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Updated 26 May, 2015


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    The LOWDOWN This Month
In the May 2015 issue of the club publication:
  • "DX Downstairs" Kevin Carey presents members' LF and VLF loggings.
  • "The Top End" MedFER and HiFER beacon lists... and ...
  • "The LF Notebook" Conducted by John Davis. News from, for and about LWCA members. This month, the FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for an LF ham band.
  • "News From the Old World" Alan Gale keeps us informed of LF news from the "other side of the pond."
  • "Nauen: The Oldest Radio Station" by John Davis. Not the first, of course, but the only one still operating from its original location since 1906.

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   FCC Takes Next Step Toward LF & MF Ham Bands
Docket 15-50 looks to implement WRC-07 and WRC-12; comments being accepted now.

      More than two years after comments and replies were closed in the earlier proceeding, the Federal Communications Commission on Monday, April 27, released a combined Report and Order, Order, and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which together mean that an LF ham band is another step closer to reality, although operation at 2200 meters is still an indeterminate ways in the future. The band was approved as part of the World Radio Conference 2007 recommendations and has been widely implemented in the rest of the world. The new rulemaking notice also finally puts the ARRL petition to assign an amateur band at 630 meters into a rulemaking setting. The 472-479 kHz band was among the recommendations approved at WRC-12.
      The new Docket, available in several formats at this link, is large and may be a bit confusing at first glance, since it contains not only the Report and Order implementing those parts of WRC-07 that the Commission was comfortable with (involving many issues for services other than amateur radio), but also includes an Order to "clean up" some parts of the Table of Allocations in conformance to WRC-12, and finally, the new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which (among many other things) seeks to set the specific rules under which the 2200 m ham band will eventually work.
      The Commission invites comment on the proposals, particularly in our case with regard to preventing interference to power line carrier systems used by electric utilities. You can read the document, download recently filed comments, and find a link to submit your own comments at: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/proceeding/view?name=15-99.
      Deadline for comments will be 60 days after formal publication of the notice in the Federal Register. Deadline for replies is 30 days later. Watch this page for further news on deadlines.

   Communication Landmarks: Across the Atlantic Below 9 kHz
Third test on 1 January results in 25 character message.

      Over three consecutive nights, noted British DXer Paul Nicholson in Todmorden, UK, received a series of very slow BPSK transmissions from Dexter McIntyre W4DEX in Stanfield, NC, culminating in a 25 character message in the wee hours (UTC) of New Years Day 2015. Distance from W4DEX to Todmorden is 6194 km, or 3840 miles, and ERP is estimated around 150 μW.
      The first signal on December 30th was Dex's grid square, "EM95," the first intelligence ever conveyed across the Atlantic on such low frequencies by private individuals. The next day, a 12 character message ("PAUL HNY DEX") was sent and received over a six hour span commencing at 0000 UTC. Then, in Paul's own words: "The third test and best result so far was a 25 character message '8822HZ 2015 JAN 1 TA TEST' sent from 2015-01-01 00:00 using 8 second symbols. This was received with Eb/N0 = -0.1dB. In the 0.125 Hz bandwidth of a code symbol, the S/N was -13.2dB."
      Frequency used was 8822 Hz. Earlier in December, tests yielded copy of Dex's steady carrier near that same frequency by DL4YHF in Bielefeld, Germany (4300 miles), by IK1QFK in Cumiana, Italy (4770 miles), using custom Linux-based spectrum analysis software written by Nicholson. He also wrote the BPSK applications. Reception has also been reported in the US using Argo displays. A selection of those reports is available at Dex's Web site.
      Back on June 2 (UTC), 2014, Nicholson received transmissions from McIntyre on 8970 Hz, consisting of a continuous GPS-stabilized carrier that was shifted in frequency after some hours of integration time. Paul's detailed reception report of that earlier feat, along with details and pictures of the transmitting setup, can be found at the W4DEX Web site.
      Previous experiments in the sub-9kHz region have mainly been conducted in Europe, such as the kite-based transmissions of Stefan Schaefer DK7FC. His page contains a good introduction to what has been done so far, and links to additional resources. Although frequencies below 8.3 kHz, or 9 kHz in the US*, are not formally allocated in most countries, some administrations do require their citizens to obtain special permission to operate there. (*Following the last WRC, an increasing number of countries now have an explicit allocation down to 8.3 kHz for meteorological aids such as lightning detection networks.)

   Longwave Broadcast Outlook in 2015
Reprieve for RTÉ; Deutschlandradio closes; and an online hoax.

      There are fewer stations in the longwave broadcast band in the New Year, but the number did not drop as much as earlier expected. Responding to public pressure, RTÉ has postponed closure of its Radio 1 service on 252 kHz until 2017. Shortly after the former Atlantic 252 celebrated its 25th anniversary in September 2014, it was announced that the station would close in October. That was posponed to January. Then, Mike Terry recently forwarded word from RTÉ News that more time would be allowed for listeners in the UK to adopt other means for receiving RTÉ programs.
      The closure of two of Germany's LW outlets took place at the end of 2014 as scheduled. The mediumwave stations are slated for closure in another year or so. It has further been reported that Bulgaria has ended its transmissions on 261 kHz as of year's end.
      Meanwhile, a report that Polish Radio was planning to close its longwave station turned out to be false. The rumor began circulating just 3 months after the station celebrated its 15th anniversary last autumn. Mike Terry passed along word to our Message Board once it was discovered that information was false, clarifying that PR1 LW accounted for 40% of Polish Radio's listeners, and it is cheaper to operate than the FM network, the transmitter plants for which are leased from a private sector company.

LW Resources & Additional Topics

   Related Longwave Sites

      •William Hepburn's DX Information Centre has probably the best online list of aero and marine beacons based on official license information, plus lists of LW broadcasters and time signals, and numerous resources for other types of DXing as well.
      •The searchable RNA database of LF beacons...not compiled from official sources, but a digest of signal reports from experienced listeners in North and Central America. It's a great tool for identifying those unknown signals. It won't always be up-to-date regarding decommissioned beacons, of course. This might somewhat limit its usefulness in targeting specific beacons to listen for, but it's still helpful if you pay attention to the most recent reported date for a given beacon.
      •Radio Waves Below 22 kHz Renato Romero's eclectic collection of topics pertaining to both manmade and natural radio signals from near DC to the upper end of audibility. Includes the VLF Open Lab, and articles by many contributors...some fairly orthodox, and some not. Visit: www.vlf.it
      Not viewable online but a resource which can be ordered there...Michael Oexner's North American and European NDB Lists (click link for info in PDF form).

   QRSS and WOLF Software

      Rik Strobbe's QRSS software (for transmitting extremely slow CW) is usually available from our file library, but while it is temporarily out of service, you can obtain QRSS and Rik's other useful software at the ON7YD download page.
      Continuing Development of Argo. Alberto di Bene posts the latest version of Argo, a receiving tool for displaying slow CW, that performs FFT spectral analysis and displays it in ways optimized for QRSS. Many of the transoceanic LF amateur records were set using Argo at the receiving end. Argo has somewhat similar performance to Spectran, but interacts better with the user's soundcard and is customized for QRSS modes.
      WOLF. Stewart Nelson devised this unique mode, a variant of BPSK. See his announcement of the MS-DOS version for more details. Now, a GUI-based version by Wolf Büscher continues to increase the mode's popularity. Find the new software at the DL4YHF site.
      Spectrum Lab, at that same link, is another of Wolf's creations. In conjunction with your computer's sound card, not only is it an especially advanced spectrum analyzer, but it's also a filtering and sound processing tool, and can serve as the demodulator part of a software defined receiver.
      Slow CW for Linux. Claudio Girardi (IN3OTD) has released Slow CW software for users of the Linux operating system, currently v 0.42. The program (called glfer) contains both transmit and receive capability, the latter including an FFT-based spectrum analyzer somewhat similar to those found in popular Windows Slow CW programs. As with much open-source software in the X-world, you have to compile the C source code yourself. Users will also need additional code libraries. Links to those, plus downloadable source code, can be found at Claudio's glfer page.

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