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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! 

SARL ON-THE-AIR BULLETINS AND AMATEUR RADIO TODAY PROGRAMME 7 March 2021

SARLNEWS in English with Rory Norton ZS2BL   Listen/Download here

SARLNUUS in Afrikaans met  Christo de Witt ZS3CDW Luister hier of laai af

Amateur Radio Today
Pogramme about Amateur Ra
dio 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  

Sundays at 08:00 UTC on repeaters around So uth 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/


 

Radio ZS - The March 2021 issue is available for download. The error has been corrected! On the lefthand menu, click on publications and then Radio ZS downloadsRead how your Club can win R200! 

Radio ZS Index - 1925 to March 2021 created by Gert, ZS6GC and Cor, ZS6CR. download your copy here.

GEOMAGNETIC STORM: Surprising forecasters, a moderate G2-class geomagnetic storm occured during the early hours of March 1st. 

What caused this storm? A significant crack opened in Earth's magnetic field, and remained open for more than 5 hours. Bright auroras spread across much of Canada and Alaska as solar wind surged through the opening. According to Spaceweather.com  records, this was the strongest geomagnetic storm since a G3 event in May 2019.


 

The SARL technical Symposium - “Unlocking Amateur Radio Technology 2021”, will be held on the BlueJeans platform on Saturday 27 March 2021. This is the first call for papers. Please submit a brief synopsis of the proposed paper in word format by Friday 5 March 2021 to artoday@sarl.org.za. The symposium will run from 10:00 – 14:00 SAST.  The speaking slots are typically 20 minutes with 10 minutes for discussion.

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.

This call for papers is open to all radio amateurs world-wide


Licence Renewal - Do Not Do Anything Now - As communicated in SARL Communication on 29 January and SARL News on 31 January 2021, the SARL will communicate once ICASA has completed the Guidelines of the various actions required to transfer your information to the new on-line data base and renew you licence.

Please do not e-mail or call the SARL Office, the SARL President or SARL Councillors. They cannot assist you at this time. The SARL will inform you and publish the guidelines and step by step instruction once received from ICASA.

Lisensie Hernuwing - Moet Nou Niks Doen Nie - Soos in SARL Kommunikasie op 29 Januarie en SARL News op 31 Januarie 2021 meegedeel, sal die SARL kommunikeer sodra OKOSA die riglyne voltooi het vir die verskillende aksies wat nodig is om jou inligting na die nuwe aanlyn databasis oor te dra en jou lisensie te hernu.

Moet asseblief nie die SARL Kantoor, die SARL President of SARL Raadslede e-pos of bel nie. Hulle kan jou nie tans help nie. Die SARL sal jou in kennis stel en die riglyne en stapsgewyse instruksies publiseer sodra dit van OKOSA ontvang is.


Crowd funding for SARL Next Generation Beacons - In addition to AMSATSA’s financial contribution to the SARL Next Generation beacon fund, the group has started a crowd funding campaign on its payfast platform. Contributions to the beacon fund can be made from www.amsatsa.org.za by clicking one of the payment buttons to contribute  R50, R250 or R1000 using your credit card. Donors will be recognised on the SARL and AMSATSA websites as well as receiving a confirmation email.

The first next generation beacon will be installed at Bethlehem replacing the analogue beacon and was fully funded by the SARL. The next two beacons for which funding is required will be installed in Cape Town and Northern Karoo.

You contribution will make it happen sooner.  


Amateur Radio License increase - ICASA has informed the SARL that Amateur Radio Licenses will increase by 3,3%. 

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

 

Read the following very carefully.

ICASA has implemented a new system which requires all licensees to register on the new system as a user. Thereafter they should create their legal entity which will be approved by the Authority.  To create a legal entity the user will require a copy of the ID document.  If you have the new ID card both sides are required. A valid email address and personal details must be captured.

Every licensee, who is not yet licensed on the new system, will have to submit a legacy license amendment application to transfer the license to the new system. 

The Authority will soon send out notices to licensees about the process and guidelines how to register on the system and how to submit a legacy license amendment.

Licensees can also already pay the license fee via EFT and attach the proof of payment to the application when renewal is done on the system.  Payment alone will not renew the license. A new license is only issued once the registration on the new system is completed and the legacy license amendment has been submitted.

The SARL will publish the detailed step by step instructions once they have been received from ICASA.

Renewals for licences that were applied for and issued on the new online system will be done on the same system. The Authority will issue notices via email soon where after the user must click on the renewal button in the Manage page to renew.

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 will publish the detailed guidelines of how to use the new ICASA systems  as soon as it has been received from ICASA.


 

2M BEACON ARRIVES AT ST HELENA - 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!   

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! Get the full story here


 FIRST WAZS ON 60 METREBAND - The late Pieter Jacobs ZS6XT was the first person on 14 July 2020 to be awarded WAZS on 5 MHz with 135 confirmed contacts. Pieter became a radio amateur in May 1997 when he obtained the callsign ZR6XT. In October 1997 he passed the Morse Code test and became ZS6XT.



 
He enjoyed working DX and 6 Metres. He only used dipole antennas for the 80 - 15 Metre bands, a half wave vertical for 10 metres and a 3 element yagi for 6 metres.
Pieter became a silent key on 20 November 2020.
 

The 60 metre WAZS challenge - In terms of the outcome of the World Radio Conference 2015 where radio amateurs gained access to the 60-metre band, ICASA published on 25 May 2018 in the National Radio Frequency Plan an allocation of 100 kHz of spectrum to South African Radio Amateurs. There are two separate footnotes in the plan, splitting access to the 60-metre band into three segments.

In footnote 5.133B there is an allocation of 5351.5 to 5366.5 kHz with a power limit of only 15W eirp. This is the most common allocation in countries where 60 metres is permitted.

In footnote NP 0, ICASA has allocated a full 100 kHz. The footnote reads: “The 5350 – 5430 and the channel 5290 kHz is allocated on a secondary basis to radio amateurs under Article 4.4 of the ITU regulations. The entire allocation is on a secondary basis which means radio amateurs may not cause interference.

 ICASA has however not yet updated annexure I of the Frequency Spectrum regulations which stipulates power limits and modulation types. However in the SARL’s motivation to have 100 kHz of 5 MHz spectrum allocated, the SARL requested a power limit of 26 dBW (400 Watts PEP) for ZS and ZR licence holders and 20 dBW (100 watt PEP) for ZU licence holders. These power limits are common in South Africa for all bands that are allocated on a secondary basis.  On bands where amateur radio has a primary allocation, the power limit for ZS and ZR licensees is 30 dBW.  The current situation is that these power limits for secondary allocations apply on 5 MHz except for the segment 5351.5 to 5366.5 where only 15 Watt eirp is permitted

Work All ZS award

The SARL is challenging radio amateurs to use the 60-metre band and work towards the SARL Worked All ZS award. The Worked All ZS series of awards is available to all radio amateurs and short-wave listeners. Applicants must prove two-way contacts (or SWL reports) with at least 100 South African callsigns. The 60 M WAZS award will carry a special ” worked on 5 MHZ”  endorsement.  The callsigns must represent the different call areas as per the WAZS rules as follows:

ZS1 16 contacts

ZS2 8 contacts

ZS3 1 contact

ZS4 6 contacts

ZS5 13 contacts

ZS6 56 contacts

“Radio Amateurs are encouraged to give genuine signal reports as the data will be processed and will make part of a study of propagation of the 60-metre band.  Each application must show the date, time, frequency, power used, both callsigns, and the given and received accurate signal reports.

All applications for the special 60 Metre Worked All ZS award received by 31 March will participated in the draw for a 2021 ARRL handbook.

For application details visit http://www.zs6p.com/SARL_Awards_Directory.pdf orclick here

SARL DIARY OF EVENTS AND CONTEST MANUAL UPDATE - Version 1.4 (8 January 2021) of the SARL 2021 Diary of Events and Contest Manual has been uploaded to the Contest Page. The document has been updated with the VHF/UHF and the HF Band Plans.

 JOIN THE SARL AT THE HALF YEAR RATE GET ONE MONTH FREE

Join the SARL today and pay the half year rate. The Council has decided to institute the half year rate from Monday 30 November 2020. Ordinary members pay R250, Senior members pay R150, spouse members pay R90 and student members pay R60. Fill in the online membership application form on www.sarl.org.za/public/membership/join.asp and do an EFT into the SARL bank account using your call sign as the reference.


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 2020)

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 - 7 March 2021 

Zambia, 9J. Bodo, HB9EWU, who is currently on a humanitarian mission at the St. Paul's Mission General Hospital in Kashikishi in the Luapula Province (WW Loc. KI40IQ), is now active as 9J2BG. Activity will be on 20 metres with an end-fed half-wave antenna into Yaesu FT-857. QSL via HB9EWU, direct or by the Bureau. He will be in Zambia for about 1 year and he states that QSL cards will only be sent in 2022, when he is back in Switzerland!

South Sudan, Z8. Massimo, IZ0EGB, is still there working and active as Z81B. He has been heard on various frequencies using only ft8. QSL via IZ0EGA, ClubLog, eQSL and LoTW.

Russia, UA. R1934G, R108M, RG61PP and R1961G are the special callsigns which will be active from the Smolensk Oblast from 1 March until 30 April to commemorate the 87th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's birth on 9 March 1934 and the 60th anniversary of his historic 108-minute first flight ("Pervyj Poljot") into outer space on 12 April 1961.

Lithuania, LY. Celebrating the 31st anniversary of the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania (11 March 1990), special callsigns LY31A and LY11LY will be active between 1 and 31 March. An award is available, see https://www.qrz.com/db/ly11ly for information.

Germany, DL. Special event station DL21EURO has been active since 1 March and will be active until 11 July for the two major tournaments of this year's European football (soccer) season: the UEFA European Under-21 Championship to be played between 24 and 31 March and between 31 May and 6 June and the UEFA European Football Championship to be played between 11 June and 11 July. All QSOs will be confirmed automatically via the bureau; direct cards via DK5ON.

Israel, 4X. Look for special prefixes 4X73 and 4Z73, followed by the station's individual suffix (e.g. 4X1VF and 4Z1AR will be signing 4X73VF and 4Z73AR respectively) to be used to celebrate the State of Israel's 73rd anniversary between 14 and 17 April and especially during the Holyland Contest (https://www.iarc.org/iarc/#HolylandContest).

Spain, EA. URE San Fernando (EA7URF) is participating in the official celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the Earth. The fifth in a series of AM500 special event stations representing a milestone of the voyage will be AM500MMM, to be active from 24 April to 2 May to memorialize Ferdinand Magellan's death on the island of Mactan (Philippines). QSL via EA7URF (bureau or direct), LoTW and eQSL. Previously active were AM500SEV, AM500SAN, AM500ISJ and AM500ETS.

Guadeloupe, FG. Once again Philippe, F1DUZ will be active as FG4KH from Guadeloupe (NA-102) from 16 March to 1 April, including an entry in the CQ WW WPX SSB Contest. QSL via LoTW, eQSL, or direct to F1DUZ.

Ecuador, HC. Rick, NE8Z will be active again as HC1MD/2 from the Santa Elena province of Ecuador between 5 March and 15 May. He will operate CW, SSB, FT8 and FT4 on 40 to 6 metres. QSL via K8LJG and LoTW.

Sint Maarten, PJ7. Tom, AA9A has been active again as PJ7AA from Sint Maarten (NA-105) since late February and will remain there until 27 March. He operates CW, FT8 and SSB on 80 to 10 metres. QSL via Club Log's OQRS, LoTW or direct to AA9A.

Peru, OA. Ed, W9SI, is currently active as OA4SS. He states, "I am active on HF including the WARC bands, both on SSB and CW. My equipment includes a Kenwood TS-480 and a Drake L-4B linear. I also have a Kenwood TMV71A for two meters and 70 centimetres, but do not yet have an antenna for 70 cm. My antennas are a TH7-DXX and inverted "V" dipoles for the 75-80, 40, 30, 17, 12 and 6 meter bands. I have a locally made omni-directional antenna for two meters. It is very difficult for me to make even CW contacts on 160 meters, where I use my shorted-out 80 meter dipole as a long wire antenna. In Perú we can only operate on 160 meters between 1.800 and 1.850 MHz. In Perú, the amateur service may only use the lower half of the 75-80 meter band. Due to a regional agreement with several other countries, we can only operate between 3.500 MHz and 3.750 MHz." QSL via LoTW or direct to K6BJ.

Brazil, PQ213. Members of the Brazilian Radio Amateurs of CFN Rio de Janeiro will activate the special call sign PQ213CFN to celebrate the 213rd anniversary of the Brazilian Marine Corps. QSL via LoTW.


VHF+ UHF+ MICROWAVE NEWS - FOCUS ON VHF with ZS6YZ 28 February 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 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
FT8 in SARL National Field Day  07/03/2021  21:16:53
by: ZS1VDV
New call Signs  07/03/2021  21:07:21
by: ZS1SSM
Radio interference on TRUSC internet dish  07/03/2021  19:13:40
by: ZS6MUE
YAESU new radios  07/03/2021  15:38:17
by: ZS6GM
Portable off-grid inverters  06/03/2021  20:23:32
by: ZS6MUE
Do Not Do Anything Now.!!!!???? 
 1  2
06/03/2021  18:21:35
by: ZS6DEZ
IC 7300 Firmware Update.  06/03/2021  08:45:46
by: ZS6MAW
Noise on bands 
 1  2
05/03/2021  19:07:02
by: ZS6RIC
60m WAZS SARL Challenge  05/03/2021  18:47:42
by: ZS6BOS
AM/MW Antenna  05/03/2021  16:31:27
by: ZS2AAR


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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.


 Conradt Esterhuysen, ZS1ES


     



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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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