Sunday, 28 August 2011

DAB Radio - Switching off FM and AM.

I have responded to OFCOM's consultation on the UK Government's Digital Radio Action Plan. (DRAP) - see the 12th July blog entry here.

Sony S55 FM/DAB Radio

Essentially, the Government wants to switch off FM radio, so they can sell the spectrum. The planning document makes it very clear that DAB radio will never cover as well as FM and millions of people will loose radio services they currently enjoy. For example, if you get Classic FM now on FM, but you are 'not supposed to' (whatever that means), then you may not get it on DAB after switch over.

Another example: if you get stations on FM radio from an adjacent area (for example Radio Kent in SE London) you will loose that. This is important if you are a commuter and want to know what's happening in the area you are travelling in to as well as your own area.

The OFCOM DAB radio consultation closes on 14th September 2011 so, if you care about your broadcast radio service, download the form now and send it back to OFCOM.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

2011 IOTA Contest - QRP Expedition to Isle of Wight (EU-120)

For this year’s RSGB IOTA contest (islands on the air), I decided to try a lightweight backpack DXpedition to the Isle of Wight (IOTA Ref: EU-120). (
Isle of Wight IOTA Ref: EU-120
I travelled by Southwest Trains to Portsmouth Harbour then by Wightlink ferry to Fishbourne. It was then about a 30 minute hike to my (Secret) operating spot. I did not have time to go to the island beforehand to check this place out so I had a couple of backup locations that fortunately I did not need.
M0BGR/P on Isle of Wight
The set up was my Yaesu FT-817 with a 7AH lead-acid battery pack. The antenna was a aged fibre glass pole with the dipoles I had built earlier (See April 20th 2011 Posting). I arrived at site about an hour before contest start and proceeded to set up. Now, I knew the pole was past its best and had a few cracks around some of the joints so I was very careful, but as I was raising the pole, the antenna caught on a bush and the pole snapped about 2/3 the way up. ‘Oh, what a nuisance’ I said (or words to that effect). I had some insulating tape so with that, and some twigs as a splints, fixed the pole; not pretty but OK for the IOTA contest.
(By the way, be VERY careful with broke fibre glass poles. A couple of years ago I go a splinter I my hand and they are very painful and impossible to remove. I had to visit the hospital who also insisted on administering a Tetanus jab that was more painful than the splinter!).
The SFI index on the day of the IOTA contest was well over 100. The earth bound CME had not materialised and I was operating only in the afternoon so I decided to bet the farm on 15m. Bad idea! Conditions were very poor and I struggled to make 30 QSOs (though these did include Asiatic Russia and USA mid-west). 20m sounded very active but I thought a QRP (low power) station like mine would never be heard and the broken pole made me reluctant to change bands. However by my last half hour (1700 UTC/ Sat), I decided I had nothing to loose so (carefully!) changed antennas to 20m.  I had no difficulty being heard and my run-rate immediate shot up to a respectable level, both on CW and SSB. This may have been because I was the ‘new kid on the block’ and with a rarer EU-120 locator may have helped. The other stations on EU-120 did not seem to be around on 20m as several stations thanked me for the multiplier.
It was tempting to stay a bit longer, but at 1730UTC I had to pack up to get the WightLink ferry and train to back home without getting stranded. On the walk back I called CQ a few times on 4m with my Wouxun KG-699E, but did not work anyone. Is anyone active on 4m on the Isle of Wight?
Lessons for the day:
·         Don’t take equipment I know to be faulty, it will fail under field operational conditions.
·         If my game plan isn’t working, change it. I should have switched to 20m as soon as it became clear conditions were poor on 15m
·         Has anyone ever worked out the average speed of South West Trains? It took 2 hours from Portsmouth to London (no refreshment facilities) and at that rate, I think Stephenson’s Rocket could have given us a run for our money.

73 Dave.
ps - when I submitted my log, there was only one other station listed as a QRP-Expedition - where are all the back packers?

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Wouxun KG-699E Fault

My Wouxun KG-699E, 4m hand held radio, developed a fault recently. The loud speaker socket (3.5mm) became intermittent so I took it back to Martin Lynch and Sons ( where I bought it.

 I asked MLS if this was a common fault. They said the socket is surface mounted on the PCB and this had come detached and needed resoldering. They had seen it before but it was not common. They said that generally the reliability of these Wouxun radios is very good.

They looked at it straight away and repaired it while I waited. This fault was non-fatal as the internal speaker worked, but still annoying. Full marks to Martin Lynch for customer service and fixing my radio quickly under guarantee.

If you are looking for my full review of the Wouxun KG-699E, look at my earlier posts, particularly: 

Dave M0BGR

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

FM Radio Switch Off

OFCOM are now planning the FM radio switch off (and AM radio switch off) and turning the whole of radio broadcasting in UK over to DAB. Their consultation is tucked away on an obsure part of their web site:

This is clearly a cynical ploy to make sure they only get comments from industry insiders who want the switch over to go ahead. If you are opposed to the FM switch off, you should comment on this consultation and here are a few reasons why you should:

  • DAB does not work - the UK has chosen the wrong system (DAB Plus is better, but far from perfect) so you are likely to wind up with a poorer radio service than you currently enjoy on FM.
  • DAB radios eat batteries, so it will cost you far more and we will damage the environment.
  • If you enjoy local radio coverage from an adjacent area, that does not officially cover where you are, you will loose this (that's what OFCOM say).
  • Extending DAB nationally requires lots of new transmitters. This is never going to happen so large areas will be left with no coverage. Spend on new transmitters will be based on population covered, fine if you live in a big city, but what happens when you go on holiday?
  • Speaking of which, UK DAB does not work in foreign countries and few countries are following UK to rush headlong into digital broadcasting.
Go to the OFCOM site now and let them know your thoughts. I am not opposed to DAB, it has some merits, but I am opposed to switching off FM and AM broadcasting in UK.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Royal Wedding Special Callsign MR0BGR

I did get on the air with my special call sign MR0BGR, but not for as long as I would have liked - work got in the way and I was abroad for part of the period covered by my licence.
There seemed to be lots of 'MR' staions using SSB and CW on the popular bands so I went for PSK-31, mostly on 30m, but I did use the other bands and did some CW. Most of my contacts were within Europe. It looked like the solar cycle was picking up, but the SFI dropped away to the low 100s for most of the time that I was able to operate so conditions were not great.
I have posted the QSL cards on eQSL and will send paper ones, via the bureau, shortly. If you worked me and do not have an eQSL card, let me know as this is an oversight on my part. A few Short Wave Listeners (SWL) have sent QSL cards direct - I will reply when I get my cards printed.
Thanks for those who worked me or sent SWL reports - these are always welcome here.
Dave, M0BGR

Thursday, 5 May 2011


I have a new amateur radio call sign: MR0BGR! Sadly this is only valid for 11 days from 29 April-9 May 2011 to commemorate the Royal Wedding (The extra 'R' being for Royal).

I will be active as much as I can during this short period mostly on HF PSK-31 (Data) and CW (Morse). 30m is my favourite band. I will QSL via eQSL or paper, but I am not on LoW.

If you hear me, leave a comment here.


ps. Best wishes to William and Catherine, if they happen to be reading this.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

We had a lovely weekend here in UK, as HF band conditions were reasonable (SFI=114, not great but OK). I decided to experiment with simple vertical dipoles. I have a 7m fibre-glass pole that I normally use for VHF but I used that and built three wire dipoles for 10m, 15m and 20m. These were centre fed with RG-58 coax attached with a simple home-made BNC connector unit.

The weight of the antenna and feeder bent the top of the pole slightly, as shown in the photo. This is not a bad thing as it separates the antenna from the pole, which does interact slightly with antennas. The top sections of the dipoles were nearly vertical. This is important as it achieves a low radiation angle. This is especially true for the 20m dipole, which would otherwise be inclined at a shallow angle, raising its radiation angle.

All dipoles were easy to tune using my MFJ-259 antenna tuner. I cut them slightly long then trimmed pieces off, 5cm at a time, until I got to resonance.

Would they work? I connected my Yaesu FT-817 and had a listen around on 15m. Lots of activity, especially from USA and this was just too tempting. I plugged in my key, called some contest stations and got replies! Not all stations I called could hear me, but I worked four American, one Russian and one Bulgarian in about 20 minutes on CW (Morse Code). I was on internal batteries so probably not running more than 3 Watts, so I think I can say the 15m antenna worked.

I changed over to the 10m dipole (six minutes) and again there were stations to be heard. But unfortunately the internal batteries in the FT-817 were about to give up the ghost so I did not work anything on this band.

This little 'garden portable' expedition shows that it is possible to work HF even with very simple antennas and low power. The vertical dipole has a very low radiation angle (17 degrees, according to my antenna modelling software) so puts your signals exactly where they need to be for working DX (long-distance contacts).

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

70 cm Activity Contest

I took part in the 70 cm Activity Contest last night (2nd Tuesday of each month, 20:00-22:30 clock time). Conditions were dismal and I only completed 5 contacts, which I think is my worst ever in this contest. I will try to work portable next month to get a better location.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Wouxun KG-699E Accessories

As promised, here is a post on the accessories for the Wouxun KG-699E. If you want to read the review of the radio itself, then check earlier postings (click 'Older Posts' at the bottom of this page). Don't forget, your comments or questions will be welcomed, so please add some thoughts of your own.

Like all hand-helds, I needed to buy accessories to get the best out of the radio. These almost doubled the purchase price, but the cost still fell well short of buying the equivalent from one of the established amateur radio manufacturers.

Battery – the supplied battery is Lithium Ion type and has an excellent life, but fails quickly when exhausted. The radio does not have an external power socket so a spare battery is essential.

Antenna – The supplied rubber duck is only 1/20th wavelength long, so not very efficient as it's like trying to work 20m with 1 metre of wire!. I bought a longer antenna – the Garex Flexiwhip (, which is a centre loaded antenna about 500mm (so about 1/8 wavelength) long and fitted with the correct connector for the Wouxun radio. This is not as convenient as the supplied rubber duck for portable operation (see photos in the main review below), but in signal tests, with a local station, it gave about 6dB (one S point) improvement in signal strength.

External Mic & Speaker – As I often work portable and occasionally do Raynet activities I bought this accessory. Like the radio, it is robust and well made. Uniquely, I believe, Wouxun have made this product with a cable long enough to use the radio easily when it is clipped to my belt. The microphone unit has a clip and a socket for an external earpiece or headphones.

Software and Cable – The radio is a bit fiddly to programme, even though 4m does not have repeaters, so I invested in the programming cable and software. Having criticized the radio’s handbook, the software does not have any instructions at all, so it was a case of run the ‘set-up’ programme and hope for the best. Fortunately it installed without difficulty, but even then there are no help files so it was a case of plugging the radio into the USB port and figuring it out for myself. This was not too difficult and I soon had the channels I needed programmed.

I was pleased with all the accessories. Documentation was an issue with the software, but I worked around this. The Garex antenna is well worth the money and the handheld microphone/speaker's long lead makes it easy to use. The spare battery is essential.

Enjoy your Wouxun!