The wave of software-based digital modes over the past several years has altered the atmosphere of the HF bands. Some suggest the popularity of modes that make it possible to contact stations neither operator can even hear has resulted in fewer CW and SSB signals on bands like 6 meters and 160 meters. Traditional modes require far more interaction and effort on the part of the operator; the newer digital modes not so much. The recent advent of the still-beta “quick” FT8 mode, developed by Steve Franke, K9AN, and Joe Taylor, K1JT — the “F” and the “T” in the mode’s moniker — has brought this to a head. Some now wonder if FT8 marks the end of an era and the start of a new, more minimalist age.
Jeff Austin, 9Y4J, Emergency Coordinator Advisory Group, IARU Region 2, Area E, reports that the Caribbean Emergency Weather Net (CEWN), activated at 1030 UTC on 3.815 MHz. The net will use 3.815 and/or 7.188 MHz as propagation dictates. The CEWN will provide 24-hour coverage during the passage of Hurricane Maria and in the storm’s immediate wake, in case there is a need to pass health-and-welfare traffic.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will activate 60-meter interoperability nets on September 19 for Hurricane Maria. These and will remain active until the storm has passed and the need for these nets no longer exists.
The FCC has announced that the Office of Management and Budget has approved, for 3 years, the information-collection requirement of the Commission’s March 29 Report and Order (R&O) that spelled out Amateur Radio service rules for the two new bands — 630 meters and 2200 meters. Notice of the action appears in today’s edition of the Federal Register. Before using either band, stations must notify the Utilities Technology Council (UTC), formerly the Utilities Telecom Council, that they plan to do so, and if UTC does not respond within 30 days, they may commence operation.
Last March 27, the FCC adopted the 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12) implementation Report and Order (ET Docket 15-99), amending its Amateur Radio rules to — in the FCC’s words — “provide for frequency-sharing requirements in the 135.7-137.8 kHz (2200-meter) and 472-479 kHz (630-meter) bands.”
The monthly newsletter of the International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 Monitoring Service (IARUMS) typically makes for some interesting reading. While the reports that come from more than two dozen contributors in Europe and Africa can be a bit visually dense, the content conveys the impression that that there are myriad intruders on the Amateur Radio bands. However, not all of them are illegal, as IARUMS points out, but a lot of the signals heard are not supposed to be where they were monitored. The individual reports can be a bit humorous too.
“Get the grub, and I’ll talk to you later this evening,” was a snippet of a conversation between two fishermen — identified as Mick and Jack — that an Irish Radio Transmitters Society (IRTS) monitor overheard on 3.570 MHz and reported to the IARUMS. The IRTS said the chatter was accompanied on both sides by “loud motor noise,” and, if that were not sufficient detail, it pointed out that both men had Galway accents. Intruding signals from fishing crews throughout IARU Region 1 are commonplace.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a moderate (G2) geomagnetic storm watch for September 13. A coronal hole high-speed stream, originating from a recurrent, positive polarity coronal hole on the Sun’s surface, prompted the prediction. Minor (G1) geomagnetic storming is possible on September 14.
It’s been a turbulent time on the HF bands over the past several days. On Sunday, September 10, a strong (R3) radio blackout occurred at 1606 UTC. The source, Region 2673, has rotated just around the visible disk. Severe (G4) geomagnetic storm levels were observed at 2350 UTC on September 7, and again at 0151 UTC and 1304 UTC on September 8, due to the effects of a coronal mass ejection (CME).
A new “pre-release” version of WSJT-X now is available. This is the Amateur Radio digital software suite developed by Joe Taylor, K1JT, that includes the new FT8 mode, which has been catching on like wildfire. The September 2 release, WSJT-Xversion 1.8.0-rc2, fixes a number of issues, provides better performance, and offers some new features.
On Labor Day, the solar flux took a huge leap, from 120 to 183 from a day earlier. At 1300 UTC today, the solar flux was 144, and the sunspot number was 122. This bodes well for operation on the higher bands, with transequatorial propagation (TEP) a possibility on 12 and 10 meters as well as improved nighttime conditions on 20, 17, and 15 meters.
The Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP) is just a couple of weeks away! The SEQP is a special operating event organized by the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) to study ionospheric effects caused by the August 21 total solar eclipse.
During the SEQP, hams are being asked to operate on the HF bands in a manner similar to a contest or QSO party. Let the HamSCI researchers know where you plan to be and what modes you plan to operate. Visit the SEQP Pre-Registration page.
Systems such as the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN), PSKReporter, and WSPRNet. Participants’ logs will provide the contact and spot data that researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and at Virginia Tech will use to study eclipse-induced ionospheric effects.
Event rules and operating procedures are available on the HamSCI website.
The Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2017 is now in the US Senate (S. 1534). ARRL has developed and posted a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs), “The Amateur Radio Parity Act: Setting the Record Straight,” to explain and to clarify what the passage of the legislation would accomplish — as well as what it would not.
“There has been so much misinformation floating around on forums, blogs, podcasts, etc. regarding the Amateur Radio Parity Act, that we realized a listing of facts as to what the bill is and what it does was long overdue,” said ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, who chairs the ARRL Board’s ad hoc Legislative Advocacy Committee.
A revised FCC Form 605 — Quick-Form Application for Authorization in the Ship, Aircraft, Amateur, Restricted and Commercial Operator, and General Mobile Radio Services — going into effect in September will ask all applicants to indicate if they have been convicted of or pled guilty to a felony. The Communications Act obliges the Commission to ask “the felony question,” as it did on the old Form 610 and still does on other applications. This action will correct its omission on Form 605, which has existed for years. Applicants’ responses and explanations will be used to determine eligibility to be a Commission licensee. The FCC told ARRL that it’s still deciding whether to issue a public notice on the change.