG44CH and is currently pointing towards Welkom and Bloemfontein. We are looking for reception reports and preferably PI4 decode information from amateurs in those areas. 

The beacon project is now certainly becoming exciting and I’m looking forward to the next phases. 

Hans ZS6AKV and myself did a presentation titled “Beacon Programme to study inland Tropo in South Africa” at the HamSCI Workshop yesterday evening. 


The SARL Technical Symposium, "Unlocking Amateur Radio Technology 2021" will be held on the BlueJeans platform on Saturday 27 March. Registration information is on the front page of the SARL web. There is an electronic form that you need to complete online https://forms.gle/Gvso3dmDorGaR7xq5

Registration closes midnight on 25 March. Remember if you have registered and not received an email within a day or two then you need you make enquiries. Do not leave it until the morning of the 27th. 

Let me tell the VHF and Above community about your activity on the VHF and Above bands. Those extraordinary long distance contacts that you have made or even that project that you are working on. Please send me a consolidated report of your activity with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. You do not need to be a skilled writer. Just provide me with the information and I will do the rest.

 Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


14 March 2021

 Audio version

On Friday afternoon the Hepburn Tropoducting forecast for the South Atlantic was very good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The St Helena beacon was heard in Namibia by both Dawid V51DK and Johan V51JH and Dawid reported it getting stronger as the time progressed. 

St_Helena_Beacon_as_heard_by_V51DK.mp3 

The St Helena Beacon is running on 144.475 MHz. 

The Tropoducting forecast was also good along the South Coast and in the late afternoon the East London Repeater was reported being very strong in Port Elizabeth or Gqeberha as it is now known. Jimmy ZS2JIM in PE reported the following about a contact with Lunga ZS2LN in Bhisho “Very good signal from ZS2LN on 145.650. Went onto 145.500, his signal dropped from 5 to 3 but my signal to him still strong.” That is a distance of around 200 km between Bhisho and PE. 

Excellent contacts. 

The VHF / UHF contest is on this weekend and the Tropoducting forecast for Saturday evening was looking promising, I wonder if any contacts were made up the East Coast with KZN.

 

On Saturday morning I monitored the 46 Long Distance WhatsApp Group and there were a number of amateurs playing on 6m. The West Rand Club also had a club station running.

 

ZS6WR_VHF_UHF Contest_Station.jpeg 

I have found a very good RSGB presentation on VHF Propagation. This video is a good introduction for the new amateurs who want to start exploring the world above 30 MHz. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Yo4IFn6AAY 

In fact the RSGB has a whole range of excellent videos on their YouTube channel if you use the search term VHF once you are on their YouTube channel. They are well worth watching. 

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheRSGB/search?query=vhf

 

The Next Generation beacon was a bit up and down this week with the load shedding the last couple of days. I am however happy with it’s performance and it is now ready for testing at full power from the QTH of Danie ZR6AGB at grid KG44CH. Listen out for it during the next couple of days on 144.425 MHz. When listening out for the beacon you will here three sequences, MGM, CW and a tone. 

This is what you will here with your radio tuned to 144.425 MHz CW 

ZS0BET_145.425_CW.mp3 

The CW portion of the beacon can clearly be heard. 

This is what it sounds like on 144.424 MHz USB 

ZS0BET_145.424_USB.mp3

 To decode the PI4 message you can either use the MSHV software and select PI4 mode or you can download Pi-RX from  https://rudius.net/oz2m/software/pi-rx/.

 

If you only hear the CW and tone and no MGM then the beacon has lost satellite status and will start the MGM transmission as soon as the DDS receives valid NMEA time data from the GPS.

 

I will request Rickus ZS4A to turn off the current beacon in Bethlehem while we test the replacement beacon.

 

The SARL Technical Symposium, "Unlocking Amateur Radio Technology 2021" will be held on the BlueJeans platform on Saturday 27 March. Keep you eyes on the SARL homepage for when the registration process opens. Remember if you have registered and not received an email within a day or two then you need you make enquiries. Do not leave it until the morning of the 27th.

Let me tell the VHF and Above community about your activity on the VHF and Above bands. Those extraordinary long distance contacts that you made or even that project that you are working on. Please send me a consolidated report of your activity with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. You do not need to be a skilled writer. Just provide me with the information and I will do the rest.

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ


7 March 2021

Audio version

The St Helena beacon that went on the air in February is certainly being heard. 

On 1 March the beacon was reported by Charles ZS1CF, a distance of approx 3145 km. 

 

 

 

ZD7GWM-Beacon-ZS1CF-144-MHz-01-Mar-2021-map

On 5 March F0FYF reported hearing a beacon in the direction of 200 degrees from his QTH. From the recordings that he made and the direction it seems as if it could be the St Helena Beacon. You can read more about it on the https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/ and look at the comments on the F0FYF blog spot at http://f0fyf.blogspot.com/2021/03/balise-inconnue-en-vhf.html

You can also listen to the recordings made. My CW is not good enough to decode the snip-it recorded, but maybe you can.

 

ZD7GWM-Beacon-F0FYF-TEP-March-2021.jpg

 

Thanks to the EI7GL for the images and the reports on the St Helena beacon.

 

Well done to all the amateurs who contributed to making a beacon on St Helena Island a reality. We all know that the good tropoducting conditions in the South Atlantic has lead to many contacts between St Helena Island and South Africa and Namibia and now with the beacon on St Helena running 24/7 we will discover that the path is most likely open more often than we thought. Let us hope that it will soon be heard in Brazil as well. This will certainly renew the efforts to bridge the Atlantic between the West Coast of Africa and the East Coast of Brazil. 

Pine ZS6OB also managed to complete a MSK144 contact on Saturday morning with Derek V51DM. Pine was using 100W into a 2 element homebrew Hexbeam 8 m above ground level and Derek was feeding 1 kW into a 5 element M2 Yagi 18 m above ground level. Well done guys.

 

ZS6OB_V51DM_MSK144.jpeg

 

V51DM_ZS6OB_MSK144.jpeg

 

ZS6OB_Hexbeam.jpeg 

On Friday morning Derek ZS5Y again reported hearing the Bethlehem beacon in Scottburgh on the KZN South Coast. Derek is hearing the beacon  regularly. Are there any other KZN stations hearing the beacon? 

Testing of the Next Generation beacon is progressing and shows that it is working well, however some issues with ground loops between the various boards needs to be taken care of. Once this has been done, testing will resume again. 

Whether you believe it or not, our VHF and above bands are under scrutiny and we need to be able to demonstrate that we are actively using the bands allocated for amateur use. We need to document and talk about what we are doing on these bands. Symposiums and Workshops are where we need to share this information. Do your bit and help us show that we are actively using the bands allocated to us. 

The SARL Technical Symposium, "Unlocking Amateur Radio Technology 2021" that will be held on the BlueJeans platform on Saturday 27 March is the ideal opportunity to share the project that you have been working on with your fellow radio amateurs and an opportunity to show the world that technology is alive and well in Amateur Radio. The Symposium will run from 10:00 - 14:00 CAT and the speaking slots are typically 20 minutes with 10 minutes for discussion and questions. 

Let me tell the VHF and Above community about your activity on VHF and Above bands. Those extraordinary long distance contacts that you made or even that project that you are working on. Please send me a consolidated report of your activity with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. You do not need to be a skilled writer. Just provide me with the information and I will do the rest. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


Focus on VHF and Above 

28 February 2021

 Audio version 

Not much activity has been reported over the past week, however Dick ZS6BUN and Tom ZS1TA made a 6m Q65-60D contact via ionoscatter on Tuesday. This was the first ZS6 to ZS1 contact on this mode.

Tom said that during this period there was no hint of any beacon activity.

The frequency used was 50.310 MHz and Tom was using 20 W to start off and later increased his power output to 50 W. Tom went on to say “Dick had constant decodes and I received his initial report at -13 dB whilst I replied with a -23 dB. As ever plagued with the insidious noise level here. Nevertheless we plodded on taking just over a hour to complete. I am sure it would have been much sooner if not for the local QRM.”

 

First_decode_from_ZS6BUN.jpeg

 

Screen_showing_first_decodes_coming_through.jpeg 

Well done guys. 

Dick ZS6BUN also posted on the various VHF and above WhatsApp groups that Bob Atkins KA1GT has an excellent section on Q65 on his website https://www.bobatkins.com/radio/Q65-basics.html. You will also find a wealth of information on Bob’s website if you are interested in EME and microwaves.

 

On Friday afternoon Derek ZS5Y reported hearing the Bethlehem beacon in Scottburgh on the KZN South Coast. If I recall correctly this is the first report out of KZN.

 NEXT GENERATION BEACON

The Next Generation Beacon is progressing, although slower than I anticipated. On Friday afternoon I finished mounting and wiring all the boards in the old Storno cabinet. It is now ready for bench testing minus the power amplifier module and then the PA module will be fitted and final testing will take place on Monday.

NGN_Beacon_Hardware.jpg

 

PA_Module.jpg


Once testing has been completed, the beacon will be connected at the QTH of Danie ZR6AGB for a couple of days for local testing before plans will be made to install the new beacon hardware in Bethlehem. Danie ZR6AGB has been a great help assisting with drilling and tapping of the necessary holes for mounting of the hardware.

 

ZR6AGB_at_his_Milling_Machine.jpg

Whether you believe it or not, our VHF and above bands are under scrutiny and we need to be able to demonstrate that we are actively using the bands allocated for amateur use. We need to document and talk about what we are doing on these bands. Symposiums and Workshops are where we need to share this information. Do your bit and help us show that we are actively using the bands allocated to us.

The SARL Technical Symposium, "Unlocking Amateur Radio Technology 2021" that will be held on the BlueJeans platform on Saturday 27 March is the ideal opportunity to share the project that you have been working on with your fellow radio amateurs and an opportunity to show the world that technology is alive and well in Amateur Radio. The Symposium will run from 10:00 - 14:00 CAT and the speaking slots are typically 20 minutes with 10 minutes for discussion and questions.

 

Don’t be shy. There is no excuses about not being able to talk in front of people. You are talking on your computer as you would if you were using Echolink. Submit a brief synopsis of your proposed paper in MS Word format by Friday5 March 2021 to artoday@sarl.org.za. If you have not yet sent in your proposal, then get it in an soon as possible.

 

On Saturday morning Hans ZS6AKV and myself received good news that our proposal to present a paper “Beacon Programme to study inland Tropo in South Africa” at the upcoming 2021 HamSCI Workshop has been accepted. Hans and myself will be co-presenting the paper.

I can help you to tell the rest of the VHF and Above community about your activity on VHF and Above and those extraordinary long distance contacts that you made or even that project that you are working on. Please send me a consolidated report of your activity with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. You do not need to be a skilled writer. Just provide me with the information and I will do the rest.

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


21 February 2021

Audio version  

Well there are certainly guys experimenting with the new Q65 mode and it does seem to work well. 

Dick ZS6BUN let me know that on Sunday he and Derek ZS5Y worked each other successfully using Q65-120E. The contact was on 6m with Derek using 1 W and Dick 5 W. The signal reports over a distance of 506 km was -19 dB and -29 dB.

Dick says “A -29 dB decode is significantly better than obtainable from JT65A. With the latter mode you need a relatively steady signal - not so necessary with Q65. Cape Town SHOULD be relatively easy to work via tropo scatter (as opposed to the west coast’s beloved tropo ducting). 

Thanks Dick for that report on Q65. Certainly a mode to explore further. 

In the last two months there has been two VHF/UHF contests. The PEARS contest from Friday 15 January to Sunday 17 January saw 9 logs being submitted all from either club stations or base stations in both the Analogue and Digital categories. In the Analogue category there were no entries from either field stations and there were no entries in the FM category. 

Three weeks later the first leg of the SARL VHF/UHF FM contest took place on Saturday 6 February and here a total of 31 logs were received of which 6 were from club stations. 

Carl sent me the following report on the SARL VHF/UHF FM contest. 

The VHF/ UHF FM contest of 6 February 2021 was a big success!! Thank you Phillip ZS6PVT and the WRARC for their support.

31 Log sheets were received from members of 6 Clubs. Activity on 6m, 2m and 70cm was great with lots of stations hopping between the 3 bands chasing stations for points.  The West Rand Amateur Radio Club (WRARC) made a huge effort to get their members on the air and gave training on how to compile the VHF/ UHF log sheet. They dominated the contest with 61% of the logs received. Unfortunately, the West Rand Club did not take part under their club callsign. The only club entry was from Pretoria Amateur Radio Club – ZS6PTA.

ZS6PTA had the advantage of longer distances, 50 to 60 km to the west Rand, while the West Rand guys logged mostly shorter distances between Club members … typical distances under 10 km. We need more clubs to support this contest and to get their members to take part.

The winner Kobus Boshoff ZS6BOS set up field station on a hill near Westonaria. Kobus demonstrated the advantage of a field station, further away on a hill working far stations and accumulating points with distance and grid squares.

Stations who are new to VHF/UHF Contests will have to learn that these contests are very different from HF contests. You have to concentrate on distance which can be achieved by using Yagi antennas with gain. Most of the far stations are also on horizontal polarization. Grids squares are your multiplier, so more grids will give you a better score.

Not too many mistakes were found on the log sheets, mostly using the wrong 6 digit grid square. The log sheet calculates the distance for you when the HamCalc.xls file is activated. Some stations had trouble to get it activated but with the assistance of our moderator Koos ZS6KSG and myself ZS6CBQ the logs were sorted out. 

Thanks Carl for that report. This type of feedback is great as it helps the guys to build a strategy on how to approach the contest.

I also found it interesting that you mentioned that most of the far stations had horizontal Yagi antennas. Most FM operators are used to omnidirectional vertical antennas. If everyone operates with antennas on the same polarisation plain then just imagine the additional distances that could be worked. If I recall there is around a 20dB loss between vertical and horizontal polarisation. Please understand me correctly, this is not an argument for horizontal vs vertical. You just need to be aware that there are gains to be made if both the sender and receiver are using the same polarisation. 

On Saturday the SARL/AMSAT SA VHF UHF Workshop took place. The workshop was run on the BlueJeans platform and was attended by no less that 47 participants. One of the participants was a club station ZS6TJ whose club members attended from their clubhouse with the proceedings being projected on a large screen.

Thanks to all the presenters who presented at the workshop and of course to everyone that managed to attend. We are aware that some folk registered, but it seems that they did not receive the link to the event. I do understand the frustration, but one also needs to be proactive and when you register for an event and have not received the login details within a couple of days, then you need to follow up. 

In last week’s programme I mentioned that to get active on the bands above 70 cm you need to home brew using modules that are readily available that you can connect together and generate a signal that can be broadcast. Well the presentation by Anton ZR6AIC was exactly about that and how one can easily assemble some modules that allows you to operate on higher UHF and microwave bands. 

As you will have heard on the SARL News, the next event that you need to look out for and make sure that you attend will be the SARL Technical Symposium, "Unlocking Amateur Radio Technology 2021" that will be held on the BlueJeans platform on Saturday 27 March 2021. 

The Symposium will run from 10:00 - 14:00 CAT and the speaking slots are typically 20 minutes with 10 minutes for discussion and questions. This is the ideal opportunity to share the project that you have been working on with your fellow radio amateurs and an opportunity to show the world that technology is alive and well in Amateur Radio. 

Don’t be shy. There is no excuses about not being able to talk in front of people. You are talking on your computer as you would if you were using Echolink. Submit a brief synopsis of your proposed paper in MS Word format by Friday 26 February 2021 to artoday@sarl.org.za. 

The Beacon on St Helena Island is on the air on 144.475 MHz CW. Garry ZD7GWM with the assistance of Daniel ZD7DL and Bradley, who I assume does not have an amateur license yet, has finally erected the X700 antenna  on a pole close to the weather station on the island and is eagerly waiting reception reports for the beacon. 

 

St Helena Beacon Antenna. 

I would love to let the rest of the VHF and Above community know about your activity on VHF and Above and those extraordinary long distance contacts that you made. It is important to tell our fellow amateurs about the exciting world out there above 30 MHz. Please send me a consolidated report of your long distance activity with any additional photos, audio or video clips to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. You do not need to be a skilled writer. Just provide me with the information and I will do the rest. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


 

 

31 January 2021

Audio version

Last Sunday while I was listening to AR Today Danie ZR6AGB let me know that the 6m band was open to Cape Town.

Naz ZS1NAZ who acted as the net controller had his hands full trying to record some of the activity and sent me some of the recordings that he made. While the band faded at times you can hear that there were some really strong signal reports. Longest distances were Cape Town to Polokwane.

ZS1NAZ 6m Recording

That was just a short extract of more than 10 minutes of recording that Naz sent me. Some of the callsigns I picked up was ZS1NAZ, ZS1F, ZS1TAF, ZS6CBQ, ZS6OB, ZR6AGB, ZS6WN and ZS6NK.

I asked Naz how did he know that the band was open? Did he monitor any beacons and which beacons did he hear?

Naz ZS1NAZ 

Thanks for the great information Naz and I am sure everyone had loads of fun with you on the band. 

On Saturday morning there was a good FT8 6m contact between Derek ZS5Y in Scottburgh and Derek V51DM in Swakopmund as well.

 

ZS5Y V51DM FT8 20210130

 

The VHF Work Group met again on Thursday evening on their usual Skype channel. It was a full house with Derek ZS5Y joining the meeting as well. 

Brian ZS6YZ provided feedback on the progress of the Next Generation Beacon hardware that will replace the current radio at the Bethlehem site. Brian showed a photo of the proposed layout of the boards in the old Storno repeater cabinet that Rassie ZS1YT had made available for the project. There is some work to be done on power supplies for the various boards as they do not all run on 12 V. A power amplifier module also needs a board for with some components for biasing of the gate and source voltages of the Mitsubishi RF module that is going to be used as well as a low pass filter to reduce the harmonics on the output of the PA. Danie, ZR6AGB has offered to assist with any hardware challenges that may arise with mounting the boards in the cabinet. Brian said that he aimed to have the beacon up and running by 20 February which is the date of the next virtual VHF Workshop.

 

Proposed layout of the NGN Beacon hardware.

Carl ZS6CBQ also reported that Charl ZS3K has possibly found a site for the Karoo Beacon. The farmer who has an existing tower has agreed in principal to accommodate our beacon on his tower. Charl will visit the site and see if it will be suitable. This beacon will need to be solar powered, so the necessary power budgets would need to be calculated. 

There was also a discussion around the beacons that are on the air currently in South Africa and the need for the beacons to conform to the IARU bandplans and recommendations as per the IARU Region 1 VHF Manual.  The Work Group will be drafting a document which will be released via the SARL in the near future to help the beacon owners / operators understand what the current requirements are. 

The VHF Work Group meets on the last Thursday of the month on Skype and any one who would like to join are welcome to send their contact details and Skype name to vhfnews@sarl.org.za and you will be added to the call. 

That’s all for the week. Keep trying to 


make those long distance contacts on VHF and above and do let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za when you make those contacts. 

Also send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


Focus on VHF and Above 

24 January 2021

Audio version

The exiting news this week is that a 2m beacon has arrived on St Helena Island and Garry ZD7GWM was very excited to take delivery of the beacon. Here is the story sent to me by Dee ZR1DEE. Dee is the XYL of Nazri ZS1NAZ.

Dee says “Kobus ZS3JPY was instrumental in starting the idea of having a beacon for St Helena Island. Well, the time has come, and it is happening as history is being made! 

Now, let’s follow the journey of the beacon and more....

The Beacon frequencies:-

Channel 1: 144.435 MHz

Channel 2: 144.325 MHz

Channel 3: 144.375 MHz

Channel 4: 144.385 MHz

 

Garry ZD7GWM received the three boxes today, 21 January 2021. He is smiling!

Sponsors that made this possible were :

  • Sam ZS6BRZ sponsored a X700H Diamond antenna with transport costs to Cape Town.
  • Leon ZS6LMG and Linda ZS6LML sponsored a 20 Amp power supply and 25m of LMR400 coax and connectors.
  • Marcos PY7MHZ from Brazil sponsored the CW Beacon.
  • Another Marcos, from Mcom Electronica in Brazil being the designer and programmer of the beacon, was instrumental in working with Naz ZS1NAZ to re programme the beacon that he designed and built.
  • Pieter V51PJ sponsored a VHF radio and fitted the CW beacon into the radio.
  • Johan V51JH on holiday in South Africa transported the equipment to Naz ZS1NAZ.
  • Pieter ZS3PV donated another VHF radio as a spare for back up.
  • Deon ZS6DEB also donated a VHF radio for back up.
  • A golf shirt was made for Garry ZD7GWM with all the amateurs call signs that he has already worked in ZS1 and ZS3. The golf shirt was sponsored by Charles ZS1CF and XYL Hannelie. 

All of the equipment arrived at Naz’s QTH and Kobus ZS3JPY asked Naz ZS1NAZ to test the beacon and it worked fine, and while on test, DISASTER struck! The beacon started transmitting gibberish and the radio stopped putting out power. The race was now on to find spare parts and get the beacon sorted ASAP. Naz ZS1NAZ contacted Kobus ZS3JPY to explain to him what had happened. Kobus said: “Don’t worry I will make a plan’’.

The plan was such that Kobus spoke to Deon ZS6DEB who sent a radio to Kobus. 

The next operation was to get the equipment to St Helena Island.

Kobus ZS3JPY and Naz ZS1NAZ made many phone calls and eventually found the ship leaving to St Helena Island the first week in January 2021. Garry ZD7GWM received the equipment from Customs today (21 January 2021) He even took a day off work to go and collect, so you can only imagine his excitement! He was so overjoyed today that he said: “Finally, it’s here!” with a big smile in his voice. 

A hearty thank you to all the sponsors, and everybody else who contributed unselfishly, in making the St Helena Beacon Project a success.

A special note of thanks goes to Kobus ZS3JPY and his wife, Michelle ZS3TO. Through all this, Kobus ZS3JPY had his leg amputated, was in great pain most of the time, and still managed to pull off the Beacon Project.”  

What a great story and many thanks to all the fellow amateurs who contributed to this successful project. This was a big team effort.

Thanks Dee for sending in this report.  

We now eagerly await the first reception reports for this new beacon on St Helena Island. 

On Friday tropoducting was great along the Southern Cape coast.

 

 

 

This resulted in a remarkable contact via the Riversdale repeater between Trevor ZS1TR in Agulhas and Andre ZS2ZA in Port Elizabeth. 

ZS1TR_ZS2ZA_via_Riversdale_Repeater.mp3

 

This is a distance of just over 400km from Port Elizabeth to the Riversdale repeater and I have had confirmation that there is no repeater link between George and Port Elizabeth. Only tropoducting. Well done guys.

 

For the SSTV enthusiasts, there will again be an opportunity to download SSTV images from the International Space Station on 28 – 29 January 2021. Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are planning to transmit Slow Scan TV images on 145.800 MHz FM using the SSTV mode PD-120. The transmissions are part of the Moscow Aviation Institute SSTV experiment (MAI-75). 

Jan 28 - Starts after 12:10 UTC and ends at 17:15 GMT*

Jan 29 - Start about 13:10 UTC and ends at 18:05 GMT*

*Dates and times subject to change. 

ARISS SSTV Blog https://ariss-sstv.blogspot.com/

Useful SSTV info and links https://amsat-uk.org/beginners/iss-sstv/ 

The IARU has formed a committee to address world wide demands on the  amateur spectrum above 144 MHz. They have requested information regarding amateur activity on the following bands:

 

13 cm 2.3-2.45 GHz

6 cm 5.65 – 5.85  GHz

3 cm 10 - 10.5 GHz 

Any information about activities and experiments that are taking place on these bands or even being planned in the near future. As much documentation that can identify and explain amateur use of the spectrum on the bands would be very useful and can be sent to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. We need to assist the IARU with information about the activities on these bands. 

This past Monday evening a group of amateurs who have interests in the above mentioned bands met with me online and we had a very fruitful and informative discussion about the activity on these bands and how they can generate more activity on these bands. Thanks to HAMNET Gauteng taking the initiative to set up the online discussion and inviting the other interested clubs to share with us. I gained a lot of knowledge about what is currently happening on these bands and what is planned for the future. I have also received information to follow up on about some more activity on these bands of interest to us. 

That’s all for the week. Keep trying to make those long distance contacts on VHF and above and do let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za when you make those contacts. 

Also send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


17 January 2021

 

Audio version

Today, I’m opening with the following story that I picked up on Southgate Amateur Radio News. 

Radio amateurs in Israel have lost much of their spectrum between 1 and 6 GHz and suffered a draconian power reduction on 10 GHz 

Israel has three classes of amateur license:

Class A (Advanced) up to 1500 watts


Class B (General) up to 250 watts

Class C (Novice) 100 watts on 4 HF bands, lower power on some higher bands 

Israel's Ministry of Communications amateur allocations document produced on November 17, 2020, shows these changes to amateur allocations between 1 and 10.5 GHz: 

The 23cm band (formerly 1240-1300 MHz) has been reduced to just 1260-1270 MHz and can only be used by Class A holders for Satellite uplink with a maximum power of 25 watts. 

The 13 cm band appears to have remained the same, Class A and Class B have:

2320-2340 MHz 15 watts

2400-2402 MHz 100 watts

2402-2450 MHz 100 milliwatts 

9 cm band which used to be 3400-3475 MHz has been entirely lost 

6 cm band was 5650-5850 MHz now only the satellite segments remain 5650-5670 MHz 50 watts and 5830-5850 MHz 200 milliwatts. Only Class A can use them and it appears to be satellite only operation. 

3 cm band has suffered a dramatic power reduction. 10.00-10.45 GHz maximum power is now just 100 milliwatts and is Class A only (it was 100w Class A, 25w Class B). 10.45-10.50 is satellite only, Class A 100 watts, Class B 25 watts. 


This is now the third country where radio amateurs have lost or are about to lose access to parts of the bands previously allocated to them. All of them within IARU Region 1.

The threat to our VHF and above bands is becoming very real and it is only a matter of time before we start getting reports of changes closer to home. 

The IARU has formed a committee to address world wide demands on the  amateur spectrum above 144 MHz. They have requested information regarding amateur activity on the following bands: 

13 cm 2.3-2.45 GHz

6 cm 5.65 – 5.85  GHz

3 cm 10 - 10.5 GHz 

Any information about activities, experiments that are taking place on these bands or even being planned in the near future. As much documentation that can identify and explain amateur use of the spectrum on the bands would be very useful and can be sent to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. We need to assist the IARU with information about the activities on these bands. 

Carl ZS6CBQ has taken the initiative to try and get more activity on the 23cm band and posted the following on the SARL VHF and UHF Forum. 

“I started a thread on the Forum on 1296 MHz activity in 2016.

There were lots guys interested in this band and some of the guys started building antennas and sourcing equipment. Stations like ZS4A and ZS4PF got their stations working and soon distances of 236 km and more was achieved on a regular basis. 

A few of us made regular use of 1296 MHz but no new stations were joining us. I know of quite a few ICOM IC9700's that were bought and I was wondering why we don't hear these stations on 23cm. It does not make sense to buy an expensive radio and not utilize it fully? 

We reactivated our 23 cm WhatsApp group and 15 guys are in the group so far. We want to assist and get more stations on the band and so far Hennie ZS6EY has gotten his station on the air and I logged my first QSO on SSB on Saturday morning with him. 

Please join us if you are interested, I can add you in our WhatsApp group or we can share information here on the forum.

 The following stations are active on 1296.200 MHz on a regular basis

ZS6CBQ, ZS4PF, ZS4A, ZS6KSG, ZS6EY AND ZS6AIG” 

Great initiative Carl, let us hope that more stations join the group and become active.

The PEARS National VHF and UHF contest is on this weekend and watching the VHF/UHF WhatsApp groups there was a fair amount of activity on Saturday morning on the bands. Earlier in the morning the most popular band was 6m MS and some nice long distance contacts were made. 

Around mid morning Dick ZS6BUN and Mike ZS1TAF reported 6m opening to Cape Town and Mike ZS1TAF reported a contact on 6m with Paul ZS6NK. 

Here is a video posted by Mike ZS1TAF of the 6m beacons he received in Cape Town.

 ZS1TAF_Beacons_2021-01-16_at_08.46.15.mp4 

More 6m contacts were reported between ZS1 and ZS6. 

A while later Koos ZS3JPY reported a 10m FM contact with Leon ZS6LMG via the 10 repeater on the East Rand. 

10m_between_GP_and_West_Coast 2021-01-16_at_09.25.10.mp3 

While 10m is not strictly VHF it shows that when the bands do open then some amazing contacts can be made.

 Just after midday Leon ZS6LMG posted a recording of a conversation on the 438.700 MHz repeater also on the East Rand. 

4387000_20210116_112358.mp3 

I have no words to describe what we have just heard.

 That’s all for the week. Keep trying to make those long distance contacts on VHF and above and do let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za when you make those contacts. 


Also send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on.

 Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ. 

10 January 2021

Audio version 

 

There was some very good 6m activity last Sunday 3 January. Some of the stations that were on the air from around 03:15 until 06:15 local time were Derek V51DM, Andre ZS2ACP, Willie ZS2CC, Tom ZS1TA, Mike ZS1TAF, Christi ZS4CGR and Dick ZS6BUN. Modes used were MSK144 and FSK441. It sounds as if the group had a lot of fun, with some contacts being completed and others just not getting there. Well done to everyone who was on the air from really early on a Sunday morning and had the patience to keep trying. Mike ZS1TAF made the comment “VHF is a game of patience” and it truly is. 

Dick, ZS6BUN celebrated 50 years of holding an amateur radio licence on Wednesday 6th January. Dick was first licensed as G3ZXQ in 1971 when 2m activity was virtually 100% AM until the advent of the infamous ”Liner 2” which put out an SSB signal so bad which Dick says “should have been banned from the airwaves”.

 

Dick posted a photo on the WhatsApp group showing his first adventures with digital modes working RTTY with a teleprinter. 

Dick also posted a photo of a tuning fork with the comment “If you were working RTTY in the 1960’s and 70’s you simply HAD to have one of these ........”

 

TeleprinterTuning Fork 

Dick came to South Africa in 1974 “in search of adventure” and operated on 2m as ZS5ZX in Amanzimtoti. He travelled up and down the coast and as far inland as Nottingham Road with a transverter stuck on the end of a TS520. Dick transferred to Johannesburg in 1980 and became ZS6BUN. A brief love affair with the 2m repeaters ensued using a homebrew Wood and Douglas synthesised FM transceiver. 

Wood Douglas 

Business and family commitments limited amateur radio activity until the early 2000’s when PSK31, WSJT and an Icom 706 saw Dick working meteor scatter on 2m and 6m across the region. Marginally EME capable, Dick now runs on all bands from 160m to 23cm from the farm Vrisgewaag, SE of Nigel. Dick is semi-retired from the plastics industry. Dick also takes a keen interest in the benefits this great hobby has on the lives of amateurs as they transition from full time employment into their “Golden Years”. 

Dick is a serious VHF enthusiast

 

Dick, well done on this great achievement and may you enjoy many, many more years of this great hobby. We also still have so much to learn from you as well. 

Your photo of you with the teleprinter brought back fond memories for me and my experiences with radio telegraphy as late as ‘85 when I was stationed at the research station on Marion Island and radio telegraphy was the mode that we used to send weather data back to the Weather Bureau in Pretoria via the Derdepoort Radio station just off Zambezi Drive. The tuning fork was what you used to adjust the speed of the teleprinter’s motor so that  you could successfully transmit and receive the data. If the speed of the motor was out then you would either receive nothing or Gobeldy Gook.

Last week I mentioned Claude Shannon and a documentary about him called “The Bit Player”. I watched the documentary and certainly recommend that you watch it if you can.  It is available on Amazon Prime Video. More information about the documentary can be found at https://thebitplayer.com/ 

Looking ahead for the next week, at the Hepburn charts, it seems as if there will be good tropoducting on the West Coast again this coming week. There is also fair conditions predicted all along the South and East Coasts from Cape Agulhas to Richards Bay. 

 

We are still urgently looking for information regarding activity on the following bands: 

13 cm 2.3-2.45 GHz

6 cm 5.65 – 5.85  GHz

3 cm 10 - 10.5 GHz 

Any information about activities, experiments that are taking place on these bands or even being planned in the near future. As much documentation that can identify and explain amateur use of the spectrum on the bands would be very useful and can be sent to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. We need to assist the IARU with information about the activities on these bands. 

That’s all for the week. Keep trying to make those long distance contacts on VHF and above and do let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za when you make those contacts. 

Also send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


 3 January 2021

 Audio version

The bands seem to have been quiet the last week with very little activity  being reported on the various groups that I monitor. 

Looking ahead for the next week, the Hepburn charts do not show much chance of good long distance propagation either, but these are all predictions, and we know that predictions and conditions do change.

There is a new digital protocol being developed by the WSJT-X team that will be very interesting for VHF and above called Q65. The quick start user guide available on the web mentions that “Q65 is particularly effective for tropospheric scatter, ionospheric scatter, and EME on VHF and higher bands, as well as other types of fast-fading signals.” The document also mentions “An excellent example of targeted uses is ionospheric scatter on the 6 m band.  Extensive tests on the 1150 km path between K1JT and K9AN have shown that with 300 W output power, nearly every Q65-30A transmission is copied correctly by the other station.  Q65 will enable stations with a modest Yagi and 100 W or more to work one another on 6 m at distances up to ~1600 km at most times, in dead band conditions.  Ionospheric scatter is best near midday and in summer months, but is present at all times.” This sounds interesting! 

Q65 will be introduced in WSJT-X 2.4.0. I did not find a timeline for the release. The current version is 2.2.2 and version 2.3.0-rc2 is already available for beta testers. The user guide can be found at https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/Q65_Quick_Start.pdf 

Scanning the Southgate ARC news site, an interesting title caught my eye.

How Claude Shannon invented the future 

More than 70 years ago, in a single ground breaking paper, Claude Shannon laid the foundation for the entire communication infrastructure underlying the modern information age. 

The first thought that came to mind was the Shannon-Hartley theorem that I had learned in communications theory in my college days. This is directly related to digital communications and weak signal communications, which a large number of us play with. I just needed to dig deeper and it again highlighted something that is very important to us amateurs. 

During 1928, Hartley formulated a way to quantify information and its line rate (also known as data signalling rate R bits per second). This method, later known as Hartley's law, became an important precursor for Shannon's more sophisticated notion of channel capacity.

Claude Shannon's development of information theory during World War II provided the next big step in understanding how much information could be reliably communicated through noisy channels. Building on Hartley's foundation, Shannon's noisy channel coding theorem (1948) describes the maximum possible efficiency of error-correcting methods versus levels of noise interference and data corruption.

Shannon’s theory was published in 1948, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication.” 

The heart of his theory is a simple but very general model of communication: A transmitter encodes information into a signal, which is corrupted by noise and then decoded by the receiver. Despite its simplicity, Shannon’s model incorporates two key insights: isolating the information and noise sources from the communication system to be designed, and modelling both of these sources probabilistically. He imagined the information source generating one of many possible messages to communicate, each of which had a certain probability. The probabilistic noise added further randomness for the receiver to disentangle. 

Now all of this may seem like Greek to most of you, but the bottom line why this is important and there are some of you who would have realised it already is that the more noise there is the less reliably the message can be received correctly. Noise, is our greatest enemy and the more noise that we experience the less reliably we can communicate. Weak signal modes or not. Weak signal modes are there to assist with the encoding, error correcting and decoding of the message, but noise is the one thing that we all experience in varying degrees and that is fundamentally the reason why some of us can receive a known station better than others. It is all about the noise levels that we experience in our particular locations. This is why the noise measurement campaign that the SARL is participating in is so important. Noise affects each and every one of us. 

One can read more about Shannon’s theory at https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-claude-shannons-information-theory-invented-the-future-20201222/. On this site you will also find a link to Shannon’s paper. 

There is also a documentary about Claude Shannon called “The Bit Player” that is available on Amazon Prime Video. More information about the documentary can be found at https://thebitplayer.com/ 

Just a reminder from last week’s program which is on the SARL website and has been published in the the January 2021 Radio ZS as well. We are urgently looking for information regarding activity on the following bands: 

13 cm 2.3-2.45 GHz

6 cm 5.65 – 5.85  GHz

3 cm 10 - 10.5 GHz 

Any information about activities, experiments that are taking place on these bands or even being planned in the near future. As much documentation that can identify and explain amateur use of the spectrum on the bands would be very useful and can be sent to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. Both Hans ZS6AKV and myself are involved with the IARU Spectrum and Regulatory Liaison Committee and get all emails sent to VHF News at this address. We need to assist the IARU with information about the activities on these bands. 

That’s all for the week. Keep trying to make those long distance contacts on VHF and above and do let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za when you make those contacts. 

Also send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on.Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


27 December 2020

Audio version

We are starting off with two reports found on the Southgate ARC news website.

14 December 2020, Spain: Authorization to use 2,400 MHz extended.

Spain's Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure has extended the authorization for Radio Amateurs to use 2,400.050 to 2,410.0 MHz for QO-100 communications until Dec 26, 2021

15 December 2020 Finland's radio hams ask for 1240-1300 MHz replacement.

Finland lost the important 1240-1300 MHz amateur radio band on April 24, 2020. National society SRAL now asking for 220-225 MHz as a replacement, their initial request for 902-928 MHz having been rejected

The request is to provide spectrum for Amateur Television operation. It seems that currently operation in 1240-1300 MHz is still possible but only by applying for a Special Permit. These Special Permits will cease when the Galileo GNSS constellation becomes fully operational. 

I have previously mentioned with the build up to WRC-19 that our bands are in demand and stressed the importance of creating activity on the VHF and above bands especially the microwave bands and that if we do not use the bands we will loose them. 

You will also recall prior to WRC-19 there was a lot of petitions on the internet amongst radio amateurs regarding the 144 MHz band after the French administration wanted to reallocate it for aeronautical use.

 We have also spoken about the threat to the 23cm band due to the perceived interference with the GNSS GPS system when it goes into full operation. This is agenda item 9.1.b for WRC-23 and goes about the coexistence between the Galileo/GLONASS system and the amateur service. 

There are a number of resolutions on the table for WRC-23 with the following wording: 

Agenda Item 1.2 says “IMT identification in the frequency bands 3 300-3 400 MHz, 3 600-3 800 MHz, 6 425-7 025 MHz, 7 025-7 125 MHz and 10.0-10.5 GHz to conduct and complete in time for WRC-23 the sharing and compatibility studies”. We, amateurs have a secondary allocation in the 10.0 – 10.5 GHz band.

Agenda Item 1.12 says “Possible secondary allocation to the Earth exploration-satellite service (active) for space borne radar sounders in the range of frequencies around 45 MHz to conduct studies on spectrum needs and sharing studies between the Earth exploration-satellite (active) service and the radiolocation, fixed, mobile, broadcasting, amateur and space research services in the frequency range 40-50 MHz and in adjacent bands”. 

We, amateurs have primary and secondary allocations on the 50 MHz to 54 MHz band.

These are only some of the Agenda Items for WRC-23 that mentions studies on spectrum needs and sharing. Right now it seems as if it is only the microwave bands that are on the radar of the administrations. Unfortunately in most of these bands we are only secondary users which means that we are already sharing these bands with primary users on these bands. It is vitally important that we try and protect these secondary allocations. 

These are all very real threats and there is a world wide team of dedicated IARU volunteers who are working tirelessly trying to mitigate these threats at a very high level. 

So how can we assist? 

One of the best ways, is to show that we are actively using these bands, but this is also where one of the biggest challenges are. We do not actually know what activity there is on these microwave bands. 

Some activities that we are aware of are Mesh Networks that have been set up and experimented with for disaster communications. The folk in Gauteng, Secunda and the Southern Cape have been active on the 6 cm band with Mesh Networks. We all also know that the uplink toQO-100 is on the 13 cm band and the downlink is on the 3 cm band. 

So we know a little, but is it enough? We need more detail on these activities, such as how often are these systems in use? How much bandwidth is required or used? What other activities are there?

We are urgently looking for information regarding activity on the following bands: 

13 cm 2.3-2.45 GHz

6 cm 5.65 – 5.85  GHz

3 cm 10 - 10.5 GHz

Any information about activities, experiments that are taking place on these bands or even being planned in the near future. As much documentation that can identify and explain amateur use of the spectrum on the bands would be very useful and can be sent to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. Both Hans ZS6AKV and myself are involved with the IARU Spectrum and Regulatory Liaison Committee and get all emails sent to VHF News at this address. 

The Next Generation Beacon hardware is now on my bench, but this week I have been wrestling with getting the MSHV software installed and operational on a Raspberry Pi. The MSHV software can decode the Pi4 mode that the next generation beacon generates in it’s MGM message that it transmits. The software also runs on Linux, but cannot run on the native Raspberry Pi operating system and therefore one needs to install Ubuntu onto the Pi. This has its challenges as the documentation is not clear nor up to date and so it has taken a lot of experimentation to find the right combination of Ubuntu and desktop applications that runs on a Pi and is functional and usable, in other words, not stressing the resources available on the Pi. I believe I have found the right combination and once I have completed some basic testing, I can get on with figuring out the hardware and getting some of the boards up and running. There are still some cables and GPS antenna that needs to be acquired locally, which will only happen in the new year as most suppliers are closed this week. 

That’s all for the week. Keep trying to make those long distance contacts on VHF and above and do let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za when you make those contacts. 

Also send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ. 


20 December 2020 

Audio version

Over the last weeks there has been a lot of VHF activity, however locally very little it seems. 

The Geminids meteor shower has come and gone with the peak being last weekend. A number of VHF enthusiasts were listening and transmitting, but the conditions were not as expected.  I asked Dick ZS6BUN how it went and he had the following to say “Well, it wasn’t as if a waterfall of rocks was falling out of the sky ! On the Saturday morning Andre, ZS2ACP and I worked on 6m using FSK441 and completed quite quickly - in about 10 minutes which is not bad for 6m. Tom, ZS1TA and I then completed in 10 minutes on 2m using MSK144. That’s quick. On the Sunday morning Andre and I settled down on 2m with FSK441 again and a bottomless coffee pot. 50 minutes and we were done. That’s about average for 2m. This small burst helped though.” 

Dick_ZS6BUN_Geminids_decode.jpeg

I also mentioned last week that I was collecting data for a HAMSCI measurement initiative around the total eclipse of the sun over South America on 14 December. Well it turns out that there was also a Coronal Mass Ejection from the sun that was due to hit us on 13 December and the scientists hoped to find information on our data that we were collecting about the effects of the solar storm. I wonder if that solar storm perhaps had some influence on the meteor shower as well. 

Here is another story of a 144 MHz signal from the Faroe Islands that was heard 3000 km away in Bulgaria during the Geminid Meteor Shower. 

During this year's Geminid meteor shower, many radio amateurs worldwide were busy making contacts on the VHF bands by bouncing signals off the many meteor trails. One of the big surprises however was when the 144 MHz signal from Jon, OY9JD in the Faroe Islands was heard 3075 km away in Bulgaria by LZ1KU! 

Normally the maximum range of meteor scatter contacts is similar to Sporadic-E i.e. in the region of 2300 km. One hop meteor scatter alone certainly couldn't account for the 3075 km distance. 

To put this distance into context, 3075 km is about the same as the distance across the North Atlantic between Ireland and Newfoundland. 

At first, it was thought that the signal might have bounced off two meteors that just so happened to burn up at just the right place and at just the right time. This is certainly not impossible even though it's an unlikely scenario. 

After some investigative work, it now seems likely that the signal from OY9JD actually reflected off the International Space Station as it was passing over Europe! It seems that the 73 x 109 metre spacecraft is large enough to reflect amateur radio signals when it's in the right spot.

Take a look at the whole story on the blog spot of John EI7GL at  https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/2020/12/144-mhz-signal-from-faroe-islands-heard.html. It is very interesting to read how this contact was analysed by John. 

Also on John’s blogspot there is a report of a remarkable 144 MHz contact made on 15 December between the West Coast and the East Coast of Australia. 

During an extensive Sporadic-E opening in Australia on the 15th of December 2020, WSPR signals from John VK2IJM and David VK2DVM in Sydney were heard by Peter VK6KXW near Perth in Western Australia. 

The path was in the region of 3200 km which is way beyond the usual 2300 km or so one hop distance from Sporadic-E. It seems likely that on this occasion, the most likely propagation mode was double hop Sporadic-E which is very rare at 144 MHz. 

It looks as if just one WSPR transmission from each of the VK2 stations was decoded at 10:16 and 10:36 UTC. This was about an hour after sunset in Sydney which is 11 hours ahead of UTC.

It's also worth pointing out that the reports from the WSPRnet website say that the VK2 stations were running just 10 watts. 

VK6CPU in Perth was also heard by VK5AYD in Adelaide at around the same time over a distance of 2149 km which was likely to be via Sporadic-E.

It would seem as if double hop Sporadic-E was the most likely mode of propagation for the VK2 stations. 

Dropping down in frequency to the 6m band there was a remarkable 13,000 km opening on 50 MHz between Australia and South America on 12th December 2020. 

With the Summer Sporadic-E season in the southern hemisphere now in full swing, there was a remarkable opening on the 50 MHz band on the 12th of December between Australia and South America. 

The opening which is believed to have been multi-hop Sporadic-E was remarkable because of the distances involved which were in the region of 13,000kms and the fact that some of the signals crossed over part of Antarctica. 

One of the longest distances reported was between VK5BC near Adelaide and PT9FD in the south of Brazil, a distance of 13,530 kms.

Stations in New Zealand were also able to get through to South America with distances in the region of 11,000 km being achieved.

 Again more information can be found on https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/2020/12/remarkable-13000-km-opening-on-6-metres.html. 

Staying on 6m, Dennis ZS4BS alerted me to a free e-book about the 6m band. 

Have you ever wondered about the “Magic” of Six Meters? 

It really doesn’t take much on six meters — your existing HF+6 meter rig along with a simple antenna, even a dipole, will work. In this book you’ll find out how I know that dipoles work, along with how to build one of your own.

This book will also provide plenty of insight into how you, too, can “Capture the Magic of Six Meters.” It covers propagation, equipment, software, antennas, awards and contesting, as well as assistance in finding the magic. 

The e-book Capture the MAGIC of Six Meters by Jim Wilson K5ND is available for free download in PDF format from

https://www.k5nd.net/2020/08/capture-the-magic-of-six-meters-ebook/. 

On the SARL VHF/UHF Forum Andy VK6OX wrote the following “I'm a VK ham with many years of 6m operation. I did try with a few ZS stations several years back to organise scheds between Western VK and ZS. For various reasons, things didn't really eventuate.

Here we are now in late 2020 and I'd like to revisit the possibility of making 6m contacts happen between VK and ZS.

The advent of digital transmission methods has meant that even marginal propagation conditions has resulted in successful 2-way contacts. 

Those of you that follow 6m activities globally will know that there have been several successful contacts between eastern VK and South America in the last few days. These contacts have taken place around 2200UTC onward. That's morning time in VK, evening in Brazil/Argentina/Peru etc. The current popular mode of digital transmission is JT65 for the long haul efforts. FT8 can also work but is several dB worse off in the long haul. 

I still believe there is the possibility of making contact with ZS et al in a similar time frame i.e. evening in VK, early morning ZS. 

So in short, if anyone in ZS is at all interested in giving this a go, please get in contact with me. (vk6ox@iinet.net.au) or via various social media platforms!” 

There are some ZS hams who remember 6m CW contacts in the early 90’s between South Africa and Western Australia. 

The 6m band is very under utilised and lack of equipment is not an excuse as every HF radio now days has 6m functionality as well. How about reading the e-book mentioned just now and capturing the magic of 6m for yourself. 

You will also remember that I mentioned in last week’s Focus on VHF that I was going to monitor for the Bethlehem beacon using a similar measurement technique that was used for the HamSCI data collection. Well, I set up my 857D with an AMSAT SA Yagi and started collecting data from just before 18:00 on Wednesday 16 December. Analysing the signals received, I did not find any traces of the beacon signal, however I will keep recording the output of the 857D and hopefully will find the beacon popping up in the recordings. The nice thing about this measurement technique is that you do not need to be in front of the radio and if the beacon is heard with a fairly strong signal then it will definitely be recorded. Once a day I save the recording and then start a new recording, allowing me to go through the recording at my leisure. 

As you have heard on the SARL news the Next Generation Beacon hardware is already on the ground and cleared customs. We are eagerly awaiting the delivery of the shipment and getting to play with the new beacon hardware. Bo Hansen OZ2M, the Danish OZ7IGY beacon project manager and his team has done a superb job of getting the hardware built, tested and shipped after the initial challenges to find some of the components needed. 

That’s all for the week. Keep trying to make those long distance contacts on VHF and above and do let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za when you make those contacts. 

 

Also send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on.


Focus on VHF and Above

6 December 2020

Audio version   

My apologies for not having a programme last week. A lightning storm took out my ADSL line on the Friday evening. On Saturday morning I discovered that the cellular service was barely alive as well. No data services and a GSM signal that was almost non existent allowing only the odd phone call and SMS to be transmitted.  So without anyway of being able to research the program, or sending the program to Hans ZS6AKV who compiles Amateur Radio Today resulted in me having the day off and thinking about the situation that arose. There is no real solution to the problem, but one thing is certain. The more we become reliant on technology in our everyday lives, the harder it hits us when the technology fails. 

At least we radio amateurs have access to “older” technologies and we understand how it works and this allows us to be able to still communicate with the outside world when all else fails. We need to make sure that we brush up our skills and know how to use the radios, software and systems that are available to us because we never know when we are really going to need it. It is only a matter of time. 

In the last program, I mentioned reports of 10m openings and Jose PY4AQA reported 6m Trans-Equatorial Propagation or TEP between PY4 and EA8 and I said that it was time to dust off those 6m antennas. 

This week there were two reports of TEP openings between Argentina and the Caribbean Islands.

 Etienne P41E on Aruba, managed to complete 33 contacts with Argentinian stations on 144 MHz using a combination of SSB, FM and FT8 modes. The most impressive being the contact with LU2EPO near Buenos Aires in Argentina, a distance of just over 5400 km. One of the TEP contacts on 2m SSB was with LU3FCI who was using a vintage Yaesu FT-780R which is almost 40 years old! 

P41E-TEP-Nov-2020.jpg 

Ettiene P41E also has a very modest station and it just shows what can be done. 

P41E-Nov-2020-VHF-antenna.jpg

 

P41E-Nov-2020-radios.jpg

The second contact was between Buenos Aires and the Dominican Republic when David Lama, HI8DL reports that on the night of the 29th of November 2020, both he and Edgar, HI8PLE contacted LU2EPO on 144.300 MHz at 23:57 UTC. The mode used for the contacts was SSB and the distance was 6 102km

HI8DL-TEP-Nov-2020-map.jpg 

Thanks to John EI7GL for the information posted on his blogspot at https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/ 

It is time to dust off those 6m and 2m antennas and point them North. 

We also spoke previously about the Geminids meteor shower that is expected in December. Dick ZS6BUN posted the following on the VHF, UHF / SHF West Coast WhatsApp group. 

Dick says “Geminids meteor shower is the best of the year. We should see a pick-up of meteor activity from 4th to 17th December with a peak the night of the 13th and 14th.

I would like to suggest we get everyone able to get on 2m digital, to meet on the 2m MS freq of 144.360 MHz at say 05h00 on the mornings of Sunday the 13th and Monday the 14th 

We agree before hand:

- Who will tx 1st or 2nd

- MSK144 or FSK441

- 15 or 30 sec periods

- Skeds or free for all 

Suggest we could also have a 6m gathering on 50.280 MHz at 05h00 on Saturday morning the 12 of December.

 According to information on the NASA site regarding the Geminids, during the peak of the activity, approximately 120 meteors per hour can be seen. Not only should this be interesting to experience RF wise, but visually as well if we have clear skies. 

Looking ahead at the Hepburn charts for the South Atlantic there is certainly opportunities for contacts between St Helena Island and Brazil.

 

Hepburn_Chart_South Atlantic_0000UTC9DEC2020.png

Inland there are a number of days where the conditions may be promising in the early hours of Monday 7 December

Hepburn_Chart_South Africa_0600UTC7Dec2020.png

 and Wednesday 9 December

 

Hepburn_Chart_South Atlantic_0000UTC9DEC2020.png 

The VHF Work Group next generation beacon project is making progress and the next generation beacon hardware for the test beacon that will replace the current ZS0BET beacon radio in Bethlehem has been ordered and we are awaiting delivery that should take place in the next couple of weeks.

The VHF Work Group is planning to replace the Bethlehem ZS0BET beacon’s radio and the Cape Town ZS1TWO beacon’s radio with Next Generation Beacon hardware. In parallel we are going ahead to complete a third Next Generation Beacon that will be deployed at a suitable site in the Karoo.

AMSAT SA has not only provided a generous donation towards the beacon project, but they have also started a crowd funding project on their website at http://amsatsa.org.za/ in support of the beacon project. The VHF Work Group would like to thank the Trustees of AMSAT SA for their support of the Beacon Project. 

Donations can also be made by EFT. The account is SARL, ABSA Account No  407 158 8849, Branch code 632 005. The reference must be Beacon and your call sign and surname. Please send a copy of the EFT to admin@sarl.org.za 

An article on the Next Generation Beacon programme has also been published in the November issue of the trade magazine Engineer IT.(www.engineerit.co.za)

Thanks to Hans ZS6AKV for publishing the article. Hans is the Executive Editor of the magazine and regularly posts articles about amateur radio activities in the magazine.

A copy of the November edition of Engineer IT can be downloaded at https://www.engineerit.co.za/magazine/engineerit-november-2020/

That’s all for the week. Keep trying to make those long distance contacts on VHF and above and do let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za when you make those contacts.

Also send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on. 

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.



Focus on VHF and Above 15 November 2020

Audio version

 It seems as if this week has been very quiet regarding VHF and above activities. 

Along the East Coast Phil, FR5DN was hoping for a contact with Dave ZS5DJ, but the conditions just did not allow it to happen.

Along the West Coast, the tropoducting stretched inland for some distance, but at the time of preparing this week’s Focus on VHF, I had not seem any reports of good long distance contacts up the West Coast. 

The VHF/UHF analogue contest has also been on the go from 12:00 UTC on Saturday afternoon. The Cape Radio Group ZS1CRG has set up a field station on Piketberg mountain where they are hoping to get a lot of contacts from St Helena all the way down to Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs. 

The Inland 46 Group was also on the air. Trying to make as many contacts as possible. Inland, VHF propagation seems to be more favourable late at night and in the early mornings. 

Jose PA4AQA also posted two images showing possible Sporadic E conditions between Africa and Brazil. 

 

I attended a HAMNET Gauteng training exercise that took place in the form of a Fox Hunt or Amateur Radio Direction Finding on Saturday morning. Being able to locate transmitters whether it is a Fox that has been hidden, or an ELB which is an emergency locator beacon of a downed aircraft or a missing hiker, or a rogue interferer causing problems on the amateur frequencies, is a skill all amateurs should master. You never know when you will need to use these skills. I thoroughly enjoyed the morning practising to locate the hidden transmitters and honing those skills again.

Apart from that it was a great morning spent outside with my fellow amateurs enjoying the hobby.

 

ARDF is a very popular radio sport in both Europe and the US. There is even an IARU ARDF Working Group and these guys are passionate about it.

For some reason ARDF has not been popular in South Africa for a while. Maybe it is time for the more senior amateurs, or the elmers as they like to call us, to teach the younger crowd how it is done. A great activity for a club afternoon and you do not even need anything fancy to hunt for a fox. Just a hand held radio, a hat and some sun block. Just a word of warning. The cheap Chinese radios like the Baofeng radios which are SDR based cannot be successfully used for a fox hunt. A hand held from the big three and some of the Chinese radios like Wouxun that have a proper RF front end will do the job. Once you have mastered some of the basic skills then you can maybe add a tape measure Yagi and an offset attenuator to your fox hunting toolbox.

 

 

I have seen that Charles ZS1CF has already proposed a date for the West Coast fox hunt again in early December. 

What other groups have a regular fox hunt? Let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za. 

The VHF Work Group are planning to replace the Bethlehem ZS0BET beacon’s radio and the Cape Town ZS1TWO beacon’s radio with Next Generation Beacon hardware. In parallel we are going ahead to complete a third Next Generation Beacon that will be deployed at a suitable site in the Karoo. 

We have been given the go ahead to find sponsors for the project and require in the region of R60 000.00 for the hardware for the project. We already have in the region of R26 500 available for the beacon project, thanks to the SARL, AMSAT SA, Brian ZS6YZ and Dennis ZS4BS. 

Donations can be made by EFT. The account is SARL, ABSA Account No  407 158 8849, Branch code 632 005. The reference must be Beacon and your call sign and surname. Please send a copy of the EFT to admin@sarl.org.za 

The RF modules have arrived on my workbench and I have already tested all of them to ensure that they are fully functional. I am still waiting to hear when we can place the order for the NGN beacon hardware. The availability of the VCO modules are currently a challenge. 

The new power supply for the Bethlehem Beacon will be sent to Rickus ZS4A early next week to replace the one that was mistreated by the lightning. 

That’s all for the week. Keep trying to make those long distance contacts on VHF and above and do let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za when you make those contacts.

Also send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


The ZS CW Group 

CW Census 

As of the 31st January 2021, we have a growing population of CW ops. We have a count of 61 amateurs regularly, on CW within the Republic of South Africa.

My aim is to have the call signs and names published in the SARL news letter in April this year, to begin an historic growth pattern, with which we can monitor our significance.

It will be a bi-annual census cut off date on the 1st April 2021, as the first half. Long Island CW club in the States have taken a keen interest in our development as a CW country and have asked if I would send them a copy when published, I said yes by all means.

So just a reminder, if you use a KEY to communicate regularly on CW, and would like your name and call sign be published, as part of an ongoing project you are reminded to e-mail me soon 
zs6msw@gmail.com

SARL Forum Active Topics
SWR, velocity factor, coax length myth  01/12/2021  19:49:00
by: ZS6MUE
SignaLink USB Soundcard Interface  01/12/2021  15:02:35
by: ZS1I
Coax and SWR  30/11/2021  15:31:50
by: ZS6MUE
Casting knobs for vintage gear  30/11/2021  08:14:58
by: ZS2CX
CW on LSB  30/11/2021  07:43:58
by: ZS5WO
Universal Radio Inc Farewell.  29/11/2021  21:24:28
by: ZS6AW
BEACON ZS1AGI/B 7.038MHz  29/11/2021  18:28:33
by: ZS1ZS
Geskiedkundige Amateur Radio Gebeurtenisse  29/11/2021  17:31:08
by: ZS1I
Intruders on 7158.4 USB  29/11/2021  11:28:38
by: ZS1ZL
Garden Route Hub Network Activities 
 1  2  3  4  5  6
28/11/2021  16:04:44
by: ZS1I


Commercial Hamads 

ZS2BL's S.A. HAMSHACK

Direct importer of a wide selection of SWR meters, H.F., V.H.F. and U.H.F. base and mobile antennas. Amateur radio transceivers, antenna analyzers, etc. Affordable shipping costs for out of town customers and subsidized shipping to SARL members.Check out all my amateur radio goodies here. 0720268909. 


Just Curious Designs

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Visit our website and online shop for more information on our wide range of products at www.curiousdesigns.co.za or email us sales@curiousdesigns.co.za

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Place your commercial hamads on the home page.  Book a six months space for R300 or 12 months at R500 prepaid with order   The advertisements will be  text only up to 60 words including address, telephone number and click through URL to advertisers' website and email address. Adverisement can be changed  Send your contact details to admin@sarl.org.za and we will contact you or call the NARC at 011 675 2393


What is Amateur Radio ? 

Tell me more  about Amateur Radio

Radio Amateurs, or "Hams" use two-way radio communication to make contact with other radio amateurs all over the world. They are even able to use satellites and on occasion speak with astronauts. Radio Hams can do this from home or while mobile in cars, boats or on foot.

Radio Hams have a full range or communication modes at their disposal. These include plain voice, Morse code, numerous digital computer modes and even graphical modes like television. As a licensed amateur radio operator you will be able to join in experiments using all these modes.

A
mateur radio can be enjoyed by young and old, male and female, even the most severely disabled can make friends around the world from their own home. This hobby knows no boundaries.


Random Photo from the Call book.


 Juan Eduardo Genovart, ZS6DAY


     

Naz 



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Worked All ZS award
An interesting operating goal

The entry level for the WAZS award is 100 different call signs. The programme has recently been expanded to include higher level endorsements, such as WAZS-200, WAZS-300, etc. Endorsements may also be obtained for specific modes, eg: CW, SSB, etc.
Click here for more information...
 


lboat034a.gif (1979 bytes)SA Maritime Net

The South African Maritime Mobile Net provides weather reports and maintains contact with sailing vessels from around the coast and high seas.
The net operates 7 days a week.

There are two regular schedule times as follows:

  • 06:30 UTC and 11:30 UTC on 14 316 kHz high seas net.
  • 06:35 UTC and 11:35 UTC on 7 120 kHz coastal net - the net lasts approximately 30 minutes .
Visit the official SAMMNet Website or their facebook page for more information.
 
   

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