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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
January 14, 2021
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
ARRL Home PageARRL Letter ArchiveAudio News


Dayton Hamvention Cancels 2021 Show

Dayton Hamvention® has been canceled for the second year.

"Unfortunately, several setbacks in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic make necessary the difficult decision to cancel Hamvention 2021," a January 11 announcement from the Hamvention Executive Committee said. Sponsored by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA), Hamvention was set to take place May 21 - 23 in Xenia, Ohio.

"Hundreds of volunteers have been working to do everything necessary to bring this Hamvention to the many amateur radio enthusiasts and vendors who support the Dayton Hamvention," the committee continued. "Vaccine distribution both in the United States and around the world is lagging behind what was planned. In addition, the emergence of a more communicable form of the COVID-19 virus increases the potential for further public health problems in the next few months. We make this difficult decision for the safety of our guests and vendors." Tickets deferred last year will be deferred again until 2022.

The Hamvention Committee hinted at a QSO party for Hamvention weekend. In November, Hamvention had announced that "The Gathering" would be the theme for the 2021 show.

Hamvention is the largest annual amateur radio gathering in the US, and was the host of the ARRL National Convention for its last event, held in 2019. The ARRL Hamfest and Convention Calendar includes a searchable database that includes other canceled in-person events.

FCC Invites Comments on Expanding the Number of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators

In a January 5 Public Notice, the FCC requested comments on whether the current 14 Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VECs) are sufficient to facilitate the efforts of their accredited Volunteer Examiners (VEs) in administering amateur radio examinations, or whether it should authorize up to five additional VECs. Comments are due by February 5, and reply comments are due by February 19. After Congress authorized it to do so, the FCC adopted rules in 1983 to allow volunteers to prepare and administer amateur radio examinations, and it established the system of VECs and VEs. The ARRL VEC is the largest of the 14 VECs in the US.

"VECs introduced consistency into the volunteer examiner program by centralizing accreditation of volunteer examiners, coordinating the dates and times for scheduling examinations, and managing the various administrative tasks arising from examinations," the FCC said. Authorized VECs may operate in any of the 13 VEC regions, but must service at least one region. The FCC pointed out that some VECs now offer remote examinations.

"The Commission has long maintained 14 VECs and now seeks to consider whether they continue to serve the evolving needs of the amateur community, or whether there are unmet needs that warrant considering expanding the number of VECs," the FCC said.

The FCC Public Notice provided questions for framing comments:

  • Are the existing 14 VECs sufficient to coordinate the efforts of Volunteer Examiners in preparing and administering examinations for amateur radio operator licenses, or are additional VECs needed?

  • What needs are currently being met, and which needs, if any, are not?

  • If the FCC were to allow additional VECs, how many more would be needed to satisfy existing Amateur Radio Service license examination needs? (The FCC indicated that it would likely cap the number of additional VECs at five.)

  • Given that VECs use a collaborative process to create examination question pools and volunteer examination administration protocols, would additional VECs enhance or hinder this process?

  • How would increasing the number of VECs address the unmet needs, if any, of the amateur radio community, and what obstacles or complications could result from increasing the number of VECs?

Interested parties may file short comments on WT Docket No. 21-2 via the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing Service (Express). Visit the FCC's "How to Comment on FCC Proceedings" page for information on filing extended comments.

WSJT-X 2.4.0 to Introduce New Digital Protocol Q65

WSJT-X version 2.4.0 will introduce a new digital protocol called Q65, which, according to the Quick Start Guide, is designed for "minimal two-way QSOs over especially difficult propagation paths." The Guide said, "On paths with Doppler spread more than a few hertz, the weak-signal performance of Q65 is the best among all WSJT-X modes. 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 new protocol uses 65-tone frequency-shift keying and builds on the demonstrated weak-signal strengths of QRA64, introduced in 2016. User messages and sequencing are identical to those in FT4, FT8, FST4, and MSK144. Q65 employs a "unique tone" to sync time and frequency. "As with JT65, this 'sync tone' is readily visible on the waterfall spectral display," the Guide said.

"Unlike JT65, synchronization and decoding are effective even when meteor pings or other short signal enhancements are present. Transmit/receive sequence lengths of 15, 30, 60, 120, and 300 seconds are available. According to the Guide, "Q65 will enable stations with a modest Yagi and 100 W or more and to work one another on 6 meters at distances up to ~1,600 kilometers at most times, in dead-band conditions."

ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On The Air podcast (Episode 13) features a discussion with Curt Laumann, K7ZOO, about his success in boosting activity at the University of Arizona amateur radio club.

The latest edition of Eclectic Tech (Episode 25) will discuss extreme magnetic fields and also feature a chat with Bob Allison, WB1GCM, on the topic of hunting down and resolving interference.

The On the Air and Eclectic Tech podcasts are sponsored by Icom. Both podcasts are available on iTunes (iOS) and Stitcher (Android), as well as on Blubrry -- On the Air | Eclectic Tech.

ARRL Seeks Nominations for Seven Awards

ARRL invites nominations for awards that recognize excellence in amateur radio educational, technological, and public relations pursuits. Nominations are also open for the Hiram Percy Maxim Award, ARRL's premier award to honor a young licensee.

The Hiram Percy Maxim Award

The Hiram Percy Maxim Award is the premier honor for a radio amateur and ARRL member younger than 21 whose accomplishments and contributions are of the most exemplary nature within the framework of amateur radio activities. Nominations must be made through your ARRL Section Manager, who will forward nominations to ARRL Headquarters by March 31, 2021. Nomination forms and supporting information should document as thoroughly as possible the nominee's amateur radio achievements and contributions during the previous calendar year.

The ARRL Herb S. Brier Instructor of the Year Award

This award honors an ARRL volunteer amateur radio instructor or professional classroom teacher who uses creative instructional approaches and reflects the highest values of the amateur radio community. The award highlights quality of -- and commitment to -- licensing instruction. Nominations are due by March 15, 2021.

Technical Awards

The ARRL Microwave Development Award pays tribute to a radio amateur or group of radio amateurs who contribute to the development of the amateur radio microwave bands. The nomination deadline is March 31, 2021.

The ARRL Technical Service Award recognizes a radio amateur or group of radio amateurs who provide amateur radio technical assistance or training to others. The nomination deadline is March 31, 2021.

The ARRL Technical Innovation Award commends a radio amateur or group of radio amateurs who develop and apply new technical ideas or techniques in amateur radio. The nomination deadline is March 31, 2021.

The Knight Distinguished Service Award

The Knight Distinguished Service Award honors exceptional contributions by an ARRL Section Manager to the health and vitality of ARRL. The nomination deadline is April 30, 2021. It was named for Joe T. Knight, W5PDY (SK), who was commended for his exemplary service not only as ARRL New Mexico Section Manager for more than a quarter-century, but for his willingness to share his knowledge and leadership skills.

The Philip J. McGan Memorial Silver Antenna Award

The ARRL Public Relations Committee invites nominations for the Philip J. McGan Memorial Silver Antenna Award. This award recognizes and honors the efforts of an ARRL member-volunteer who demonstrates success in amateur radio public relations and creates greater awareness and understanding for amateur radio through efforts focused on the media and general public. The nomination deadline is May 14, 2021.

The ARRL Board of Directors makes the final determination of award recipients. Winners typically are announced following the Board's July meeting. More information about these awards is on the ARRL website, or contact Steve Ewald, WV1X, at ARRL Headquarters (telephone 860-594-0265).

International Amateur Radio Union Preparing for WRC-23

Preparations are under way by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) to represent the interests of the amateur and amateur-satellite services at World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23). The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) sponsors WRCs, typically every 4 years, to consider revisions to the international Radio Regulations that define frequency allocations for various radio services.

"As an incumbent radio service with allocations at intervals throughout the radio spectrum, the amateur service faces challenges at every WRC," IARU Secretary David Sumner, K1ZZ, said. "Successfully defending our existing access to the spectrum is a significant accomplishment at any WRC, but sometimes it is possible also to improve our existing allocations. WRC-19 resulted in major improvements in 50 MHz allocations in Region 1. Without any doubt, this could not have happened without the concerted efforts of dozens of IARU volunteers over the course of several years."

The next WRC is expected to be held in 2023. Under the direction of IARU Vice President Ole Garpestad, LA2RR, 20 IARU volunteers have been participating in virtual meetings of ITU working parties and preparatory committees of regional telecommunications organizations (RTOs) as they address WRC-23 agenda items of particular concern to amateur radio. Potentially affected bands are 50 - 54 MHz (a new service has been proposed in an adjacent band); 1240 - 1300 MHz; 3300 - 3400 MHz; 10.0 - 10.5 GHz, and 241 - 250 GHz. In addition, studies are being conducted to identify protection requirements for space weather sensors that operate in frequency bands from 13 kHz to at least 15 GHz.

The participation of IARU member-societies in preparations at the national level is an important contribution to amateur radio's eventual success at a WRC, Sumner said.

The IARU Administrative Council has chosen "Amateur Radio: Home but Never Alone" as the theme for World Amateur Radio Day on Sunday, April 18, 2021. With the pandemic driving adoption of physical isolation to reduce the spread of the virus, the worldwide amateur radio community has responded positively to overcome the resulting social isolation.

On-air activity was at an unprecedented level throughout the remainder of 2020, with record-breaking numbers of entries in the major contests, Sumner said. "This theme offers the opportunity for our member-societies to tailor meaningful messages to the general public about the values of the global amateur radio community."

ARRL Learning Network Webinars

Visit the ARRL Learning Network (a members-only benefit) to register, check on upcoming webinars, and to view previously recorded sessions. The schedule is subject to change.

Emergency Communications: Why Train? -- North Texas Section Emergency Coordinator Greg Evans, K5GTX

Utilizing amateur radio operators in an emergency communication situation is a key function that can save lives. We must be able to respond to the needs of our served agencies quickly and responsibly. Topics covered include the Incident Command System and its relevance; building on consistent training; interoperability with multiple communication providers; interoperability with VOAD and partners, and Mission One: get the information delivered.

Thursday, January 21, 2021, 12:30 PM PST / 3:30 PM EST (2030 UTC)

Easy Helical Copper Tape and PVC 2-Meter Vertical Antenna -- John Portune, W6NBC

Here's how to quickly build a tiny, 18-inch, continuously loaded lightweight portable or base station 2-meter omnidirectional vertical antenna with performance and efficiency comparable to a 5-foot J-pole. The antenna is built from hardware store copper tape and PVC pipe, and the cost is roughly $10. It's an easy afternoon's homebrew project, ideal for the new ham but equal to the experienced ham's needs. It's great for events like bike-a-thons. It also makes an excellent ham radio club hands-on building project, and the design is adaptable to other bands.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021, 10 AM PST / 1 PM EST (1800 UTC)

Interesting Stories about Ham Radio & Weather Spotting -- Rob Macedo, KD1CY

One of the most critical ways amateur radio supports agencies such as the National Weather Service (NWS), National Hurricane Center (NHC), and emergency management is through weather spotting via the NWS SKYWARN program. This presentation reviews some interesting stories about how amateurs involved in SKYWARN have saved lives and property and why this is an important amateur radio activity.

Thursday February 11, 2021 @ 8 pm EST (0100 UTC on Friday, February 12)

  • The Reverse Beacon Network has announced some enhancements. Pete Smith, N4ZR, said, "Thanks to Mark Glenn, K7MJG, the RBN beta site's world map now displays currently and recently active RBN nodes, along with spots. Red dots denote nodes that have made at least one spot in the last 30 minutes."

  • The Fédération des clubs radioamateurs du Québec (RAQI) is marking the 70th anniversary of RAQI in 2021 with Quebec Parks On The Air (QcPOTA). The event will take place from April 1 to December 31, 2021.

  • The ebook, Capture the MAGIC of Six Meters, by Jim Wilson, K5ND, is available for free download. It covers propagation, equipment, software, antennas, awards, and contesting, as well as assistance in finding the magic, Wilson says.

  • Tom Roscoe, K8CX, has 149 "rare DX MP3 sound clips" on his site. Some of the nearly 3,000 classic clips go back to the 1960s.

  • CQ has announced that Steve Molo, KI4KWR, of Madison, Alabama, is the magazine's Awards Editor.

  • The FCC's Enforcement Bureau has announced that it will target property owners and managers who "knowingly tolerate pirate broadcasting on their properties." The FCC said it would be exercising its new authority under the recently enacted PIRATE Act.

ARRL Life Member Neil Rapp, WB9VPG, is 2021 Carole Perry Educator of the Year

Orlando HamCation® has announced that ARRL Life Member Neil Rapp, WB9VPG, of Bloomington, Indiana, is the 2021 recipient of the Carole Perry Educator of the Year Award. The award recognizes an outstanding individual contribution in educating and advancing youth in amateur radio. It was first awarded in 2018 to its namesake, Carole Perry, WB2MGP, in honor of her work as an educator teaching students about ham radio. Rapp was ARRL 2004 Professional Educator of the Year. He's an Assistant Central Division Director and an ARRL VEC certified examiner.

An educational professional for more than 28 years, Rapp currently teaches chemistry at Bloomington High School South. He's also the school's amateur radio club sponsor and has introduced 3,600 students and parents to amateur radio through his involvement in the organization. Among his educational achievements, he was able to send an experiment involving protein crystallization to the International Space Station (ISS). He also mentored 2013 Amateur Radio Newsline Young Ham of the Year and ARRL William R. Goldfarb Memorial Scholarship recipient Padraig Lysandrou, KC9UUS.

Rapp got his license when he was 5 years old, and, at the time, was touted as the world's youngest ham. Now 50, he's the host and founder of the amateur radio podcast Ham Talk Live! He's also a member of AMSAT and was the youngest person to both join and be eligible for membership in the Quarter Century Wireless Association (QCWA). He is the editor of the "Next-Gen Contesters" column for NCJ.

Seven US Schools Move Forward in ARISS Selection Process

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) has announced that seven schools or host organizations selected for the July - December 2021 contact window have moved forward in the processes of planning to host a scheduled amateur radio contact with a space station crew member. ARISS' primary goal is to engage young people in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) activities and raise their awareness of space communications, radio communication, space exploration, and related areas of study and career possibilities.

The schools/organizations are:

  • Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee

  • Tarwater Elementary School in Chandler, Arizona

  • Museum of Science & Technology in Syracuse, New York

  • SpaceKids Global and Girl Scouts of Citrus in Winter Park, Florida

  • Illinois Wing Civil Air Patrol in St. Charles, Illinois

  • Children's National Hospital in Washington, DC

  • Savannah River Academy in Grovetown, Georgia

ARISS is now working with hosts to complete acceptable equipment plans that demonstrate their ability to carry out a ham radio contact. Once their equipment plan is approved by the ARISS Technical Mentors, the final list of host schools/organizations will be scheduled as their availability and flexibility match up with contact opportunities offered by NASA.

This year, ARISS celebrates 20 years of continuous amateur radio operations on the ISS.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: Solar Cycle 25 seemed well under way, but no new sunspots emerged since December 23. The last time any sunspot was visible was January 2.

Average daily solar flux declined from 78.6 to 73.8. Geomagnetic A index remained quiet. Predicted solar flux for the next 30 days is 73, 73, and 74 on January 14 - 16; 75 on January 17 - 19; 73 and 75 on January 20 - 21; 78 on January 22 - 27; 77 on January 28 - 31; 75 on February 1 - 6, and 74 on February 7 - 12. Solar flux is expected to peak at 78 again after February 14.

Predicted planetary A index is 5 on January 14 - 16; 10, 12, 10, and 8 on January 17 - 20; 5 on January 21 - 24; 8 on January 25 - 26; 5 on January 27 - 31; 10 on February 1 - 2, and 5 on February 3 - 12.

Peering at the STEREO spacecraft, I see a promising bright spot a few days from now in our sun's southern hemisphere, so perhaps that indicates a new sunspot over the solar horizon.

Space Weather Woman Tamitha Skov, WX6SWW, has posted this video discussing the lack of sunspots and the latest space weather news.

Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, gave an excellent talk on propagation for the Madison DX Club on January 12. The video will be posted soon. Until then, you can watch a presentation on Solar Cycle 25 by Douglas Biesecker of NOAA via the same link.

Sunspot numbers for January 7 - 13 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, and 0, with a mean of 0. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 74.6, 75.2, 74.2, 73.1, 73.2, 72.8, and 73.2, with a mean of 73.8. Estimated planetary A indices were 6, 2, 3, 3, 14, 9, and 4, with a mean of 5.9. Middle latitude A index was 4, 1, 2, 3, 10, 8, and 3, with a mean of 4.4.

A comprehensive K7RA Solar Update is posted Fridays on the ARRL website. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service, read "What the Numbers Mean...," and check out K9LA's Propagation Page.

A propagation bulletin archive is available. For customizable propagation charts, visit the VOACAP Online for Ham Radio website.

Share your reports and observations.

In Brief...

The ARRL January VHF Contest is on tap for the weekend of January 16 - 18. While using the FT modes, if the indicated dB signal level approaches or exceeds 0 dB, conditions are likely good enough for CW or SSB (FT4 mode can provide faster contacts than FT8). Contacts using those modes can be made more quickly under those conditions. More fun: The North American Collegiate Championship (NACC), sponsored by the Society of Midwest Contesters, returns this year starting with the North American QSO Party SSB (NAQP) on January 16. The NACC is a competition between colleges and university amateur radio stations using the "contest-within-a-contest" format during the NAQP SSB and NAQP RTTY events. Teams must register in advance. Contest sponsors are aware that spring terms may be delayed due to the pandemic. NACC will use the Contest Online ScoreBoard. More information is on the NACC page. -- Thanks to the ARRL Contest Update

The 2021 AM Rally is set for the first weekend in February. The popular event takes place from 0000 UTC on Saturday, February 6 to 0700 UTC on Monday, February 8. The annual AM Rally operating event encourages all operators to explore amateur radio's original voice mode by showcasing the various types of amplitude modulation equipment in use today, ranging from early vacuum-tube radios to the latest SDR-based transceivers. "Participation in the AM Rally has continued to grow over the past 5 years, as more operators explore the mode," said Clark Burgard, N1BCG. "The AM Rally is a great way to beat the winter and COVID-19 blues." The AM Rally is open to all radio amateurs capable of operating on AM using any type of radio equipment from vintage to modern, vacuum tube to solid state. The AM Rally will use the 160-, 80-, 40-, 20-, 15-, 10-, and 6-meter bands. "Those who have never tried AM mode will find plenty of help, if needed," Burgard assured. An AM Rally 2021 promotional video is available. Contact Burgard for more information.

Northernmost Reverse Beacon Net Node in Europe Launched Thanks to a grant from the Yasme Foundation, the northernmost Reverse Beacon Net (RBN) node in Europe went online on December 22. It was made possible by a Yasme Foundation initiative to provide additional Reverse Beacon Network nodes in underserved areas. The latest node to become active is hosted by Radio Arcala, OH8X, very close to the Lapland region. At and above the Arctic Circle during hours of darkness, polar path propagation offers a footprint covering all of North America for many hours, even for stations within the auroral oval, and stations in the far north have been able to take advantage. The OH8X RBN node would further help the study of the polar path mode, in which Radio Arcala will be cooperating with the northern scientific community. The RBN node receiver is currently located at the Radio Arcala station at 65-11-03N and 26-14-53E, but may later be moved even farther north to be into the heart of the auroral region of the Arctic Circle. -- Thanks to Radio Arcala

New Amateur VLF Transatlantic Record Set Very low frequency (VLF) enthusiast Joe Craig, VO1NA, reports that Stefan Schaefer, DK7FC, copied his 50-character message transmitted from Newfoundland on 8.271 kHz, with a radiated power of 10 mW. "This is a new record for amateur transatlantic VLF," Craig told ARRL. "The mode used was EbNaut by Paul Nicholson. EbNaut is a synchronous coherent BPSK mode for use at VLF and LF. Craig's tower supports a VLF RL (rotated L) 10-meter (33 feet) average height and 100 meters (328 feet) long. VLF is the ITU designation for radio spectrum in the range of 3 - 30 kHz, corresponding to wavelengths from 100 to 10 kilometers, respectively. "Since VLF waves can penetrate at least 40 meters (131 feet) into saltwater, they are used for military communication with submarines," Craig noted.

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • January 16 -- WAB 1.8 MHz (CW, phone)

  • January 16 - 17 -- Hungarian DX Contest (CW, phone)

  • January 16 - 17 -- PRO Digi Contest

  • January 16 - 17 -- North American QSO Party, SSB

  • January 16 - 17 -- NA Collegiate Championship, SSB

  • January 16 - 17 -- Feld Hell Sprint

  • January 16 - 18 -- ARRL January VHF Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • January 17 - 18 -- Run for the Bacon QRP Contest (CW)

  • January 18 -- K1USN Slow Speed Test (CW -- 20 WPM max)

  • January 21 -- NAQCC CW Sprint

Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Many conventions and hamfests have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Check the calendar of canceled events on the ARRL website.

Find conventions and hamfests in your area.

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The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

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